Two years at this company and I’m about to go postal. Last week I was not included in a group that visited our largest clients back home, which would have given me an opportunity to get to know more about the market and people I’m supposed to be supporting. Instead I’m stuck here in this tower translating letters for monolingual yes-men, and alienating clients by chasing invoices which have already been paid. Being denied this opportunity causes me to wonder what my prospects for promotion are. Since I started here, I’ve been asked to do jobs that nobody really seems to care about, or maybe even want me to fail. Others that have started at the same time or later than me have been promoted. Is it racism? This would be very difficult to prove or be compensated for in a country that doesn’t seem to understand what that is. Until now I’ve been patient, but I’m starting to feel that the last two years have been a waste. Obviously I’m better suited for a different type of work in a different type of environment, but I don’t want to leave here without achieving something first. The problem is I’ve reached a new level of de-motivation and cynicism that puts me on the verge of tears several times a day.


My new game is trying to insert diminished chords wherever I can under a melody. Level one of the game was A-melody to Fly Me to the Moon like so (chords in bold are original harmony, chords in parentheses are passing):
Am7-Ab diminished-Am7-Edim.-Dm7-Edim.-Dm7-Adim.-G7-G13-Em7-Dm7-CM7-(C#dim.)

I got some ideas from a chord-melody arrangement I downloaded years ago from Guitar College, but quickly found myself improvising my own harmony, which is of course exactly what should happen. The use of diminished chords comes from an video-lesson with Joe Beck called “Jazz Chord Workout.” He demonstrates how to harmonize a harmonic minor scale using this approach, which was a paradigm shift for me since the only approach I knew was diatonic. Jim Hall also demonstrates an approach to harmonizing a mixolydian scale using dominant chords in a video I saw, so I guessed that all of the diminished chords used here would be enharmonic to the dominant b9 of the chord that follows it: Ab diminished=E7b9, E diminished=A7b9, A dim.=D7b9 F# dim.=B7b9. Looking at the roots of these chords, it’s immediately obvious that they are a fourth apart, just like the original harmony.

Fringes of a global market peripherally extending to Japan allow a guitar-geek like me can to have many absurd adventures. I will attempt to summarize:

1. I pulled two OEM Dimarzio pickups out of my old Epiphone Les Paul from high school to sell on Yahoo! Auction, Japan’s answer to eBay (which failed here.) One found bidders right away, but the other didn’t attract much interest, despite name-dropping Paul Gilbert in the description. So I posted on a gear-recycling community in a social networking site, mixi. Apparently, this community has rather strict rules about multi-posting and someone sent me a warning. Within an hour, a had I removed the post but someone had already reported my OTHER item on Yahoo! as being in violation of their rules. Ironically, I sold that item and even got a response before removing my post from mixi, but didn’t sell. That’s ok though, because eventually it will sell on Yahoo.

2. Almost 15 years ago, I got this great Hughes & Kettner preamp but lost the AC adapter and damaged some knobs. It’s now discontinued and being such a brillant example of German engineering, the dimensions and specifications of these components are such that they are nearly impossible to replace, so it has been mothballed for about the last 10 years. This month I brought it back after a trip home, but after an exhaustive search of Akihabara turned up nothing, I had to go to the source. After zero response from US customer support, I contacted the North American and Japanese distributors. Both replied, and offered me a replacement AC adaptor for $50 (!) and $5 per control pot. I feel it’s worth it if I can use this thing again. It really is the SHITE!

Chord surplus has never really been a problem for me. I love chords and am always searching for new ones. Digging through some old lessons, I found a bunch of altered voicings with flatted or sharped 5ths. They sounded good, but initially I didn’t know what to do with them! The reason they hadn’t become part of my vocabulary was because they didn’t sound very good on my guitar and were hard to play. That all changed with the GB-10! Unfortunately, applying them is tricky. Usually I play a dominant #5 chord before a minor 9th, but these are more difficult to visualize and finger than the basic”stack,” “stair” or “bucket” shapes I know. After a few hours of shedding last night, I was able to incorporate them into some V7+ -> i cadences, and then of course ii7b5->V7+ -> i progressions. I was able to visualize the new augmented chords by lowering the 5th which yeilds a familar dominant 7 shape. The fingering is completely different though so it’s going to require a bit more work. One really nice side-effect of this is that I gained a deeper understanding of the relationship between these and minor 7 b5 chords, and diminished chords. They follow each other very logically, like a V9 follows a m7. (There’s only a half-step between a diminished chord and a m7b5.) But you could substitute an augmented chord for diminished chord for greater variety — if your fingers are fast enough. This sounds just as naturally, since the augmented scale also has a b5. Like diminished chords, augemented chords can also be displaced from chord they’re resolving using different intervals. For example, I discovered that I can play (build) a chord a minor-third away from the root and it sounds good.

Tricker than the augmented chords are the parallel dominant flat-fives, and the wierd voicings I got from my lessons with Pete Montgomery and Jody Fisher.

Yawn! What a great Wednesday night. Things really could have gone a lot worse in terms of my playing, and gear I supposed. The biggest problem was my main instrument cable cutting out. This is the Belden cable that I’ve considered to be the most reliable for the last few years, but last night it betrayed me mid-song. I lucky to keep connected by stepping on the end plugged into my Barber Tonepress. If I can’t fix it, I have no qualms with replacing it with a new one. This was probably the most reliable, and best sounding cable I ever used.

The other problem was coarse strings. I should have gotten another can Fast Fret, instead those wet-napkins Ernie Ball calls string cleaner and then sells for $8. Even better would be Dr. Kyser’s string cleaner, but it is almost impossible to find in stores here. This may be due to the fact that it stinks, squeeks, looks like jism and is not easy to apply without making a mess. A more lustrous, less coarse brand of strings might help, too. I’ve got my eye on Thomastik-Infeld’ Flat 12-50 set which has a bit lighter A, D, and G strings than the GHS Precious Flats on the guitar now. There’s also their Bright Flats and D’angelico to try on this guitar.

Messing with your setup two days before a debut gig is not a good idea. Compared with Sunday’s marathon rehearsal, last night’s spot check was a disaster. My new guitar sounded totally different with new, heavier strings and a brass pick. I also had some problems because I ran my delay through the effects loop of the Roland JC-120 in the studio.

Even though it eats about one 9V battery per day, the Line6 Echo Park didn’t sound bad in the loop per se, but was dancing all over the cables trying to keep clear of the PA column behind my right ear, and some of them got yanked out. And sure enough, a blast of painful feedback stunned me and will probably added to the damage done by years of concerts, clubs and poorly designed and maintaned Japanese shopping bicycles.

I can restore my pick and signal chain, but there’s not time to buy and restring my guitar between now and my gig tonight! I just hope that the old adage of a bad dress rehearsal leading to good performance is true. Relax, have fun and don’t take it too seriously, Adam “cuz if it ain’t fun, it can’t get serious.” (Phil Upchurch)

You can always tell when a guy has penis envy. Yesterday I was sent to interview the captain of a container ship about my company’s software. It was a bit chilly with a shaved head and no coat, but I had just come back from New York so I didn’t notice. I was more worried that I might have to jump in the water if one of the planes passing above on their way to Haneda actually hit the container cranes. While we waited to board, the sales rep from my company started asking me general questions about my background as Japanese do (e.g. how long have you been in Japan, etc.) He then introduced me to the shipping company rep who set up the interview with the ship’s captain. The sales rep pointed out to him that I spoke fluent Japanese, but he answered in English. I smiled and answered with a a touch of genuine relief and excitement. However, this was the type of person who has something to prove. After exchanging business cards, he at least proved me correct when his next words were, “Actually, I’m a captain.”

That’s great, too. I’m just a guy who’s here to see the captain of the vessel in front of us, not a captain who’s been behind a desk so long that a little bit of cold sea air makes him start dancing around inside his fake leather coat. Since your “a captain,” you must be so in control that you got us the best looking ship captain you could find, even though he doesn’t actually use the service we came to interview him about. Your such a great captain that you hurry us off the ship before the real captain of the boat we’re on has a chance to extend us the courtesy of a cola, thus making him loose face.

In the car on the way back, he started joking around as if he were the life of the car pool. My boss does the same thing whenever he has a captive audience. His ego knows that everyone will laugh out of politeness and respect, and doesn’t stop him for exploiting this position to stroke. I said something in Japanese, and he answered in English. This was when I really realized he had his head up my ass because I wasn’t speaking to him specifically — I was speaking to everyone in the car, not all of whom speak English.

Let me assure my non-existent readership that while it is everything it should be and more, I know there is always someone somewhere who has a longer, fatter, harder, more curved, uncircumcised, pierced and/or better applied package than mine. The difference I know when I’m out-cocked, and fall in line. I don’t shave my pubes, and flex my prostate to tap the title on my business card, thus making myself appear bigger than I am. Hell, I’ll even fall in line if a guy like this behaves like the dick he wish he had, just because there is nothing harder than making an unwanted hard-on go away.