Portsmouth High School Band of Tomorrow

PHS Band of Tomorrow

PHS Band of Tomorrow

The Portsmouth High School Band of Tomorrow

High School Band Competition season kickoffs today for the Portsmouth Sound. I’m proud to say my daughter has carried on our family’s band tradition, down to playing Trombone, which I played in High School. As such, I’m feeling a bit nostalgic about our good old days in band.

Our Band Director, Billy Watson, touched more lives than he could possibly imagine during his time teaching at Portsmouth High School. His legacy, and that of the High School Band he forged back in the 1970s and 1980s lives on to this day. People still remember the powerhouse that was The Band of Tomorrow. I’m proud to have been a part of the Band of Tomorrow from 1984-1988, and Mr. Watson was one of those teachers that changed my life.

During my marching career, the Fall of 1985 was the pinnacle of PHS Band’s excellence. I only wish my memory and scrapbook were better. I know we won several Grand Championships that year and to this day our 1985 show is the yardstick I use to measure High School Bands. It’s not a matter of vanity to say we were amazing that year. Our performance in Ohio Stadium in 1985 at the Buckeye Invitational was the highlight of band during my time in high school.Buckeye Invitational Logo

In order to overcome the nostalgia plaguing me today I’d like to share the PHS Band of Tomorrow’s performance at the Buckeye Invitational in Ohio Stadium. Set the wayback machine to October 26, 1985 and enjoy a blast from 30 years in the past:

Today, the Portsmouth Sound takes the field to start their competition season. I’m excited to watch them, and jealous in a way. While I would never want to return to high school, the rush of stepping off on that field, and the elation of performing and feeling the musical synergy that can only be produced by marching band and drum corps is an experience that can’t be matched.

In a time when school music programs are pushed aside and continue to falter, I’m glad The Portsmouth Sound carries on our traditions of marching band at Portsmouth High School. I know current band director Matt Swintek instills a fierce loyalty in his students. I can only hope my daughter and the rest of this incarnation of the Portsmouth High School Band value their precious time in band, listen and absorb the positive lessons Mr. Swintek tries to teach them, and most importantly, that they take away the life lessons and work ethic I learned during my time in band.

Times have changed. Marching band has changed, but the ideals remain the same. Mr. Watson always told us “it’s better to shoot for the moon and miss, than to aim for the top of the house and make it.” Still words to live by.

A Weird Al Father’s Day

A Weird Al Father’s Day

Last weekend I spent Father’s Day with my children. Nothing unusual about that. The weirdness came from going to Kettering, Ohio that night to see Weird Al Yankovic in concert:

I hate to admit that I wasn’t looking forward to the concert. Spending about five hours in the car for travel to and from the concert wasn’t fun, but I have to say it was well worth sharing the experience of that concert with my kids. I started listening to Weird Al Yankovic when he first appeared on Doctor Demento back in the 80s. I remember his first albums and first hits. I remember the great music videos when MTV actually played videos. I listened to Weird Al as a teen and loved it.

It’s very cool how Weird Al’s sense of humor and parodies cross generations. The concert itself was very good. My only complaint is the frequency of his costume changes. I get that’s his schtick, and I respect that. The cover during the downtime are a string of videos of Weird Al in various media appearances throughout the years, which was entertaining, but after several breaks it became a bit tedious in my opinion. I much prefer to watch and hear the artist perform themselves, not watch the greatest hits of their media appearances.

As for performance, the band was fantastic and Weird Al is more entertaining than I imagined. He’s quite energetic and puts on a great show.

Though it may sound cliché, or cheesy, the part I enjoyed most was watching my children through the concert from time to time. It was great to share music that I grew up listening to along with music they’ve grown up on.

All in all, I think we all had a weird Father’s Day this year that we’ll all remember.

Welcome to Nightvale!

Welcome to Nightvale!

 

Welcome to NightvaleEarlier this week I had the pleasure of visiting the auspicious town Nightvale by way of Cincinnati. The wildly popular podcast is currently touring its live show “The Investigators”. Watching Cecil Baldwin was truly a treat. The man is a consummate acting professional. All the performers in this production were excellent performers and it was fun to see them in person, though, with the exception of Cecil, none looked like I imagine the characters they portray.

 

My only disappointment for the evening was the script itself. I think the writers tried way too hard to make this live show interactive and accessible. I can appreciate the accessibility issue. It’s understandable that they want to grow their audience and not alienate new listeners/viewers. I think they accomplished that goal. However, to me the problem was the story itself just tried to hard to involve the audience. The premise behind the podcast is a radio show. I don’t expect it to be an interactive experience, and I didn’t go to watch it live seeking an interactive experience. This isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy “The Investigators”.  Experiencing Nightvale live was a delight. The story was somewhat forgettable and didn’t advance, or add to Nightvale lore in any discernable way. That’s my disappointment.

 

The most intriguing part of Nightvale’s charm is the depth of mythology, setting, characters and description achieved with each episode. Followers of Welcome to Nightvale will readily tell you details about the lives of a multitude of characters. The minutiae is what makes Nightvale such fun. It’s easy to become lost in the lore and dream of picking up and diving into the weirdness. I just didn’t leave the theatre with any new epiphanies or friends from Nightvale.

 

Still, experiencing Nightvale live was well worth the two hour one-way trip and I would gladly give any new live shows a try in the future. Goodnight, Nightvale. Goodnight.

Visions of The Avengers

Visions of The Avengers

I’m anxious to see Avengers: Age of Ultron, in a good way, and a bad way.  The Avengers was my favorite comic book growing up. It’s one of the first books I ever bought with my own money and started collecting.  I was thrilled with Joss Whedon’s take on my Avengers in the first film. It worked really well and Joss obviously “got it”. He maintained a lot of the chemistry and relationships that makes The Avengers special as a comic book.

Admittedly, I haven’t kept up with comic books as much as I’d like as an adult.  Time, money, and life interfered.  But, to me my Avengers will always hold a special place in my heart and mind regardless of whatever has been done to the title through the years.

VisionsNow, my favorite character in Marvel comics has always been Vision.  Thus, I’m having grave reservations about Avengers: Age of Ultron. I truly don’t want Vision and Scarlet Witch to be ruined. Vision has always represented an especially poignant look at our struggle to define our humanity, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Vision has explored how we deal with love, life, loss, and everything in between. I was heartened by the Pinocchio references in the trailers. I’m hoping Joss still “gets it” and doesn’t muck up Vision. We’ll see. . . .

(A few hours later…)

Not a disappointment in the least. If anything, Vision didn’t have nearly enough screen time, but I think the new origin story Joss crafted fits in nicely with what Vision has always been and represented and it melds well with the MCU on screen currently. I was very pleased with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the movie. Again, a lot of potential for character development there. Another great Avengers movie.  Thank you Mr. Whedon, job well done!

Writing Mastery with David Farland

For Christmas 2014 I enrolled in David Farland’s Writing Mastery class.  The class is online, with ten assignments designed to be accomplished at your own pace.  One of the greatest benefits is the online meeting with David Farland.  Dave holds live video chat conferences, usually three to four times per week, depending upon his schedule.  He answers typed chat questions live at each meeting.  His insights on the publishing industry and writing are inciteful and invaluable.

I’ve completed the first four of ten assignments thus far.  With each assignment Dave has personally reviewed and edited my work, offering extensive feedback.  I’m proud to say that Dave has been very encouraging and positive in his critiques so far:

Assignment on Setting-“Excellent job on this.  …Honestly, I get the feeling that you’re layering the details in pretty well.”

Assignment on Characterization- “Okay, this is very nice.  Excellent job!”

Assignment on Dialog- “You did a good job on this.”

Dave’s instruction and feedback has helped me improve my writing already.  I really want to finish the other assignments, but I’ve been inspired over the last month since I started the class, and I’ve been spending all my writing time on revision on Volume One of the Sphere Saga.

Anybody looking to improve their fiction writing skills would greatly benefit David Farland’s tutelage.  I highly recommend it.  Information on Dave’s classes can be found at www.mystorydoctor.com.

A Brave New Blog

A Brave New Blog by Jay S. Willis

I aim to misbehave, er, I mean write.  Thus, the birth of a Blog.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, though the form has changed over the years.  From handwritten, stapled-together books in Elementary school, letters to friends out of the country as foreign exchange students in high school, to research papers, journals and poetry in college, to short stories in law school, to novels.  As an attorney, writing is always part of my professional life, but it’s not an exercise is pure creativity.

Legal writing is satisfying, don’t get me wrong.  But in order to maintain balance (and sanity) I HAVE to write.  I spent far too long suppressing my need to write in order to stay focused on career and raising a family.  While those things have an important place, the selfish desire to exorcise my creative demons has clawed its way to the surface and can no longer be denied.  It has been a painstaking process, but I think I’ve finally succumbed and writing has to be a daily mental exercise.  Butt in chair, fingers to keys.  The commitment has to be made before a different kind of commitment comes about.

I spent a good bit of time in November 2013 conquering NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and won!  Managed to pound out 50,000 words, and then some and completed a first draft of a bouncing baby novel called Implements of Sacrifice.  I did not however reach my goal of completing revisions to it, so it continues to molder on the shelf for now.

Long ago, (I won’t finish that thought so as not to draw the ire of Disney/Lucasfilm’s legal department) a world began to form itself in my mind and I started exploring that world in a novel.  I wrote on that novel for many years and I couldn’t say how many drafts it has seen, but an official First Rough Draft has settled itself into place as Volume 1 of a three part story, The Sphere Saga.

In November 2011, I made my first run at NaNoWriMo and wasn’t successful because my desktop crashed, along with many other life-related reasons.  However, that novel wasn’t for naught.  That novel is the seed for Volume 2 of The Sphere Saga.

Fast forward to today.  NaNoWriMo 2014.  I’m 38,075 words into Volume 3 of The Sphere Saga and looking to hit 50,000 words by the end of the month.  The book will be more than that, and it will get completed eventually.

For me, the point of NaNoWriMo is to push myself into developing a writing addiction/habit, which I think I’m well on my way to doing.  It is my intention that this Blog become an extension of just that.  This is a writing outlet.  A tool.

I hope to hone my writing skills and one day be able to write fiction professionally, full-time if at all possible.