Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Two Sijo

I was sitting in this horrible class I have to take to fulfill No Child Left Behind, the sham perpetrated on Texas and now the rest of the country, and I wrote these two poems in the sijo form:

1. Dark corner, the glimmer of beady eyes-a mouse blinks,
a tightrope walk across a chord strung along the ceiling,
the danger below: a well-placed morsel, an unexpected snap.

2. Red drop on green plane-ladybug scales a blade of grass,
pauses at the tip, but does not open its shell or spread cellophane wings
and does not escape the roar or chop of the spinning blade.

Anyway, I'll work on them. Click on the title of this blog and you'll go to a web page that explains the form. I also describe it in my first ever blog entry.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Canaries Part Tres

I have postponed my latest review of the Canaries performance because I was a little disappointed in it. Let's just summarize by saying that what we lacked in skill, we made up for with enthusiasm.

We performed "I Feel Fine" by the Beatles-a favorite of mine for a long time. Myself and Billy Canary playing ukuleles and harmonizing. Canary Liam providing vocals.

We rehearsed for about an hour-and-a-half before leaving for the open mike. We had gotten to the point where we almost had it, but not quite. It was at the state of almost memorized, but not to the point where we felt comfy-cozy with it.

As a result, at least for my part, we were still thinking too hard when we were performing. Somewhere in the course of the song, I thought I had played a wrong chord and let that trip me up. I don't know how others feel about how they did.

Canary Liam, Billy's son and the youngest Canary, got to do a solo rendition of "Tambourine Man," accompanying himself on guitar. He began with a joke about a naked man and an elephant the punchline of which was "How do you breath with that thing?"

Then he played the song. He was pretty good. He took the song slowly, but sang with feeling. I think that he is still searching for a musical identity, experimenting with different instruments. And he is just discovering his voice.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Ditty Bops

Went with the bro to see the Ditty Bops tonight at the Folk Center. I won tickets through an e-mail contest. The Ditty Bops are led by Amanda and Abby, two perky young ladies with voices like angels.

The opening act was Ruth Barnett, mother of one of the Bops and a fine singer who has a rather extensive ouevre. She played dulcimer and bodhrain and sang old school folk songs. Many of her tunes were original and some were traditional. And some were traditional to which she added lyrics and melody. Amanda Bop apparently selected the songs of this set from her favorites. She and Abby joined Ruth on stage for harmonies on several tunes. A very warm set it was. It ended with a lullaby Ruth had written for Amanda Bop when she was just a wee bop. It was a lovely tune and it was especially nice to hear mother and daughter sing it together.

Come to think of it, it's pretty hard to write a bad lullaby, unless the Backstreet Boys have one that I don't know about.

Anyway, it was a lovely tune. Mother and daughter should be very proud of one another.

I gather from the website that a part of the Ditty Bop mystique is to have running themes in their shows. Many of their fans know this, which explained why I saw a few folks wearing eyepatches at a nearby Starbuck's before the show.

The Bops made their entrance in pirate regalia, with Amanda Bop's pirate hat taking on a life of its own.

The music reminded was kind of parlor/tin pan alley type of jazz. The style was subdued yet energetic. Abby Bop's guitar stylings were especially good. And the harmonies were tight and seductive. The Bop's voices blended sweetly together.

There were these two pirate themed instrumentals introduced by the fiddle player, a buckaneer named Scurvey Dan or something like that. They weren't exactly piratey, but they were really cool.

This concert made for a relaxing, fun evening. Having appeared with both Nickle Creek and Tori Amos, the Ditty Bops seem to be at the cusp of the height of their zenith. They are destined to grow in bopularity.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

All You Need Is Love (but a Little Yoga Couldn't Hurt Either)

During my between-class practice I have focused on the Lennon-McCartney hit "All You Need Is Love," a hit tune that has some fun chord and tempo changes. About five minutes during each practice period and I've almost got it.

The song changes from 4/4 to 3/4 every few bars and I find it a little difficult to feel the change. At this point, I am making the change. I'm not playing it with much style yet, but I've almost got the rhythm down.

There are also a couple of chord changes that I need to master. There's a switch from an Dm to a G7m or something like that and my fingers don't always get through that.

Some of the students try to follow me on it too. Most of the stuff they join me on is pretty simple, tempo-wise. Today was a little different. Almost like a music lesson.

Also, I made my first yoga class in about a year-and-a-half. My SiL ran the class,so I expected quite a workout. Her class is a little different from other teachers I've had at the studio. The movement is a little more constant, the lecture a lot less.

My bones, tendons, and muscles had a faint memory of what they were supposed to do. While I was in one pose, my knee started shaking and sent a reverberation through the arc my outstreched legs and I fell. It was sort of like what must happen on a tension bridge when one of the cables gets loose. I tried to stop the chain reaction, but it just got the better of me.

There were a couple of other poses that certainly challenged my body. But I was surprised at how well I did.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Things Are Looking Up

I entered this e-mail thing on the internet to go see the Ditty Bops at the Folk Center. Yippee!

I know little about this duo, except that they are two ladies and that they may have entered my awareness at the Folk Center and Ukulele crossroads of my life. I previewed a CD of theirs at Borders a couple of Sundays ago. They are both charming and rambunctious. I hope I spelled that right.

So, this is keeping with my resolution (not New Year's--I never make those-I made this one back in October) to go hear more live music--focusing on music that you don't normally hear on radio.

I got an e-mail from the Folk Center that says the concert is sold out. Not hard to do, considering the place only holds about 100 people, if that.

I've had good luck at the Folk center. Saw The Asylum Street Spankers and Dave Alvin there. Now the Ditty Bops.

Next Sunday is Open Mike Night, I think. We haven't rehearsed since Christmas.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My Ukulele Wants to Kill Your Mama

On my drive home, XM Radio was playing The Mothers of Invention's "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama." My mind wafted back to when I first heard that song. It was Saturday on American Bandstand. It was that segment called "Rate a Record" where two teenagers listen to two singles as the rest of the audience dances to it. Then, they rate it, usually making comments like, "It had a really great beat Mr. Clark and I can tell it would be fun to dance to" or "I liked the words and loved the lyrics."

So, this day, "My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama" was one of the songs. The two teen judges didn't quite know what to make of the song (remember, this was back when kids were still pretty intelligent-you know, MY generation). I don't remember what it was, but the other song got a better rating.

I also went back to when I was a youngster, sharing a bedroom with my older brother. He had one of those suitcase-like stereos with a fold-out turntable and you could place up to six albums on the record changer. He used to like to go to sleep with music playing.

I was indifferent to this.

One night, he had FREAKOUT by the Mo's of Invention as one of the selections. It was eerie, but I liked laying there in the dark, listening to the bizarre tunes.

The last album of the night was one by Steppenwolf. I don't remember the title, but the song playing was "The Pusher"-the one where John Kay growled out "God damn, God damn the pusherman!"

It was one of those extra-long tunes that was so popular back then.

It was not a song that lulled you to sleep.

I could hear that my brother was sleeping (i.e., snoring) and this song was keeping me awake, so I got up, leaned over my bedpost and, reaching through the darkness, turned off the record player.

Bro sputtered awake and snorted at me "hey, what are you doing? I was listening to that!"

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Canaries' Love Affair with the Camera

I showed the most recent Canaries open mike performance to my classes on Monday. We played "Maggie's Farm." At the end of the video, my teaching partner said that he had a GREAT version of the song and got out his I-Pod, hooked it up to our sound system, and played U2's performance version at Live Aide. As it was playing, a little girl in the class said that SHE had a version of the song recorded by the Specials, a ska group of the 80's. She got out her I-Pod and played it for the class as well. It wasn't so much ska. But it was good. And I got to explain that the Specials were pretty popular when I was a youngster.

THEN, earlier tonight, they played a version of the song by Richie Havens on XM radio.

Coincidence, I think not.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

My Dinner with Uli, the Final Chapter

Uli Jr and Mrs. Uli Jr left soon after the singing stopped, just before the walkers and wheelchairs jammed in front of the elevators that would take the residents back to their rooms. That left Mom, Uli, and me sitting at our table, waiting for a break in the traffic.

Once the Uli Jr's were gone, the wrath of Uli was unleashed. Uli, who did not rely on a walker or wheelchair, complained that, at 96 years, he did fine on his own. He had maintained his independence-mowing his own lawn, washing his own car. Mrs. Uli was the culprit that put him in the tower. His comments were punctuated by sidelong glances from my mother to me, shot at me to infuse just a dab of guilt for the holidays.

I shot glances right back, as if to say "Yes, Mother, we put you here. But you won't walk and are overly dependent on a motorized wheelchair and motorized La-Z-Boy, and won't do the slightest bit of exercise to strengthen your muscles so that you can live more independently." But my look fell, as usual, on deaf eyes.

Uli, while able to get around on his own, walked with a wobbliness that betrayed the potential for catastrophe that his family must have feared. Should his family left him in his own home? I don't know. That's a question most of my friends my age have to wrestle with these days. Our parents can no longer live without assistance, but don't want to surrender control.

As the second wave of wheelchairs and walkers crowded around the elevator, the self-ambulatory residents, learning long ago the virtue of patience, busied themselves with other activities as the staff broke down the banquet tables and chairs and put the visiting area back in order.

One woman, Selma, began working on the community jig-saw puzzle.

"Oh, she's good at those puzzles," Mom said. "Let's go take a look."

Selma, indeed, worked quickly at finding a proper match for each piece.

"We've got hundreds of puzzles," Uli informed me. "They're all in that cabinet."

He got up and almost sprinted to the cabinet and opened it's doors, revealing hundreds of puzzles, containing one, two, as many as five-thousand pieces. We could have had a puzzle party.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Christmas with the Canaries

I guess I should say something about Christmas Day.

I got a new Oscar Schmidt to replace my kidnapped one. This one is an OU3 I think. It's a blond. Sounds good.

We, the Canaries, spent a good hour or so rehearsing our next big hit, "All You Need Is Love" by the Beatles. We used the arrangement from Jumpin' Jim's Sacred Ukulele book.

Canary Liam got a "G"-tuned harmonica for Christmas, which is the key the Beatles recorded the song in. Jim arranged the song in a different, squeaky-voice key, as he often does. Liam wanted to adapt back to the original key but we didn't seem to get anywhere with that. I'm going to look at fixing that today. It seemed like it would be pretty easy to do, except for one chord that's something like a G7Sus+dim or something.

I think Liam gets frustrated because we don't seem to listen to him because he's the kid. I think it has more to do with the fact that we have to mind the uke part, which takes a little more work, so we do what's easiest for us. I also think it's because the three of us are creative types with diva tendencies. Oddly, Liam is the most musical, I think, in that he plays more instruments.

We worked out the harmonies, of which my line turned out to be a Johnny-one-note kind of thing...boring. It sounds good enough. But I hope I can work it out to something more interesting.

I would like to make Zoe a Canary also. I have this idea that we could do Tom Waits "Phone Call from Istanbul," with Zoe doing the organ solo at the end-only on her sax.