Down South

Goal #4 :: Record a Song

While the majority of the road trip was unplanned, Third Man Records is probably the only sight-seeing I had to do while in Nashville.  I’d heard about the fully restored Record Booth when it was first publicized on the website and now I’d have my chance to experience it in all of its glory.


Arriving at Third Man Records

Dan & I made our way over to the record shop shortly after abandoning our attempt to ride bikes around East Nashville (it was ghastly hot and we were clearly riding in the wrong places in an up-and-coming neighborhood).  We parked in an adjacent lot, greeted by the radio tower sign of Third Man.  As we approached, a drifter offered us a ‘steal’ at three golds for a one-y (3 Marlboros for a buck).  We politely declined, already armed with $4.50 packs and a greater mission.

Legos from Gondry's 'Fell in Love With a Girl' video.

Legos from Gondry’s ‘Fell in Love With a Girl’ video.

As we entered the shop, we were greated by Katty, the bubbly manager.  While we waited for our turn with the Record Booth she filled us in on the process - put in the tokens and when the red light flicks on, that’s your 10 second warning to record.  We explored the store’s rock nostalgia and vintage accoutrements.


Dan after his spoken word sesh

I practiced a half-written song, trying to decide how to fill the 150 seconds I’d have.  Dan went first.  He read a poem, had some extra time, and tried for two but was cut-off mid-verse.  When it was my turn, I put the tokens in and waited while practicing the intro lick.  After a couple minutes of waiting, Katty came over to restart the machine.

My turn with the Record Booth

My turn with the Record Booth

Poised for my two minutes of history, I noticed the microphone in the booth is rather high.  In hindsight, having a guitar strap would have solved the problem, but luckily the store’s junior sized acoustic was light enough to wedge under my strumming elbow.  Once the recording finished, the 45 plays back in the booth before it is picked from the platter by vacuum and dropped down the chute.

Katty presenting my first 45

Katty presenting my first 45

We took our freshly cut 45s to Katty at the front counter. She slipped Third Man dust jackets over the vinyl while we settled up. While we talked about the sweet digs in the shop, I couldn’t help but tell Katty about Rotobooth. If there were a perfect setting for my rotary-dial photobooth, Third Man (with a record booth, rotary telephone booth, and Mold-o-Rama) is that place. She loved the photo I showed her and insisted I send her an email that she could share with the rest of management. If you’re reading this, I’ll send that over shortly!

If you’re in Nashville any time soon, be sure to make it to Third Man Records.

Kelbertrack on Third Man Records

Kelbertrack on Third Man Records

Down South

Goal #16 :: Barter for an instrument

Reid and his handmade SG pickups

Reid and his handmade SG pickups

While visiting Nashville, I stayed with my friends Reid and Jocelyn. Reid has always been a big inspiration to me; his self-taught projects run the gamut of guitar building, tube amp construction and car restoration. Lately he’s been winding custom pickups for Fender Strats and Gibson SGs. This is especially exciting for me, since those happen to be my two electric guitars. The problem with the SG’s humbucker pickups is that the high-mids get lost on the bridge pickup. That means the sound gets rather muddy when you add effect pedals in line. Reid explained to me that the coils are wired out of phase, to reduce noise and give it that rich, trademark sound. He’s been experimenting with changing the ratios of the coils (number of windings), to affect how the two coils pickup sound, and therefor change the resulting tone.

Pickups are largely accountable for what an electric guitar sounds like while amplified, so changing the pickups is like changing guitars.

Reid has a number of pickup projects but the tricky part is sourcing the bobbin, the plastic housing that varies guitar to guitar. Custom bobbins is something I can design & print on my 3D printer. Perfect opportunity for a trade! Reid gave me a set of his custom pickups in return for 3D printing him special bobbins for his project. Stay tuned for some comparison videos of my two sets of pickups.


Down South

Goal #16 :: Give Something Away

Erin and her gift



When I first drove in to Nashville, my navigation brought me to the main drag on Broadway. It’s similar to Times Square, in the sense that locals don’t really go there. Despite the drive I just made, I had to get back in my car, it wasn’t where I wanted to be. I asked some over-make-up’d women where I could find a ‘non-chain’ cafe for some java and grub. The younger of the two recommended a spot called Fido on the west side of town.

Fido is a large cafe with a lot of turnover, so you order at the counter and they bring the food to your table. While waiting in line, Erin and I began chatting. Feeling the pressure to make every meal in the South my new favorite, I checked with her if I was ordering the right thing. After we placed our orders, I asked if she’d like eat together. After we picked a table, I realized she’d only ordered coffee and she’d be watching me shovel down my first meal of the day (at 2:30 pm).


Salmon with cheddar grits, spicy kale, and fried onions.

Erin was from Nashville, but was attending school in Ohio. She was at the cafe to work on her research paper examining the money spent on incarceration and policy that encourages that rather than rehabilitation.

While explaining some of the projects I’ve worked on, 3D printing came up. She’d never heard of 3D printing before, so I explained the process to her – equating it to a moving hot glue gun. Luckily, I’d brought a white low polygonal tiger that I’d printed on New School’s Makerbot Rep2. The plan was to shoot the tiger in the timelapse videos, but I’d never gotten around to it. Seeing as she didn’t order food, I’m wasn’t sure I could count this as ‘dinner with strangers’; then I remembered about ‘give something away’.  A 3D print is a pretty amazing gift for someone that hadn’t know about 3D printing ten minutes before.  Nailed it.

Down South

Ash to Nash

Morning fog outside of Asheville

Morning fog outside of Asheville

The leftover turnip-potato-bacon mash made an incredible breakfast.  The drive to Nashville runs through some of the Smoky Mountains.  I picked a picturesque time to make the drive.

IMG 5646 from mike k on Vimeo.

Down South

Drinking Waterfall Water

Just to be clear, I came prepared with iodine capsules for treating freshwater. It takes half an hour to purify, but well worth the wait.

IMG 5598 from mike k on Vimeo.

IMG 5599 from mike k on Vimeo.

Down South

One day in Asheville

Since I decided to take a road trip to Nashville, I’ve been hearing about Asheville.  When I realized it was also the home of the Moog headquarters, it became a new highlight on my itinerary.  My five hour drive stretched closer to seven, after taking the time to blog about all of the hiking at a Starbucks.

I pulled into town at 5:15pm, headed directly to the Moog shop that’d only be open for the rest of the hour.  I’ll admit that I went straight for the guitar pedal demo area, even though it’s Moog’s modular synths that put him on the map for most.  I played a red tele’ through a chain of Moog pedals, into an Orange amp.  The second pedal from the left was a really unique distortion pedal.  All of their pedals have control voltage inputs, meaning that you can plug-in an expression pedal to control one of the effect’s settings with your foot (think wahwah pedal).  On the distortion pedal, you can control the filter frequency, making sounds somewhere between a wah and a fuzz box.  And no, it sounds nothing like a distortion pedal through a wah.


Not before long, I was geeking out with the manager Rob on all the great toys in the shop.  I mentioned the Littlebits Synth Kit that I worked on last year.  He said the he and especially the engineers at the shop were huge fans.  I asked Ron to stand by his favorite instrument in the shop.  He chose the limited edition Voyager (only 100 made).

Rob from the Moog shop with his favorite synth

Rob from the Moog shop with Voyager

I opted to pose with the theremin (think of that sound in the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations).  When Robert Moog was a student, he sold theremins in kit form.  I guess I was acknowledging his origins (and taking the opportunity to throw a raised eyebrow).  I bought myself some geeky souvenirs including a travel mug and a series of ADSR coasters (sorry no money for a synth).  Rob also hooked me up with a sweet hexagonal moog calendar when I asked him the price.  Thanks dude!


Still sore from the 10 hour hike the day before, I asked Rob for a suggestion on yoga spot in the area.  He mentioned the Asheville Community Yoga Center.  I wish every long drive on this trip ended with a yoga session.


Once class was over I had to decide which of all the great dinner recommendations I would seek out.  I was originally planning on going to Rosetta’s, the cornerstone of vegetarian in the town.  I heard they had a homemade-kombucha bar, which sounded pretty fantastic.  It was already after 8pm, so I decided to consolidate my trip by going to the Brewery that the park ranger had recommended (he knew one of the brewmasters).

I snagged a seat at the bar, and after a glance of the menus, knew I’d made the right decision.  With some guidance from Sam the bartender, I ordered the double IPA and a fried-chicken with kimchi sando.  Sam went by ‘Slam’ at the bar.  There was a Sam Dunkin hired at the same time, so naturally they make the two parts of ‘Slam Dunkin’.

Sam at Wicked Weed

Sam at Wicked Weed

The second Ron I met in Asheville was a fellow solo roadtripper.  He had just come from Rosetta’s and was on the IPA wagon with me.  Between Slam and Ron, I felt like I was at dinner with friends.  Sam gave us tastings of her favorite beers, including their sours.  Sour beer is an odd thing to me, but it’s hard to turn down free beer.  Thanks again for the free round!

After dinner, I still had to find a place to sleep.  The plan was to camp and couch surf, so I couldn’t chicken out and get a hotel room just because it’d been raining and it was close to midnight.  The guys at the Moog shop insisted I could camp off any trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so I headed in that direction.  It was a curvy, 40 mph local highway, much like Skyline.  I noticed cars parked on big grassy shoulders, presumably campers in the woods behind.

I pulled onto the first large shoulder I could find, my small coupe awkwardly bobbling over the uneven ground.  I slung on my headlamp and entered the forest looking for a suitable campsite and to check for bear.  I big ol’ possum clunked around, totally un-phased by my bright headlamp.  The slope of the forest, way too sleep for tent camping meant I’d either sling up the hammock in the rain or camp on the actual shoulder.  I was headed for Nashville at dawn, so I didn’t have time to be picky about matters, so I popped a tent on the forest-side of my car and napped for about four hours.  Two to three cars and hour would drive by and I would laugh to myself as I imagined what their reaction would be to such a site.


Down South

Roadtrip :: 21 Goals for an Epic Journey

As a kid, my father would devise treasure hunts as a way of giving me a gift.  They would result in a toy of some sort (like a He-Man figure), but the true gift was the treasure hunt; a series of hand-drawn pictorial clues on a Post-It note.  He is an amazing illustrator, so these clues were as good as photographs made of a few eloquent lines.  I still remember one of the treasure sites being buried under a large rock in a lot across the street.

Adventure is still as enticing as in my childhood, so I devised a similar way to enjoy my first roadtrip to the South.  It began as a simple To-Do list; ‘hike a mountain,’ ‘buy a used instrument.’  It quickly became open-ended constraints; ‘eat a new food,’ ‘give something away.’

1. Climb a mountain

2. Find a waterfall or cliff jump

3. Seek out a local legend

4. Record a song

5. Build a fire without lighter fluid

6. Walk along train tracks

7. Skinny dip

8. See a band (bonus: perform a song with em)

9. Eat a new food

10. See some wildlife

11. Visit a brewery / still

12. Make some street art

13. Spend time on a raft/boat-like object

14. Get to an uninhabited island (bonus: stay overnight)

15. Have a stranger sing me Happy Bday

16. Give something away

17. Buy a used instrument (bonus: barter for it)

18. Trust a stranger

19. Catch a wave

20. Catch a fish

21. Set off fireworks

22. Dinner with a stranger

Down South

Goal #10 :: See some Wildlife

bearmorning from mike k on Vimeo.

Sunday morning I awoke to loud rustling around 7am. It had the familiar pace of an animal negotiating obstacles. Luckily, I slept with the rain fly off my tent, so I could watch the shooting stars after my hike. My eyes still at a soft focus, I searched the brush for where the sounds were originating.

I hear the crunch and chew of an animal eating. But where is it?
Then came the thud of an apple striking the ground. I looked up to see the black bear up near the top of the tree, running a train on the apples.

My neighbors left their beer-can trash out the previous night. There’s a strict no trash policy to avoid bear encounters. Hitting the road for Asheville, I didn’t have time to see how the scenario panned out, but he was eating apples by the dozen, so I figured the sleeping campers were better left alone.


On the Skyline Drive the previous day, I did get to catch a rather cute bear-crossing. A mama bear + four cubs. If you watch the Skyline timelapse, you can catch them for a moment when I’m stopped behind an SUV. I did catch the last bear on my DSLR, but I didn’t have time to touch the settings (left on manual), so it is what it is.

Down South, Timelapse

Skyline Parkway Timelapse

Skyline720 from mike k on Vimeo.

I’ve been using two action cameras during my trip. A GoPro Hero 3, lent to me by my buddy Carlos, and a knock-off GoPro simply called the SJ4000. Since the SJ has an lcd on the back, it’s nice for handheld use. I recorded the cliff jumping video with the SJ, but realized after recording that it left the dumb time stamp on the video! Bad default settings (which always seem to go back to default).

The SJ doesn’t offer as many timelapse settings, so I have been dashboard mounting the GoPro for my drives. Long drives I’ve been shooting on 5sec timer to ration card memory. Shorter drives (under 3 hours), I’ve been shooting at 1/2 second intervals, which make for smoother results. This Skyline Parkway drive, was about 2 hours total (with pit stops) and I just love it (because it was such a great drive).

See if you can find the bear crossing momement!


Hike a Mountain – Part 2

Since the Skyline Parkway runs along the top of the mountain, it makes for reverse hiking, meaning climb down the mountain and back up.  My trail was no different, and I began my descent on Cedar Run, a 3 mile trail that follows a creek.  The White Oak Canyon trail has its own shorter trail, which seemed to be the popular choice (and 2-3 miles shorter).  I would’ve ordinarily done that hike, but the rangers insisted that this loop was the proper way to see the trail.

The first waterfall I came across in Cedar Falls had a nice slope that people could slide down into its pool.  I knew I only had time to enjoy one swim, and I was set on finding a cliff jumping area that some passing hikers gave me the scoop on.  The first waterfall is where I spoke with Howard.

Howard, a local hiker, had just finished his waterfall session and spoke of his friends’ success; one a producer for Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, one an art collector with a museum in Potomac, MD.  Unfamiliar with the sculptor, he described the experience of walking into the walls of what sound like a Richard Serra piece – high steel curves that lead you into his intended space (which he described as awkward).


Not much further down the trail, my ears were tickled by the sounds of deep splashes – the sound after jumping from a high spot.  Once I made it to the clearing, I found two groups of teenagers diving and flipping from the fifteen foot rock edge into the deep, freshwater pool below.


Whit and Kaylyn on Cedar Run trail, Shenandoah.

After all the fun of cliff jumping, I had to get back on the trail if I was going to make it most of the way before dark.  Shortly after, I met Whit and his granddaughter, Kaylyn, leaving the swimming hole in the same direction.

I needed to get my bearings on my location, so I asked Whit if he knew how far ahead the connecting path would be.  I had assumed I was much further on my hike than I had been!  His first reaction was to tell me to turn around and go back the way I came (I think it was 5:30pm at this point), since there was no way I’d make it out the other side before dark.

I mentioned that I packed my headlamp, and he politely modified his advice in case I had taken offense.  “You look pretty gamey.  If you packed your headlamp you should go for it.”

I’ve never heard someone use “gamey” to describe a person, but in bear country, it’s a complement.  Whit mentioned the notoriety of hike up the falls “breaking backpackers,” so I was mentally preparing for the hardship to come.

Photos and details of the rest of the experience to come.

Down South

Goal #2 :: Find a Waterfall or Cliff Jump

I’m happy to say I did both!  Even though I made this epic list of 21 goals, I never divulged them to Matt, my buddy who recommended the trail.  I guess waterfall hikes are really what everyone wants to do when it comes down to it.

I recorded a few jumps; two of my own jumps and one of Dan “Real Deal” McGrill doing a backflip (two cams for this!).

As far as footage is concerned, my second jump gives the best visual experience so I’ll post that first.  Enjoy!

My2ndcliffjump720 from mike k on Vimeo.

Down South

Goal #1 :: Hike a Mountain

If the rest of my trip is any bit as satisfying as Shenandoah I couldn’t ask any more.

After my first night of backwoods camping, I decided I needed to find a proper campsite so I could make a fire.  After speaking with a friendly park ranger at Skyland, the highest summit of the Skyline Parkway, I called ahead and found plenty of vacancies at Big Meadow.  I quickly setup my tent on site A23, a tent-only area, to avoid the hustle & bust of the RV families that populate much of these campsites.  Figuring that my hike would place me back at camp after all the shops would be closed, I walked down to the shower/supply area to buy some firewood (it had been raining and the maps state ‘no wood gathering’ at Big Meadow).  A pleasant lady, Donna, greated me with a grin and walked me to the area to pick out a cord of wood.  Her arthritic hands fumbled with the split wood, but I happily stepped in and gripped one of the bigger bundles she was eager to dig out for me.  As we walked back to her office, I crossed behind her, changing sides to walk with my wood carrying shoulder away from her.  ”Where’d you go?” she chuckled.  ”I’m blind in one eye, so I lose people.”  Her blind eye was a lighter grey-blue than her strong eye.  It was charming in a Bowie way.  I bought some quarters for the coin-operated showers – a prize I’d save for after a strenuous hike.


Before driving to the Hawksbill trail head, I ran into Matt Gordon, the ranger I’d met while checking into the site.  After a a minute or two, it came up that I was headed to Asheville, NC.  Matt lived in Asheville for two years, and he generously listed a few must-see places to see live bands, eat tacos and healthy noms, as well as recommendations for two breweries (more about that when I get there!).  I showed him the loop I planned to walk; an 8.2 mile loop in White Oak Canyon peppered with waterfalls.  It was already getting late, but he assured me I’d have time to do it.  Enough talking, start walkin.

#1 Hike a Mountain

Lower Whiteoak Falls

Lower Whiteoak Falls 

My hike kicked off at 2:30pm from Hawkbill parking area.  I packed my headlamp, since I knew starting so late would mean I’d do the last leg of the hike in the dark.  I met a few friendly hikers, mostly locals who had hiked the trail many times before.  [note: I have to get back on the road since I'm at a Starbucks half way to Asheville.]  I’ll mention Whit’s friendly advice shortly.

In the meantime, I’m too excited not to post about the first completed goal on the checklist:

Down South

Oh, Shenandoah


Made it to Shenandoah National Park around 4:15. The nice older woman at the gate told me that the campsites are full, but if I am equipped for backwoods camping, that is an option I have besides camping outside of the park.

You need to fill out a permit to backwoods camp, so getting to the visitor’s office by 5pm is crucial. The caveat of backwoods camping is that fires aren’t allowed. What’s camping without nature’s TV (as my friend Ben calls it).

I did not expect the park to be this big! I knew Skyline Drive was 105 miles, but didn’t realize it’s all destination as well. On Matt Richard’s recommendation, my aim is White Oak Canyon trail. It’s about 8 miles if you do the loop. That’s mile 45 on the Skyline. A highway of hikes; amazing.

On the drive, i find another car stopped. A mama black bear and her four cubs are crossing the street. Snapped a quick photo of the last cub (dslr), which I’ll upload when I get back. This definitely supported the ‘bears every two miles’ statistics I read earlier. Note to self: widdle spear first!

I reached the trailhead at 7pm, an hour before sunset. Took 20 minutes to pack my essentials: hoodie, sleeping bag, tent, hammock, lantern, knife, camelbak, hatchet, drybag+map, paracord, dslr. Headed down a horsetrail, where I was told it was okay to camp. It was a very rocky and steep area, not the type of place I’d have chosen for myself. But night was coming and I had to choose my spot.

Found a relatively flat clearing by a 20′ rock face about 1/2 mile from the road. In retrospect, it’s nice to have the rock face. Limiting the possible directions of attack serves as nice illusion of safety. Way too rocky, I hung the camping hammock (thanks Mick) between two trees (ome dead and festering with centipedes) at the vantage point. Luckily the dead tree could support my weight, as it was dark by the time I finished tying it off.

I ate dinner by LED, but I shovelled it down. Part hunger, part bear anxiety, I had no idea what the forest looked like as I spent about 20 minutes in it before dark. I put the remnants of my kale salad, quinoa side & hazelnut Ritter chocolate bar back in a sack and made my way through the dark forest to find a tree to keep it from bear mouths. Following my knot app, I made a lazy variation of a noose, which I tightened to a rock and threw over a thick horizontal tree branch. Once I retreived the rock-side, I hoisted the bag up to the tree and tied off the rope to a sapling. Viola!

Down South

Hittin the Road!

After a full day of packing and preparation, it’s finally time to roll. I found it hard to sleep, giddy with anticipation. I spent the last hour or so mounting a bike rack (thanks Mick!) and a GoPro on the dash (thanks Los!). I’m trying a 5sec timelapse for the ride down (doing the math to stretch 8 hrs out of 64gb @ hi-res).

I went over-board on the Trader Joes, but from what I hear about the lack of veggies in the South, I’ll err on the side of healthy to account for all the bbq and pie ahead of me!



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Down South

Roadtrip in T minus 14!

Getting ready to kick off my 10-day trip to the South. Haven’t blogged consistently for a few years now, so I’m taking my first trip to the South (NC, SC, TN, GA) as an opportunity to start publishing again.

Instead of planning the trip around attractions, I’ve made an adventure list, made of 21 goals, which I’ll be documenting along the way.

Some of the goals are social by nature, such as “dinner with strangers,” which should mix things up a bit.

My roommate, Dan, will be joining me in Nashville and we’ll drive to Savannah together. He’s a great writer, so I have a good feeling that he’ll be contributing to this blog as well.

In the meantime, here’s a photo of some of the goodies I’m packing.


Goin' Down South

Later NYC

New York, I think we need some time apart.  I’m driving down to see Tennessee, North Carolina and Georgia for 10 days.

I think it’s for the best.

<3 Mike



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Art Gallery, Photobooths

Geekdown ’11


The second annual, Geekdown at 92Y Tribeca opened Friday.
As you can tell by the photo above, the Autobooth made an appearance.
Checkout thefull set on flickr.

In addition to all of the great installation art and tech-savvy fashion pieces, there were some amazing performances by Eric Mika, Winslow Porter III, and Sxip Shirley.  The performance vids will be online soon.

In the meantime, NY1 and GrungeCake covered the opening.

Art Gallery, Interactive, Max/MSP, Video Installation

Skin Tight an Interactive Installation

What happens when you manipulate a traditionally hard surface so that it behaves like fabric?  Vito Acconci studio’s installation in the Bronx museum, “LOBBY-FOR-THE-TIME-BEING,” is a wrapping, and twisting installation that coerced Corian—a typically hard, flat surface—to behave in ways otherwise expected.  In response to their call for an interactive projection in conjunction with their installation, my partner Angela Chen and I created “Skin Tight,” orchestrating a series of abstract gestural movements to be projected onto the Corian surface to render what was once inflexible as malleable.

Cut it open & slit it into strips (it can be pulled now & stretched to one-&-a-half times its length): pit it & gouge it, pock-mark it (it’s become malleable now, flexible): roll it & curve it, fold it, braid & knot it (it functions now as its own structure). Let’s take slick sleek Corian & turn it into lace: let’s take the surface of lace & mold it into structure…-Vito Acconci

The creation process involved a number of experiments with shape, form, and movement on a stretched spandex frame which were than later edited to fit specific, physical locations on the installation. The control and interaction of the video was done through Max/MSP & Jitter.


The installation has four phases that are activated by cameras placed in strategic locations within the lobby. The installation’s default state, opening, is a calming, playful movement, like someone absentmindedly playing with his or her hair. The next phase, activated by someone entering the lobby, is more focused and stylized, drawing more attention to the space. The third phase, lobby, is activated when the visitor is at the desk area, and temporarily preoccupied with activity away from the installation. Like a child trying to draw its parent’s attention, this phase is cloying and persistent. Finally, the last phase, sustain, is one that becomes initialized after the viewer has spent some time in the lobby. The video undergoes a metamorphosis into a more formalized, geometric state, acting at once mysterious and concrete.