Monday, February 20, 2012

Living Scriptures

It's 4am and I woke up thinking about some scriptures and their current meaning in my life. The first scripture is Nephi 3:7 where Nephi states "...I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them."

The second is Abraham 3:27 - "And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me..."

I looked up Abraham 3:27 and another scripture caught my eye; that scripture is Abraham 3:25 "And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;"

I've heard these scriptures many times before, but they have a particular meaning to me today that they didn't have before.

In the last couple of years I have wondered why I was called to my last couple of church callings. Quite frankly I believe there are more qualified individuals who could have fulfilled these callings and assignments. And, while I don't know why I was called to serve in the specific callings, I know that I have learned from them.

The Lord gives us opportunities to serve in varying capacities and we have opportunities to grow if we take those assignments.

When I looked up Nephi 3:7 online, I saw that there was a link for the word "will". If you click on that link the options include links to the Topical Guide for "Faith", "Loyalty", and "Obedience". Accepting church assignments and callings shows the Lord all of these things.

I know that these thoughts are all over the place...Did I mention it is 4am? I will come back and look at these things again and see if I can organize them...I'm going to go back to bed now.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Homeless Guy Named Ken

Occasionally over the last month or so I've left work and found a homeless man sleeping next to a sidewalk in the vacant lot directly behind my work. At times, I've walked past him and his maxed-out shopping cart as I've headed to my car.

This past Sunday I prepared and gave a lesson on service and wondered what my duty was to this man as a priesthood holder and a Christian. In the class discussion I asked for insights on what I could do for him. I decided that the next time I saw him, I would see if he would like something to eat. A member of the class suggested I ask if he needed to talk to a relative; I agreed to do that as well.

I didn't have to wait long to see what I could do for him. Tonight as I came out of work, the man was in his usual spot sleeping. I approached him and asked him if he was all right and if he needed anything.

He said he was just sleeping and that he could use a house. I told him that I couldn't do anything about the house at the moment, but I could get him something from Burger King. He said I could get him something if I wanted to. I also asked him if he'd like to call a relative; to which he said that he didn't have any. So I went to Burger King and picked up a Whopper value meal for him. When I returned, I gave him the meal and found out a little more about him. From what I could see, it looked like he was in his 50's and hadn't shaved or had a haircut in quite some time. I found out his name is Ken and he's from Los Angeles. He apparently came to Las Vegas because it was a little warmer.

Now that I've made the initial contact, I wonder what else I could do for him. He definitely could use a place to stay and a way to get back on his feet. I'm open to your input.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Music Biz and Me

A few weeks ago I had this grand idea to get a song sung by Fred onto ITunes. So I started navigating the music industry to find out what it takes to get a song on ITunes. First, I learned some terminology:

1. Permanent Digital download - this is what you download from ITunes
2. Backing track - a recording used for accompaniment; sometimes called a practice track or karaoke track
3. Sound recording - a musical recording; could be instrumental, singing and instrumental, etc
4. Tracking - the process of recording music in a studio

Then I learned about uses and licensing. What you need to know about uses is there are personal uses and then there are commercial uses. Karaoke tracks you purchase and download are personal use tracks; normally, they can be used in performance, but they can't be used commercially in projects such as a new sound recording unless separate permission is given - this permission comes in the form of "Master Use" and usually comes with an additional price and license.

At this point I should back up a bit. Anyone can make a backing track (i.e. anyone can get the sheet music for a published song and record their own backing track). However, if you don't have the musical skills to create your own backing track, you have to hire someone to create it for you. If you hire someone to create a custom backing track for you, you are going to end up paying for their time and as well as studio time; consequently, buying a prerecorded backing track is generally more economical than having someone else create a custom backing track for you.

Then there is the matter of royalties. Once a song has been released commercially it is fair game for sound recording. However, if you record someone else's song you have to file the appropriate compulsory licensing paper and pay the appropriate royalties. Royalties are done on a per download basis when you are dealing with permanent downloads; these types of royalties are what are known as mechanical licenses or digital download licenses (FYI - I've found mechanical licensing to be interchangeable with digital downloads and licensing a song for use on a CD).

For those keeping track at home, there are (a) fees for the backing track master use license and (b) royalties to use the sound recording to be downloaded from ITunes.

The most important part of getting your song ready for ITunes is the tracking. Once you have the backing track, you can take it down to your local recording studio and get your song recorded. You ought to make sure you have a capable tracker for this and a good producer as they ultimately determine what ends up in your recording. Some studios include a tracker in their hourly recording rates. From what I understand, you should plan on 1 hour of editing for every hour of recording.

Next are the matters of getting the song copyrighted and also getting the song on ITunes. Yes, you heard correctly; in music the composition gets copyrighted and sound recordings can be copyrighted too. Yes, there is a fee to copyright the music too.

What about getting the song on ITunes? You actually can't put a song directly onto ITunes. ITunes requires you to upload your song through an music aggregator. Of course there is a fee for that too; not to mention ITunes keeps 29 cents for each 99 cent digital download sold.

So after all of this, you get a song that is listed on ITunes. What are you looking at as far as cost?

- Backing track $50 to $350 (some have limits to the number of downloads you can have - i.e. less than 5,000 - and a per download royalty for the number of downloads after the limit has been reached (i.e. 23 cents a download after 5,000 downloads))
- Music aggregator $9.99 for a single song $49.99 for an album (
- Tracking $75/hour (does not include producer rate)
- Royalties 9.1 cents per permanent digital download (you generally advance royalties based on expected downloads - minimum of 25; if you go through an agency, there is an application fee of $14 to $15 per track)
- Sound recording copyright $65

I can see how someone producing their own album could spend thousands of dollars; from what I understand, it is not unusual for people to spend thousands of dollars to produce one song.

Based on my numbers, I could produce a song for Fred to be on ITunes for between $310 to $750 depending on the backing track purchased and the amount of tracking time (Fred's vocal instructor has volunteered to be Fred's producer at no charge).

I'm investigating funding the project through Kickstarter is like a PBS fund drive for indie artists. This is because you have to come up with "Rewards" for people who donate to your project; the "Rewards" tend to relate to the project being funded (i.e. a reward could be a personalized thank you letter from the artist or a pre-release of the single/album, etc). I am open to suggestions on this front.

Kickstarter gets 5% of the funding; while Amazon charges a credit card fee between 3% to 5% on funding by credit card; thus, it looks like funding through Kickstarter leaves you with 90 to 92% of the funds collected after all is said and done. However, if a project doesn't get fully funded, then no funds are collected from anyone and the project doesn't get funded (it's all or nothing funding).

I'll keep you posted as everything progresses.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Fearless Daughters

The performing arts can be daunting and just getting in front of people is scary for most people. I tell you this because last month Jr and George performed in their dance recital, and this month Fred performed in her voice recital. They all did extraordinary, and I am extremely proud of them. To be blunt, they were fearless.

Below are some videos of Fred's performance from tonight (she sang "I Know It's Today" from Shrek the Musical and "When You're Alone" from Hook):

Below are some pictures from Jr and George's dance recital and a video of Jr doing the Can Can (George is a flower in the Alice in Wonderland dance):

I look forward to them continuing to develop their talents.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

We've Got Movement...

I had been trying to figure out how to get some bolts off the bottom of my Miata for some time now and finally had a break through this week. My gear head friend came over and showed me how to interlock two wrenches or a socket wrench and a wrench to get leverage; couldn't have been easier. We were able to take off the power plant frame, some bolts off the differential, and the transmission. I then worked on my own and took out the front sway bar, the radiator, the condenser, and the heat shield by the catalytic converter. Here are some pictures of the adventure:

Here's some stuff that came off my car!

This is what it looks like under the car...

I've got a hole in the front of my Miata...

Here are the missing pieces!

I'm almost to the point where the engine will be coming out; should be out by two weeks from today! Then I get to start tearing into the Ford Mustang that's park to the side of my house!