Free Music: H for Hombre

Last week H for Hombre (my band) got a chance to play the Elbo Room.  It was a such a fun show to play I was smiling all weekend. I finally got my hands on a recording of the show and I am posting a couple of the songs today.

When I’m Gone

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

This is a bluesy duet we put together for Amanda and me.  Its got a “Hit the Road Jack” vibe and it got a great response from the completely awesome audience we had at the Elbo Room that night.  I love songs that involve bragging and competition and think Amanda was more than game to be my foil on this one.

Went Back

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

We always have to be careful where we put this song in the set because I am worried that I am going to shout myself horse. The other thing on this song is that the horns completely deepen and change the sound.  If you listen you can hear that ae added an instrumental verse late in the song just to feature that alto and tenor sax

Lord Deliver Me

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

This is what Amanda and I are playing in the picture at the top of this post.  Its one of the first songs I ever wrote and brought to the band and we could rip through this song in our sleep.

If you want to download the MP3s of any of the songs you hear here just write me a comment below and I will give you a link and a password.

Photo Credit: Fabi Lima

Costumes, Halloween, and The Self

I recently heard a friend glumly describe Halloween as “a bunch of people buying costumes from Wal-mart and dressing like sluts.”

She said these words as if they were poison in her mouth.  But I love the idea of a holiday when one wears a disguise, for a couple of reasons.

Be Someone Else

We are often told by television and the culture to “be ourselves” as though
there was some authentic person that we could all just default to.  I don’t
know that being “yourself” is always possible.  The self is dynamic.  My
12-year-old self could not have written this post and my 30-minutes-from-now
self will be tired and disappointed in the ideas that are fresh in this post
now.

You can’t be the same thing everyday. Why not have at least one day out of
the year to be someone else.

Fewer Rules Mean Greater Freedom

It¹s true that men and women often dress in a more sexual way on Halloween
than on other days.

Great! I think if people are dressing differently on a holiday it is because
there is a desire in the culture to have a time and place where a more frank
kind of dress is appropriate.  Some will argue that those who dress sexually
do so because societal forces push them in that direction not because they
actually desire to express themselves in a more sexual way, I have trouble
agreeing.

We may find some costumes tawdry or in poor taste, but I think having a
culturally accepted day when people can dress absurdly whether it is sexual
mineral or vegetable is a good thing. I don¹t want to tear down all the
social rules and have an anarchy, but I think a few fewer rules once in a
while is more than healthy.

Clothes Have Power Beyond There Appearance

As a swimmer I can tell you that I felt ready to work out as soon as I had
my suit on, in a business suit I feel the same way about another kind of
work, and in a suit of armor or some other ridiculous costume I can feel
ready to work on something different.

Think about the expression “how you see yourself.” The face value meaning is
about how one perceives their own person but what we are literally talking
about is the visual act of seeing yourself.  So tomorrow, I suggest you get
a costume (from Wal-mart or whereever you want) and try and see yourself as
something else.

It is the nice thing about the self you can change it.

Just For Fun Version

It’s funny to me how easily things can become burdens. Even things that are hobbies or larks can turn into a duty that one dreads (I’m looking at you blog). Anything that one takes the time to work on and get better at can become resented.

That’s why I love the idea of a “Just For Fun Version.” I’ll give you an example:

I love writing songs for my band, but getting a song from the melody in my head to a fully realized composition with bridges, parts for all the instruments, harmonies and the practice it takes to get the song sounding decent can feel like a sisyphean task. I love putting together those songs and I take pride in the final product, but it can be hard to motivate myself and the band to get from soup to nuts on a new song.

On the other hand, when a friend of mine is making a movie and he needs some lyrics written for a joke song.  Its such a joy.  The pressure of collaborating and practicing is completely lifted.  Because its a joke song I don’t have to mess with the tone or feeling. But the real difference, is how low the stakes are. When someone asks me to do this on a lark I can relax and let loose. Without having to fulfill expectations from others, but more importantly without having to overcome my own personal censor.

I love to create for this blog, for my band, in brewing beer, and in any number of other arenas. The main thing that keeps me from doing more is not external criticism but my own self censor.

If I get stuck thinking of what I do as the thing I am going to be judged by I can get lost in my own insecurities. If I can convince myself that what I am doing is first and foremost to please myself, I end up making things I would be happy to be judged for.

Online Comic Creator Emi Gennis

Today’s interview with Emi Gennis concerns her online comic Owlex.  In it we talk about writing, drawing and producing a comic in an online forum. Emi’s main character, a ghost owl named Owlex, is based on a friend who committed suicide. Despite that Owlex, the comic, is more funny than tragic. The story follows Emi and her owl friend as they deal with life after his death, the afterlife, and the bars they go to after work.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

If you want to check out more of Emi’s work you can visit her site at Spazcomix.com.

Picture 5

Representing Detainees at Guantanamo Bay (Part 2 of 2)

Jeffery Colman represented four men at Guantanamo Bay.  In this, the second part of a two part interview, Jeff talks about his clients, and being an American lawyer working with the detainees in Guantanamo.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

This is my second interview with a lawyer working at Guantanamo, the first was with Candace Gorman.

Because of the seriousness of the subject matter covered here this interview is only lightly edited and the conversation is presented almost in its entirety.  The first part of this interview is available here.

Representing Detainees at Guantanamo Bay (Part 1 of 2)

Jeff Colman represented four men at Guantanamo Bay.  In this, the first part of a two part interview, Jeff details his experience at Guantanamo and shares his perspective on the situation.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

This is my second interview with a lawyer working at Guantanamo, the first was with Candace Gorman, and you will hear Jeff reference that conversation here.

Because of the seriousness of the subject matter covered here this interview is only lightly edited and the conversation is presented almost in its entirety.  The second part of this interview will be available October 27th, one day after the release of the first part.

5 Questions For Executive Coach and Leadership Consultant Jackie Sloane

Are Leaders Born or Made?

An age-old question! Certainly, leadership comes more naturally to some people, but leadership is definitely something we can learn. Great leaders are often great learners, and cultivate an aptitude for learning around them. Life often presents us with unexpected opportunity to take on a leadership role, in an emergency, for example. Or, to stand up for what’s right. That soldier who turned in the Abu Ghraib images, for example, found himself in an ethical dilemma, and listened to what his heart told him was the right, yet difficult thing to do. That took leadership, and courage.

What are the common traits of good Leaders?

Leadership is a fairly new discipline, and our understanding of leadership is evolving, as our needs for leaders evolve. We used to think of leaders more as warriors or generals. People who would tell us what to do and when. Fearlessness continues to be an important leadership trait, but other critical traits include curiosity, superior listening and observation skills. The ability to recognize and surround yourself with excellent talent becomes more important all the time, as is the ability to bring out the best in people and to create a sense of community in which people work together to shape a desired future. The authors of Good to Great found that the companies they studied that had been significantly more successful than other firms in their industries all had leaders who shared a unique combination of strong will and humility.

Who needs to think about Leadership?

Everyone. Your career success will be shaped by the leaders you work with. Choosing the right people to work for is one of the single most important decisions you can make. You can learn a lot from both good and bad leaders, but good leaders can give you the support, mentoring and connections that will accelerate your career. When you are in an organization, the choices you make on a daily basis impact those you work with, your organization, your clients, and your opportunities, so the more you learn about leadership, the better. In recent years, we saw the downfall of the nation’s largest, most respected accounting firm, largely due to critical choices made by two individuals.

How can we help those who lead us (particularly our bosses) be better managers and leaders?

Think strategically, and holistically. What really matters to your boss? What is he or she working to achieve? What really matters to the leadership of your organization? If you aren’t sure, find out. Then position yourself as a driver of those initiatives. Think ahead. With whatever task you have been assigned, what might thwart success? What simple detail could blow implementation? What are the potential obstacles to achieving what really matters to your boss? How can you creatively address them? Share what you see and want to do with your boss for buy-in, always first positioning any conversation with your current understanding of what is important to what really matters to him or her. What relationships within or outside the firm are critical to driving the achievement of what matters to your boss and the leadership of the organization? Cultivate those relationships, and keep your boss apprised of how what you are doing is forwarding the agreed-upon agenda. Realize that most of our leaders or managers are not ideal bosses, and may not have had ideal bosses, so you will be more successful and satisfied if you learn the art of managing up, and take it on as part of your job.

What are the most common mistakes made by people in positions of leadership?

Surrounding themselves with people who agree with them and won’t challenge them. Not listening. Not encouraging others to challenge assumptions. Lack of curiosity. Arrogance. Profound change happens more frequently now than in the past, so effective leadership now and into the future requires flexibility and ongoing learning. As long as you are arrogant, you can’t learn.

About the Author – Jackie Sloane writes the Executive Coach column for Executive Travel, and on leadership and communication for Chicago Examiner She coaches leaders to achieve significant results and greater well-being through how they engage others, navigate challenges, communicate, and cultivate relationships, and leads programs on Generative Communication.

They Tried to Steal My Website

Gentle reader, you are at a crime scene.  I usually like to post interviews on Wednesday, but when I tried to log in Yesterday I was unable to enter my website.

I was Victim of an Online Attack

Someone or something got access to the back end of this website.

The site never went down.  They didn’t vandalize the posts.  Tell you the truth it was a pretty mellow online attack. Remedied by a little time with the tech support and security team from my web host.

But, they did change my user name and password and I was locked out all of yesterday. I usually feature a new interview every Wednesday but because I have a guest post for Friday and today was pretty much shot on trying to get this thing back up and running I will just have next week feature two.

The Disconcerting Part is How Random It Was

Is there some entity out there that doesn’t like my commentary on cover bands or wants to keep the stories of Brazil’s Emerald mines under wraps? It seems unlikely.

I have already changed the passwords to all the accounts I can think of, but I would be surprised if the person who hacked into this website was in my email or (God forbid) my Twitter.

Anyway, I’m sorry if you missed the site. I can’t promise that this will never happen again, but I can promise vigilance. And by vigilance I mean that if this happens again I promise to call tech support again.

Covers and Cover Bands: Yes, No or Quizas

It can be infuriating for a young musician trying to get gigs playing original music.   They are often passed over for cover band or tribute bands. If you ask any musician trying to book gigs, engage audiences, or get attention, one of the easiest gimmicks is playing covers.  “When you play a cover someone has already done the work.  Not just of writing the song, but the work of making the world love that song” (Tom).

That said, I still love a good cover. It doesn’t take long to think up some truly great songs that are covers.  Jimi Hendrix version of “All Along the Watchtower”, The Flamingos version of “I Only Have Eyes for You, Marvin Gaye’s version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and The Fugees version of “Killing Me Softly” not only stand up to the original versions, but would stand up against anything in popular music.

Then there are those classics that get new life each time they are reinterprated.  Some great Blues, folk or country songs are so old or have been done by so many people that the songs aren’t thought of as belonging to the person who wrote them, but band that did them the best

My favorite example of a song like this is Quizas which has been played by:

Trio Los Pancho

Nat King Cole

Cake

Celia Cruz, Lila Downs, Paco de Lucia, Ruben Gonzales and a host of other great artists.

As a consumer of music I can admit that when I am hearing a band I don’t know, I often enjoy the songs they cover more than their original songs.  A lot of what we enjoy about music comes with familiarity.  So while I sympathize with artists composing their own music, I can still see it from the perspective of audiences and venues that prefer to hear the songs they know the like to those that they may like.  Full disclosure: my band H for Hombre plays some covers and they are a lot of fun.  We try not to cover songs that stretch us out of the songs we would generally play or audiences would generally hear.  But, its great fun playing songs that people know.

Also, I think that while it may be easier for cover bands to achieve a certain level of success, they also have to deal with a lower ceiling.  Who is the world’s most popular cover band? How many albums have they sold? I think there is something great about a person or a group of people loving a group enough to dedicate themselves to a recreating a group or style of music that they love, but I still wouldn’t pay 15 bucks to see one.

What about you gentle reader?  Are tribute bands a help or a hinderance to creativity in music? What is your favorite or least favorite cover?

I’ve Got a Hold on You IJ Quinn

This is the second video post from IJ Quinn.  I love hearing these songs and if I had ten of these videos there would be ten of these posts.  If you want to hear more from IJ you can check out the interview I did with him two weeks ago, our video post of his song Mutual or IJQuinn.com.

Next Page »