Monday, October 24, 2005

Power Trio

The Canaries made their debut last night. The initial line-up was Canary Limo singing, Billy Canary on this egg shaker doohickey that he bought at the Folk Music Center that night, and myself on my uke.

I was going to perform solo again, but couldn't really settle on anything. My brother and I were going to carpool and, when I got to his house, I found that His son Limo was going with us and that he might be performing with some friends. We picked Limo up at the nearby park. Liam's friends weren't coming.

On the way there, we discussed the possibility of Liam and I performing together on Dylan's "I Ain't Gonna Work on Maggie's Farm No More." I asked him what the chords were, but they didn't seem to fit. So he began rattling all of the Dyaln tunes he knew.

I stopped him on "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright." I knew the chords and thought we could practice. So, we practiced in the car. Later, we practiced in line at the FMC. We invited Billy C to join us as percussionist, so he got the shaky egg and practiced with us. He wanted me to slow the tempo, but Liam liked it. So we overruled.

Lima and I decided when we were alone that, after the third verse, we'd turn to Billy C and say "Take it Bill," as a surprise.

So, the open Mike itself was among the worst. Lowlights include the guy whose bangs on a notebook with drumsticks while he plays guitar and sings Jesus songs badly. Not actual gospel, but that sappy stuff you hear on Christian Broadcasting Network. The lowest of the lowlights was this guy who asked the crowd if the they wanted to hear a little Paginini (sp?) as he took his blue electric guitar out of its case. People ooooed in anticipation.

What he played was the most gawd-awful. He'd start, flub, and start again, then flub, then complain to the soundman about the volume. It was merciless. The MC finally got up and stood in front of him and said he'd have to stop because he was over his time limit. The guy says, "But I'm not finished." He was. He really was.

Highlights, as always, were Matt, UF's pal, and us.

We really had a good energy. We got a few laughs with our intro. Then I started with the song, screwed uo the first three chords, stopped, and said "Let's do that other tune."

But I ripped into it the second time. Limo sailed right into the lyrics and Billy C shook a mean egg. The "take it Bill" bit worked pretty well, too. Billy just owned the moment and improvise some schtick with his shaky egg and also made noises with his face.

We're thinking of going to open Mike at Coffee Depot tomorrow night.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Pete Townsend

I just discovered that Pete Townsend has been writing an online novel of some sort and it appears on this very same blogger thingy. What a coinkydink.

haven't read it yet.

I believe I refer to "Tommy" as one of my top ten favorite operas in an earlier post.

When I first heard it, I was in my room with my good friend Curt and a another kid I didn't particularly like, but who ran in the same circle of friends I did in Jr. and Sr. high school.

I still get chills when I hear music from "Tommy."

One time, not too long ago, at our weekly dinner at Mom's, I walked into the room that was once my bedroom where I had actually heard "Tommy" for the first time and disovered my nephew Limo listening to what ever type of portable musical listening thing he owned at the time and asked him what he was doing.

"I'm listening to 'Tommy,'" he said.

I explained to him the history of "Tommy" and that room. To which he replied, "Cool" and then put his headphones back on.

Here's Townsend's blog:

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Wedding from Hell

I went to a friend's wedding party Saturday. He is the son of an old friend and colleague whom I have gotten to know over the past couple of years. This was the second marriage for both. She has kids. He does not.

I have never been to a wedding like this before. Most of the truly bad weddings I have been to had some redeeming quality to them. But this one...

It was a civil ceremony. She and her family are devout Catholics, but she agreed to a civil ceremony and he agreed to have a catholic ceremony later.

On the day before the wedding, the mom calls to say that she will not attend the wedding and is going to Mexico for the weekend.

The same day, the caterer cancels.

Then, most of the bride's siblings don't bother to show up. Didn't call her. Didn't show up.

The maid of honor, the bride's adult daughter, didn't show up.

The one brother who was supposed to bring the cake showed up an hour-and-half late and then left after a very short time.

A few of the bride's friends showed up and all of the groom's friends and family showed up. They put the best face on things they could. But it was pretty sad.

Another Soul Seduced by the Dark Side

I've been acting as a co-facilitator at this weekend Professional Development Institute for teachers in Palm Springs. A month ago, at the first meeting, my co-teacher and I presented a unit plan that we use. At the beginning, I played my uke, as I do before class at school.

Yesterday, we had our second meeting. This guy who's in my breakout group told me that my performance had inspired him to go out and get his own uke and that he now carried it around with him, playing for his students.

Our numbers are growing.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

My Top Ten Most Influential Operas

1. Tosca. I watched on PBS once. Performed at the baths in Rome, Italy. One of the few operas where the story made sense.

2. Turandot. Just for the Nessun Dorma aria. The story about the chinese princess loses me the minute she tortures the tenor's girlfriend to find out his name and she dies and the tenor still wants to marry her and her heart melts.

3. Tommy. Yeah, it's a rock opera. But it's part of the soundtrack of my life and I get chills when I hear it today.

4. Jesus Christ Superstar. Same thing. Spent a lot of time with my best friend Curt discussing teenage theology while listening to it.

5. The Ring Cycle. Saw it on PBS. Again with the Norse stuff.

6. Carmen. She's hot.

7. Carmen Jones. She's pretty hot too.

8. Threepenny Opera. I guess it's not really an opera. But it's a fave. Let's all go barmey.

9. Ok, I guess I don't have ten.

9. William Tell

Friday, October 14, 2005

10 Most influential Books I Read as a Kid

I hope I can remember them all.

1. Yertle the Turtle. I wish Opie would try to make a film based on this book.

2. Harold and the Purple Crayon. When I was between 4th and 5th grade, I dropped out of a summer school art class when the teacher didn't like what I drew. We had to draw using only black and white crayons, plus one primary color crayon chosen for each student by her. First, I drew a picture of Hades riding down into Hell with his newly kidnapped bride Proserpine. She said that the characters should be bigger. So I drew another picture that zoomed in on the happy couple. Then she said that I should draw something a little more cheerful. I reminded her that I was working with black, white, and f***ing blue. I didn't actually say "f***ing." This has little to do with Harold and the Purple Crayon, but clearly I still have issues.

3. Make Way for Ducklings. There, I feel better now.

4. Edith Hamilton's Mythology. I loved mythology, so I struggled through this when I was about 10.

5. This book about Japanese mythology by Miriam Cox. Later, as a college student, I took her Children's Lit class and she gave me a "C." Bitch.

6. Some book about King Arthur with really cool illustrations. Got it at the library. Thanks for taking me, Mom.

7. A Donald Duck comic book. My first grade teacher said that I had a reading problem. My mom got me some comic books to read to increase my interest in reading and see for herself if I was having problems. Turned out that I only had a first grade teacher problem. Thanks again, Mom.

8. This book or Norse mythology. I liked this stuff more than the Greek stuff.

9. One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish Blue Fish. I think this is self-explanatory.

10. Horton Hatches an Egg. Hey, anything is possible.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

10 Most Influential Books Other Than the Bible

Influential in my life anyway. All are works of fiction. Not in any particular order:

1. Don Quixote. This is the biggie for me. As with Shakespeare, you find yourself wondering how he ever thought of all of that. Plan on taking your time with this one, though.

2. King Lear. A study in what it means to lose who you are.

3. The Tempest. About forgiveness.

4. Cold Mountain. If you love folklore, mythology, and music, this may be the book for you.

5. Underworld. Don Dellilo (sic?). When people become consumed by their own pop-culture.

6. White Noise. Same guy. Why fear prevents people from connecting with one another.

7. Johnny Got His Gun. If the president could read, I'd send him this book.

8. The Brothers Karamazov. It struck a chord in my then-teenage heart.

9. War and Peace. Didn't think I would like it or finish it. But, damn, what a story. I think it might be about who our parents were before we knew them. Again, take your time.

10. A River Runs through It. I don't fish. But this book is about the soul we all share.

I only liked parts of Ulysses. I probably should add something by Hemingway, but it's hard to decide. In Our Time is cracker jack, in the best sense of the phrase.

Monday, October 10, 2005

You Can't Tell a Book by It's Cover

On the first meeting of the night class that I teach, one of the first people to walk in the door was this really skinny kid. She had a real angular look about her and her dress was rather masculine, but, after studying her, I realized that she was probably a man. When he took off his paramedic's cap, he revealed his two-tone close-cropped haircut, as well as a subtle amount of make-up. So, I figured he might be a gay man. Then, I studied him again and I realized he was, after all, a woman--Still gay, but a woman. The way she sat, the way she carried herself--all of this seemed lesbi-ish to me. Then, as students finished writing their first writing assignment, I asked if anyone wanted to read what they had written, she raised her hand and read this piece about her husband and young son.

I promise I wasn't staring at her. This was all a part of my usual sizing up of students as class begins.

I'm just saying that this woman had a lot of layers.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Starvation Jam

Of course, to prepare for the big journey, I had to fast. The last time was easy because I didn't have to work. But yesterday, I had to work. So, I bought a grip of apple juice and gatorade and took them to school and drank pretty much non-stop. I kept my mind off my hunger by strumming pretty much non-stop as well--except for when either my teaching partner or I was lecturing.

I was standing outside strumming my newish Fluke, when this one girl comes out and joins me, carrying my Triumph uke. She asks me to teach her some chords. She already plays guitar, so I knew it would come easy to her. I showed her the chords for "Ain't She Sweet?", which I learned at the Cerritos Uke fest. She goes away and starts practicing and, by afternoon advisory, she's got it.

For those of you worried about your tax dollars at work, she practiced only during breaks and lunch.

In fact, during lunch, she, another student, and myself spent most of the time jamming on those and other chords. This one kid worked out several guitar solos on the Fluke, including "Malagena." Another kid came up with this two-chord punk progression and improvised some hilarious lyrics. Then, as lunch ended, we stood outside and played as students came in.

My colleague had been elected Teacher Homecoming King, so he stood outside shouting to each approaching student, "Bow down to your King!" to which we would sing "Bow down! Bow down! To the King!"

It was a pretty good day, fast or no fast.

Squeaky Clean

After my sigmoidoscopy, where the reader will remember the doctor found a polyp in my sigmoid, and after not receiving any urgent phone calls summoning me to the hospital for an emergency cancer surgery, nor receiving any postcard with the results, I lived under the assumption that it was over for the next few years.

Then, two months later, while visiting my doctor on another matter, I was told that I had indeed been referred for a colonoscopy. "Yeah," the doc told me, "That's one flaw in the system. It takes a long time for these referrals to go through." So two months later, I get an appointment for the procedure.

I'll skip the grody details and just say that I came out of it clean.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Doppleganger and Practice

Sunday, there was some guy at this restaurant that SiL, Bro, Mom, Z'ster, and Limo all thought looked like me. Sad thing is, I thought he looked like a slob. Perhaps it's time I get that makeover.

On the uke front. I have discovered a way to increase my practice time by a half-hour a day. On my way home, I bought a music stand on sale and took it to school with me Monday morning. As my fans know, I usually stand outside my classroom playing the songs I know while the kids come in the classroom. Now, I set songs that I am trying to learn on the music stand and practice them between classes for about 5 minutes at a time. I can get through the chord progressions twice in that amount of time. This will be great for those more complicated songs that I keep putting off. I tend to stick within a certain range, which means that I stay within the same four or five chords much of the time as far as song selection goes. So this is good.

By the time school was out today, I practically had Over the Rainbow nailed. Still have a couple of difficult chords changes to overcome, but I should have it by tomorrow.

Learned some new techniques at the Cerritos Uke Fest over the weekend. Went to a workshop run by Lil Rev and another by Cool Hand Uke. Cool Hand Uke was god, but digressed a lot with personal anecdotes. But he did have me playing Jamaica Farewell(easy) and Ain't She Sweet? (moderately difficult) by the end of the session.

Lil Rev is a uke player (and multi-instrumentalist) that I admire. I admire even more that he seems to be a dedicated roving folk musician. A good teacher too. Had us doing some interesting strums. Taught us how to do Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits also. Not too hard, but I never thought about it before.

Spent Sunday reading a book that I have been teaching for a week. I had read it many years ago and thought I knew it very well, until I tried leading a discussion on it and realized it was time for a re-read.

Mostly a productive weekend.