Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Joy of Free to Play


Ah, the joys of the truly free to play game. Lets talk about one of my favorite games for a moment, Heroes of the Storm (Hots for short). Hots is a free to play moba created by Blizzard in 2015 that has micro transactions (mostly for the coolest skins and mounts) but otherwise characters can be unlocked by spending gold in the shop. Gold is acquired by logging in everyday and doing quests, which can earn you from 200 to 800 gold. Each day you get one new quest, thus giving you unlimited (but limited b/c of how the time and respawn of quests work) gold as long as you keep logging in and playing the game.

At first you would think this is time consuming or too much of a hurdle to go through to unlock characters-because of the grind. But no, this grind has brought me joy.

Its been about two weeks since I've been grinding gold and doing quests in Hots to earn the latest character Alexstraza (pictured above), who now costs 10,000 gold (when heroes first come out they are 15,000 gold). Right now I am sitting at about 9,500 gold and it feels great. The work, dedication, craft, and blood of my enemies to earn all that gold is quite satisfying. I don't think I would get this same satisfaction if I played League of Legends of Dota 2, two other popular mobas. Those games are work just to make it through a forty-five minute match. But I digress.

When I unlock Alexstraza in a few days it will be quite the reward. Rewards for playing games is something most gaming companies have to work much harder at. Sure you can earn loot boxes in Overwatch but at the end of the day the skins don't add much. A new character to your roster in a game adds much much more.

Here's a game that does free to play gaming right. I can earn every character through grinding quests and find a ton of satisfaction from it. Beat that EA.  

Early December Muzak


I listened to some good music today and I'd like to share my thoughts. 

I ordered two albums from the library and both of them came in today, wonderful. The first listen was John Zorn's Naked City band album also entitled Naked City, released in 1990 on Nonesuch Records.

The music on Naked City is all over the place but it has its moments. The opening track for instance is quite alluring because it reminds me of some sort of Batman theme, that might've even been the song. Another stand out moment was the James Bond theme, that was memorable and signifies a certain point towards the end of the album. There's tons of free jazz moments, grindcore death metal thrashing, punk rock screaming and shouting, lounge jazz, rock and roll, and more. It does all of these styles in an eclectic way. I can see why this is one of John Zorn's best albums. Its all over the place but it still sounds nice in a "I can put this on for anybody sort of way." However, its not for everybody. Grindcore purists will scoff at this sort of thing and jazz fans won't exactly find the punk parts to speak for them. For someone like myself in the middle I can simply say, "This is ok." I see its relevance in today's musical climate and I think that would be saying a lot of the album and John Zorn's work in general. After all, I have been listening to a lot of his music-enough to make critical assessment of his career.

The other album is also associated with John Zorn. It's a Pat Metheny album called Tap: Book of Angels Volume 20. It's an album where Metheny plays compositions written by John Zorn from his Masada Book 2. It was released on Tzadik Records and Nonesuch Records in 2013. This album I would also say was just okay. However, it had its moments. There was a great moment where Pat plays a melody with the guitar synthesizer and he gets this really cool trumpet/flugel horn sound. *Edit: He actually played real flugelhorn!* That knocked me out. Most of the sonic atmosphere Metheny gets using guitar effects don't really go anywhere interesting but his acoustic guitar playing Zorn's melodies really give the music a Medieval feel. There's a lot of creativity coming out of Pat's arrangements of Zorn's music but at the end of the day there's a sense that John Zorn and Pat Metheny don't really mix. Most of the album combats this idea until you hear the acoustic bits and see the beauty in the melody lines. 

Pat plays so many instruments on this album! Here's a list of personnel. 

Personnel

  • Pat Metheny – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bandoneon, sitar guitar, baritone guitar, orchestra bells, orchestrionic marimba, keyboards, piano, bass guitar, tiples, percussion, electronics, flugelhorn
  • Antonio Sánchez – drums
  • Willow Metheny – vocals

Finally we have the last piece of music and probably the most interesting of the bunch. I listened to Stockhausen's Kontakte (Contracts), an electronic piece of music mixing electronics with instrumental music. What can I say about this piece? I don't know enough about it to be too technical with my analysis but here we go.

The other day at dinner I mentioned to my dad's composer friend that I admired Stockhausen and his music. I asked him what he thought of Stockhausen's work and he said "it lacks soul". What I can tell you about this piece is that it has plenty of soul. There's life and beauty to this music. There's melody from the piano and the electronics, and silence is used in an almost rhythmic sensibility. So far this is my favorite Stockhausen I've heard, the first and only other one being Gesang der Jünglinge

The point of this post? Yes, sometimes its easy to get distracted by popular musings. But don't forget about the true masters of the avant-garde like Stockhausen (pictured above).
 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Thor Ragnarok


Thor Ragnarok is fun super hero movie. It has Justice League beat. Here's why.

Thor's story-line is simpler and easier to see out on the big screen. The fact that Asgard gets taken over by Odin's first daughter Hela who's Thor's sister. She took over countless civilizations with her father Odian and was the god of Death riding atop a giant wolf. The fact that Thor continues to have family disputes is not a surprise.

Thor's fighting scenes are cooler. The fighting scenes in Thor are marvelous, like a crude man's ballet. The weapons really added flair as there was weapons like swords and spears, guns, and magic.

One guy had some sort of enchanted Mace. He was pretty cool but he got speared through the gut by Hela.

The Hulk used hammers and axes against Thor in a fighting exhibition tournament match, akin to a gladiator affair.

Hela used magic to throw these Asgardian spears at an entire army of soldiers.

Thor was able to channel lightning throughout his body instead of just using his hammer. Because his hammer gets destroyed by Hela (by her bare fists) he learns how to use his powers without it.

Yeah, that was all pretty cool stuff.

Thor had a better soundtrack. At one point Thor gets lightning powers and he starts to annihilate an army of bad guys. The music from Led Zeppelin Immigrant Song is blasting away. That was a standout musical moment for the film.

Thor Ragnarok is good superhero cinema. I thought that Idris Elba, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Mark Ruffalo did a great job in their roles. Actors like these give a good name for superhero flicks.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Christmas Gift Ideas


Here I'd like to outline some ideas I have for friends.

Friend 1: Nintendo eshop card, something related to cars, fancy coffee and/or chocolate/sweets, guitar related equipment like my pick that lights up when you strum with it (comes with rechargeable usb), heavy metal CD, heavy metal shirt, Nintendo 64 anthology of games book (already own), Gamecube (already own)

Friend 2: comedy/tv show shirt, indie band shirt, indie CD, TV show DVD, movie DVD

Friend 3: PS4 game, Overwatch memorabilia (shirt, stickers, etc), Fix his Bass Guitar, Bass Guitar amp (smallest and cheapest one available, used)

Friend 4: Xbox one game, Xbox one controller, beer (chocolate beer possibly), Mountain Dew beer, gaming shirt (related to Call of Duty)

Friend 5: Nintendo eshop card, Nintendo shirt/memorabilia, gaming art book, historical art work book, art work supplies

Friend 6: Steam game, Magic The Gathering cards, Smashup Board game (already own)

Friend 7: Magic The Gathering cards (at Fire and Dice when we're together so he can choose a rare) 

Dad: book (of his choosing), Coffee bean card, California Pizza Kitchen card

Brother 1: PC game, gaming art work book, food gift card, gas card

Brother 2: African/Caribbean studies book (Naipul, Cornel West, etc), straight ahead jazz CD, book on Jazz

Mom: money ($20-$30 at most), book on Zen (already own), Holiday card, call, keep in touch through email more often

Myself: All I asked my bro and dad for was the AACM book, The AACM: A Power Stronger Than Itself. It's a 700 page scholarly book on the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, an experimental black music collective from the 1960's that spawned The Art Ensemble of Chicago, one of my favorite bands. 

If I play my cards right I shouldn't have to spend too much money. Some gifts are things I already own that I haven't used and can be re-gifted for better purposes. I'll probably start buying things as early as next paycheck so I don't have to buy everything all at once. As you can see I have a lot of people to attend to! 

Friday, December 1, 2017

What are you reading?


I've been doing a lot of reading. I figured I'd write about what I've been reading partly to keep track of it all and also to share my interests with the readers.

First of all, I've been reading a lot of online news and local (physical copies) papers. I've been reading the Guardian, LaTimes, NyTimes, Wired, and LaWeekly. These are all good publications with such a vast array of literary styles. I've been keeping up on net neutrality through Wired and getting my politics from online websites. By the time I see the news later at night or at work I already know everything they're going to say-to a point. Sometimes they have different agendas but for the most part they are telling the same stories.

Then there's all my library books.

Yesterday I checked out Charles Mingus' autobiography. I'm fifty pages in and its quite the novel, very detailed, dark, romantic, sad, and its just the beginning.

That same day I also checked out a book called How Computers Work. That one is very technical so we'll have to see if I even make it that far in that one. I've picked up an interest in computers because of a book on art and aesthetic called Multimedia From Wagner to Virtual Reality. That book contains a forward by William Gibson (one of my favorite writers) and tons of essays by artists, musicians, and computer engineers on art and technology. It has a lot of computer history in it and from there I became more interested in computers.

Then there's Eifelheim by Michael Flynn. This book is about a priest in medieval Germany who converts aliens. The book is so prolix and unrewarding that it is super hard to read. This is the second time I've had it from the library and I'm determined to finish it, more as an accomplishment than because its actually good. Its very dense.

Lastly, we have Kindred by Octavia Butler. Butler's work can be sort of complicated too but in a rewarding sense that Flynn lacks. The book is about a black woman who gets sent back in time to the antebellum South to the time of her great-great-great relatives and stuff. Needless to say its pretty dark.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Justice League


Hey, its been a while. I've been busy reading different sorts of books and playing a lot of music. But I finally got around to seeing to the Justice League movie. It was quite an enjoyable two hours of cinema. Here's why.

The movie takes its time with gainful setup. The movie doesn't meander anywhere and it seems to have a purpose for most scenes. The beginning of the film features Batman looking to assemble his team (like an Overwatch team) of superheroes with powers (which he lacks, but has resources and leadership abilities) to defeat this new threat called Stephenwolf but honestly it doesn't matter who they're fighting, they just need an excuse to kick some ass.

Batman is portrayed in a smarter light in this movie as opposed to Batman V Superman where he came across as a violent maniac. Gal Godot is sexy and straight to the point, just as you would think an Amazonian warrior would act. The Flash is nerdy and quite green here. Cyborg is disillusioned with his mechanical body but otherwise quite nice. And Aquaman is a strong dude with a lance. There's the team, now fight! Superman gets raised from the dead to help defeat Stephenwolf and he's the most emotionally expressive character in a sense. He picks up Batman once he's revived and says, "Do you bleed", an ode to the Batman V Superman movie where Batman says that to him and hits him with a kryptonite lance. That was a nice Easter egg. 

The action scenes in this movie are quite good. Its nothing we haven't seen before in superhero movies but it is quite thrilling. My favorite part was probably when Superman was fighting the Justice League team when he was revived because he didn't know who he was or where he is, he was just raised from the dead, like Jesus Christ or something. Batman played God in this movie and it worked out for him but I have my doubts about some sort of after effect happening-Bizarro anyone? They ended up reviving Superman with this thing called a Motherbox, some kind of multidimensional box that contains "deep power", or whatever they want to say it does.

Superman was portrayed in the most human light in the film. Hell, Batman even remarks, "He's more human than I am." After he realizes who he is Lana Lane (Amy Adams, whom I love because of her performance in The Arrival) comes and they go to his childhood home on the farm. They talk and catch up. Lana says she wasn't strong when he died. They kiss and hold each other. Its the most emotional scene in the film. Superman eventually realizes he has a job to do and takes off. But that scene made the movie more interesting and contrasts with the darkness of the film, a feeling a hope that wasn't present before.

It should also be noted that the film portrays a dark atmosphere. This is not the Avengers, where everybody is laughing and joking around with each other. There's jokes here but they're a little forced and not quite that funny (nobody in the audience laughed at anything). The opening song of the movie has a woman singing, "Everybody knows the world is over, everybody knows the good guys lost." Its the perfect music to setup this dystopian superhero adventure. In essence that's what the movie is. Its not meant to be the best Justice League movie, its just meant as a stepping stone for other DC movies to come, hopefully featuring more superheroes (Martin Manhunter and Green Lantern please) and the Justice League fighting more interesting enemies (after the credits there was a scene with Lex Luthor talking about forming his own team of bad guys).

Although the plot was exceedingly simplistic its reasonable to say its to be expected from this sort of action superhero movies genre. What this movie does better than the first Avengers film is that it keeps your attention on the different scenes and animation techniques, something I looked at with great detail. In Avengers there's so much fighting going on that you forget that there's even dialogue sometimes. In this movie dialogue is used in a smarter and more effective way.

The good guys have won for now. But can they withstand the onslaught of the enemy team of ragtag super villains? We'll find out in the next film.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Classics


So after going through a lot of new music, avant-garde classical music I found myself listening to the "classics", the warhorses of classical music. I am of course speaking about composers like Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler, and Stravinsky, who I could lump in as a classical composer and a new music composer. He's someone who's influenced many and is important in the development of new music as well as being apart of the "old guard" of classical music.

The interesting thing about all of this is that I've listened to all this music a lot when I was about eighteen years old. In fact, I would turn on the classical music station at all times in my dorm room in college and I always had Wagner's Ring Cycle on various CD's as well as Mahler's symphonies, both of which at the time I thought of as being very heavy and dark music, like heavy metal which I was also interested in at the time.

Coming back to the music now at twenty-eight is a lot more engrossing. I'm a lot smarter, I can hear more of the harmonies and rhythms, and my musical experience has increased so I can understand the music more. That's not to say that I understand how Bach used counterpoint. I have a long way to go to understand that sort of stuff. But the aural ear training is much more on point now than its ever been.

After going through so much new music and going back to the classics I find myself more appreciative of the past, European art, history, and music. I can see why the Romantic, Baroque, Classical, and Renaissance eras were important in the development of twentieth century music. Sure, the teachers in predominantly white schools (and some black educational facilities) will tell you its high art but if you don't understand why its high art then you can't truly understand the music.

There is a lot of references to classical music in other art mediums, namely film and television. But for me the work must be found from the source and studied, otherwise its just a tune you hear and probably forget about. Miles Davis would say, "So what."

-Stravinsky pictured above

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Second Soundcloud account


So my first Soundcloud (music sharing website) account got full quickly so I ended up creating a new page. You can find it here.

This was from an open jam session at the local pub. I'm on guitar, my friend Martin is on drums, and friend and house-bassist Art is on bass. On Jazz and rock for entertainment there was a great jazz guitar player but I noticed he didn't want to take too many solos or anything when we had this jam.

Sunshine of Your Love is the first time I sang live in front of an audience a whole tune. Before I only sang choruses. Looking back to it I think my voice needs a lot more work. I got the words (fumbled a bit though) but I need to work on my pronunciation and melodic sense within my voice. That will take time and work.

There's an instrumental heavy metal jam called Soothsayer by this instrumental rock musician named Buckethead. He was an influence on me when I was getting into playing really fast stuff. We've been playing that tune at the jam a lot because it gives a lot of room for emotional melodies as well as a great rock feel and shred solos for the climax.

My friend Renee, a work associate who introduced me to the open jams sang on all three but her voice doesn't necessarily carry that well. At times it sounds like she could be mumbling. However, I thought her vocal improvisation on Jazz and rock for entertainment was wonderful.

You can check it all out below
https://soundcloud.com/orlando-figueroa-17

Wind River


Wind River is a movie described as a neo-Western murder mystery film. The film stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson as a US Fish and Wildlife Tracker (hunter) and an FBI agent who try to solve a murder on an Indian reservation. Director Taylor Sheridan wanted to create a film inspired by thousands of stories just like it, involving sexual assault of women on reservations. 

The movie starts off with Renner going to a reservation to hunt down some lions that are bothering this guy's livestock. He finds a woman's body in the wilderness with blood on her groin and he determines that she died from exposure, pulmonary hemorrhage caused by inhalation of sub-zero air. Obviously its a murder and the FBI is called in. On Indian reservations the FBI has jurisdiction over cases like this. Also, Renner knows who the girl is and is disturbed by the whole thing.

Elizabeth Olson comes on the scene but she's not prepared for what's to come. She didn't even bring a jacket. They start off by going to the girl's family. The mother is seen in her room cutting herself in the arm with a knife, a hearth-wrenching scene for sure. The father is annoyed by Olson who's asking her stupid questions. The father says his daughter was last at her boyfriend's house but he didn't know his name or whereabouts. But he suggests they go to see his son. 

So they go see his son and after a scuffle (gun firing, leading to a dead Indian man) his son tells Renner that the boyfriend works at a nearby oil drilling site. The oil drilling personnel are all sketchy and they say that they heard about Natlie's death via radio, Natalie being the girl that died. Olson mentions that her name was never mentioned on the radio. The Indian police officers with Olson start to put their guns up and the drilling personnel do the same but Olson calms everybody down and they go to the boyfriend's living quarters. 

Unfortunately when Olson opens the door she gets shot down hard and fast. A gunfight ensues and everyone except Olson and Renner (who's farther away with a sniper rifle) dies. Renner snipes all the drilling personnel and the guy in the living quarters runs away on foot. But he doesn't get very far. 

Renner captures him and takes him to the top of the mountain, where he forces him to confess his sins. He admits that he raped Natalie and that he killed Matt (the boyfriend) by beating him to death. This is a dark scene. Then Renner lets him free and tells him to run barefoot and see how far he gets. He mentions that Natalie made it six miles and that she was a warrior. 

The murderer runs a few yards before his legs give out and he spits up blood from his lungs. He dies. Renner then meets with the father, who is seen sitting outside in his "death face" paint. He admits that he made up the death face paint. Renner tells him that the killer went out with a whimper. They then sit together in silence, mourning. 

After that there's a message onscreen that says statistics are kept for every demographic except Native American women, whose numbers remain unknown. That to me was mind boggling. How can that be? What's wrong with government officials who can't even track something like that? Racism seems to be a big factor here.

The movie was very good and the characters were complex, especially Renner's character. The movie has a bold message about Indian reservation life and women, something that most people don't know anything about. For that reason the film is important. The harsh cold environment of the mountainous region of Wyoming gives the film a dark and cold gritty feel. It wouldn't be the same if it were on a reservation in California. 

Although the film is dark and the mystery element of it is given away in the end, (in a flashback scene of Natalie and the boyfriend in their room, disturbed by the murderer) I would say that the film isn't hurt by this reveal, instead it shows the audience the brutal nature these people were subjected to. 

Its a good film and did well in the box office and reviews. Check it out. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

New Music, Jazz History, and Science Fiction


I've been doing more research into jazz and new music, avant-garde classical music. I've also been reading science fiction and such.

The science fiction novel is easy enough to explain. It's a science fiction novel set in the future where a scientist is trying to find out what happened to a town in Germany called Eifelheim. Then it goes back into Medieval German times where a priest named Dietrich is working as the communication between humans and these insect-like aliens called Kreken. The novel explores this idea: Can we convert aliens? There's other ideas and tons of rocket science abstraction (dense reading!) in it but this is the primary subject of the book. Its called Eifelheim and its written by Michael Flynn. The book was nominated for a Hugo award back in 2007. Although the book came out in 2006 this is already ancient by today's memelord society.

I also picked up two new books on jazz. Both seem superb after only reading a bit. They're two books written by Nat Hentoff. Jazz Life and Jazz Is. Both explore jazz in a variety of ways with interviews, history, and in depth analysis of the music, the musicians, the audience, and the time periods (some of which include when jazz wasn't popular). Hentoff is a Jewish writer (that wrote for pretty much every major publication) that was well known for his politics. He comes to know the music personally because he met and knew most of the "greats" as a kid in New York. I find his insight on the people to be enlightening. He explains that although the people who play jazz are flawed, the music itself isn't. I'm looking forward to reading both books and I hope to learn a lot more about the history (black history) and people that made such great music.

Then there's the readings on and about the new music scene. I've become a listener of the avant-garde, so called "new music", or as I like to say avant-garde classical music. It started during the Chicago trip when I saw Messiaen's Quartet For the End of Time performed and then it just expanded from there like a mothership dropping its young onto an unsuspecting planet.

I've become particularly fond of Xenakis, Ligeti, Guillermo Gregorio (Argentinian clarinetist and improviser), Stravinsky, Stockhausen, and others. Xenakis wrote a great book about mathematics and music but once I got past the initial introduction the book goes a little over my head. Interesting to check out and read about still.

The thing I like about this sort of music is that it sounds like it could've been completely improvised but it was all written down and thought about. They didn't just throw together random stuff and some people say it sounds random and not music at all (a general opinion on the avant-garde) but I've come to learn that music can be made out of anything and everything, a lesson this music has taught me more so than ever. These composers were revolutionary because they didn't follow the standard norms of composition and influenced music of the twentieth century in a profound way. 

Guillermo Gregorio's music is great. His playing is as my dad put it,"dated". He has a sound that was popular back in the mid to late 1960's jazz, free jazz to be specific. He has the sound of Eric Dolphy, if Dolphy was from Argentina and became an intellectual artist inspired by architecture and European art and philosophy. I don't want to generalize him but his playing reminds me of Dolphy a lot. And I dig that very much.

On the other end of the spectrum (the one where European/American art music and rap don't mix!) I read the entire LA Weekly edition that just came out and in the back they had a list of fifteen of LA's best rappers. I'm not a fan of rap but I figured I would check out some of these guys and see if they had done LA proud with their work. DJ Quik has a nice funky style and Tyler the Creator has become a rap darling. Apparently the guy who doesn't give a fuck about anything actually cares.

All of this stuff will enrich my musical and literary palette. I'm trying to improve the blog, do more editing and limiting my posts and sentences, something before I never would have done because I thought too much editing was a bad thing almost akin to censorship. My goal is to eventually be showcased somewhere on a website and for something to come out of all of this. After all, nobody should write for free. But a free thinker must express his ideas to others lest it all sit inside one's head. As Grace Slick (from Jefferson Airplane) sang in White Rabbit, "Feed your head."

Picture is the composer Ligeti

Monday, November 13, 2017

My (Hero) Musical Academia


So I've been doing a lot of reading, studying, and practicing of different kinds of music and even instruments. I recently started playing the electronic keyboard. I've mainly been reading about music, particularly jazz history. I finished Paul Steinbeck's book on the Art Ensemble of Chicago and I also finished Stanley Crouch's biography on Charlie "Bird" Parker. Both were excellent entries to learn about the history of jazz, which I love with a passion. I also started reading George Lewis' book on the AACM, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a 1960's experimental music collective formed on the south side of Chicago. A black organization that has stood the test of time and produced a lot of talent, many of whom would go on to have great careers and prestigious positions in musical academia. The book is over 700 pages and is incredibly dense but I'm up for the challenge.

In addition to that I'm also studying music from scores, playing the same jazz standards I play on guitar on electronic keyboard (sometimes with just the right hand), and I've even begun experimenting with classical guitar. I went to University of Wisconsin Parkside for a year and they didn't have a jazz guitar teacher there so I had to learn classical stuff. Unfortunately I didn't stay long enough to gain anything from that-until now. I still have all my classical guitar sheet music in my folder from all those years ago, so I took it out, looked at things, and started working on some of the easier pieces. The classical guitar stuff gives me more of a disciplined outlook on the music and my practice routine. I like the sound of the classical guitar but I don't know if I will ever truly have "correct" technique. But that's not what I'm going for anyways. I'm playing it for the challenge, discipline, and beautiful sound of the classical guitar repertoire. A good a reason(s) as any. Also, I found that if I comp jazz chords with the pick and fingers the way a classical guitarist would play without a pick, the comping style becomes more pianistic-a revelation that occurred to me through practicing simple classical tunes (and also dropping my pick into the acoustic!)

With the keyboard my sound will take months to develop. I'm starting to get the hang of some dense Monk comping and chords but my single note improvisations with the right hand don't really go anywhere yet. I have to experiment more with my improvising abilities and come up with more musical stuff rather than just comping chromatic chord clusters. It will take time and I know I can't expect to become a piano virtuoso overnight.

Also, I've been reading about Zen Buddhism. Zen teaches you to let go. I particularly enjoy the history of Zen in China and Japan, especially how the samurai created Rinzai zen and used it to overcome their fear of death in battle. I was initially reading about it because some of my favorite jazz musicians (Herbie, Shorter, Trane, Pat Martino, countless others) are into it and I thought that if I understood Zen it would help me understand the music and also myself, because as young person I'm still searching spiritually. I think that a lot of the important parts of Zen are ideas that we are initially born with and don't think about, but I would have to research the subject more to confirm this.

I've been occasionally reading some heavy science fiction on the side too. Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer is a dense hard to read book with heavy detail and big words in nearly every sentence. Yet its also entertaining and fun in a cosmic cyberpunk way. I've owned the book for years but I've got this far in the book before. 

Lastly, there's my band. The band is going really well. We know about 6 songs together, most of which are classic rock covers. We're doing a trio of guitar, bass, and drums with myself and the bass player on vocals. The drummer is becoming a good friend of mine and he's asking me for advice on how to get better (after I showed him some jazz stuff) and he's actually listening. I turned him onto Elvin Jones from the Coltrane Quartet and sent him a how to read drum music page, and the drum music score for Smoke on the Water, a cover song we're working on. My singing is getting better, the songs are getting tighter, and the sound is evolving into great real rock and roll, as well as a harmonious trio.

If I didn't stop playing so much video games none of this stuff would be possible. Now that I'm learning a lot more about my favorite subjects gaming just doesn't seem as engaging.

Thanks for reading
Peace and Love,
Orlando Figueroa 

The Joy of Free to Play

Ah, the joys of the truly free to play game. Lets talk about one of my favorite games for a moment, Heroes of the Storm (Hots for short)...