Monday, February 21, 2005

Tommy Chong, Chief Justice John Ashcroft

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times ran an article about the newly-released-from-prison Tommy Chong. As you probably know, this half of the duo Cheech and Chong was arrested and prosecuted for selling bongs on the internet and sentenced to 9 months in prison.

An interesting article. It talks about his participation in the MARIJUANOLOGS, an off-broadway play I need to explain this?

So, Tommy works at World Gym as a trainer now. I guess he is a pretty serious weight-lifter. Couldn't lift weights in the pen.

As a part of his parole, he can't be anywhere near pot. He has to be so cautious as not to sign autographs, even after performances of the MARIJUANOLOGS, for fear that the signee might have some pot on his person. I guess, too, there is always the possibility of a "plant" "holding" some "stash" in order to get at Tommy and send him back to prison.

Chong plead guilty to the charges so as not to implicate his wife and daughter. He was shocked when he found he'd have to do hard time. John Ashcroft apparently wanted to make an example of him.

Speaking of whom, according to that new book culled from from secret tapes made during the first W campaign, W thought that John Ashcroft would make an excellent Attorney General or SUPREME COURT JUSTICE.

Freedom is just another word for nothin' else to lose

Sunday, February 20, 2005

John Raitt RIP

I went looking for information about Hunter S. Thompson, whom I have always found painful to read, when I found a headline that John Raitt died and realized that probably few people alive today would even know, were it not for his rock star daughter Bonnie.

Now, I am one who has sworn off singing showtunes. But John Raitt was a legend, the man was the kind of singer I wish I could be. I once purchased a value-priced CD of a 1970's revival of Carousel in which he played Billy Bigalow. The man must have been in his late forties or early fifties, playing the role he had originated back in 1944. If only to hear him sing "Soliloquy," you should hunt the recording down and buy it. The man had an amazing voice.

I wouldn't even know who he was if it weren't for my mother. She knows a lot about singers of that era. The guy made only one movie that I know of: "Pajama Game" with Doris Day. His greatest work was on the stage.

He appeared with Bonnie on Larry King once about eight years ago, when she was hot off her Grammy win. King interviewed him, but it was mostly about the two of them singing duets on many of his songs from Broadway. He still had the sparkle. And the look in Bonnie's eyes as she watched him sing.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Ukulele Nuff in Concert

I'm working on this melding of Over the Rainbow and Never Neverland (from the Mary Martin version of Peter Pan) that I put together. If I were a real musician, I guess I would say that I arranged it. But Meld is a better word. I just took the Over the Rainbow Iz version from 4th peg, cut out the Wonderful World interlude (because I think that song is kinda sappy), pasted in Never Neverland from the Guitar Guy's website, transposed the whole mess in my key. I think it will work.

My plan was to perform it at an assembly at the high school where I teach, but I'm not sure that it will be polished enough by the time that day hits. So, I will use U2's Wild Honey as a back-up. I have that one down pretty well. The Rainbow/Neverland medly I will save until a later assembly.

Just messing around with both of these songs has taught me what wonderful songs they are. Lyrically, few other writers can touch them. Both capture that desire for someplace better. The yearning that a farmgirl form Kansas or a child confined to a London apartment would have to just make a break for it. Wonderful World, by comparison, is pretty thin. It's thematically similar to It's a Small World.

Hey, I'm gonna go practice now.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

RivDumDave Speaks; I Reply

Dave, the problem was that you couldn't even snap your fingers. And everyone knows that Mozart was overrated. Now Salieri, there was a genius.

Is this a flame or a spam? I can never tell the difference.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Jammin' with the Boyz and Grrlz

So, last night, I took my ukulele to the house of my friend's bro-in-law to jam. My first jam with an almost actual band. I think they're in the stage of becoming a band. The personnel seem to be in a moderate state of flux. The line-up includes my friends Donita and Jim-she on dumbek and vocals, he on massive keyboards and vocals. The line-up is rounded out by Ken on guitar, Geometry John on bass, banjo and, I think, occasionally guitar (he hasn't played it, but he can), and Amber, also a vocalist. Brothers Ken and Jim are both fine musicians, and I don't just say that because I hope to be invited back. In fact, all five of them are geniuses at what they do, whether they invite me back or not.

There is also a drummer, who, at age 15, is young enough to be a grandson to any one of us. He is an excellent drummer. They say one of the best in this town we call Riverside.

Unfortunately, he didn't attend this rehearsal. It may or may not have been past his bedtime. He may or may not get mad enough about that last comment to never allow me to jam with the band again. Just in case, he is also a genius. A child prodigy.

I don't know whether or not the champagne would have flowed as freely had he been there.

There in muted spirit was Dave, on miscellaneous percussion, who had recently parted ways with the band due to creative differences: they were talented, he wasn't.

I will leave most of the sordid tale to the blogs of others, as I did not know Dave well. I did witness two of his performances with the band and was not as impressed with his genius as I was with the collective genius of the others in the band.

He had many percussion toys, all attached to a percussion toy-holding rack, like Sheila E has. He would hit the various toys, yet somehow never blend with the rest of the band. It was like he was in a little room with invisible walls, where he could not hear the band and, therefore, could not stay with their tempo. And yet, he could see them, and would often banter with them. Hell, he would interrupt their charming banter with less-than-charming (or relevant) comments. He was one of those people who, just as you yourself are about to come to the punchline of a truly funny joke that everyone is really focussed on, interrupts to ask you where you bought your pants.

Anyway, he's out.

The reason I was there is because I am a fledgling ukulele player and have played during the band's breaks on what they call Casual Sundays at local bar. I would play, and the crowd would go wild.

OK. It wasn't exactly a crowd and they didn't exactly go wild. But they didn't boo. And, on my second visit, they actually stopped and listened. I was so disturbed by this that I forgot what song I was playing.

So my friend Donita has asked me several times to join them for their Friday Night rehearsals. I have been a little shy about joining them, but figured I'd better show up so they would know that it wasn't personal.

I played with them for about two hours, I guess. When playing the songs on their list, I would just play the chords I knew and pretend to play the chords I didn't. Fortunately, I wasn't amped.

When I played the tunes that I knew, I sat next to the microphones. I had a great time. I have never actually played in a band before. But there I was, singing and strumming.

We started off by goofing on "Innagadadavida." Then we moved on to "Daydream," Times like These," and "Wild Honey."

I felt like a rock star.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Ukulele Poem

Strumming my ukulele,
I hum your song to the summer moon.

Once in the evening's heart,
We plunked it together on a piano.

Now, each note I pluck
drifts away on a random breeze.

This poem is called a sijo. It's a Korean form: three lines between 14 and 17 syllables apiece, something about nature, plus elements of a narrative. Sometimes English Sijo change each line into a couplet so it won't run off the page. I wrote it after seeing some ukulele haiku at Howlin' Hobbit's site.

I have been playing the ukulele for about two years now. I like to sing, but used to have to depend on someone else for my accompaniment. The uke has freed me to accompany myself.

My current playlist: Brother Can You Spare a Dime, I Wanna Be Like You (from the Jungle Book), Daydream (Lovin' Spoonful), Fisherman's Blues, Bears (Steve Fromholz), Times Like These (Foo Fighters), Someone Like You, Come on up to the House (Tom Waits). I am working on Wild Honey (U2), Train Song (Tom Waits).

I am lately exploring the beauty of the barred chord.