Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Costochondritis: Officially Ruled "Not Fun"

Any kind of chest pain is usually not cool. Chest pain while you're a 40+ smoker who's in the midst of a busy and stressful time at work and dealing with the holidays is an added level of uncoolness.

That's the bad news. The good news is that when I started feeling a bad pain in my chest yesterday, I didn't panic about it. It was obvious to me that I'd injured myself somehow and wasn't having a heart attack or anything. It was very tender to the touch and painful when I tried stretching, but otherwise didn't hurt badly, and my heart rate and rhythm seemed regular. Nevertheless, no one likes to be in a bunch of mysterious pain, so when Kat suggested that we take a little run down to the urgent care center, I didn't object as I usually do.

After arriving and waiting in the waiting room, then getting my vitals checked, then getting an EKG, then getting kicked out of that room into another exam room and then waiting in there for a seeming eternity, I got to speak to an actual real, live doctor. She let me know that I had a textbook case of costochondritis. Yeah, I'd never heard of it either.

Costochondritis is a benign inflammation of the costal cartilage, which is a length of cartilage which connects each rib, except the eleventh and twelfth, to the sternum. It causes pain in the chest that can be reproduced by pressing on the affected area between the ribs. This pain can be quite exquisite, especially after rigorous exercise. While it can be extremely painful, it is considered to be a benign condition that generally resolves in 6–8 weeks.

So, now we know.

A Short Break
I was scheduled to play a show tonight on Facebook via StreamJam, but with doctor's orders not to lift anything or chance straining the injury in any way, I'm taking a very short break from shows. I will be back a week from Sunday for my first show of the new year on January 2, 2011, at Triana's Music Trivia, which will be very fun.

Meanwhile, I'm treating the costochronditis with a week-long regimen of steroids. I was hoping that simple ibuprofen would be sufficient, but the doc seemed to feel that the anti-inflammatory aspect of methylprednisolone (Medrol) would help resolve the problem with the rib cartilage more quickly. I'm down with that.

So, that's all. On a side note, while it still hurts quite a bit today, it already seems to be a little better, and I'm sure I'm going to be back to my normal happy Zak soon enough.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Molaskey's Pub (12.20.10)


I've said it before and I'll say it again: Molaskey's Pub is a great place to perform live music in Second Life. I really think I've figured out what separates places like Molaskey's from hundreds of other music venues in SL:

1. They really like music.
2. They keep the place well staffed with people who know what they're doing.
3. They go the extra mile to help promote shows.
4. They really make artists feel welcome.
5. It's a cool place where people like to hang out, regardless of who's playing.

Those are five BIG things that I don't take for granted. As you can see at the top of this post, they've also started doing something I think is very, very smart: they're doing live audio/video feeds of events at Molaskey's on Ustream. This allows people who aren't in SL to see what it's all about, which in turn entices them to come in and join the fun. I don't know any other SL venue who is doing this, so hats off to the Molaskey's team in putting this together.

Me, doing my thing. Just another gig on an ice skating rink in a virtual world. I'm still amazed that this is even possible, despite having done it for four years. Photos by Kat.

A Fun Show
Last night's show was as fun as it always seems to be at Molaskey's. On Kat's advice, I pulled out some covers I hadn't done in a long time, and they turned out great. We had a good crowd there of fun and happy folks, and as you can see, the place was appropriately decked out for the holiday season. Most of the Zaksters came out to enjoy the tunes and the virtual ice skating, and both my voice and guitar were cooperating with me for the most part. Definitely one of the better shows of 2010, and there have been lots of good ones this year, so it's no mean feat.

Good times at Molakey's.

Molaskey's Set List...
Free Man in Paris (Joni Mitchell)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Any Major Dude (Steely Dan)
Ashes to Ashes (David Bowie)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Thank U (Alanis Morissette)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
Things Behind the Sun (Nick Drake)
Behind Blue Eyes (The Who)
Old Man (Neil Young)
†Long December (Counting Crows)

†Not surprisingly, the last time I played "Long December" was December 23, 2009.

Live music, ice skating, and snow-covered palm trees. Not a bad way to spend a Monday night. Not at all.

Huge thanks to all who supported my show at Molaskey's Pub!
Jordan Hazlitt, Cellandra Zon, Nasus Dumart, Triana Caldera, Diana Renoir, Mia Kitchensink, Xerxes Ninetails, Cicadetta Stillwater, simple Winsmore, Shmoo Snook, Kat Claxton, Crap Mariner, Capos Calderwood, and of course, the rest of the great Molaskey's team... Katydid Something and Apple MacKay!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A report from Delinda Dyrssen's SL memorial

Kat and I spent some time both yesterday and today (December 18/19, 2010) at the Second Life memorial for Delinda Dyrssen. We'd both become friends with Delinda -- who hadn't? -- and were glad to be able to get together with her many, many friends to help celebrate her life.

Saturday's event at Sailor's Cove included performances by musicians including Pmann Sands, Christopher135 Quan, Astronimus Galaxy w/ Cellandra Zon, PonDman Haalan, Tpenta Vanalten, Truelie Telling, Nesto Silverfall, Noma Falta, OhMy Kidd, Pato Milo, and Anek Fuchs, as well as many spoken tributes from Deli's great friends.

Sunday's memorial at The Pocket had many more live musicians, comedians, and friends honoring Deli, including Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler, Lorin Tone, Arimo Teixeira, Frets Nirvana, The Follow, CraigLyons Writer, TwinGhost Ronas, Guitar Zane, ZeroOne Paz, me, Lauren Weyland, Maximillion Kleene w/ Cellandra Zon, Wytchwhisper Sadofsky, Silas Scarborough, Ande Foggarty, Blues Heron, Vaughan Michalak, Freestar Tammas, Von Johin, Moondoggirl Moomintoog, Kit Guardian, Matthew Perrault, RoseDrop Rust, and ColeMarie Soleil

Today, I got to perform at the event at The Pocket, and did a little set that I'd hoped Delinda would have enjoyed.

Delinda's Memorial Set List...
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
She's Always a Woman (Billy Joel)
*Amelia (Joni Mitchell)
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Shine (Zak Claxton)

*Indicates the first time I've performed this song in SL.

Kat and I at Sunday's memorial. Delinda's worth getting dressed up for. :)

My view from the stage of all of Delinda's great friends.

Thank you to everyone who came to Delinda's memorial! You are all wonderful people! Don't forget that you can donate to the Kidney Foundation in Delinda's RL name (Denise Williams) here!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Delinda Dyrssen Memorial Events (Dec 18/19)

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, my friend and terrific Second Life music supporter Delinda Dyrssen tragically passed away at age 32. Since then, her friends have banded together, and under the leadership of Chestnut Rau have put together a two-day memorial that will hopefully serve two purposes. First, it will help raise awareness of a cause that Delinda was passionate about: kidney disease treatment and prevention. Second, the day will be filled with things that Delinda loved: art, sailing, and music!

The schedule below is still being finalized, but take a look at this list of performers; it really shows you how much Delinda was loved and admired by all of us.

Saturday 12/18 - Sailors Cove Theater

9:30am Pmann Sands
11:00am Christopher135 Quan
11:30am Astronimus Randt (or Astronimus Galaxy) with Cellandra Zon
12:00 pm PonDman Haalan
12:30 pm Tpenta Vanalten
1:00 pm Remembrance in Voice
2:00pm Remembrance in Words
3:00pm Remembrance Messages
4:30pm Truelie Telling
6:30pm Nesto Silverfall
7:00pm Noma Falta
7:30pm OhMy Kidd
8:00pm Pato Milo
8:30pm Anek Fuchs

Sunday 12/19 - The Pocket

9:00am Pilgrim75 Swashbuckler
9:30am Lorin Tone
10:00am Arimo Teixeira
11:00am Frets Nirvana
12:00pm The Follow
12:30pm CraigLyons Writer
1:00pm TwinGhost Ronas
2:00pm Guitar Zane
3:00pm ZeroOne Paz
3:30pm Zak Claxton
4:00pm Phaylen Fairchild
4:30pm Lauren Weyland
5:00pm Maximillion Kleene with Cellandra Zon
5:30pm Wytchwhisper Sadofsky
6:00pm Zachh Cale
6:30pm Ande Foggarty
7:00pm Blues Heron
7:30pm Vaughan Michalak
8:00pm Freestar Tammas
8:30pm Von Johin
9:00pm Moondoggirl Moomintoog
9:30pm Kit Guardian
10:00pm Matthew Perrault
10:30pm RoseDrop Rust
11:00pm ColeMarie Soleil

More Info
Per Chestnut...

"We do expect the sims to be crowded so if you want a quiet place to listen you are welcome to do so at my home or at Crap Mariner's Clocktree Park. If anyone else would like to stream the Memorial on their land please let me know."

Art Auction
Over 30 art pieces were donated for this event. Funds collected will go to KDIGO, a global non-profit foundation dedicated to improving the care and outcomes of kidney disease patients worldwide. When Delinda died, she was in the midst of traveling around the world to help promote the cause of paired kidney donation, so making a generous bid on the art will help further this cause that Delinda worked toward in her life.

Make a Donation
Even if you can't attend the events, you can help. Here is the donation page for the National Kidney Foundation. Choose the "Memorial Gift" option, and Delinda's family will get a note from the Foundation. Hopefully we can see a lot of compassion for people who want to help prevent this from happening to other friends and loved ones.

See You There!
If you're a Zakster, please note that I'll be doing a short (half hour) set at 3:30 on Sunday 12/19. I plan on playing a special song or two for Delinda, and I'm looking forward to paying my respects in a way I think she would have enjoyed. However, I advise you to check out lots of artists and events over the two locations in two days this weekend. In addition to the live music, there will be sailing, art, comedy, and much more that our friend Delinda hopefully would have loved. While it's a somber reason that inspired this gathering, Delinda was anything but a somber person, and hopefully some of the event will reflect Deli's fun, irreverent vibe. I look forward to seeing everyone there.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Report: ZC30 Show in Second Life and StreamJam


We sometimes toss around words like "epic" a little too casually. "How was that cheeseburger, man?" "It was epic, dude. Epic." I mean, I'm as guilty of this as anyone; being prone to hyperbole is a curse I have to live with. But I have to say that of the hundreds and hundreds of virtual and remote live shows I've done over the past four years, last night's celebration of the 30th anniversary of my live shows was possibly the most fun and memorable -- and yes, epic -- performances I've ever done in my life.

A brief recap as to the reason for the show: I did my very first live performance playing guitar and singing for a crowd when I was 11 years old, on December 8, 1980. To commemorate the milestone 30 years later, my great friend Bunny Knutson came over and we put on a show that was simulcast to both Second Life (at an SL club that Kat and I own in our parcel called Coyote) and to StreamJam, the live music app for Facebook. As a result, we were able to host audiences from both the virtual world and from casual Facebook users.

The view of the show in Second Life, at The Club @ Coyote. Photo courtesy of Kat.

Here's what it looked like in StreamJam. Photo courtesy of Triana Caldera.

It was, in a word, fun. Fun as hell. It was one of those shows that, as I look back from the vantage of an old man, will be among the more memorable ones I've ever done.

First, Some Really Geeky Stuff: Multiple Audio/Video Streams
As I prepared for the show, a good number of people (fellow performing musicians and various audio technology geeks) inquired as to how I was taking audio and video and streaming them into two places simultaneously. The answer is actually pretty simple (though it won't sound that way to everyone):

1. Microphones into mixer.
2. Mixer "tape output" into computer audio interface (a Digidesign Mbox in my case).
3. Mbox USB output into computer. This feeds my Nicecast software, which in turn streams audio into Second Life.
4. Mixer "main output" directly into computer's audio "line in". This feeds Ustream Producer software, which in turn streams audio that is picked up by StreamJam in Facebook.

The video portion is even easier. Ustream recognizes the built-in camera on my Mac. From Ustream, the signal is automatically picked up by StreamJam, which covers Facebook. In SL, the web page for Ustream is embedded in a prim, so people using compatible SL viewers can see the same video feed. Easy as pie.

I'm realizing as I write this that if I'd read it 10 years ago, I'd have no idea what almost any of this stuff meant. Such is progress.

Rocking in the Multiverse
Bunny arrived at about 5PM, having beat the crosstown traffic and giving us plenty of time to get set up, warmed up, and ready to rock. We only briefly went over what we'd be playing. One nice thing about having a good friend with whom you've jammed a lot; there's a simpatico that develops where it gets easier and easier to know what to expect from the other, so you don't have to pre-plan every aspect of the show, and let things happen naturally. It makes for a more fun and spontaneous vibe for both us as musicians, and for our crowd as listeners. In any case, I felt that the set went great.

ZC30 Set List...
This Afternoon (Zak Claxton)
Fade Away (Zak Claxton)
The Sands of Redondo (Zak Claxton)
Shine (Zak Claxton)
Falling Down (Zak Claxton)
Waiting for This (Zak Claxton)
†Black Phobe (Zak Claxton)
Always Tomorrow (Zak Claxton)
You're Like a Cloud (Zak Claxton)

† This was the first time I'd done my new instrumental "Black Phoebe" along with another musician. Like, ever. We didn't even rehearse it... that was literally the very first time.

We did everything we could, including digital cardboard cut-outs, to allow people in both worlds to feel like they were experiencing the show like they were here in the room with us. Photo by Triana.

We ended up with a nice-sized crowd in both worlds, made up of great friends, Zak fans, and some folks checking out the show for the first time. It was simply terrific.

Massive thanks to everyone who attended, both in SL and on Facebook. Even larger thanks to Bunny and Kat, who really made the show special. I love you people!