It's tax season and my days have been chalk full of organizing my receipts and pulling together everything I can to get done EARLY this year. Of all the years I've been doing my own taxes, it'd be somethin' else (literally) if I was able to pull off an early completion this year, of any. It's a long story.
I was watching some old band and drum corps videos and came across the video of Aimachi from 2008 - my last year with the group. I just thought I'd share it because it'd been a while since I watched it - even though it's not THAT long ago. But I just fell in love, all over again, with the experience I had in Japan those two years and it's amazing how much I miss my Aimachi family right now.
For those who don't know, Aimachi is a Tenrikyo church based in Handa City, Aichi Japan. The band consists of about 140 members (mostly Tenrikyo) and included 9 American and 5 Thai members in 2008. This performance is from December 21, 2008 in the Tokyo Super Arena. We were awarded 1st place and crowned All-Japan national champions.
This goes out to all my Aimachi brothers and sisters, including the other American and Thai members who made this experience very special for me... Dan, Ollie, Chris, Gabe, Justin, Nick, Ted, Niel, Ame, Yoi, Binky, Belle and Junt. Also thanks to Mitch, Uichi, Michael, Michi, Kiyo, Hatsue and Yoshie - I love you all!
And a very special thanks to the one and only Coz Sekine - the most kind and most generous man I've ever met in my life.
Why do I write blogs? Why does anyone write blogs? In a way, I guess it's to tell a story about something that just happened or about something going on currently in their life... reminisce about events that happened in the past... or perhaps talk about plans for the future. When I stop to think about it, I have no clue as to why I write any of these blogs. Maybe because I have free time or nothing else better to do... or maybe I actually enjoy it but don't stop for 5 minutes to think about it and realize that I enjoy it? I don't know...
I don't even know why I am writing this blog right now or why I thought to myself "gosh, I haven't written in here since February - maybe I need to update."
Well, here I am at starbucks... and working on my drill where there's a mess of scores in my lap and chicken scratch covering almost all of the space in and around all of the music notes and expressions. I'm a tad overwhelmed with things at the moment and the one and only thing that I can't stop thinking about it my mom.
This is my first mother's day without my mom. As much as I believe she is always here by my side in spirit, I can't express how much I miss her right now and how much I miss the hugs, holding her hand and those special moments of the past that make me smile and cry when I think about them. We had fights... we had disagreements... but if there was ever anything that happened in my life that was rough or a hurdle I had to jump over, she was always there to help me and guide me.
More than anything I've ever experienced in the past, I've now come across the most difficult challenge I've ever had and probably will ever experience in my life... and of all people to not be here for me, she isn't. I understand that I can always talk to her and pray and think of her. But whenever I had a problem in the past, no matter if I was 8 years old or 28 years old, she would know what to say and it would never be what I expected or thought of on my own. Sometimes it was always obvious... but with the new experiences and emotionally compromising events I've had in my life, I had no idea what to say, think, feel... and after talking to my mom, she was always able to help me get to the 'next step' no matter what the situation or circumstance. She wouldn't ever have to have a solution or even the perfect option... but knowing she was there for me and hearing her say it was all I needed.
As I look to the future and without her being there for me now... I'm not sure what to think or feel or do. I'm really scared. I've never been so scared in my entire life. I hide behind the fact that I have a job to do… people to call and design drill for… friends to see to distract me from the inevitable future.
Rather than think about the future, I'm doing everything I can to stay in the present - today and now. And possibly worry just little about tomorrow or the next day. After that though… it just gets me down so much that I can't seem to function properly. It's nothing too serious… but I just lose focus on the things I need to do today and now and I don't have time for thinking about the future.
I have no idea what will happen tomorrow… next week… a month from now… a year from now... or even 25 years from now. But what I do know is what is happening right now, today…. and how I feel right now, today. I miss my mom very much and I need her more than anything. I don't think I have ever openly asked God for help until right now... and I am asking God… please, I need you... I need your help and I don't know who else to turn to.
This is going to be my last blog for a very long time. I don't think I write very well anyway, nor do I think anyone really reads these. Maybe someday in the unknown future I'll get the chance to write again… but until that day comes, I'll be spending each and every day worrying only about the present and not get caught up thinking too much about the past and what my life used to be. I have spent a lot of time lately thinking of what could have been or should have been… and doing so has unfortunately made me extremely depressed. What I will be doing from now on though is everything I can to get from one day to the next and be as happy as I can from one day to the next - not letting anything get to me and keep breathing.
A lot of changes are coming in the future… and with that will be a lot of confusion, questions, sadness, anger, worries and even bigger hurdles for me to jump over. I don't know what the future has in store for me but I do know that whatever comes up or occurs from here on out, I will confidently step up and do my best to take on whatever challenge awaits me, be as positive and optimistic as I can about whatever the situation is, no matter how bad it might be, and I hope to God that I will have family and friends there to help when I need it. I will always have hope and continue to pray for a future of happiness, friendship, peace and love.
Those are my thoughts and I am ready to take on this new chapter in my life… These blogs are now a part of the past, and from now on I will be living in the present while looking forward to and preparing for whatever the future holds.
Thank you to everyone who has read or followed my blogs. I can't imagine all of the time you'd have to set aside to read some of my longer entries, but I appreciate every second anyone spent reading my blogs and every comment any of you have ever made to me about them. From the bottom of my heart - Thank you!
I am writing out this little explanation only because this is one of the most asked questions I get from friends, students, band directors and other designers, and mostly because it is a question brought up several times a year. Rather than taking the time to explain, I usually just shrug it off and don't consider it an issue. But since it was recently brought up in a discussion with a good friend of mine and fellow drill designer, I felt the need to finally explain myself as I am getting a bit annoyed with the numerous accusations I get for allegedly copying Greg Poklacki's designs that he wrote for Spring HS in 1993 and The Cavaliers in 1995 - that being the famous "DNA" helix drill move.
I won't deny that several drill moves I have incorporated into some of my shows are inspired by other designers' work and even some that are right out of some drum corps shows. All I can say is that it mostly comes from what was asked of me by the people who hired me and I always do my best to modify it the best I can to prevent it from looking like an exact duplicate of the original. I am not at all comfortable copying drill moves as it is unethical and disrespectful to my fellow colleagues and designers. Many times I was able to create something equally effective and unique and I am very happy with most everything I have designed.
I have been able to take the time to study what other designers have done in the past and take that "idea" and make it into something of my own. In a way, that's what we all do. Not that we look to other designers for ideas because we're not creative enough… rather the little things, like finding a drill move/motion in the way the lights are spinning on the ceiling at some church event you are at or looking through a kaleidoscope and seeing drill in the images as they spin. Those are only a couple examples of what I have experienced at times. When it comes to seeing another band or corps or indoor group perform, I see little things in the motions and movements that can spark another idea that turns into something I write in a future show.
Along with drill moves such as the "Cross to Cross", the "Diamond Cutter" and the "Crab Wedge", one of the most admired and talked about drill moves from the 1990's is the "DNA Helix" that was written by Greg Poklacki and performed by The Cavaliers in their 1995 "Planets" show. I remember seeing this as a young 18-year-old thinking that was one of the coolest drill moves I've ever seen. At that point in my life, I could never even imagine I would be writing drill someday… nor even going to school for music. At that time, I was on a course to major in art and become some sort of commercial artist or architect.
When I began writing drill, it was because I had a passion for art and music and my goal was to create unique, creative and fun shows for marching bands, with great staging, complex drill moves and something that expresses myself as a musician and artist. I love what I do and I try my best each year, and with each drill move in each show, to get better and find new interesting ideas for the designs I create. It's not always easy, but I believe that the same applies for all of us in the business.
That being said, the one thing that has been brought up a lot over the past 3 years is me being accused of copying Greg's design of the DNA drill move in the 2006 show I wrote for Pasadena Memorial high school and then later for the Dutch Fork high school band in 2007. Although the drill moves may look similar to most, I can assure you all that for one - I did it all on my own. Two - I never once studied Greg's DNA helix design as I wrote it. Three - if you take the time to really compare them, which is something I only did after the fact, you would see that although they look similar based on motion, the shapes and "3D" effect in the animation are completely different - and that said "3D effect" or "screw-like motion" is what I was going for the whole time with the design. Maybe I see it differently because I spent so many hours working on it and I don't have a very fresh perspective. That could then just be something I can't do anything about. :
Lets talk about how this all came about in the first place. The show that was chosen by the PMHS directors is an original show by John M. Meehan and it is called "The Hypar Effect". It is a three-movement show and those movements are titled 1-Dome. 2-Sphere. 3-Helicoid.
At the first design meeting we had at TMEA in 2006, we went through the show, movement by movement, and talked about the sections we wanted visual emphasis on… and others that were music emphasis. Your typical break downs. We didn't want to break it down too much too early, so it was just a lot of throwing anything on the table that sounded cool.
When discussing the closer, the assistant director mentioned to me that he thought it would be cool to have some sort of "rotating helix or screw" move to represent the Helicoid, which is what the tune is titled. I asked him, "what is a Helicoid?" He kinda looked at the head director and smiled, laughed a little and looked back at me, almost as if he wasn't sure how to explain it, and said it has something to do with a mathematical equation and when animated it somewhat resembles an Archimedes' screw - or as he put it, like a "DNA" strand. Although I knew what he meant by DNA, I didn't really picture The Cavaliers 1995 show drill... but I did want to see what the heck it was, just to be sure. That's why I'm thankful we have Google!
When I got home and looked it up, I found the Wikipedia page about the Helicoid, and that actually linked to the Wikipedia article on the Archimedes' screw. Both pages I found to be somewhat complex to understand in the matter of trying to figure out how to create a drill move out of it. (I don't remember for sure if it was Wikipedia I got all my info from at the time, but looking at it now, it is all basically the exact same information and diagrams).
Finally, I found this video - which I think is the best visual representation of the Helicoid animated in 3D form.
After studying several videos of animating Archimedes' screws and a few helicoid videos - mostly the one posted here from the 0:53-1:08 mark - I then went into Pyware and gave it a whirl.
I was working with Mitch Rogers at the time and I would send him drill files of me attempting to make this work - mostly unsuccessfully at the start. I went through about 100 different versions of this from March through May that had my head spinning off my body - literally. But when I finally got the motion to work, I had originally figured it out set horizontally, or parallel to the sidelines. My plan was to flip it straight up-n-down vertically on the 50. I knew it looked a bit funny set horizontal, but it just worked better to write it that way initially so I could get the paths correct.
The only issue I ran into when trying to do the final draft was that I needed to figure out where to put it in the drill and how to get in and out of it without killing any of the band members. The first "final" draft I completed of the move was before I even wrote a page of the opener. And since I knew this would go in the closer, I had plenty of time to figure that out.
Setting that Helicoid draft aside, I began writing the drill for the band in early May. A few weeks later I got to the closer and spent maybe 3 days debating on the placement of the drill. I was at a complete loss because there wasn't enough time in the drum solo to have the drill go through enough cycles/counts to be effective. And if I were to place it at a point where they are playing, I'd have ensemble issues all over the place because the Helicoid went sideline to sideline as originally written.
I then talked to Mitch and we decided it would be best to set it on an angle and have them march it during a part of the show they are playing. The placement of it, I believe, couldn't have been more perfect. I was more confident than Mitch that it would be executable while playing. I completely understand the concern, but I knew the band well and those who were teaching over there, and knew that so long as they stuck to the coordinate system, worked on each of the 4-count moves and didn't blow through it, it would be achievable. I even went out to spend some time working with them, and I think that helped out some.
After it was all said and done, I can say with confidence that I am extremely happy for what I was able to accomplish with that drill and none of it came from any kind of copying or studying of Greg's drill, although I am constantly accused of doing so. There's really not much more I can say except that it wasn't until about a year after I wrote that drill that I actually went back and compared it to Greg's DNA drill move. I only did that because I was asked by the director at Dutch Fork HS if I would touch-up that drill and fit it to their numbers, which were actually very similar. He said something along the lines of "I see you put the Cavaliers DNA move in the show…" or something to that effect. I don't remember the exact way he worded it, but he did say DNA and Cavaliers, as if I stole that move, or even the idea, and put it in the show for my own pleasure.
Well, it should be evident that although these drill moves look very similar, I put a lot of effort into the studying of the Archimedes' screw and 3D rendering of the Helicoid equation and many, many hours of trial and error on Pyware coming up with what I believe is the best representation of the Helicoid in marching band form.
The "DNA" and "Helicoid" are very different drill moves and I hope that everyone understands that. I do see that the paths for those marching look similar, but the effect I was going for was the "turning screw" and I believe I pulled it off quite well. It is also just one of those cases, like in composing or movie making, it's almost impossible to do anything original now a days without comparing it to something that has already been done in the past. Yes, designers are coming up with new a innovative ideas every year - but as for me and being only in my 5th year as a designer in 2006, I'm proud of what I was able to accomplish with that design and there's nothing that anyone can say that will take away from that.
Greg's DNA drill:
My Helicoid drill:
I never intended it to be a copy nor do I feel I copied any of Greg's drill. I hold Greg in very high regard for what he has done as a designer for this activity and he is one of the many designers who has inspired me for many years. I've learned a lot by studying what has all been done by designers all over the world, and for those who know me best know that I am always trying to do something different and something that I believe has never been done - perhaps looking for something to define me as a designer without going about it in any selfish way.
After the completion of the 2006 drill for Pasadena Memorial HS, I felt I had found it with that Helicoid drill move, only to have those dreams shot down year after year with the massive number of emails and comments I receive accusing me of copying the "DNA" drill, even from Greg himself - though his e-mail was extremely kind and complimentary, he commended me on the job I did and even complimented me on "improving" the original design he wrote. I definitely appreciated the compliment, but I was not expecting that drill move to be directly compared to the "DNA" drill. I never once looked at or studied the DNA drill for reference and as I said before, although the motion is similar, they are very different drill moves. If you watch/study the motion of the Archimedes' Screw, along with the last part of the Helicoid video, hopefully you'll be able to see what I was trying to accomplish in the drill design.
I understand that maybe this whole post was pointless or might come across as me being overly defensive about a sensitive subject. It is just an unfortunate issue that has become more annoying to me than anything, where I feel I am almost burdened by this ONE drill move I did 4 years ago and am constantly being criticized by my friends and colleagues for plagiarizing, when in fact that was never my intentions, no matter how similar the designs are to each other.
I am not worried if my hard work on that drill goes unnoticed or unappreciated... but I hope that more people can understand that the "Helicoid" drill I wrote had a specific purpose and was intended on representing the title of the movement and the wishes of the directors at PMHS. I hope that doesn't sound like I'm saying "they told me to write it"... no no no... I had a lot of fun doing it and I'm very happy with the way it turned out. I just don't want it to look the way everyone assumes it... they just see it in the show and without knowing the title of the tune or even what a Helicoid is, everyone jumps to the conclusion that it's "the Cavaliers DNA move" and assume I copied it just for the sake of doing it. That's just not the case.
I know there are several of you who have seen that drill move on my website and probably thought the same thing or something similar. I understand. Had it not been brought up yesterday when talking design with my friend, I wouldn't have thought of it in that way. It's cool...
In case anyone has seen the Apple website and the "count-up" to 10B songs, I was a huge nerd and calculated an average of 27 sec per 1000 songs downloaded (if that's a real counter), and with about 59,680,000 songs to go to hit 10 billion (at the time I did this calculation) it'll take approximately 331 hours or 13.8 days until the 10 billionth download. So, assuming there's a huge surge, which is predictable beginning around March 1st, I bet this whole thing is gonna crash iTunes downloads and I'm going to make sure I'm not downloading my podcasts or TV shows at that time.
By the way... $10,000 is a LOT of money. But a $10,000 iTunes gift card? Really? I love music... I love movies... and I love ipod/iphone apps. But really? I don't know much about the limitations of an iTunes gift card, but last I heard you could only use an iTunes gift card to purchase things that are in iTunes. I could be wrong... but again, I ask... really?!?! 10-grand??
Let me tell y'all a secret. I have been buying from Amazon.com since 2000. I only know that because amazon keeps records of all of your past purchases on your account. Not that I really care or pay that much attention... I just noticed recently when browsing around the "My Account" options. I can actually go through and see all of the purchases I've made since I bought a book on amazon.com in August of 2000.
That's not the secret... the secret is that I was totally bored one day and went through every single order I made and added it up, just because I was curious as to how much I've spent in almost 10 years from that one company. I won't tell you exactly what that total was, but I will say that it was not even CLOSE to $10,000. And in that stash of stuff purchased from amazon.com was a 46" HDTV, stereo receiver/home theater set, many PS2 and PS3 games, dvd players, TONS of DVDs, CDs and Bluray movies, computer hard drives, keyboards, mice, software, shoes, midi keyboard, foot stool, office supplies, printer, books, rice cooker, ceiling fan and many many more things I don't feel I need to list.
So, knowing that during the span of TEN years I spent much less than $10,000 on all of those things, most of which I still have and use everyday and are part of my everyday life, wondering how I could spend $10K in iTunes alone just baffles me! I don't spend money just to spend money... I'm actually fairly conservative, regardless of some of the nicer stuff I have. I sacrifice a lot just to be able to afford some of that stuff. But that's besides the point.
The point is... what in the world would the winner of a $10,000 iTunes gift card do with all of that money? Am I missing something? Can you use it towards buying anything in the Apple store, like computers, ipods and software? If so, then I guess my whole rant is moot. But if it's limited to only what is available for sale in the iTunes store... WOWZERS!!! I am not going to be envious of the person who actually wins this - IF it's legit. :)
I think these little givaways and contests are cool and all... but sometimes you look at it and see the mega huge number and say to yourself "WOW, I wanna win!!" But then it all boils down to the details and fine print. I didn't go through and dissect the hell outta this contest, but as much as I would love to have every album I want in the iTunes store or every movie, this is almost a joke.
Dragging it on and doing the math further, lets say you buy $10,000 of music albums alone. Let's see... that would be $10,000 divided by the average album that runs $9.99. That would mean you could purchase 1,000 albums. I happen to have 889 albums (60+ GB) in my iTunes collection, or so it says. Some of those "albums" are just unorganized single track tunes I haven't gotten to yet. But all of that consists of mostly music that I bought on CD starting about 20 years ago. My iTunes collection is close to 1,000 albums, but spans over about 20 years of purchasing CDs - as well as purchasing various iTunes albums in the past 4+ years only. And to think, I am fairly content with my collection of music - not a whole lot that I'm dying to get a hold of these days. (nor the time to listen to it all either).
Looking at this another way... say you get only about 500 music albums and then spend the rest on movies and TV show episodes. The way iTunes works, it auto downloads both the HD and SD versions of any shows that offer it, and as far as I know, you can't stop it from downloading both. I have purchased some movies on iTunes and although it's awesome to have on the computer, you can ONLY play it through iTunes, iPhone/iPod or Apple TV. So... yeah, this would be a dream for any Apple fanboy who's got the entire Apple media collection in their mansion. But you still have to download this stuff. Last I checked (last night) it took about an hour with decently fast DSL internet to get one episode of LOST. So, you spend about $5,000 of that gift card on movies and TV shows... not really gonna ask where you'll put it, because I know you'll buy a new HD if needed... but how long will it take you to download it all?? Doing the math again, it were me and my internet connection (not the best, I know, but better than average), seeing that most movies are about $15-$20 (about 294 movies to fulfil the $5K), if it took about 80 min per movie to download, I would be stuck having to wait about 392 hours or about 16 DAYS of just downloading movies. Just the movies.
Gosh, I am probably starting to sound really annoying huh?
(...starting to?) :P
Yeah, I know... I guess this is what happens on little sleep.
Anyway - rant over. I need to get back to work anyway. I needed that break... It was bugging me and I had to say something.
My cell phone bill is due today... crap!
I'm sitting at the starbucks just outside security at the San Antonio airport as I write this. I won't write a whole lot because I would like to just chill out a bit after I get through security and hopefully get in a good power nap. I was up WAY late last night being social and woke up WAY early this morning... it was all very worth it.
Overall, the trip to TMEA for me this year was more fun and more successful than any of the past years, and I had a blast in such a short time. All of the people I got to see and spend time with was great, and I am glad I spent so much time at the Pyware booth, getting a few issues ironed out that I needed. And, funnily enough, teaching me how to do some of the simplest things with the tools that I was just unaware of. Guess I shoulda just read the manual. That's the "man" in me that says I can figure it out on my own. Oh well.
So, overall the only tough thing about this whole weekend was trying to be in multiple places at one time. I did a great job bouncing from one restaurant to another hotel to another bar to another hotel and to another restaurant. Although it was exhausting, I got to see everyone I wanted to and I just felt relieved to see and talk to everyone I saw. When I moved back to Michigan without being able to say goodbye to most of my closest friends, it just felt too disconnected... abrupt? or something somewhat empty... you know? And spending time with Marivy - my favorite part about the trip. I missed her even more than I thought I did. Being with her makes me happier than ever!
I didn't get to see everyone... :/ It's okay though. But I did see a lot of people. And I spent a lot of quality time with Marivy. That girl means so much to me and probably the number one reason I went above and beyond to make the trip down. It was worth it. She's worth it. As for the usual suspects - I know I hadn't seen most of them since TMEA last year, but it's always great to see and talk to old friends - as well as make new ones.
Well, for now that's all I got. I need to head through security and find a space to pass out for a bit... hopefully not missing my flight. But next stop, snowy and colder Michigan. Boo!
Here I am at 7-ish in the morning... up all night working... again! I should just move to and live in Japan, since it's clear that after almost 14 months since returning from my last season with Aimachi that I can't get myself close to a sleep schedule that matches the rest of the time zone I'm in, or even the entire continent. I guess it doesn't matter... but it would be nice to say "good morning" at 7am rather than "good night". :)
I guess moving to Japan would require a lot of extras... like a job, so I can get a working visa, as well as a place to crash... I suppose it would be a bit of a hassle to make happen if I really wanted to do it. Or not? Who knows... I just think it would be fun. I was always on a "regular" schedule over there... but since I returned home I've just been lazy and unmotivated to make any adjustments. This reminds me...how am I gonna make it through the day on Thursday when my flight leaves here around 7am? Oh well...
So, who out there is an iPhone/iPod touch user? What about Android phones? If you can, do me a favor and visit my website on your phone:
Last February when I was at TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association), I was chillin' with my friend Drew and some of his friends at the Hooters on the Riverwalk and we were chillin' and having a beer or something. Something random caught my attention (besides our server) and that was the fact that of the 5 or 6 of us at the table, I was the only person without an iPhone. Soon thereafter, as I was wondering around the convention center, I noticed more and more band directors carrying iPhones around. Hell... EVERYONE had an iPhone! At the time, I didn't feel 'left out' or anything like that, but it was just a funny thing I noticed when I was there.
The next afternoon, I was hangin' out at the exhibits and wandering through the place and doin' what everyone does. I saw a band director there who I have known for a while and we chatted for about 20 minutes about life, this and that, whatever... He asked if I had a card or a website so he could stay in touch. I reached into my pocket and gave him one of my cards and he looked at it, said something like "oh you have a website... I'll have to check that out sometime when I get back home..."
And then... this little light bulb went off in my head. I'm here at a convention where 90% of the people I see have iPhones or something of the sort... wouldn't it be cool if I could create a mobile version of my website so they could look at it while they're walking around the convention center and not have to be on your computer at home or the hotel? hmm...
Now... lets get something straight. I already know I don't need this. I know that maybe 5 people will care if I have a mobile site. And maybe 4 of those people wouldn't visit it more than once or twice. It's not like my website is all that interesting or "fun" for anyone. It's not like a social networking site... it's just a condensed version of my site, giving whoever may be interested or able to, visit my site on their iPhone as they sit at Hooters, walk around the convention center... or possibly even as they chill at home on the couch. (who would do that though, really?) ;)
But why do this? Because I think it will actually be a useful and helpful way for me to expand my advertising. I do advertise with the normal routines - website, business cards, word of mouth, etc. But I thought, "what if I could get my site on the mobile web, especially since there's so much emphasis on web browsing on a phone these days?" Of course, you still have the anticipated iPad coming out in about 5 weeks.
I first created a website about 11 years ago, but I don't think anyone knew about it. Some did... and if you do, you probably remember that it was just what myspace/facebook started out as at first. No, I'm not saying that I could have invented facebook, but all my site consisted of what a page with a picture of me, little bio, little list of "favorite" things... and a few photo albums. I did it just to kinda be a huge nerd and have a website just to have a website. I didn't have anything to advertise or promote... but I just did it for fun.
It was around the fall of 2005 when I was in my first full season in TX and was attending school at UH. I was talking to some of my classmates and friends, and someone asked me if I had a website to advertise what I do. I just rolled my eyes, laughed and said something like "no way... I don't need a website." Mostly referring to the fact that I have a job that requires more than just a website to get gigs. But later that day, I was online at the library computer lab and I thought I'd do a search for drill designers on the web. I couldn't find any sites for the designers I know and am close with. I did manage to find a few designer's sites and looked through them to see what they were like. It was funny because I was looking for these sites as a designer myself, so I had no idea what I was looking for or what to expect.
I was honestly somewhat disappointed with just about every site I went to. Some of them had "samples" of their designs, but in the form of locked drill files you could download and open in Pyware, or PDF pages of maybe two or three sets from a show. As a designer, I try not to get that far into a director's head, but if I were a director looking for a designer, I would not know what to think after viewing sites like those. No disrespect meant to those designers... I'm sure that was probably all they were capable of doing at the time anyway. This was 2005 - obviously there have been leaps in technology since then. However, they may as well have had nothing on their site regarding samples of their work if that was all they had (in my opinion). That's just what how I felt at the time... and still somewhat today, but I do also understand that your work on the field, reputation and word of mouth are what gets you a job - not a flashy video on your website showing off what you did at the computer.
So, I contemplated this for several months... and during the spring of 2006 and as I was writing Pasadena Memorial's show, I had a bit of extra time at the computer and thought about starting a website. It wasn't really a spur of the moment thing. I just needed to find the right design software, a host that was affordable and just build it! I spent a great deal of time thinking back to when it was pointed out to me that having a website would be helpful. Looking at where we are in this day and age with so much of our lives involving a computers and the internet to communicate, I figured it would be more than worth it to give it a shot.
I'll spare you the details of all that has happened in between then and now, but 3 1/2 years after I started georgehester.com, I have literally been bombarded with e-mails or conversations about my website more than anything. I get e-mails from other designers either asking how I do the video embed, or just a little compliment on the site design. It's really a great feeling to be complimented for something like that, especially since I only did it because I wanted to try to stay ahead of the curve. And I am never offended if no-one compliments the drill I design. Some do, but it's no big deal if they don't.
But staying ahead of the curve is what I have been going for since I started my website. I may not have the "best" drill designer site out there... nor do I consider there to be any sort of competition for the best drill designer's website. But it definitely got many people's attention a couple years ago and I'm just glad that I took the opportunity to build a website for my "business" and put it out there on the world wide web!
I have actually been able to get jobs by way of people viewing my drill in video form either on my website or even YouTube. I would not say that I rely on my samples to get me work, but thankfully there are plenty of drill writers, designers and directors that can see those samples and see that I am good at what I do. I know I'm a decent visual designer and I'm very thankful for all who have taught or inspired me over the past 18 years since I started doing marching band.
I have taken great care in making sure that I built a site that is fast loading, easy to navigate through, has all of the information a director would want/need in the right places and gives people a way to view samples of my work. I didn't just build a site and publish it without talking to people first. I am very thankful to have so many friends who are band directors and designers, to go to for advice on how to create the best "drill designer" website I could. I would be somewhat subtle about it at first and only ask things like "what do you look for in any website you go to?" just being general about the whole thing. Then I'd be more straight to the point and ask "what if a drill designer had a site... what would you want to see on it?"
So many of those people talked about being able to see video samples of the drill, more than anything - preferably live performance high cam, if available. Many also wanted to see charts to look at staging... but also mentioned how that's kind of difficult without seeing it live and in person. I have tried to include as many live performance videos I can, but unfortunately have struggled just to get a copy from a director. I don't know if it's that they felt their band didn't do a good enough job and worried/embarrassed by their effort. I certainly hope that's not the case. These are just young adults/students performing. You can't criticize that! And it's in combination with art that I created. (along with other designers). This is all an "art" activity, in my mind, and to see it on the computer, to me, isn't art... it's almost no different than watching binary code float across the screen. But seeing the performances live (and in person) is something I get butterflies in my stomach for every single time. It's the only time the show comes to life and it's the "purpose" behind writing the show. I didn't write the shows just to look neat on the computer. I wrote them for the students and the live performance of the art form.
So yeah... that was me sorta venting due to the fact that through 8 seasons of writing drill and over 60 shows designed, after asking every single director for a video of the shows I wrote I've only received about a dozen actual videos and maybe a dozen more that popped up on YouTube. The rest are kinda just out there somewhere on some band director's bookshelf. : Sorry, but I think that sending the designer a video of the band performing should be mandatory. And no, I'm not going to take some people's advice and put a note in my contract that says "I require a video of the performance at the end of the season". That's just dumb, in my opinion. That almost sounds like me saying "I require you march the drill you are paying me to write for your band". ;) haha! To me, it makes just as little sense to not send me a video as it would be to pay me to write the drill and not march the drill.
Anyway - back on topic... what were we talking about? Oh yeah, my website. :)
Keeping the site HTML based was a must. About two years ago, I got some e-books and read a bunch of websites and forums about Flash. I am definitely a fan of Flash sites and many of the cool animations they use... especially on the menus - sound effects too. love it! But when I looked at my website and what it was for, I didn't think twice - my site would never be Flash-based. Why? Because it doesn't need to be. It needs to be fast loading, easy to navigate through and has what people want and need to see. More and more people are "converting" to Flash websites and it's actually, in my personal opinion, making it limiting for people who visit those sites. Flash is slow and many computers (especially school computers) block Flash. Although my video samples on my website are in fact Flash (.flv) videos, they are still fast loading and as far as I know, work on every system without problems.
I focus the majority of the time spent on my website working on the presentation and layout to appeal most to those who I want to visit the site rather than for me. Personally, I'd wanna add a lot more... a bunch of cool Flash animations, revolving door/reveal windows when you roll over images. Heck, I've got one seriously awesome website in my head that I would love to design, but I don't have the time or need for it. But that's just a "me" thing, and maybe I'll do it someday, if the timing is right and I actually sit down and figure out how to actually create it all. :) But what's there now is for you guys and from the feedback I get, it's made most everyone happy. (Not everyone likes my drill or wants to hire me, but that's ok... it's just art and business...)
Which then brings me to the whole iPhone/Android mobile site topic. I am not an iPhone user. I used to want to be one, but I am now the proud owner of the Motorola Droid and still with Verizon. I couldn't be happier with the phone and it's the best phone I've have to date. I can talk more about the phone, but I'll save that for another blog. :) And I have been a 1st generation iPod Touch user since the day they were released (literally) back in October of 2007. My iPod Touch is my all-time favorite gadget and I would usually leave the apartment with just my iPod and computer, leaving my cell phone at home. (no-one calls me anyway- except when I'm working). Anyway... I randomly visited my website on the iPod just to see how it worked, and it was kinda neat. My site looked good and had all the stuff it needed..... except... the videos didn't work. : Hmm... That's not cool. It was at that time I realized that the iPods/iPhones couldn't run Flash. Although Adobe is supposed to be coming out with Flash 10.1 this year and enable Flash for mobile devices, at that time I was just kinda bummed that it didn't work. I figured that after some time that Flash would soon be available for the iPhones and it wouldn't be a big deal. iPhones were made to be able to browse the web just fine and all that... but with there being so much detail and complexity in it the way it was then, a mobile site just seemed necessary. (then again, I never really cared if I could view my site on my iPod Touch).
So, about 15 months go by and we're at TMEA in 2009 - the time I was talking about earlier. And noticing how many people I interacted with were on these touch-screen mobile devices. After following Apple a bit more during that time, and also converting to a Macbook as my primary computer (loving it, by the way), I ultimately decided that since reading Flash isn't really something Apple wants to implement in their products, why not work around it? :) So, last February, I created a quasi mobile site just for iPhone users, and it had video samples in a format that was readable on the iPhone. I didn't tell that many people about it... I just did it to do it. :)
But things are a tad different a year later. Not so much with evolutions in technology, but with the introduction of the iPad... me getting an Android mobile phone that can't play flash videos either, nor the formatted videos for the iPhone site. Only YouTube (for now). I know that the iPad attracted many people that are in the music and marching business and I also know that, just like the iPhone and iPod Touch, Flash on it will be limited.
So... I went ahead and did a quick redesign of my mobile site in anticipation for TMEA, and also to have something that will work on an iPad when everyone goes to pick one up in a couple months. Also, it is optimized for Android phones too, giving multiple options of video samples according to which device is being used. It won't work on ALL mobile phones... but more than likely any touch-enabled mobile device.
The funniest part about doing this is that I did it in about 4 hours a couple nights ago. I was in need of a break from work and shoulda gotten up and done something else... but I was looking at my calendar and thinking about TMEA... and it reminded me about the mobile site I developed last year. I knew it was kinda simple and cheap. But like I said earlier, I like to stay ahead of the curve. I may or may not be the only drill designer out there with a mobile site and many people might think "That's because it's dumb and no-one cares if you have a mobile site." Well, I'll give that about 6 months and we'll see. When I first did this last year, one friend actually told me they thought it was a waste to do the mobile site. I didn't disagree or argue with them, and I could see what they meant at the time. But now, I think it's almost a must. Many will disagree with these statements, but I think that the way technology is going and the direction of the tablet computers coming out and iPhones/Android phones being such a hot item now a days, and a device that many people can't put down for two seconds, I think it's almost a given that I should create a site specifically for those devices.
It's no big deal... just a few hours on photoshop and encoding some videos... I also had to add just a bit of code to my homepage for the mobile device detection and auto-redirect... piece o' cake!
Well... I guess that's about all I have right now. Again, if you are using iPhone/iPod Touch or one of the cool new Android phones, please test out my site and let me know what you think. I don't really need the feedback, but if something doesn't work or doesn't work right, it'd be good to know. cool? word!
Okay... time for bed... at 8:50Am. hooray! :P
P.S. - A screen capture of the mobile site, for those who might be interested.
So, I used to be one of those who had a xanga journal. Is that still even around? What about Myspace? Are people still using that too? :P
I haven't gone and done all the edits, but in the coming days I am going to update this blog with about 40+ copy/paste blogs that I saved from my xanga dating back to 2004. (I really don't know how many... probably not quite 40.) I lost a lot of blogs I wrote from the time between closing my xanga account and opening this wordpress blog because I was using Myspace back then. I don't do the myspace thing anymore and I failed to save those blogs before I closed the account. Whatever... no big deal.
I plan to pre-date them so they all are posted here according to the dates they were originally written. And the only reason I'm mentioning this is because... I guess there is no real reason. I don't care if people wanna go back and wonder what George talked about in 2004 or if they don't. But it'd be kinda neat to read stuff from back in the day. Even for me. I made a personal choice to not go back and read any of those blogs... not even for fun. I may re-read them someday, but it's not that important to me... it's all in the past.
You might ask, why are you doing this, George? I guess all I can think of is.... because I want to. *shrug* I was going through archived files and folders on my backup hard drive and I found a folder named "xanga 04-06". I forgot I exported those and saved them. Then I thought, why keep them on the computer when I can just add them to my blog? I suppose it's a bit of a hassle, but it's just a few copy/pastes. Easy! :)
So, if anyone is actually interested... or if you are really bored and need to pass the time... check back here in about a week (I will blog about it) and I will add blogs that date back to november 2004. I know that's not like a long long time ago or anything crazy... but for me, that was the beginning of my online journal writing experience. Kinda neat to see where it all started. :)
Okay... I'm literally running on empty right now. Going on 36 straight hours of being awake and I need to sleep! There's NO way I'm going to put up with being tired tomorrow night. The final season of LOST is premiering and I still have to watch the last 8 episodes of season 5 to lead into the premiere. I did the same thing last year and it worked out great. :) I don't think I've ever been so excited for Groundhog Day! (....which is one of the most fun movies ever made). I'm actually too tired and excited to talk about any LOST stuff... theories and whatnot. I'm just going to ride the excitement and see where it takes me for the next 18 or so weeks. LOST is my favorite show on TV right now and I'm looking forward to seeing how jacked this series ends! You know, if you're a fan, that it's gonna end completely jacked. JJ, Damon and Carlton - you guys and amazing! Thanks for entertaining me and confusing the hell out me and all the rest of us LOST fans for the past 5+ years.
completely random! (and I do mean... com-plete-ly!)
I just saw this today and couldn't help but be amazed and somewhat bewildered. It's fun though... in a totally nerdy way.