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Joie de Vivre

2023

This year was a very full year! What blessings and adventures 2023 brought! I like to enumerate blessing at the end of the year, and in the case of 2023, I’ve written about most of what follows in previous posts.

It began with my solo show at the Hamilton Gallery, and the music release that coincided with it. It felt good to cap off the pandemic time with a show containing materials from that time.

Recorded Music

In February, I released A Chop of the Old Block. I also participated in Woolly’s random music collaborations twice. Woolly owns and operates the the Philadelphia based Champion Leccy pedal company, and has become an acquaintance. I liked the deadlines of the project, but I discovered a personal preference for making music by myself, or with my daughters and/or friends.

My interest in pedals and effects continued to burn strongly in 2023. I picked up two Boss standards: theRE-2 Space Echo Delay and the DD-8 Digital Delay. I got the Squier Bass VI working, and happened into some new affordable Ibanez gear. More with these in 2024.

I also began teaching again. In the spring, I was asked to teach an introduction to animation class at UMBC, and web design at Towson University. I agreed to both. It was a colossal amount of work, but I’m glad I did it. I then taught Web design at Towson in the fall, and loved it.

I very much enjoyed the students, and I’m so glad to be teaching at Towson. I love being back in the Fine Arts building on campus.

Portugal

We took the trip of a lifetime to Portugal. It’s the longest trip I’ve taken, and it was wonderful.

Races

We completed the St. Patty’s day 5k, the sole of the city 10k, the Charles street 12 miler, the Baltimore half marathon, and the NCR tail half marathon. That includes three 12+ mile races this past fall! Golly!

Live Music

This was an incredible year for live music. We got to see Fishbone twice, (and even sat next to Angelo’s wife and MIL), the Residents, Battles, Violent Femmes, John Scofield, Nate Smith, Nita Strauss and Wolfgang Van Halen. Best of all, I spent a day with Steve Vai.

Steve Vai and myself

Animation

The year began slowly for animation, in that I was mostly teaching it, and not doing much of it. But, toward the end of the spring, I began working on Brains a postmodern Prometheus story. I’m really proud of this one. It took over two months of really hard work. It’s screened at 9 festivals to date, starting with the Sweaty Eyeballs Animation Festival. Brains picked up a few awards, too.

Sweaty Eyeballs was fantastic. I got to contribute a 2 second animation for the signal film, which was a big honor for me. I spent hours with Issac King, Joanna Priestly and Paul Herrod. It was wonderful.

Following up on Brains, I made Magus Incognito. It’s based on one of my favorite reads, The Kybalion. I figured I would animate this over months in the spring, but then, as these things happen, I decided on a 77 second version of the film.

I was invited to submit a film to this years Spark exhibition, and it was able to projected across three windows at the Peale museum.

The Books of 2023

Large pile of books in a book store

Beverly and I have continued our book club, although we’ve missed some regularly scheduled meetings in favor of just talking about books all the time.

I discovered Kathy Reichs in a very unorganized used book shop in Portugal (image above), and mostly began my reading journey there. I hadn’t had much time because of teaching. I really like T. Kingfisher.

Here’s my reading list for 2023.

  • The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  • The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin
  • Edward Gorey: His Book Cover Art and Design by Steven Heller
  • The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt
  • A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene
  • The Closers (Harry Bosch, #11; Harry Bosch Universe, #14) by Michael Connelly
  • The Crossing (Harry Bosch, #18; Harry Bosch Universe, #27) by Michael Connelly
  • The Burning Room (Harry Bosch, #17; Harry Bosch Universe, #26) by Michael Connelly
  • End of Watch (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #3) by Stephen King
  • The English Understand Wool by Helen DeWitt
  • Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #2) by Stephen King
  • Mr. Mercedes (Bill Hodges Trilogy, #1) by Stephen King
  • Heaven No Hell by Michael DeForge
  • Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher,
  • An Improvisor’s OS, v.2 by Wayne Krantz
  • Disruptions: Stories by Steven Millhauser
  • The Woman Who Killed the Fish by Clarice Lispector
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • Deadly Decisions (Temperance Brennan, #3) by Kathy Reichs
  • Ten Planets: Stories by Yuri Herrera
  • Death du Jour (Temperance Brennan, #2) by Kathy Reichs
  • Déjà Dead (Temperance Brennan, #1) by Kathy Reichs
  • Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley
  • Batman/The Maxx: Arkham Dreams by Sam Kieth
  • Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
  • The Animator’s Survival Kit by Richard Williams
  • How to Make a Monster: Ugly Memories of Chicago from a South Side Escapee by Casanova Frankenstein
  • Dr. No by Percival Everett

Finally, I past the 1000th blog post on this site! I’m tremendously grateful for WordPress, web publishing, and this space. The web has changed enormously since I started using WordPress, and I still love using it.

Happy New Year, everyone. My you be blessed with prosperity, health and happiness.

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Joie de Vivre

2022 and Season 3 of the Pandemic

Following my intermittent practice of year’s end posts, I want to express gratitude for the great parts of 2022. And what a year it was!

I’m wrapping up my first year on Patreon. I’m honored to have had folks join me there, watch my videos, and follow along with me as I worked my way through 2022.

Sweaty Eyeballs: Behind the Screens was an exhibition at Goucher College of animated works and the materials involved with making them. I love this festival, and it was an honor and thrill to be included in this show. I made several new films this year, including Plasticland and the Lunatics. I picked up a couple of awards, too!

I’ve written (and talked on Patreon) about the reemergence of music in my life over the pandemic. I’ve been “finding my note,” as Steve Vai likes to say.

Steve Vai talking to me over Zoom

Which means, a unique-to-me musical voice and identity. As I delved deeper into film work, I wanted to get better at improvising, with the idea that I could set up a projector in a gallery (or somewhere) and make an accompaniment to go with the videos.

I reached out to my favorite drummer, Billy Martin, and asked for help. He agreed, and I spent an afternoon in his New Jersey home studio. It was one of the greatest musical moments of my life to play drums and guitar with one of my musical heroes.

Billy Martin's Drums

Billy explained that improvisation, in essence, is something you just do. There are exercises and things one can do to help facilitate this, but it’s very different from what I learned in my academic studies. He shared stories, techniques, recordings and books with me, and I will be grateful to him forever. Thank you, brother!

I released three new recordings this year. The Goldberg Variations, The Old San Juan and Found and Chosen. I received a creativity grant from the Maryland State Arts Council to print physical copies of Found and Chosen.

Found and Chosen Cassettes

Found and Chosen is an extremely satisfying project, and the physical copies of the recordings are something I had dreamed up back in the early 00’s. And aside from having tape loops and CD audio to loop, it stands as some personal documentation of the pandemic, and ways I coped with uncertainty and anxiety.

coastguard practice space

I also did a few gigs with Coastguard, and really enjoyed getting my chops back. It’s helped me a lot when recording drums here.

signal chain diagram

As I continue to explore signal processing and improvising, I decided to write a small program that randomly assigns effects for me to play through. It’s an interesting constraint, and I’ve found it to be a useful device for getting myself going in a different direction.

I spent many, many hours in the basement working with loops and new-to-me guitar pedals. I’m especially fond of these new additions:

  • Count to Five by Montreal Assembly
  • Excess V.3, Dweller, Black Fountain by Old Blood Noise Endeavors
  • Blooper by Chase Bliss Audio

My oldest daughter took us to several great shows: The Queers, The Old 97’s, The Psychedelic Furs. I enjoyed it so much. And my youngest and I went to see the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra perform Symphonie Fantastique, something neither of us had done before.

I feel fortunate to have been able to explore these musical pathways. I got out in front of audiences again. Adding the adventure of improvisation brings with it a sense of freedom now. I’m not sure how much I’ll be improvising in front of other humans yet, but it’s becoming a source of real delight here in my studio.

Beverly and I traveled to Puerto Rico, New York (twice), and Cape Cod. We visited Edward Gorey’s house. And we’ve agreed to spend the rest of our lives together. I am so happy!

I’ve written about a couple of other milestones, too. Inspired by Beverly’s example, I got to run across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and we completed a half marathon just two weeks later. Holy Guacamole!

Icy loch raven reservoir as seen on a trail run


Beverly and I wrapped up year two of our book club. Here are the titles I read this year:

  • Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond (Music in the Twentieth Century, Series Number 9) 2nd Edition by Michael Nyman
  • Experimental Music Since 1970, by Jennie Gottschalk
  • What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  • The Candy House by Jennifer Egan
  • Liarmouth: A Feel-Bad Romance by John Waters
  • Moon Knight, Volume 1 by Bendis & Maleev
  • And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  • Improvisation: Its Nature And Practice In Music by Derek Bailey
  • Moon Knight: The Complete Collection, by Lemire & Smallwood
  • The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil, by Stephen Collins
  • House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski (started in 2021)
  • The Anomaly, by Hervé Le Tellier, Adriana Hunter
  • Impossible Princess, by Kevin Killian
  • The Atlas Six, by Olivie Blake (started, abandoned)
  • Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr
  • The Haunted Looking Glass, Various, chosen by Edward Gorey
  • Elephant House; or, the Home of Edward Gorey by Kevin McDermott
  • An Honest Living, by Dwyer Murphy
  • Novelist as a Vocation by Haruki Murakami
  • Batman: Ghosts by Sam Kieth

What’s next? Aside from more of all this, I’m returning to teaching. I’ve picked up a couple of classes for the spring semester. I’d like to finish Music to Hear Blindfolded, Vol. 2. and I have an idea for an album of instrumental guitar music. I have some animation ideas for 2023, and more video/music compositions. I’m going to continue to pursue animation festival screenings, and to hone my processes for making films.

Jim and BB

Happy 2023, friends. I hope this finds you happy, healthy and prosperous.

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Joie de Vivre

The During of 2021

Happy New Year!

I’m resuming my tradition of writing a year end post. The last one was in 2019.

It’s obviously been a strange few years. I remember thinking when work closed at the beginning of the pandemic that I might be home for two weeks. And we are rolling into year three! While this isn’t a post specifically about the pandemic, the pandemic is a delineator of our times – there will be a before and after for those of us that lived through it. What follows, then, is an account of the good parts of my “during” of 2o21.

Music

When 2021 started, I began a challenge to make music every day. I began keeping a music “day book” where I sometimes wrote down what I did and how I did it. I created a “catalog” on my computer, which is an index of music ideas and passages.

A record turntable.

I learned a lot about Ableton Live, which I very much enjoy working in. I attended a tape hacking workshop, and learned something about modifying cassette players. I started making effects and instruments with Max for Live. I joined a surf band, alternating between bass and drums. I got to hang out with Billy Martin at his house. I released an album on Scientifically Sound Records.

A hacked portable tape player and breadboard with 4 potentiometers.

This practice of making music everyday was profound. If you want to learn something about yourself – say, as a composer, then compose music every day. I started working in my Theoretical Audio Laboratory to produce Sound Experiments, and I continued to examine my perceptions of sight and sound. I probably wouldn’t have made my discoveries if not for this self appointed challenge. I developed a process for making music with loops, found sounds and musique concrète.

Did I actually make music every day? I don’t think so. Most days, I did something. And I grew and created more as a musician in 2021 that I did in all of the previous decade. Not bad!

We also got out to see some live music. A huge highlight for me was seeing Marc Ribot and Ceramic Dog.

Marc Ribot and Ceramic Dog

Book Club

2021 was the inaugural year of a new book club that Beverly and I founded together. It’s just for two people, and we don’t have to read the same book. We do have to read at least one book a month, and then we have a nice dinner and discuss what we read. This has been delightful. This year, I read the following for our club:

  • Found Audio
  • Kink
  • The Plot
  • The Bullet Train
  • Circe
  • My Year Abroad
  • Piranesi
  • The Wrong Heaven
  • First Person Singular
  • Your Duck is My Duck
  • Just Kids
  • Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  • House of Leaves
  • Modern 12 Step Recovery
  • The Forbidden Surgeries of the Hideous Dr. Divinus
  • Turn Loose Our Death Rays, and Kill Them All!: The Complete Works of Fletcher Hanks
  • Several issues of The Comics Journal
  • The first three volumes of the Wonder Woman Omnibus trade paperbacks

We also watched a lot of movies and shows, but I’ll save that for another post.

Vaccine

I was able to get a COVID vaccine. It was also a shot of hope, and certainly a key turning point in this time. What a gift to have protection against some ghastly doom. As I write this, I can remember the free floating anxiety and uncertainty that pervaded everything we did. In fact, as the latest variant rips through the world, that anxiety feels more acute again. I should also mention that for me, the solitude was also useful. I become more grounded and centered. I think it accelerated my recovery, and I’m very grateful.

I began to run (sort of ) seriously this year, and completed a 12 mile race, among others! I didn’t come in last, either!

My dear friends got married, which was the first “big” in person event we attended after being vaccinated.

Amy and Dusten

The cicadas visited, after being underground for 17 years, and I made some art to commemorate them. It was a long, hot summer.

Beverly and I combined house at the end of said summer, and said goodbye to the pool. The mutts will miss it!

We traveled to California again, and to Virginia and Florida.

The Benefits of Radiation picked up some awards, and was screened in person at the Sweaty Eyeballs animation festival. This was a dream realized for me. I’m very grateful.

SNF Parkway Theater in Baltimore

Both of my daughters graduated from their respective schools in 2021, and both started new beginnings. We spent some good times together this year, and even got inked together.

I made a great deal of art, which I won’t summarize here – you need only read the blog portion of this site for that.

What’s Ahead

My intentions for 2022 include new animation and exhibition opportunities, volume 2 of Music to Hear Blindfolded, and more of all the good parts on 2021. Happy New Year, dear reader. I hope you are well.

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Joie de Vivre

The End of the Twenty Tens

I haven’t written a year end post since 2012.

My life took a big turn in 2013, and during the years that followed. My marriage ended in divorce. I moved to another zip code. I changed jobs. I went back to school. I moved to yet another zip code. I changed jobs again. There were deaths, and loss, and the sad ending of relationships. In other words, a lot of life happened.

I started drinking in 2013, after ~20 years of not drinking. I strongly suspect that, because I started drinking again, I have not written any year end posts.

My previous “year in review” posts contained notes of gratitude for that year’s many blessings. I have so much for which to be grateful. I will not attempt to enumerate the many wonderful things that have happened since 2013, or even from 2019, in this year end blog post. I will name just one blessing, which I intend to carry into our collective future.

I am sober.

Happy New Year!

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Joie de Vivre

2012, I love you.

the-moon

I didn’t do a “year in review” for 2011 as I did for 2010, 2009 and 2008.  I have so much to be grateful for this past year. So much. Great friends (new and old), my happy kids, fitness, work, creativity and magic.  I’m not going to link to posts –  the great stuff and the people I love have been chronicled.

I feel younger than I did when the year started.

There is one thing I want to highlight – I fell in love with the work of Georges Méliès last year.  I’m mentioning it here to say that it’s in the spirit of such creativity, industry and inspiration that I say goodnight to 2012 and welcome 2013.

to-the-moon

Love,
Jim

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Joie de Vivre

Wrapping Up 2010

2010 was a colossal year.  In keeping with tradition of past years, I’m posting a quick recap and a look ahead. As I sat down to organize my thoughts, I once again marveled at the usefulness of keeping a Web log.

I spoke at WordCamp Boston, the amazing FitBloggin’ conference, WordCamp Philadelphia and was invited to speak at WordCamp Chicago & NYC. I became the co-organizer of the Baltimore WordPress User’s Group. It’s open to anyone, so if you have ANY interest in WordPress, you are welcome to join us. I began doing some technical editing for O’Reilly media. The next book I’m working on is jQuery, and I’m hoping to make the leap to author this year.

The 12′ circus peanut, which was on display in Baltimore City for 149 days as part of the ArtScape outdoor sculpture exhibition, was a success. This was an amazing process for all of us. The Circus Fantistique banner made rounds at ArtScape and the Baltimore Book Fair. The girls  had comics on display and we  learned about screen printing and publishing zines. Early in 2010, I learned how to paint (poorly) with oil paint.

I earned my black belt this year.  While the training and test taught me a great deal,  one of the most difficult parts of this was actually showing up. Being an instructor and attending the black belt work-outs was great. Earlier this year, I took a hiatus from the school to pursue freelance work and teaching, but I continue to practice. I have new fitness goals for 2011, some of which include more Tai Chi. My knee is holding up pretty well and I’ve even been able to run a bit.

What’s Next

I am grateful for my family’s general good health, and have high hopes for the new year. I am proud of my kids’ accomplishments and how great they are as people, students, musicians and artists.  I am grateful for the time I got to spend with my friends Neil, Chas, Scott, Roni, Zac, Allison, Jenn, and hope to do more of that this year. I’m adding Jim Groom to that list, too (road trip).  I’m grateful for the awesome clients I served this year – I am very fortunate. Thank you.

I’m giving a talk to some students in a week, and I’m speaking at FitBloggin’ 11.  I’m super excited about HTML5, and excited about stuff that brewing for 2011. This is an exciting time to be doing work on the Web.

My personal art production has been somewhat dormant these past few months because of a ridiculous schedule involving lots of travel and teaching 4 classes. I recently began doing video production for the day job, though,  and I really like it. I’ve been using Premiere, After Effects and a variety of cameras and mics.

Paper Cut Outs have become my favorite medium lately, and this is what I intend to focus on in 2011.

I set up a new site, called the Crunchy Ball Press, as a place to showcase paper based art, animation involving paper and especially zine making. I had intended to launch CBP during a talk at WordCamp NYC called “WordPress for Creative Geniuses,” but it didn’t happen. This site is a priority for 2011. And I’d still like to give that talk somewhere.

I’m interested in collaborators for CBP – I really don’t want this to be just my stuff. I want to work on things with other people; zines, animation and comics and I want to help others publish their work. If you are interested in contributing to the Crunchy Ball Press, drop me a line ->  jim.doran@gmail.com. If you are reading this and thinking “I can’t do that because…” then you should write me, because you totally can.

Let’s tell some stories.

And so, happy new year, everyone.

Love,
Jim