Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Rant: The Freaky List of Things That Happened to Me in My First Two Months as a Freelance, Actually Continuing to be Employed Working for Other People not Doing Their Jobs

February 16, 2017
bradspurgeon

employmentBe warned in advance. This is a rant. It has nothing to do with my usual long-drawn-out descriptions of playing music in bars around the world. But I do hope it will be at least as entertaining as a night at an open mic….

On 6 Dec. after 33 years as an employee of a company, I went freelance. The plan is to continue to do everything I always did – journalism, writing, music, film – but to be accountable only to myself, and the private company I am currently creating, which I will call: Unfinished Business. But, astoundingly, since my official separation from my employer – I was one of 69 people fired – and my decision to work only for myself, I have actually been involved in the most absurd, at times laughable, and always frustrating task of doing other peoples’ jobs for them!

For the last two months, almost every time I have had to deal with people employed to serve me – through me paying them for a service, or through government agencies, public positions, private businesses etc. – the employed individuals have not quite done their jobs correctly, not paid attention to essential details, which has in turn led to infuriating situations of me working overtime trying to resolve the consequences from the lack of attention to those details. Ultimately, it has felt at times like this has become my new full-time job.

If you think I am exaggerating or have unrealistically high ideas of a work ethic, just take a look at this incredible string of events over the last two months, this unfortunate list of 15 excruciating events that has occupied me in near full-time employment unravelling jobs-not-well-done, and let me know if you can relate to this – or worse, have your own excruciating list of such events:

  1. The annual, so-called “check-up” for my apartment’s heater turned into a one-week ordeal of emails, telephone calls, early morning meetings with a technician over the machine that had heated my home and water perfectly for years after it broke down the night following the technician’s visit since he destroyed a regulating valve during the check up. One week to get them to repair the damage, and accept that I did not have to pay an extra fee for the valve they broke.
  2. Three hours lost – instead of 15 minutes – and several days of stress created over a government official’s lack of attention to a detail sending me the wrong form letter invitation to a vitally important meeting that was supposed to be done by phone, but for which due to the incorrect letter, I was obliged to show up at the office of the agency, where I was unwanted.
  3. An hour wait for both me and for the doctor at a check up, due to an error by one receptionist who failed to send the doctor the message and a lie by her replacement when I asked 30 minutes into the wait if it was normal, and she said, “Yes,” claiming without knowing it that the wait was entirely normal as the doctor was delayed, when in fact the doctor was just waiting for me in frustration.
  4. Several days of email communications, stress, and confusion over the sending of official documents to various government agencies after a staff member went on sick leave while preparing important documents for me which then lay in limbo for weeks.
  5. Due to a Paris metro trip from my home to the Gare de Lyon taking 1 hour 13 minutes instead of 25 minutes thanks to a so-called suspicious object, I missed a train to Milan from Paris and lost the 38-euro cost of the train ticket and was obliged to buy a 114-euro ticket for the next train that left 4-hours later.
  6. That delay led to me going into a nearby Fnac store where I ended up paying 500 euros for the wrong handheld steady-cam thanks to a salesman not giving me correct information about the model of the camera – and loss of time and money in an international call over this error.
  7. Endless visits to the ticket office of the Paris metro, missed metros, and sometimes lost tickets, due to some Metro employee’s new, poor choice of cardboard for the Paris metro tickets, which is ultra-sensitive to whatever happens to be in my pockets – like keys, credit cards or lint – that then demagnetizes the tickets.
  8. Spending 1125 euros on new eyeglasses that do not work correctly as they were either poorly mounted or poorly prescribed; with the even worse insult of two months’ occupation in sending documents, emails, return visits, and debates, due to a poor job of filing the papers by the optician as I try to be reimbursed for at least part of the cost of these glasses from the Social Security and private health insurance.
  9. A failed battle to receive an adequate sick leave note from a house call doctor for the horrendous case of the flu of my son – which lasted nearly a week.
  10. The subsequent more than an hourlong battle to find a pharmacy open on the Sunday to buy his medication after the officially assigned pharmacy for that Sunday’s opening was closed for no apparent reason, despite its legal requirement to be open.
  11. Having to pack up and carry internationally across Europe from Milan to Paris and then Paris back to Milan an electric moka machine that I bought in Milan and found defective once I got it back to Paris.
  12. Returning from Milan earlier than I wanted to in order to attend a meeting at my bank in France only to have the meeting cancelled at the last minute, thus robbing me of my time in Milan and causing extra work to set up a new meeting.
  13. Paying 23 euros, plus 2 euros tip, for a very bad, rushed, haircut so inadequately done that it required another haircut to make up for it, despite having previously discovered a great place where I can get my haircut just fine for 10 euros, plus tip, but deciding to be loyal to the more expensive place as a good client.
  14. A more than weeklong battle with The New Yorker to be reimbursed for having accidentally taken out two 146-euro annual subscriptions from the web site because there was no adequate confirmation that my first subscription had been registered.
  15. Repeated calls, emails, stress and information sent to a new potential colleague who failed to correctly either save or understand the information in the first place.

So tell me, is there really a conspiracy against the unemployed by the employed – to do their jobs for them – or am I just over sensitive and this just happens to all of us all of the time due to the fact that most of us, while employed, may officially be categorised as sleepwalkers? Or is this just one of those classic cases of work filling out the time available to achieve it – i.e., I have so much time on my hands now that regular daily tasks will take all that time in order to be completed? Only time will tell….

A Jam in Milan, a Jam in Paris – and the Jamming Goes On….

February 13, 2017
bradspurgeon

Le Paradis

Le Paradis

PARIS – Back in Paris now, I attended a great open mic/jam on Saturday that I have written about several times. It has never ever let me down, even though it can vary from week to week. But the feeling at Le Paradis bar jam is invariably worth the attendance. And when I think of it, the second version of the Joy jam bar in Milan on Wednesday was even better than the first edition. In any case, despite their differences, there is a similarity of feeling between the two: People loving to play and people loving to listen, to music.
In bars, in open jam situations with no stage, just musicians getting up and playing together, musicians who do not know each other, and the clients who do not know the musicians.
Joy jam milan second

I’m just running on at the mouth at the moment, trying to make text areas on this page with which to divide up the space where I will put the videos from each of these open jam sessions.
joy jam milan first

I waited longer than usual to post, and so therefore, I have been terribly irresponsible, and only the general, fantastic vibe of the two nights has remained with me. Along with the point that a jam session, whether it is in Milan or Paris or Shanghai or Seoul or Melbourne or New York or London, is ALWAYS a moment of great emotional celebration, togetherness and release.
joy jam milan fourth

Too bad the rest of the world could not learn from that!
atmosphere at le paradis jam

Check out the videos….
fifth at le Paradis

third at le Paradis

sixth at le paradis

second at le paradis

Joy jam milan third

Acchiappa Sogni – In Via Padova: A Short, Short Film about Big, Big Dreams in a Neighborhood in Milan

February 9, 2017
bradspurgeon

TAC Teatro

TAC Teatro

MILAN – Three small hand-held cameras, a walk around Milan’s down-at-the-heals but lively, warm neighborhood of the Via Padova and an idea from the director of the local TAC Teatro, Ornella Bonventre. That’s all it took to for a cool trip through the lives of the people of this passionate neighborhood and find out what drives them, how they see the world, and above all, what are their dreams.

I was proud and pleased, and even astounded, to be part of this little adventure, and to find what makes people tick – like the record store man who said his store WAS his dreams, or the telephone parts shop salesman who said to be “a good man” was the goal and the end, or the supermarket worker who spoke of integration from his origins in North Africa…. Here is the video, which I also had the pleasure of editing – and if you listen closely to the soundtrack, you might recognize it. (Hint: The music, sans vocals, of my song, “Borderline.”) (You may also recognize that one of the interviews took place in the Ligera bar, about which I have posted an item or two on this blog for its musical evenings.)
So check out the 6-minute dreams video, called “Acchiappa Sogni – In Via Padova“:

Update of Thumbnail Guide to Milan Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music

February 4, 2017
bradspurgeon

Milan

Milan

I have updated my Thumbnail Guide to Milan Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music. I’m really pleased to be able to add another open jam session just weeks after I updated this page in a city where I have such a hard time finding open mics and open jams. That’s the Joy Milano bar jam that I attended a few days ago. I hope it lasts!!!

So take a visit to my Thumbnail Guide to Milan Open Mics, Jam Sessions and other Live Music.

So check it out!

Paolo Alderghi, Stephane Trick and a Special Guest at the Humaniter in Milan – All (Family) Hands on Deck

February 3, 2017
bradspurgeon

Paolo and Stephanie

Paolo and Stephanie

MILAN – I don’t know if there is some kind of interesting statistical reason behind this, but two of the most interesting professional musicians that I have met in all of my world travels going to open mics – well, and Grand Prix races – have come through taking the same flight as those exceptional musicians. That said, in each case the meeting was due to me carrying my guitar on my back onto the flight, and that was the connection point that led to conversation. The first meeting was that of Pierre Bensusan, the virtuoso French guitarist – whom I have written about on this blog – and funny enough, I met Bensusan in the airport in Milan as we were about to board the same flight to Paris. The other meeting was with the remarkable Milan-based jazz pianist, Paolo Alderighi. But Paolo and I met not in Milan, but oddly enough, on an Air France flight from Tokyo to Paris. I have maintained relations with each of these musicians over the years, so when I found out that Paolo was performing in a concert in Milan last night, I jumped at the opportunity of attending. And it was all the more special because I knew it would be with his wife, Stephanie Trick, with whom he performs around the world in four-handed piano. What I did not know until I was seated in the concert hall room of the Humaniter Foundation, was that Paolo had also invited for his first public performance his father, Giorgio, who played banjo and harmonica on several numbers….
Trick and Alderighi doing the St. Blues (not in Milan!)

So it was a tremendous family affair at the Humaniter, in this grand hall with its fresco ceilings of religious something or other, and what looked like a crowd of at least 300 spectators. I had seen and heard Paolo and Stephanie’s music in both YouTube videos, and on one of their CDs. But seeing and hearing them perform in public was – like attending a Pierre Bensusan concert – a whole other affair. Stephanie is from the United States, originally from San Francisco, but not a longtime resident of St. Louis, which is one of the cultural homes of the kind of music of which she is a world recognized specialist: stride piano.
Paolo Alderighi and his father Giorgio at the Humaniter in Milan

As it turns out, Paolo is also a specialist in stride piano, and so it was perhaps natural – even though the two of them had their own successful careers as soloists – that together Paolo and Stephanie should meet on the level playing field of the four-handed piano. And boy, do they ever meet there. As a husband and wife team, I cannot imagine there have been many other similar acts. And what is absolutely fabulous is not JUST the virtuoso piano playing, but also the fun that they seem to have playing the music. They dart around the piano bench exchanging positions, throwing in different parts to each performance, being playful, appreciative, and expressing their profound delight in the “recreation” with the audience in a way that just cheers the heart of the audience.
Paolo Alderighi and Stephanie Trick at the Humaniter in Milan

And that’s to say nothing of the broad cross-section of music, from Gershwin and Cole Porter to The Beatles – with a truly remarkable rendition of “Penny Lane” that enters into a zone close to modern jazz at some point near the end – the music is truly emotional and interesting throughout. The numbers they performed with Paolo’s father, Giorgio, were emotionally touching not only because we knew that it was a family affair, but especially due to his father’s brilliant, melodious and emotional harmonica playing, and his fun banjo strumming. Giorgio was never a professional musician, but if you were in the audience last night you would not have known that – I was wondering if I had had memories of being told that his father played harmonica in sumphony orchestras, film soundtracks, or whatever. But no.

But research shows me that he has lots of experience performing in bands, lots of jazz, and it certainly seemed also that Paolo’s father is something of an expert on American popular music of all kinds. So now I see where at least part of Paolo’s inspiration came from. In any case, the four-handed team of Stephanie Trick and Paolo Alderighi is an unforgettable one, and in music terms, a perfect marriage. No wonder they tour the world – they’re playing in Berne, Switzerland tonight, by the way, if you happen to be there and still have the time to find them….

My apologies for the poor quality of the video image of my Zoom, and I have also discovered that half of the recordings I made have a strange percussive sound that seems to be someone banging on the Zoom. I can only imagine that while I was filming, I was still tapping my foot and sending the beat through my body into the hand on the Zoom. In any case, it is a missed opportunity for some great footage on the new Osmo camera, but that would have been much less subtle than with the Zoom, especially as I sat within the first three rows of the room…. I’m adding another video, that I did not take, to this page to give a better idea of the performance without the bad Zoom image quality and the crackle of the device!

Joy in Milan at the Joy Jam at the Joy Milano

February 2, 2017
bradspurgeon

Joy Milano bar

Joy Milano bar

MILAN – Definitely I think I have the most fun when I am in a city where there are not usually that many different open mics or open jam sessions, and suddenly I discover a new one. If I am in Paris, London, Toronto or New York, or even Melbourne, and I find a new open mic or jam, I’m really happy to attend. But unless it is absolutely extraordinary and different, it’s not the same buzz at all of the kind I experience in a city like Milan, where last night I attended the first ever weekly open jam at the Joy Milano bar. And this time, the joy was not just in the discovery of a jam session at a bar in Milan, but in this one being absolutely completely different than any I have attended before, with some amazing musicians – not the last of which is the man who organises the jam, Raffaele Kohler, a well-known Milan trumpet player.
Joy Milano Jam Second

The Joy bar is located in part of a municipal building that includes an auditorium for local events, and public speeches. But the bar is independent, privately owned. So it sets up its own events that have nothing to do with the municipality. For this jam to succeed, therefore, it will require musicians to know it exists – it’s not located in the kind of place where passersby will hear the music and drop in.
Third at Joy Milano Jam

I was at first worried that because the first two musicians present were brass wind instrument players, that this might be a jazz jam, and that I could not fit in. Then in walked a banjo player with some penny whistles, there was a cajon player, and then two electrical guitar players, and others followed. And the music was every style anyone wanted it to be. Playing my own songs with the “brass section” turned out to be quite wild and educational, and another bit of evidence of the importance and fun of open jam sessions.
Joy Milano Jam first

The first edition of the Joy Milano jam last night, as you will see from the videos, was a fabulous success, with the sit-around-the table open free-for-all feel of jams I find occasionally, but rarely with such a fun feel. (By the way, check out the difference in quality between the videos, some of which were done on my new Osmo camera, the others were done on my old Zoom.) The people running the bar let the jam go without the least comment on volume, and while I had to leave at midnight, I understand it was to go on a lot later. A great sign.
Joy Milano Jam Sixth


Joy Milano Jam Seventh

Joy in Milan Jam Fifth

Joy in Milan fourth

Learning by Osmo-sis. (Osmo at the Oz – Part II)

February 1, 2017
bradspurgeon

Oz Open Mic Paris

Oz Open Mic Paris

PARIS – So already another week has passed and somehow I have put nothing on my blog since the Osmo camera post last week after visiting the Café Oz open mic in Pigalle. And here I am a week later with Chapter II: Visiting the Oz open mic again, again with my new Osmo camera. On the other hand, I am happy to report that not only did I get a tiny little bit better with handling the camera, but the open mic itself was miles more fun for me than last week, thanks to the presence of a few friends who suddenly all showed up for the visit of the amazing Aaron Bowen of San Diego, on one of his frequent visits to Europe….

So there I was again with the handheld Osmo steady cam, and this time figuring out how to use it a little better in terms of the image and camera movements, but unfortunately, it was only halfway through the evening that I learned how to improve the sound reception. Unfortunately, for Aaron Bowen’s set, the sound level was still a little low, and so the volume is not very high, and the sound not as crisp as it should be.
Brislee Introduces Bowen and Saxo

I managed to correct that problem for the set of the amazing Ash Gray and his fabulous Lowden guitar and playing and singing. Is it possible to say that Aaron Bowen and Ash Gray are opposites in style? No, not really, there’s something that ties their music together, though I’m not sure what it is – maybe just the commitment. In any case, Aaron was in from San Diego, and this time with his electric guitar, and his ever melodious vocals. And this time, joined by Stephen Saxo, who plays…yes, you got it….
Bowen and Saxo first

Stephen, with whom I have played many times in the past, also played along with me last night, on my “Borderline,” and a song I rarely sing, but feel inspired to sing in the context of the Trump presidency, since the song is a kind of protest song against the establishment trying to take away our personal freedoms…. (It’s called “Sing It” and has a very 1960s feel and inspiration to it.)
Ash Orphan first

Also present was Ventru, whom I have written about many times on this blog, including when I ran into him at an open mic in Montreal, although he is from France and was only in Canada on a holiday. At the time he played last night, I was no longer filming, though, so I’ll wait for a future occasion to Osmo him.
Another Bowen and Saxo

In any case, as the experiences grow with the Osmo, I’m hoping it will all come together soon in the best sound AND images possible for this blog….
A second long Ash Orphan in 4K

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