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Jump to a specific date this week

Monday January 24
Tuesday January 25 
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third week of January 2000 
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at-a distance diary, Oct-Nov 1999 


Monday January 24

I will sleep better tonight than any night since December 12th.   Some major breakthroughs today.  

1. Public announcement to the Windows shell team that I am leaving the borg. 

2. A breakthrough in BTV fluidity.

3. A satisfying review of the alpha version of the BTV branding video for our upcoming ultra-secret artist event.

It's 1:22am, and I have an 8:00am meeting in Kirkland.  But what little I sleep this evening will be very restful.

* * *

Email from an old friend in my full box this evening ~ Richard West and I were in a band together from 1979 until 1984.  We were in a band called "Fish."   During the summer of 1980, we wrote and performed an opera together called "Gently Down the Stream."  This was the story of a dentist who could not fall asleep, and as a result, he began to have a series of waking dreams involving his lost wife.    Not kidding.

Some day, when I've totally lost my marbles, I'll dig out the tapes, story, and lyrics, and get the whole thing on line.   Not a high priority right now, however.

Dear Richard is one of the people who is responsible for waking me up to excellent music.  For example, Richard gave me my first Gentle Giant record.  This one act permanently scarred my musical sensibility, and the influence is still present in every thing I write.  

Here is Richard's eloquent mail, verbatim:

----- Original Message ----- 
From: Richard KeslerWest '
To: Steve Ball <>
Sent: January 25, 2000 12:17 AM
Subject: i guess i shouldn't email you at MS anymore, should i?

A god can do it. But how, tell me, shall
a man follow him through the narrow lyre?
His mind is cleavage. At the crossing of two heartways stands no temple for Apollo.

Song, as you teach it, is not desire,
no suing for something yet in the end attained; song is existence. Easy for the god. But when do we exist? And when does he

spend the earth and stars upon our being?
Youth, this is not it, your loving; even
if then your voice thrusts your mouth open, - learn

to forget your sudden song. That will run out. Real singing is a different breath.
A breath for nothing. A wafting in the god. A wind.

--  Rainer Maria Rilke, 
     Sonnets to Orpheus (pt 1, #3).


I doubt if you have time to read that. I have to read Rilke about ten times over before i begin to understand. No, 'understand' isn't right. Before i stumble into the experience of the poem. 

I've been catching up on your diary, since you are always a complete bum about answering questions. No, that's not true. Last summer you answered a few, and thoughtfully. That was probably before your life moved into the high gear you are in now.

The Web is becoming like the ocean. We walk along our little bits of seashore and see what has washed up. Mostly kelp, sea-wrack, and blobs of tar from oil-spills. But every now and than a beautiful shell. What was it someone said about Fish? that we were pretentious? Your diary is pretentious. It's also the kind of thing that makes the Web worth having. 

I guess i'll learn more about BootlegTV as i keep reading, but how soon will i be seeing BTV blinkers at (Do i ever go there and look at the sea-wrack? Naaahh...)

virtual love, 

Richard KeslerWest

I miss Richard.  

Despite time and distance, we were and remain best friends.

* * *

David S. back from LA this evening.  Quick catch up meetings with David, Violet, and Joel this evening and preparation for an intense tomorrow.   Sounds like BillR has some devious plans for Joel.   

Not likely.  

I heard he already has a job, a job that even pays.  

Two, in fact.

* * *

Also, many phone messages and communications to catch up with later in the week, but probably not before Thursday:  DanK, 80LS, JonahS, NeilH, BillF, Phyllis/Kent, Wynton, Chanel, etc.   

No, must call 80 on Wednesday.  Must engage 80 now.  And now we can.   Whew.

Did I say that?   Yes. 


* * *

Roadshow rehearsal this evening downtown:  Murray Kappel and Peter Dervin were in the audience for our run-through.  All in all, it was a spirited evening, and the sound was SO SO SO much better than the sound at the Kell's gig that Curt and I did last night.   

I'd love to hear Murray and/or Peter's report of our rehearsal since I know that I am in no position to judge value (or lack thereof) of what we do for listeners.  

* * *

Wall to wall meetings tomorrow before the Roadshow hits the stage of the Ballard Firehouse at 8:30pm.   Two months ago, January 25th seemed like a million years away.   Still does.  

Must sleep now. 

* * *

Tuesday January 25

My day began at 8am with a meeting at the Carillon Point Starbucks with DavidS and BillE.   Strategy meeting for the day.  Then 8:45-11:00 with KevinC on BTV present and potential future, followed a meeting and tour of    Then, immediately off to  an excellent lunch at my new favorite downtown falafel place on Cherry between 1st and 2nd.  Lunch with BillVB, DavidL, SteveE and DavidS.  Seems DavidL has quite a history with Next, Starwave, and now Disney.  He is also a guitarist and a budding guitar builder.  We exchanged emails a couple of years ago regarding the GC L1 course on Raft Island in Seattle.   

Nice to finally meet him in person.   Lots in common, including perhaps an intersecting future collaboration.

Plus, he thinks different.   Need that.

* * *

After lunch, DavidS and I were back over to Carillon Point for more strategy and many phone calls with GeorgeZ and the extended BTV team.  Many preparations for our milestone event tomorrow.  A great call with George has us buzzing again.   Finally, some clarity and a plan have emerged.  

Our train is arriving just in time.

* * *

Then, a quick dash to the airport to pick up a guest coming to town for a few days of BTV business.  A meeting and global update in the car on the ride back downtown.    

During the ride, a flashback, or a brief connection to an expanded present moment: ten years ago in a different Toyota van on a different coast with these same passengers.  

We are all up an octave since our last East Coast van ride.  Also, January 1990, this same configuration drove through Seattle together with a stop at the Backstage on our way down the West Coast.  

Eventually, after a stop at a hotel, and picking up a rental car, a swift deposit into a sufficient downtown hotel, then I was off to the Ballard Firehouse for SBRS soundcheck and crappy teriyaki.  Yum-ish.

* * *

The "Speedball Rodeo" (excellent misnomer from the insightful band that opened for us...) hit the stage at 9:30 and rocked the house until 10:20 with many friends from near and far in the house.   

The set:

Acoustic Ballistic Boxer
Back in NYC
Message in a Bottle
Hollow (with guest Peter Kardas!)

Exactly 42 minutes of music.  

The Ballard Firehouse is a rock club.  By definition, the sound on stage was pathetic.  There was virtually no sound coming from the on stage monitors.  

This is how it always is.   Always.

I was singing 'blind' which is a bit like driving while blindfolded.   Assuming the virtue, I did my best to listen to my inner voice for guidance in pitch and tone.   But I would so much rather be able to hear myself...  


I realize that singers are genetically designed to be a total pain in the ass because they always complain about not being able to hear themselves in monitors.  

I confess.   

I need to hear myself to play well.  

But, what must I do to insure a good monitor mix?   Actually, this evening, even ANY sound in the monitors would have been welcome.

Nonetheless, we delivered an honorable show in a typical and difficult situation.   This is pretty much state of the art for rock clubs.   The good news: as a group, we are getting better at this process.   

We even got invited back on the spot -- two gigs!

Even while driving blind, PeterK told me I did not run over anyone.   

* * *

Tomorrow is a BTV milestone.  

Among the noise in my mailbox, hero DanK continues to impress me with his persistence and professionalism. I hope he forgives me for not answering his mails yet.  


For now,...  bedtime.  

Prayer for the evening: god bless self-starters.

* * *

Wednesday January 26

9am power trio breakfast at Blowfish, downtown.   A preview of strategies for the work of the day. 

Then, preparations at Roq la Rue for the Cheesecake2K (former lame-o code name for the first official BTV artist event.)

BillR publicly claimed that he saw his old friend, visiting resonant artist-friendly manager, TG, nude (multiple times) in 1992.  TG disagreed, politely.  Then we moved on quickly to more important matters. 

Many inspirations and excitations from this diverse and seasoned team of artists and managers.  A significant gathering.   Repercussions of this first meeting will be seen over the next year.   

Thank you MattC and FrankC for bringing in your tapes!  Into the bucket they go.   

We're off and running.

* * *

Then, shifting gears and preparation for the second meeting of the day; this time for the core active team.  The second circle of the day -- as inspiring and exciting as the first, but in a different way.  

* * *

A small pile of phone calls during a short break before the dinner with the unstoppable trio, again at Blowfish. 

Irony of ironies, last night, I was sending out an SOS at the local stinky default home for washed-up, downward-spiraling Rock has-beens, the Ballard Firehouse.  Tonight I was sitting directly under a Japanese poster of Sting, making a long list of artists and managers, and checking it twice.   We need to find out who's naughty and nice, and get the nice ones to come join BTV.   

* * *

Finally, my third circle of the day:  SGC rehearsal a Bob and Jaxie's at 9:10pm.   When I walked in, there was an intensely beautiful circulation pouring out of the living room.  I was in awe for about two minutes as this intentional circulation became the soundtrack for the story of my day.  Ups, downs.   Twists, turns.  Graceful recoveries and playful discoveries.   

A turning point today.  

Overall, we stumbled through a light, musical, and playful rehearsal: a complete run-through of our existing repertoire.   I had great fun this evening.  Music, practice and performance, with the SGC and SBRS is a great antidote to the intense life I lead away from the guitar.  

We have shows on both Friday and Saturday evening this week.   Yippee.   

Besides the verbal typo in going on as the Speedball Rodeo, Violet came up with a new and completely appropriate name for me last night:  "insane guy."

Apparently, Warren took some great shots during our set.  Can't wait to see Speedball in action.

* * *

PS - after Jaxie's comment and Bob's correction, I'm really curious about discovering Honor on Friday evening.   

* * *

Thursday January 27

12:05, round midnight.   My eyes are heavy, almost shut as I type these words.   A quick backwards chronology of my day:

A delightful dinner prepared by BillR and Frankie Sundsten for RobertF, DavidS, CurtG, TobinB, GuyW and myself.   Ahh....   home cooked food is such a rare treat in my so- called life these days. 

During dinner, some engaging conversations about 'eye of the needle' circa 1991, the process of painting, and a particular Ballistic outburst during a recent (2 years ago) SGC weekend retreat.   Much more interesting conversation than I can honorably replay here.

Following dinner, a listening session featuring the new KC CD.   Yikes.   Another massive milestone in the history of recorded music.

It left me speechless, tapping my foot, and wanting to hear it again.   

My only initial negative reaction:  some of the words have already dated this otherwise timeless material.

Then, excitements and conversations about the next year, and our ongoing work as a team. 

* * *

Preceding dinner, the power trio camped-out in phone and strategy mode following a long and fruitful day of dog and pony shows for a host of interesting and interested parties.

The highlight meeting of the day: war stories with RD.   We had an excellent meeting with this veteran, executive producer of the Sting "All this Time" CD-ROM and Peter Gabriel's "Eve" CD projects.  Bill Van Buren hosted the meeting with R. and the BTV power trio, with special guest, former Apple/Next/Starwave/Disney architect, DL sitting in for good measure.

Earlier, many phone calls and strategies and meetings early in the morning, gently fueled by Starbucks in Kirkland.   

* * *

Many unreturned calls today.  Including my Dad, curious about what is going on in my professional life.  

Tomorrow is another typical Pelota day.  9am meeting with an ex-MS bigwig for whom I used to work a few years ago.   And an important SGC show in the evening.   

Time, she flies.

* * *

From the pelota mailbag:

----- Original Message ----- 
From: horacio pozzo To: <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 26, 2000 Subject: reception OK

Hi Steve:
I know you are making massive deletions of your inbox.   I received OK your Greenthumb CD's. Thank you!
We will miss you at the next Level One...

Take care,


Obscure, but completely accurate analogy of the evening: Horacio Pozzo is the Bert Lams of South America.  

More importantly, the new Big Time CD (featuring Greenthumb players Horacio, Claudio, and Martin) is stunning.   

I will miss you too, Horacio.

* * *

Finally, some wise advice from fellow hyper-gigster Travis Hartnett:

----- Original Message ----- 
From: <>
To: Steve Ball <>
Sent: Wednesday, January 26, 2000 
Subject: Answers For A Pain In The Ass

"I need to hear myself to play well. 

But, what must I do to insure a good monitor mix? Actually, this evening, even ANY sound in the monitors would have been welcome."

The answer, as always is: "spend more money". 

In this case, buy in-ear monitors and dedicate them to just your vocals. Build a little rack that sits next to you on-stage, feed your vocal mic into that, split it to your monitors, send the the other split to the house snake.


Travis is a very wise old man living in the young body of a tall and hyper-active Austin musician posing as a mild-mannered Apple tech support engineer.

I keep wondering when he is going to move to Seattle, where the real action is?  

* * *

Hasta manana.    

* * *

Friday January 28

Another early BTV morning.  Met RF and DS outside their hotel at 8:45,...   RF with super-tall-industrial-strength coffee in hand, but none for poor sleepy Pelota.   A look of despair.  And on we go.

I'm running on fumes this morning.   

A slow start at VC firm #27 -- at each step of this process, I receive a new education in the human condition.   If Rockslide was my MBA, then BTV is my Phd.  

This time, a wonderful view from the 37th floor.   Then, with the arrival of GG, something significant changes.  DS+RF+SB is a powerful and convincing trio.  This person seems to 'get it' without effort.  A good sign.  And yet, a strange dance begins once again.

More meetings scheduled for next week, and then we're off -- drop RF back at the hotel where he is to be carried off to Seatac by Rieflin taxi service.  

DS and SB, then off to Kirkland for yet another dog and pony, this time for an old friend from the Win98 PlusPak days.   Very good vibes in the air in this room, too.   But my patience is wearing thin.

* * *

A quick 'lunch' while driving, and back to our downtown temporary office for one million assertive phone calls followed by a string of final 'interviews' with potential BTV employees.  

This process is exhausting.

The level of detail necessary to do this work goes well beyond seven slots for short term memory.   For those who don't know 'how I do it,'  I don't know either except that it has something to do with will.   And something to do with god.  

More the latter, actually.

* * *  

From 1:30 to 5:30pm, great conversations with DavidM, TobinB, SteveE, and GuyW.   What a team.  World-class, all the way around.  

* * *

Finally, meet up with an ailing CurtG at the rehearsal space.  I am brain dead.  I can barely think straight, let alone stand up.  I need a nap badly.   Instead, we load the white gig mobiles full of SGC gear, and head off to the Grateful Bread for our 8pm show.

* * *

This show was another new milestone for the SGC.  $380 into our pocket this evening from a very supportive audience.   Some ultra-blissful moments during our performance, occasionally interrupted by the odd harmony or slight quirky grace note.  I had mucho-fun this evening, despite my brain-dead state. 

The mocha just before the show helped.  But, the truth is, I don't know how I do it either.

* * *

Tomorrow, I have the opportunity of attending the morning sitting, followed by the beginner's circle.  Or I could sleep in and take care of business at home.

For the sake of my health, and for the sake of BTV, it is time to take care of business at home tomorrow.  

* * *

Listened to KSER on my way home this evening.  I tuned in just as Peter Dervin was playing Greenthumb and Acoustic Ballistic Boxer.  

Had a brief glimpse of how these pieces might sound to virgin ears.   This feeling reminded me of the conversation with Frankie Sundsten about her paintings over dinner on Wednesday evening:  from a distance, the composition is balanced, symmetrical, and perhaps organically pleasing.  But there is also  something quite unsettling woven into the details.

* * *

Saturday January 29

11am - telephone rings.  Not for me.  Am I awake yet?  


11:05am - telephone rings again.  This time, BillR, calling all cheery and awake-sounding.   Now who is Mr. Cranky?  I am.  

But nice to hear Bill's voice full of energy and enthusiasm.  We exchange some additional feedback on our week's work together.  Some excellent quotes.  Far too controversial for reprint here.   But I'm soooo tempted...

Bill wonders if I may be saying too much in my diary about current activities in Seattle.  I wonder too.   How to convey the spirit of what is going on here for friends and family who are interested without betraying confidences and proprietary information?  Such a fine line.  One approach: tell blatant lies.

* * *

BTV began negotiations to acquire AOL today.  Talks will continue into the coming weeks.  

Hmmmmm... perhaps another approach: code

* * *

Hpoinkado i2 509uzi 3plong knuzichick pelvotolla unger spewmatic y 14testosteronni.  Mozo hypiclamstrotic quepy phlegmosis 23 badventure crapital de BTV.

* * *

Perhaps one more approach: stick with the mundane.

Spent the morning and early afternoon doing errands and taking care of life at home: laundry, paperwork, carwash.   Silence and complete solitude.   Such a joy.  

I'm tired of hearing my own tongue flap to and fro.

* * *

Met with Violet, Ken, Joel, and John late afternoon for another series of job discussions.  The energy and attitude of this growing team is making me very happy.

Wish I could say more, but wise and cranky BillR advises against it.

* * *

SGC show at Mr. Spots again this evening.  I love Mr. Spots.  Tonight we had an excellent audience and a spirited show.  Musically, we had some ups and downs, but mostly ups.  Vulcanization rocked gently.  Twilight absolutely soared.   Tonight, many times, we acted on our word of the year: dynamics.  

Some nice circulations too: Ab = nice textures.

After the show this eventing, JT mentioned to Curt that this week he has been feeling like there is some kind of AAD course is going on.  I feel the same way.  The energy of the community is contained and contagious. 

Some other answers to the question, "how do I do it?" 

1. Tap into the group momentum.
2. Remember my aim.
3. Act as if today is my last. 

* * *

After the show, we retired to Dean's -- Patty had prepared two roasted chickens, rice, bread, and ginger cookies.   Scrumptious.   

This makes two home cooked meals for me in one week.  I am blissed-out.

* * *

sb solo, 1998 art gallery opening
photo: john sinks

* * *

Sunday January 30

Another beautiful sunny day in Seattle this morning. It really is.    Blue sky.   White sun.  I spoke to my mom briefly yesterday just as she was getting pelted by an ice storm on the east coast.

This place is too good to be true.  No.   Scratch that.  This place is so good to be true.    

* * *

This just in from the Pelota mailbag:

----- Original Message ----- 

From: William Rieflin 
To: Steve Ball 
Sent: Sunday, January 30, 2000 9:41 AM
Subject: No subject was specified.

Goddammit, I'm not cranky anymore. That's so 1900's. Call me Mr. Positive. So why don't you just shut the fuck up about it or I'll smash your guitars into a million pieces and force feed them to your hamster, you bitch. 

Lovingly yours, 

Mr. Positive 

ps. My socks are bunched up in my shoes. 

Wow.  Check out the 'sent' time on this mail -- looks like Mr. Cranky was up early this morning.

* * *

Also in the mail bag this morning, it looks like Violet has started having Crimson dreams.  Poor, poor Violet.   

vi·o·let (vie-o-lit) noun

1. a. Any of various low-growing herbs of the genus Viola, having short-spurred, irregular flowers that are characteristically purplish-blue but sometimes yellow or white.    

b. Any of several similar plants, such as the African violet.

2. Color. The hue of the short-wave end of the visible spectrum, evoked in the human observer by radiant energy with wavelengths of approximately 380 to 420 nanometers; any of a group of colors, reddish-blue in hue, that may vary in lightness and saturation. 

[Middle English, from Old French violete diminutive of viole, from Latin viola.]


* * *

vi·o·la (vee-oh-lah) noun

1.A stringed instrument of the violin family, slightly larger than a violin, tuned a fifth lower, and having a deeper, more sonorous tone. 

2.An organ stop usually of eight-foot or four-foot pitch yielding string-like tones.

[Italian, from Old Provençal, probably of imitative origin.]

Excerpted from The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Third Edition Copyright © 1992 by Houghton Mifflin Company. 

* * *

Travis Metcalf moved into his new Seattle home this afternoon with ample help from the local Rep Circle team.   Travis is here on a leap of faith.   He now lives exactly fifteen blocks south of Curt, Frank, and Ingrid. 

Welcome home, Travis. 

* * *

Listening to Tori live as I type this.  MattC pounding away like the devil's angel.  Tori appears and low, low B octaves pour in under the rhythm section.  Precious things.   Let them wash me away.

Remembering what this is all about. 

* * *

A long, boring afternoon faced with piles and piles of paperwork.  At 4:15, I went out into the world to get some air and do some errands.  Cell phone off today. Need some space before the coming week hits the fan.  

* * *