Sunday, July 17, 2016

Full Opposite…

Even when sleeping
one must consider 
the full opposite—
heightened alertness—
in order to remain
consistently anxious.

Sometimes sketchbooks come and go like acquaintances and sometimes they stick around a while. I've had this one since December. Time to see what the next book brings.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Hell on Back

The day brought hell to my back—
still the silly-ass greaser cat tattoo
laughed it's way through the whole ordeal
flaming pompador and all
—now bring me the moon.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The move to limited color

I've had this unspoken rule regarding the blog in which I leave out the day job. What you see here is freelance work, sketches and over the last few years a number of bass building projects. It might lead one to believe that money grows on trees and I'm fortunate enough to have an orchard of them allowing me to sketch and build random things all day every day. But in fact, this is not the situation. In 2013, I was lucky enough to land a job with one of this country's best theaters, Steppenwolf (how's that saying go? The harder you work the luckier you get? …somethin' like that). I haven't posted much in the way of Steppenwolf, but most days that's what I'm working on and thinking about.

The theater is going through some changes—new things—and as we get ready to open the last play of this season, I'd like to show off the images from this year (one of our new things). For the last decade Steppenwolf has lived strictly in black, red and white featuring black and white photography. This year, in collaboration with a great group of co-workers and photographer Saverio Truglia Steppenwolf moved into a limited-color-world. Its a subtle and yet humongous step. On a theater campus of black, white and red, the new hits of color have added so much vibrancy and excitement. It might be one of the biggest things I've done and as is the nature of graphic design nobody has any idea that I've had a hand in it.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Cobb's Bats

Ty Cobb was brought up from the Augusta Tourists mid-way through the 1905 season. Because the Detroit Tigers were in need of a fielder and Cobb was solid, but not exceptional he avoided the typical rookie hazing. But, mid-way through the 1906 season Cobb was showing his all-star ability and becoming a crowd favorite. Several players conspired to make his life a major pain in the ass.

Up to this point Cobb was using several Black Ash bats which he made on his neighbor's lathe. In what feels to me like an exceptionally low blow some of Cobb's bastard teammates sawed all of these homemade bats in half.

Friday, June 10, 2016


Beowulf has become a favorite story of mine over the last several years, one that I’ll reread once a year or so. Thing is, its really Grendel that interests me. Frequently I don’t read the second part of the story (Grendel has left the saga at that point). How does one become Grendel—what has to happen in your life?

This Spring I’ve become very interested in Ty Cobb. I’ve watched the Tommy Lee Jones movie based on Al Stump’s dubious biography. Currently I’m reading Charles Leershen’s Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty at home while listening to Charles Alexander’s Ty Cobb at work. 

What seems to be unfolding is a lot of conflicting information. There is Ty Cobb the myth and Ty Cobb the man. What turns a boy into Grendel, an outsider? What turns an overzealous, naive boy into the violent, short-tempered racist that is Ty Cobb the myth? How much of it is true? 

Monday, June 6, 2016


When I was 17 I played my last game of baseball. Eighteen years later I played my first game of slow-pitch softball. Sure, tonight the Cubbies were the first to 40, but the Steppenwolf All-Stars are 3 for 3 (I joined the team a late in the season). I had a real blast tonight, went 2 for 3 at the plate, made a play in the new-for-me position of short center and we walked away with a 10-0 victory.

Couple weeks ago I dropped two bones at the antique store around the corner on this softball bat (mainly for the Hot Fuzz reference). I'm a slasher.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Brenda now identifies as Electric.

I like to build things. Through shear persistence I've had some successes. Frustrated by a lack of refined polish I offer the mistakes up as style… metaphor even. It seems like I just had beginners luck several years ago when I built Flattop (although he's certainly gone through some updates). Many—OK, nearly all of the basses between the present date and the Flattop are now ashes mixed into the soil of my nascent suburban landscaping. The Mammoth Cave Bass or Electric Brenda Version One sits waiting for me to sort out the bridge/electronics. My upright build sits monolithic waiting for my ambition and confidence to kick back in.

But wait! I've had a success. Morale is boosted. Brenda has become Electric Brenda or Electric Brenda: Mistress of the Dark. Flattop has a little sister and I kinda like that. The two couldn't be more different sonically. Brenda is punchy and metallic which Flattop is mellow and woody.

I thought of using some restraint and not get into the details of the build, specs, but I can't resist… I played one show with Brenda up in Milwaukee because my pickup for Flattop hadn't arrived. I quickly added a thicker jatoba back to cut back on feedback. In my hurry to get show ready I forgot how heavy jatoba is and basically made the world's heaviest acoustic bass guitar. You can see here the prep for chopping and channeling.

Some ragged poplar kerfing:

This little note I hope to never see again:

My finishing gung fu is obtuse. The finish is a buildup of wax and oil. This is a fresh layer of shoe polish:

Brenda is going to travel up to Wisconsin again this Friday, but this time she's ready for action.

For whom it may concern—specs:

32" scale
Sitka Spruce Top
Beech & Maple plywood back
Mahogany plywood sides
Maple neck
Rosewood fingerboard (defretted)
EMG-MM HZ pickup
1 volume
DR Black Beauties