My friend Tim called me awhile ago to let me know he was going to fly into Tucson for a visit and then drive out to the National Association of Music Manufacturers Convention in Anaheim, California. I told him it would cost him a lot less if I drove him there, and then I'd get a trip to L.A. for half the gas price. He could visit NAMM, and I could try to set fire to Disneyland or whatever struck my fancy. But then thanks to the largesse of Huge Unnamed Company X, he was able to wrangle another pass for NAMM, so I brought my camera, took five million photos and looked at a lot of cutting-edge musical technology with a slightly-crooked head like when you keep saying random words to a dog.
"Sub-filter pass gradient preamp ring modulator?"
"Rack-mounted illuminated real-time envelope pattern control solution?"
"Integrated arpeggiator echo tango bravo?"
Before we go to NAMM, however, we have to stay in some motel/hotels. (Sometimes there are captions. Sometimes there are not. I was also too tired to create "witty" titles after slogging through nine frabillion "witty" captions. Write your own!)
Here is some artwork from the first motel. Perhaps you can see that someone has added some exciting flourishes to the existing piece. When we were shopping for a motel in Anaheim we got that thing that almost all independent motel operators do when you ask them the price for a room. They pull out a clipboard, or a big book, and spend about five minutes in heavy computation. Dude, this isn't fricking K-Mart with ten thousand items, you've got ONE price to memorize, at worst, three or four. "Let's see, you're over six feet tall, divided by the number of axles on your vehicle ... how many buttons on that jacket of yours now?"
What you probably can't see in that previous photo is that whoever doodled on it also signed it. I haven't made up my mind about what sucks worse, the art or the modification.
Now we are at the Hyatt. It is an exciting place where everything costs money. Parking? That's fifteen dollars a day. If you're not a guest, if you're a guest, if you just like collecting parking stubs. Internet access costs $9.95 a day unless you "hack in" the first day and then that's free but then they discover the hole and you can no longer get in. Water costs $3.00 a bottle, but I "hacked in" to the plumbing supply and got L.A. tap water for free. Which is where most of this "spring" water malarkey is coming from ... Barnum would be grinning ear-to-ear if he got a whiff of modern society or grinding his teeth, desperately wanting a piece of the action. One of the sources of Aquafina, for example, is the Detroit River.
Here you have the standard pillow configuration at the Hyatt. Four regular pillows for each bed, and then this exciting brown jousting pillow. The ... DETROIT ... RIVER
This is my arty shot of the room at the Hyatt. I like the round mirror. I like round things. Can you think of some other round things that I would like?
Okay, now we can go to NAMM.
Thursday, January 20th 2004.
NAMM! NAMM! WE'RE AT NAMM! NAMM is "NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC" but we got passes from a famous manufacturer that will not be named here ("Company X"). People who saw our Company X badges were moved enough to make smalltalk about the company ("X"). That is all I will say about that for the most part until later when someone asks me how I like working at Company X and wait until you read what I said. Wow. So we went inside but I was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans and everyone else wasn't. It was early in the morning so it was all the professional people and very few musicians and it wasn't until later that the musicians got out of their various hotel beds and trundled down to NAMM so I didn't feel so out of place amongst the suits.
See, the thing with icons is that they're minimalistic for a reason. The reason is this: if you start adding things, it looks stupid. Why do they all have watchbands on their left arms, or are those LiveStrong® bracelets? Why noses? Why does the woman look like she's actually a man wearing a space helmet? It is because you didn't follow the golden rule of minimalism. And with that, I gingerly step out of my tiny bubble of near-expertise and babble incoherently about the displays of NAMM. But Tim will have some things to say as well here and there, especially in the beginning as we race to the booths that we were actually interested in.
A boatload of the various music software available out there features "lifelike" knobs and tuners and switches and dials and this is "interesting" from a user interface point-of-view because there's no good way to turn a dial with a mouse (I said good way. That whole two button thing? No.) and you're taking up this section of screen space with a physical representation of an object that can be represented by a number. But it's an actual physical rack-mounted reverb kit, right there, in software! Why the hell can't I type in a number? I can't even type in a number on my PC's volume control. It's got another goddamn little slider and I have to make these stupid nano-minute adjustments to go from screaming loud to whisper quiet. And why is the TV too loud when it's on volume setting 1, yet when I go to "zero" or what they call in the industry "mute," I CAN STILL HEAR THE AUDIO COMING FROM THE TV? And it isn't just this model, the last TV did the same thing. I must have Zero-Volume Super Hearing.
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