Tuesday, July 24, 2012
Posted by John Elder Robison at 9:08 PM
Posted by John Elder Robison at 8:38 AM
Sunday, July 22, 2012
Many of you have read about my time on the road with KISS and other bands. I've done a number of interviews, and of course there are the chapters in Look Me in the Eye and Be Different.
I realized there is no archive of photos to go with the stories and I've decided to set that straight.
Here they are, in no particular order. Perhaps I'll come back one day and rearrange them . . .
This is me, circa 1979:
And here I am today:
Kinda different, huh?
This is Ace Frehley, playing our original light guitar on stage with KISS
That guitar was a modified Gibson Les Paul TV. We routed out the face of it, and embedded a circuit board with almost 1,000 incandescent lights. We set it up to do stripes (you can sort of see that in the photo) and them flash the whole border at the end.
The lights were powered by a Ni-Cad battery pack and the music was transmitted via a Shaeffer Vega wireless rig so the whole thing was cable free. There was a special XLR-type plug in back to connect a battery charger between sets.
Ace played this guitar on a number of songs over the years but the one it's most famous for is New York Groove. He'd start the guitar while facing back in the corner of the stage. The audience could see something flashing but could not tell what. He'd walk out backward, turn round, and they would just go wild.
I describe that scene in the opening passage of my book BE DIFFERENT. I was in my early 20s when we made these guitars. I am a self-educated audio and electrical engineer. I met the guys from KISS in New York, while I was working as the American engineer for Pink Floyd's sound company, Brittania Row Audio.
We built all KISS's custom guitars in Massachusetts but I had to go on the road to fine tune their development. I was on the road for all the KISS tours of 78-82 and then the shows with Ace as Frehley's Comet after that. Here I am working on another of the light guitars, on the road in some hotel:
If you look close you'll see we added a layer of baltic birch plywood to the back of that guitar to thicken it. That was to allow even more lights (for big halls) and microprocessor control. Here I am in the Russell Hotel, New York, when that guitar was new.
Here I am, in my back yard, with the same guitar a few years later when it came back for service
Here I am this spring, with master luthier Jim Cara, who has followed in the custom guitar tradition. Check out his story here.
Finally, here's my son with the original light guitar this spring. Ace has sent is back to us for refurbishing.
People still ask if we can make more of these instruments. Actually, we can. Check out my son's web site here, with a video of me and a brand-new light guitar using today's LED technology
If you'd like to read more, start at page 112 of my book Look Me in the Eye
Then you can continue with the intro to Be Different
In a few more months, you'll be able to read about my son and the light guitars today in RAISING CUBBY.
I'll stop back soon with more pictures from my time in music.
Posted by John Elder Robison at 5:30 PM
Monday, July 16, 2012
It was one of those father-son afternoons we remember . . .
We stood at the fish pier, watching feral children haul misshapen sea creatures out of the water as they chattered furtively. A grizzled old man stood beside us. "I had a kid once, too," the old man said. "But it didn't last. Kid misbehaved and mouthed off so much I got fed up. Sold him to a Sumatran reptile trader, and never looked back."
"You better not sell me," Cubby said. And I didn't. The result:
RAISING CUBBY, my newest book. Coming January 15. Freaks and zombies included.
Posted by John Elder Robison at 10:54 AM
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Posted by John Elder Robison at 8:43 AM
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
I'm here in Washington for the first meeting of the reconstituted IACC - the interagency autism coordinating committee of the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Over the past two weeks I've put up several invitations on Facebook and Twitter, and it's looking like this will be a crowded event.
I've read through 100+ pages of comments people mailed in, and we'll hear more in person today.
It probably comes as no surprise to hear that many if not most comments are strong criticisms of our current policies regarding autism. The critiques that urge us to do more are the ones that trouble me the most. For the most part, I agree. We should be doing more. We should have better supports for autistic adults. We should have more aggressive early detection and intervention. We should educate society and make it more accommodating.
Unfortunately, we in the iacc cannot make those things happen. We can recommend more supports - and we do. But in the end, it is your (and my) elected officials who must vote the budgets and directives to make these things happen.
You might say iacc provides the plan, and they implement it. Much has happened already but even more remains to be done. I sure wish there was a way to make it happen faster.
Anyway I am off to the meeting now, and I hope to see a few of you in person today.
Be assured that I am keenly aware of the burden autistic disability places on those of us who live with it daily, at all levels. Development of tools treatments and therapies to remediate disability is a top priority for me. At the same time, I celebrate the remarkable gifts we bring to the world, and making that world a more accommodating and caption place for us is no less vital.
I hope we take a few more steps in that direction today.
Posted by John Elder Robison at 7:37 AM