Wednesday, December 31, 2008

All Clear

So now I have my CPAP machine to help me keep breathing at night, a humidifier attachment to keep my nasal passages from drying out (and man do they dry out), a perscription for allegra, a perscription for flonase, and I'm good to go. The two medications clear me right up so I can breath through my nose. So I have been using the CPAP for the past few nights and it works like a dream.

Just before I satrted using it again, I actually had a dream where I could not breath. It was so real, my lack of breathing in dreamland caused me to wake up and gasp for air. I suspect it was one of those dreams that was triggered by the reality that I had actually stopped breathing.

I've been able to sleep the past couple of nights without any of that happening. Usually get the full eight hours. I still wake up a couple of times (I think three times last night), but I am still able to drop right back off into winkin-blinkin-and-nod-land. Some of the same things that usually keep my brain spinning are still there, lurking, but they don't keep me up.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Billy C, Ben, Jackson, and Me

The Folk Music Center celebrated its 50th anniversary last night. I didn't get an invite, but all of the other Canaries did.

Billy C either found or got his invite yesterday, so he e-mailed me and we decided to go.

I at first thought that it would be like a tiny reception with maybe some snacks and stuff. So I left the house without my ax. Billy C brought his, which is when the light pinged in my head: this is a FOLK MUSIC center, people will probably play music, people will probably be INVITED to play music. So, I went in unarmed, but I figured that I could borrow Billy C's if there was an invitation to play.

Then I realized, hey Ben Harper owns this place. This may actually be quite the shindig!

Harper's grandparents, Charles and Dorothy Chase, first opened the Folk Music Center and Ben, when he became successful, bought it.

So, now I realized this shindig might actually be a hullabaloo!

We got there and a line had already formed, just like open mike night. Ellen, Harper's mother and the store's manager, opened the doors, and, sure enough, this was set up to be a real party. As guests walked in, they received commemorative t-shirts--they even had one in my size. And a gourmet buffet had been spread in front of the guitar wall. Harper himself had just snagged a gourmet cupcake as he greeted old friends from town.

As I shuffled through from the door to where the eats were, I looked behind me and there was Jackson Browne. Other players were there, band members and such. The stage had been set up, so clearly there would be music.

Ellen announced that anyone who wanted to play could get up and play one song. A guy with a kazoo got up and played "Happy Birthday." As the first few players performed, I thought about going up myself, but the acts got better and better. I thought about doing "The Green-Eyed Dragon" a capella, but the acts just kept getting better. Then Ben Harper and Jackson Browne performed.

I should mention here that the Folk Center is not all that big and could hold, at best, maybe a hundred people for concert purposes. So, I'm standing maybe 15 feet from the stage.

So they were good and they stuck, technically, to the one song per person rule. At the end of his song, Harper thanked everyone for coming and I thought that was the end. And I decided that I was not going to follow them if it wasn't.

People kept going up. Ben returned to the stage often, sometimes with his mother, sometimes with other musicians. The evening ended with "Goodnight Irene."

A good time.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Things I Saw This Christmas

A guy standing out in the rain on a traffic island on Mission Blvd. holding assign pointing out his taco shop, which was open for business.

A homeless guy standing in the rain on a freeway off ramp holding a sign wishing everyone a merry Christmas. He was scowling at the passing cars and shouting profanities.

A couple visiting Mama Canary's new assisted living facility with three dogs on a leash.

My DVD of the Soweto Gospel Choir.

Some people from either the coroner's office or a funeral home removing someone in a body bag as Mama C and I left to go catch a movie.

Doubt. The movie. See it.

After the film, in the men's room, a guy standing at the urinal next me missing--basically peeing on the floor without bothering to correct himself.

Two colleagues of mine (actually, one is now a former colleague) who met at my school, fell in love, and got married.

A huge woman at El Torito who not only talked with her mouth full, but sometimes had food hanging out of it.

The Christmas lights up and down the Wood streets while Christmas music played on the radio.

An ambulance in my rear view window.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Soweto Gospel Choir

I felt like I had never heard Amazing Grace before and will never be satisfied hearing anywhere else in any other way. And the whole concert was like this.

They sang traditional songs as well as popular (but not "pop") songs. And every one was a gem. And every time I asked myself how they could possibly move on and top the song they had just sung, they did.

And the dancing was energetic and wild. And they did a lot of it while singing. And I couldn't see how they could possibly do both. But they did.

The performance of Amazing Grace included four soloists, each of whom sang relatively straightforward with some improvisational flourishes and they were all beautiful. But then a final soloist came out and took her verse into a completely different musical universe. Then all of the soloists sang their verses at one time, improvising off of one another in a kind of dialog between sinners testifying. I just don't know how they did it or why it worked so well--but it was blindingly gorgeous.

They finished with a performance of several Christmas carols, some reworked with an African beat. They kept asking the audience to sing along and normally I would have but I didn't want to miss a note of their singing.

The carols were kind of an encore. Except the group didn't leave the stage to be called back. They just stayed in hopes of wearing the audience out. And wear me out they did. This was music as a catharsis, which good gospel music is. But I could have listened to this well into the night.

Let's face it, this is the worst holiday season in my lifetime, but this concert was the the best gift I could ever receive.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

End of an Era

I'm becoming more Buddhist in my thinking these days. Not actual Buddhism--more like Buddhist lite. Most of my enlightenment comes from movies about Buddhism. Like Little Buddha. There's this scene of some monks creating a mandala. A Lama explains to Kris Issak how, once the mandala is completed, it will be swept away with the stroke of a hand.

Our life experiences are like that. Never go into creating something thinking it is permanent. It will save you a lot of aggravation.

My teaching colleague, with whom I have been teaching for 7 and 1/3 years worked his last day yesterday. He has been hire to be an Assistant Principal in another district at a middle school, where he will make his living yelling at hyper-active 7th graders.

Just kidding about that last part.


So, yesterday, our class had a surprise party for him. Pretty simple, really. A couple of kids put together a slide show of the greatest moments in class so far. Then, I gave all of the students a chance to say something to him about how he has influenced their lives.

Lotsa laughs. Lotsa tears.

He then held a raffle, during which he gave away his school-logo type shirts and a few other items.

I threw in an extra surprise. I had just got an account on Facebook and had started getting friend requests form former students. So I made a secret group and spent a little time hunting down other former students and adding them as friends, then inviting them to join my group. At the group site, I shared the info about my colleague's leaving and invited them to come on campus and help us say good-bye to him at the party.

I got about 30 students. Two showed up in uniform. They spanned our entire history together, going as far back as 2001. It was pretty cool.

Then, we showed another slideshow composed of pictures going back about 4 years, which was put together by another student.

Many laughs. Many tears.

The strangest thing is that all of these former students looked pretty much the same age to me. So I kept forgetting that not all of them knew each other.

Anyway, it was a good time.

I'll have a new partner next semester. Time for a new mandala.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I Sight a Predator

As I hiked the Roob at dusk tonight, I spied I furry little bunny who had just hopped across the road and up into the bushes ahead of me. Just after that, about five yards ahead of me, I spied what I thought might be another bunny--but, by the length of its furry tail, realized was a fox. Whether it was hunting the bunny, I know not. It wasn't much bigger than the bunny.

Anyway, it didn't seem to notice me at first. Once it had crossed the road into the bushes uphill, it stopped and looked at me as I kept walking. Once I passed it, I stopped, turned around and stared back at it. There we stood for a few minutes, staring at one another. It was a fox alright and, even though it was almost dark out, I could see it very clearly.

We were probably no more than 20 feet apart. If he had wanted to, he could have leaped from the hill and gone for my jugular. If I had wanted to, I could have thrown a rock and hit him.

I ended our showdown and walked away.

I've seen coyotes, deer, various birds of prey, raccoons--but never a fox until tonight.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Uke at Do's

We hadn't played together for awhile, so Do and I decided to to try tonight. Billy C couldn't make, seeing's how how his beaked was stuffed up due to a recent bizarre snorkeling accident.

So I go to Do's. We decided to play all of these songs with lots of chords, starting with "If I Only Had a Brain" The version she has is in a key unfriendly to both of our voices. I have a version at school in a friendlier key, but that did us no good. So we look on the internet to see if we can find that version, or a simialr one. Of course, since this is a mega-chord song, we felt it would be best if the actual chord fingerings would be there with the song.

We found one and played awhile, but Do thought some of the chord progressions from her version would work better if they could be transposed. But the chords are like D6 with an subliminal 9th and C12 with an dislocated 2nd and stuff like that. You know, the kind that take tentacles instead of fingers to make.

I find that I get frustrated trying to figure stuff like that out as a committee. I tend to want to go off and figure it out myself or just play the damn thing. I think it's a product of me not being an experienced musician and not having as much patience as I think I have. Even so, I Usually like what comes out of that process. Do has more experience with that than I do. Do, on the other hand, has a lot more experience than me working with other musicians and hammering out an arrangement. Anyway, I found myself spiraling into terminal crank mode. I think she sensed my frustration, so we moved on to "Paper Moon."

So I guess she wins the diplomacy award. I win the cranky award.

This was also a little frustrating because of one tricky chord change, but, after having played this song half-assedly for about a year, I had an epiphany as to how that chord change could be more easily accomplished. I find that, where possible, if I just bar the offensive chord, that usually leads to a solution of some sort. This solution started out with barring and ended with sliding my fingers from the barred chord to the unbarred chord. Also, I have always had trouble with the bridge on this song, but we worked that out too. Didn't exactly nail the song, but we played through it enough that we can both practice it and eventually get it down.

We also tried "I'll See You in My Dreams." Our fingers were twisting all over that fretboard.

We fizzled into "Sway" and tried working into "Perhaps. Perhaps, Perhaps," but we didn't know that song well enough. "Sway" is perfect for Do's voice and, when I first heard her sing it, I thought it would be cool to work "Perhaps into it it somehow as either a dialog between two dancers or even an inner dialog for a woman.

A lot of baby steps for me tonight. So I got a lot to practice this week.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another Insightful Political Commentary

I admit that I've noticed this, but I didn't think that anyone would actually WRITE about it. I'm talking about this article in Salon about Michelle Obama's ass. I mean, I've seen commentary about each first lady's fashion sense and appearance, but to actually write about something this specific? Are we supposed to be thinking about this?

I think a little less of myself for posting this.

And I do admire the Obamas.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Update on Things BABoR

I stopped using the CPAP for a few nights. I had just gotten over a cold and still had some congestion and couldn't breath very comfortably with it. I will probably get the optional face mask for such occasions. You just can't have too many breathing tubes. I could also get an optional humidifier attachment for if I become too dry nasalwise. I am dried out sometimes, but not uncomfortably so.

I was really tired when I finally got that thing, so my first couple of times with it, I slept pretty soundly. The last couple of nights I have awaken the usual four times, but have usually fallen right back to sleep. I wake up feeling more rested, so that's a good thing.

Mind you, I don't think the CPAP directly affects my ability to sleep. It's only purpose is to keep me breathing at night. But I think the airflow soothes me and encourages me to breath deeply.

I lost a tooth implant. It fell out of my mouth and then fell out of whichever pocket I put it in. It is an old design and sounds, by what my new dentist told me, that it will be more trouble to replace than it is worth. Yet, it needs to be replaced.

Yet, I have at least two relatives with several missing teeth, and they seem to survive.

Like everyone else, my retirement fund is taking a beating.

I'm sinking into post-election ennui. I am very happy Obama won. I read the news--mostly online, since our local paper has basically become a propaganda tool for the Republican party. I think the 24-hour-a-day news cycle that we now have makes everything a little overwhelming and at the same time gets boring, because, let's face it, how much can really change every ten minutes?

I am basically old fashioned, news-wise. I think it works best when I just get a massive dose once a day and that stop thinking about these things for awhile.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Improv in the Classroom

Friday. It started during 2nd period. We were reading a selection from a novelized version of The Ramayana.A kid was reading the battle between Rama and the demon Ravana and, as I customarily do, I interrupted him to read a passage in my melfluous baritone. I had interrupted several students, kinda on purpose for comedic effect.

So, this time he interrupts me back, trying to be more dramatic. "Aha," I says to myself, "two can play this game," and I re-interrupted him. It became a kind of jam session/competition.

So the next period, I says to my teaching partner, "Why don't we do the same thing this period with you and me trading off?"

"Sure," he says.

So I begin to read the same battle-scene passage, once again in dulcet tones. Soon, my colleague interrupts me, trying to out-drama me. We go back and forth a little.

Then, he gets up on a desk top and starts walking across the desks, reading as he goes.

I then go to my prop closet (where I keep various thingies that students have left in my room unclaimed over the years) and pull out a retractable light saber and read while swinging and thrusting about the room, stabbing the occasional unsuspecting student.

Pretty soon, are flying about the room, putting on wigs and beards, throwing stuffed animals and other soft toys at one another. At one point, my colleague reads a passage as a rap. I pull out my uke and improvise a song in response, using a simple three-chord progression.

This went on for about ten minutes longer than it should have, but the students had a good time.

I got a couple of compliments on the song and have even began working out some actual lyrics based on the book.

The chorus:

Rama, forget your trauma.
Just chant your mantra
and you'll be just fine.
Ravana, don'tcha wanna
get right with yourself?

That's kinda the theme of the book right there.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Where I Was

I'm not very good at calculating how long it takes to do things. But I try sometimes.

I teach a night class at Rio de Nada Community College, Sou Mo Campus. The class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I had scheduled individual conferences in place of the regular class meetings--not noticing that it would take place during election week. So, last week I asked the students if anyone would like to come in early for their conference and, of course, most of them did. So I started the meetings at 5 and finished them by around 8--giving me time (so I thought) to go somewhere and watch the election results come in.

I thought the vote-counting process would take longer.

I was tired (sleep continues to be an issue for me). But I had two stops to get to.

The first one was at a friend's house. It was on the way to the 2nd one at Back to the Grind.

As I got out of my car, a friend was leaving my 1st stop. He told me that McCain had just given his concession speech.

Dang! I would have liked to see that Live, that is.

I got into the party just in time to see Obama and his family walk out onto the stage.

What a speech. People in the room, not all of whom are strong supporters, wept. I left soon after because I was tired.

I showed both speeches to my classes the next day. I don't do this sort of thing often because I don't like to foist my politics on a captive audience. But this was historic. A barrier had been breached.

My other point for showing the speeches was to show how it's supposed to be after an election. One candidate concedes, graciously, and pledges his support to the winner--reminding his followers that we are all fellow citizens. The other humbly accepts the victory and strikes a conciliatory tone towards the other side.

Yeah, I know the fighting is about to start again, but there needs to be a cleansing in this country--kinda like right after 9/11, where people unite. Yeah, I know we actually became a more divided nation and that our president steered our attention away from who the real enemies were, but RIGHT after, we were pretty united.

I teach at an ethnically diverse school. When I played the Obama speech, some kids wept like Jesse Jackson. I know a lot of people don't like Jesse, or Al, for that matter. But Jesse Was there for much of the civil rights movement and saw a lot of people go down before their time. When you think of how many people died on the road to civil rights, you have to admit this is a pretty amazing election.

Bobby Kennedy predicted in 1961 that we might see an African American president within 40 years. He was about 7 years off. But that's a pretty good prediction.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Mama Canary Votes

So I go to Mama C's assisted living place Sunday Night and get her to fill out her absentee ballot. I knew that she wouldn't do it on her own. So, I read her each item and she told me what to mark. There were a couple of votes I didn't agree with, but it's her vote.

She was glad she got to vote. Today, I dropped it off at the registrar's office.

Go Obama!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Snore No More

It's some kind of National Blog Month or something. I missed yesterday, but I am going to try to blog every day this month, no matter how short or stupid the post is.

I got a CPAP machine. I have no idea what CPAP stands for, but it's supposed to help me with my sleep apnea. I'm supposed to wear it when ever I sleep.

I always expected these things to be heavy and uncomfortable, but this isn't so bad. It's like the gizmo I wore for testing my sleep-breathing requirements a couple of weeks ago.

I strap this tube to my nose, using this head thingy that is soft a stretchable. It's not too tight. I push two buttons and the airflow starts and then increases gradually to my level of need. The nose piece is soft, pliable plastic. It blows air to my nostrils as I inhale. I can breath through my mouth if I want, but this machine kinda fights back to discourage me. So, presumably, I breath through my nose all night, thus preventing snoring and, more importantly, preventing the stoppage of my breathing.

The danger with sleep apnea, of course, is that you stop breathing in your sleep--and it's possible that you won't start again. It also prevents you from going through the entire sleep cycle and missing your most restive sleep. It can effect things like your memory, your blood sugar levels, and your heart, among other things.

Anyway, so I seem to wake up less often at night with this thing on(I used to wake up around four times a night and then have trouble getting back to sleep). When I do wake up, I tend to go back to sleep. The air flow encourages deep breathing, which relaxes me, which eases me back to sleep.

I think I still have trouble shutting off my brain at night, but this seems to be a good first step in solving my sleep problems.

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Went and saw this with Do.

This film turned Oliver Stone into the Anti-Stone in that he didn't spend the whole film hitting you over the head with his perspective. Instead, it was a high energy flatline. It fell short of everything it pretended to be.

The first of my concerns is whether or some of the details from Bush's life and presidency were true as depicted in the film. A few incidents have been in the public dialog for some time, but others were new to me.

The few reviews I have read praised several actors for not being caricatures of the people they portrayed. But That was one of the problems. As fine as many of the actors were, they were flat caricatures. Most of them played their parts on one note.

I chuckled a couple of times, but never felt any empathy for any of the characters. About an hour into it, I was anxious for it to end.

Let me be clear that I hate what W and his cronies have done to this country. But this film did nothing for me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Debate 3

Tonight's debate was underwhelming for me. It didn't change my vote.

But one thing I found funny and very informative. Towards the end of the debate, John McCain laughed at a joke he had made and snorted. I don't think I want a president who snorts when he laughs.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New Heart, New Job

I have 5 years until my projected retirement. I may be wrong, but I am determined to NOT work full-time past that date, even if my 401K doesn't rebound. I have this philosophy about quality of life being as important as money. I joke about living in my car, but sometimes I'm not sure that I am.

My friend Tom got to retire early at 55. His doctor told him that he needed to for his health. He had high blood pressure. He and his wife discussed this and decided that, with his Calstrs (Teacher's retiement) and her income (she's in banking), they could live very comfortably.

The part she left out was that she was seeing another man and had planned on divorcing Tom very soon.

So Tom retired, divorced, got an alimony settlement from his wife, stayed retired for about ten years.

His alimony settlement comes up for renegotiation next year and he decided that he would not go through a courtroom battle to continue getting payments--partly because their adult son has asked that they not go through another big fight.

So he decides to go back and teach a few more years.

Then he has a heart attack.

Then he has triple bypass.

Now, seven weeks later, he gets a call from the district where we both used to teach together. They have an opening. Would he be interested?

So, seven weeks after a triple bypass, he may have a job.

I counseled him against it, but his doctor has told him to go for it.

My reasons for it are because, after his bypass, he has made the time to eat right and exercise regularly--something he has never done in all of the years I have known him. I told him that having a job where he had to be on premises at fixed times--AND take home work on weekends, AND join committees, AND deal with students in all of their most and least pleasant manifestations--he would soon find himself making excuses and pretty soon going back to his old habits, which would be a bad thing.

But he's going to do it anyway.

Part of Tom's problem is that he didn't have much of a plan for retirement--at least not as a single man. He's tried other things, but kind of half-assedly. He tried real estate, but let his focus be drawn away by this crazy woman he was seeing at the time. He thought he might like working at a winery and settled in at this design-a-winery in town, where customers got to order wine mixed to their specifications. I don't know how it worked, but the wine tastes like soda to me and the owners had no head for business, so they never had customers.

I guess I just want to live in a world where everybody gets a prolonged recess after working hard all of their lives--one where they get to recreate themselves into new beings.

I guess you've just gotta let people choose their own poison.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Religulous and "Pundits"

So a gaggle of us saw Bill Maher's Religulous Sat Night.

The good news: Billy C and I got senior discounts without asking.

The bad news: Billy C and I got senior discounts without asking.

When I realized what had happened, I felt like going back to the window and demanding that the young lady take more of my money.

The film entertained me. But here's my complaints about Bill Maher, whom I think is funny and whose shows I have always enjoyed:

1. The vast majority of the people he talked to were ridiculous people who had no idea how ridiculous they sounded. Other than a couple of catholic priests and one scientist, most of the people he interviewed were fringe people who clung a cartoon version of religion. It was hard to take them seriously. A couple of interviews with muslims were also pretty calm--but I find it hard to judge all believers by extremists. I know from panels Maher has had on both Politically Incorrect and Real Time, that he knows of religious leaders who have a more intelligent view on faith. Maybe it would not have been the same film, but why not talk to a few of those people.

2. Just as with his book When You Ride Alone, You Ride with bin Laden, he interrupts important points to remind you that he tells jokes for a living. It's as if he doesn't trust the material enough to let it speak, and get laughs, for itself.

3. He's a smart guy, but, like most contemporary "pundits," he doesn't have all of the answers. He may have a lot of them, but not all of them. I get tired of "pundits" who have no more qualifications than you or me telling me what to think. Ask the questions, Bill. I'll do the thinking for myself.

But I am glad I saw it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Electronic Elephant Trunk

I went in for a follow-up on my sleep study. You may recall that the therapist gave me a gizmo that I had to strap around myself. I then had to sleep on my back while numerous electrodes monitored my sleep patterns. Eve though I took a sleeping pill, I only slept for about 1 1/2 hours, woke up, and spent the rest of the night on my back trying to get back to sleep--getting up once to rage against the porcelain.

So, this time a therapist gave me breathing gizmo used for people afflicted with sleep apnea--which I believe is one of the reasons I have a hard time feeling rested when I get up. She starts talking about the results of my test and I interrupt her to interject that, while they wanted about 5 hours worth of sleep data, I may have only given them 1 1/2 hours. She replied, "So you cat-napped the rest of the night." I said "No, I stayed awake the rest of the 5 hours and then took the gizmo off. She sad, "Yes, catnapped." I said "No, catnapped."

I decided that, since I did think that I had sleep apnea, arguing was pointless. I would just bring it up when I talked to my doctor next time.

The purpose of giving me the new gizmo was to determine the specific gizmi that I might have to attach to my personal gizmo when I get it: like a humidifier attachment and who knows what else.

The gizmo was much smaller than I expected--about the size of a small CD player. It had a tube attached to a face mask that attached to a hole through which air pumped in to my nasal area. It would keep my nasal area full of air so my breathing tube wouldn't be closed off. She said I could return it Sunday, so I figured I had it for three nights.

Night 1 I could breath alright, but the noise kept me awake So detached myself from the gizmo.

Night 2 I took a pill and, although my nose was a little stuffed, I slept for a little while. When I awoke, my nose was more stuffed , so I detached from the gizmo again.

Tonight, I will take a sleeping pill my allergy pill, and snort some nasal spray and see how that works.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

A Sound of Thunder

I did something in class yesterday that I have never done in 26 years of teaching.

I farted in class.

It was during 4th period and the room was dead quiet--the students working more quietly than any classroom full of teenagers had ever worked. I was at front and center, my back turned to the class as I checked my wall calendar. If there had been a spotlight on me it couldn't have been more obvious who did it.

I could feel it looming inside of me and thought I had it under control, but somehow relaxed and it happened.

It wasn't very long or loud--more like the sound of a bubble bursting. But I know that at least a couple of girls in the front row heard it. When I turned around, trying not to look like I had just farted, they were both hiding their faces behind their books, trying to suppress their laughter.

Every move I made must have looked like I was trying to appear to have not farted. I tried not to look at the two girls for fear my eyes would betray me. I then looked at the girls for fear of not looking at them would make it look like I had done what I had done. I walked around the room, acting nonchalantly, but the cloud of guilt followed me.

Since no one else laughed or looked up, I'm pretty sure that only those two girls heard it. I'm sure that someone will write about this incident in their yearbook.

Another career milestone.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Rockin' Open Mike Night

It has been along time since I came away from an open mike night at the Folk Center feeling this good. A lot of good performers--a couple of duds--but this was the strongest evening in a long, long time.


Do sang her song about her health class that brought down the house. It was a lusty romp. A few kids were in the audience and she worried about the graphic language--but pushed through anyway. This is a pretty liberal crowd and, I think, for even those parents who might have found it objectionable, she answered pretty much every question a kid could come up with. I think some even took notes.

I followed Do with my song about the eco-system. I think I'm calling it "The Carbon Footprint Blues." Here is a sample of the lyrics:

Hummingbird hides while I hike the mountain pass

Hummingbird hides while I hike the mountain pass

He’s afraid to fly—he’d like to kick my ass.

Lizard reads the writin’ on the mountain slope

Lizard reads the writin’ on the mountain slope

Sets in the sun as he tri-i-ies to cope

Cause we’re trampin’, stampin’, leavin’ our footprints everywhere

We’re pollutin’, de-evolutin’, can’t drink the water or breath the air

Pissin’ off the birds and bees

Whoa! Mama Nature’s gonna bring us to our knees.

Yeah, I know. I need to record this stuff.

This 12-year-old girl and her younger brother took the stage. I sat expecting the usual cute kid kind of performance. Well, they ripped into this version of this Indigo Girls song. The little girl started singing and geez-o-pete she sang like a trouper. She had this beautiful, authoritative alto voice that blew everyone away. Then the boy broke into this guitar solo. They just set the house on fire.

Billy C sang his song about our grandfather and his chili--a really nice tune. It captures some of the essence of our grandfather. Billy C wasn't happy with the song afterwards--but I think it is pretty damn good. I just think it was one of those nights where one doesn't fully connest to the material. That, and maybe the song has to metamorph a little--but that just takes time.

Anyway, it was a good evening and really went by pretty fast.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Two Birds, One Dream

So in this dream, it was morning and I had to get to work and I knew I was running late. As I was going out to my car, I found myself in the driveway of my parent's house and my car was a station wagon and the back was opened up. There was a blanket on the lawn and I heard a cooing kind of sound. I knew it came from a bird and I feared that I had stepped on it. I pulled back a fold on the blanket to find this fat, gray bird that seemed to have trouble just standing up and walking. It had a pointy beak and an area where the feathers had been plucked out, which had ants and little spiders crawling around. I thought that it was kind of disgusting, but wondered what I could do to save the bird.

Another bird, tiny and almost as round as a ball, with a black head and wings and white body scurried across the lawn to me. Neither of these birds could fly, although they both had wings. I thought about putting them in cages, but didn't have any. So, I put them in my car and went off to work.

Somehow, I found myself in the back of my station wagon covered with blankets as it sped down the highway. I got out from under the blankets and saw that I had driven past the town where my school was and somehow ended up in San Diego. The station wagon stopped in front of a Mexican restaurant and I got out of the car. I tried to pick up the smaller bird, but it sprang up and fluttered its wings, turning out to be some strange sort of humming bird. The other bird allowed me to pick it up and tried a few times to poke its beak into my skin and suck up nectar, as if I was a flower. It tickled. I lifted the bird up to some hanging tree branches and it climbed up into the tree.

I got back into my car, hoping to still make it to work on time, but I couldn't remember which school I taught at. I drove myself to the freeway, where the bridges were to low for me to pass safely. I had to slow down and lean back to get through.

The freeway ended on a beach sidewalk and I had to drive around there for awhile.

Then I woke up.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Last Night's Dream

I had a wacky dream last night where I was part of team of doctors who were going to perform open heart surgery on a young woman whom seemed to be a former student of mine--although she was not recognizable as an actual student. The team of surgeons included Billy C and former teaching colleagues Bob, Tim, and Phill. Someone kept asking me if I was the anesthesiologist. I kept telling him that, no, I was going to assist in the actual surgery. As the student/patient was put under and as the head surgeon began cutting, I began to wonder if I could take it. Would I barf while operating? Or would I faint? Or would I pull through? Somewhere along the lint, the dream morphed into a surreal version of a European trip I took with Bob and another Tim that almost cost us our friendship.

I'm sure this was triggered by my friend Tim's recent triple bypass, the half sleeping pill I took last night, my general worrying about things, and maybe even something I ate.

I have no idea what any of it means though.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Re-Thinking Poetry

For awhile, I was into writing short forms of poetry: haiku, sijo, sonnets. I'm not sure that I ever mastered any of them, but they were good writing exercises. At a poetry workshop, the leader--himself a published poet whose work I liked--told me that I should try writing longer poems. Funny thing is that I used to write that sort of stuff all of the time and found that the restrictions of shorter forms required me to whittle away the luxury words and say it with less.

One thing the songwriting workshop showed me was that how some of those old classics like Under the Boardwalk, Up on the Roof, and Stand by Me really pack a lot into a structure that consists of two short verses, a bridge, followed by a final short verse--often just a repeat of the first verse. Sometimes you don't even get that third verse. And the imagery is usually so simple and direct, yet it resonates.

When Peter (the songwriting workshop leader) performed Up on the Roof for us one night, you could tell that the song had resonated with him. He sang with emotion and was practically weeping when he had finished.

Sure, these songs were written by people paid to generate hits, often working in an office building in teams, but something crept out of these song writers' imaginations or memories that gave the songs endurance over time.

The other day, playing Stand by Me at the uke circle was kind of a spiritual moment for me. There we were, just strumming, picking, with the lady singing in her deep, throaty warble. I felt I could have played that song for whole two hours and not get tired of it.

And this type of song grows with time, even though the words and music stay the same. It's kind of like William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience--except the innocence and experience are found in the same song. From a kid's point of view, the song is about the idealism of young friends or lovers. From an older woman's point of view, it's about how and why a relationship has weathered the tests of time--and it's a promise that, even when insurmountable problems close in, at least you can take comfort in those close to you.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Make A Horrible Noise

So at this past Sunday's uke circle, somebody whipped out "Stand by Me." This is another one of those early tunes that I think is pure poetry when done right. This older lady in the group took the vocal. She had this deep throaty voice--practically a tenor. When she finished, we just kept playing and Uke Forever did this sweet little solo and it was very quiet and meditative. I think we could have played that song for the whole two hours.

So I decided that I needed to learn the song in a key that fit my range.

So I get a version off chordie and take it to school so I can practice between classes like I always do. I'm having a little trouble with it because I'm working with tabs and I only sort of know how the song goes.

So, as I'm struggling and concentrating on the tabs and words in front of me, this loud, mooing kind of sound starts beside me and kind of startles me. I stop and turn to my right and one of my colleagues is standing there. She says, "I love this song," and continues this cow sound that sounds almost like singing only different. I tell her that I'm having trouble with it and let her sing while I play--thinking that maybe I'm o far off-key that I am causing her to sound bad but, no, she really does sing like a cow and is tone deaf to boot but apparently that doesn't bother her and she keeps singing while students who often stand around with me playing rhythm instruments kind of stop as if they have just witnessed some horrible accident and can't look away.

But I keep playing because I think maybe on some level that it is a noble effort and that, if not beautiful, it is at least sublime.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Swollen Pearl

Why oh why do dogs get themselves in so much trouble?

I suspect that Pearl was chewing on some plant she shouldn't have or trying to catch some critter she shouldn't have--but I'll never know for sure.

Last night, at around 9, when I called the dogs in, Ruby came bounding in like she has been since I declared her Beta Dog (I'm the Alpha Dog, Pearl is the Gamma Dog). Pearl did not bound in behind her.

I clapped my hands--my signal to tell them it's time to come in. Nothing.

I could see a whitish lump in the distance--not moving. I turned on the outdoor light, and the lump looked more like a dog. But the dog, or lump, made no sound.

Oh God, I thought, something bad must have happened.

I walked out to the lump and, yes, it was Pearl, wagging her tail, but clearly not wanting to move. I pet he, but she did not respond with the usual licking. I felt her nose: still cold. I felt around for injuries but could find none.

So I picked her up (which is no longer easy) and took her inside, putting her in the sleeping area she shares with Ruby. She easily walked over to her spot and plopped onto the floor. Nothing wrong with her walking abilities--no limp or anything. She looked at me with that sorrowful look dogs get when they know they have done something stupid but are too stupid to figure out what it was.

When she turned to face me, I noticed that she seemed swollen around the muzzle and eyes. I felt around her mouth, inside and out. I checked her teeth and gums. Everything seemed pink and healthy--except that she wouldn't open her mouth. I tried gently prying her jaws open and got them open a little bit. but could feel that she either didn't want them open or could not open them herself. I could see her tongue clamped between her jaws--it was also pink and healthy looking.

So I called Billy C and asked if anything like this had ever happened to one of his dogs. He said Dil had had something like this once and was over it the next day. Vivage thought that it might be a spider bite, bee sting, or even rattlesnake bite. She wanted me to take Pearl to the emergency vet.

I know enough about all of the above to know that if it were serious venom running through her veins, Pearl would be showing other signs of illness rather quickly. But I called the vet, just in case.

The nice vet lady who answered told me to just watch her and see whether things got better or worse and, if they got worse, to bring her in.

So I decided to give it an hour.

About 45 minutes later, Pearl, had regained use of her jaws and was almost her old licking and slobbering self.

This morning, she bounded out of the house with Ruby and seemed pretty much back to her old self.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

To Sleep, Perchance to Apneate

So I have trouble sleeping.

I wake up in the night. I start to think. Suddenly, I get caught in this vortex of the day's issues and I juggle them in my head, trying to solve them--but never solve them. Sometimes, I just wear my self down and fall back to sleep. Often, I juggle the problems until morning.

I also snore pretty badly. I have most of the symptoms of sleep apnea. I usually wake up a couple of times a night.

Since lack of sleep can effect a whole lot of things badly, I finally got my doctor to refer me to respiratory therapy.

I went to this workshop yesterday to receive a diagnostic machine that would monitor my sleep at night. The trainer showed us how to wear it and what to wear with it and answered all of our questions.

We were instructed to strap ourselves to our machines and try to record at least five hours of sleep. The problem for me was that we were told to sleep on our backs, which I never do.

I took a pill before bed, lay there for about an hour, then fell asleep. I awoke about an hour and a half later. And I just lay there--first thinking about the device and it's monitors wrapped around my torso, taped to my finger, and stuck up my nose. Then, I started ruminating on the day's problems.

And I tried to make myself comfortable on my back, but I couldn't.

So I just lay there.

I tried my breathing meditation, shifting my neck, rearranging my pillows--nothing worked.

Finally,at about 2:15, I took the gizmos off and soon went to sleep--still fitful, but at least it was sleep.

I managed to keep the gizmo on for about five hours, so I hope that tells the doctors something of what they want to know. But I'm going to call my doctor on Monday and ask for e re-referral and perhaps a stronger sleep medication as a one-time deal. I don't take my current prescription regularly--only when I think I'm going to need it--but I think that maybe I've built up a little resistance to it.

Monday, August 04, 2008


Our Riverside Ukulele Liberation Front has been going on for over a year now--I think a year-and-a-half.

Yesterday's meeting had a loony kind of feel to it. I t was probably the largest meeting so far. We started off small and our numbers swole to the gills.

The theme? Summertime. Only I brought a summer tune that wasn't really a summer tune except it was a Beach Boys tune: "Help Me Rhonda". I made copies of this song because I had procrastinated and, at the last minute, it was the only song I could find.

So, we get in tune and we have this new guy and I think we better play an easy tune because this guy is really new so I pull out "This Land Is Your Land." The problem is that most of the people had no copy of--summer attendance being what it is, many of those who showed up were not there at the last couple of meetings. So, we shared as best we could and it seemed like music.

After we played that song into the ground, Anna passed around extra copies of her song from last week--"one More Bottle of Wine"--and we gave that a go. Nobody had ever heard it except Anna. Again, it seemed like music after a couple of runs.

It was so hot (we meet in a the basement) that, at one point, I began to feel a little light-headed. I didn't say anything. I jut kept throwing down beverages and just played most of the time.

At this point, there about 12 people and we were running out of stuff that we had enough copies. I was about to start with "Help Me Rhonda," when Joanne--this nice lady from the Claremont scene--came scootin' in and passed out five or six songs that she had brought.

We worked on those awhile and everybody had fun, so what the hey?

A former student of mine showed up with her ukulele. I hadn't seen her for a couple of years, so it was a nice surprise.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

My Dogs' Cat Fights

When I got my two new dogs spayed, I thought that, among other things, it would help solve the problem of their fights. It hasn't. These two dogs, from the same litter, get into these fights where they squeal and growl and sound like they are really tearing one another apart. Every time I go out to stop them, I find that Ruby (the brown dog, a little smaller) has pinned Pearl (white and brown and a little larger). They freeze in that position, until Ruby is sure that Pearl is finished, and then separate, lick one another, and come running to me, tails a-wagging. No blood, no injuries.

Ruby did this at home too with her siblings--even Zombie, who is much larger and a male. At a doggy party we had last year, where five out of six of the litter had been reunited, Zombie would assert himself as Alpha dog--except with Ruby. Ruby would kick his ass every time.

Every pair of dogs I have ever had, or seen, has gotten into fights at one time or another. But they have always looked and sounded tame compared to what I'm talking about here. And sometimes, there have been minor injuries. Joey used to get into fights with Gloria and later Roscoe. But I always thought it was because she was the smaller dog in both cases.

My neighbor asked me about it a week ago, and I told him what I have just told you--that the fights always sounded a lot worse than they were. But I decided that I really needed to see what I could do about it.

I looked up a solution on the Internet and found that I was a part of the problem. I am the Alpha dog of the pack. Ruby is 2nd in line--she has obviously been so since birth. Pearl, while larger and better looking, is at the bottom of our pack. I found this out by reading this article.

Being a compassionate human being, I always tried to make it up to Pearl when Ruby was rue to her. For example, when I would give them both chew toys or dog biscuits before bed time, Ruby would always take Pearl's away. I would give Pearl another, and Ruby would take it away. This could go on forever an I would wonder what Ruby thought she was going to do with all of those chew toys and treats and why she couldn't just share. So I just started giving Pearl her treat first. This created some confusion in the order of my pack. Ruby had been certain of her dominant role, but Pearl had gotten signals that maybe she was the 2nd in command here.

Ruby tried to explain this to me several times, but I hadn't listened. Every night, after getting her chew toy, Ruby would play this game with me where she would bring me her chew toy and dare me to try and take it from her. I would grab at it and she would pull away. When I did get a hold of it, she would clamp down harder and we would each tug on it for awhile until she let go. I'd try playing the same game with Pearl, but she wouldn't struggle, she'd just let me have it in much the same way that she would let Ruby take it.

After I began paying more attention to Pearl, making sure she got her fair share of the attention and goodies, I noticed Ruby acting funny. First, she was reluctant to come in the house at night. Pearl would come bounding and Ruby would just sit outside wagging her tail. I thought she might be sick, but she didn't show any symptoms of anything.

She didn't even play the chew toy tug of war anymore.

So the article linked above says that, as Alpha dog, I'm supposed to recognize the pecking order in my pack. I should always treat Ruby with the respect she deserves--give her treats first, pet her first, everything first. Pearl, alas, should always be second.

I have been trying this for the past couple of days and, while there has been one fight, they seem mellower. Ruby has started playing the game with me again. Pearl, I think, is trying to figure out where she went wrong.

The other thing is that I, as Alpha dog, am supposed to make it clear to them that fighting will not be tolerated. The article offers suggestions, but the difficulty is that the fighting occurs when I'm not around and stops when I come outside. So, its hard to punish or scold them when they ceased the behavior.

So, I am working on it.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Open Mike Family Affair

I haven't stopped going to open mics at the Folk Center. I've just stopped reviewing them. But last night was a real event. The entire Canary Family (those that perform and are in town, anyway) performed.

The night was a pretty good one. Many talented performers. Uke Forever performed an evangelistical atheist tune he had written. Seriously, he could have had an altar call at the end to ask people who felt so moved to come up and publicly renounce the Lord. Very good song.

Bill ( a regular) followed this with a couple of Gospel tunes, both of which he played very fast as if to make sure he gave Jesus better than equal time. Bill is an odd fellow. He always starts with a joke. You know that he has opened with a joke because he always makes this face that looks like the kind of face a character might make early on in a cheap horror movie when he or she first discovers the horror that will propel the plot of said movie forward.

Soon UF's buddy Terrance got up and sang a song he wrote that had a more liberal spiritual point of view. He either followed or was followed by another guy named Terrance--an older guy with a few missing teeth and bald head with a curtain of long white hair around the sides. This Terrance is a multi-instrumentalist who brought a dobro on this night. He did a couple of very sang an anti-war folk song, "Mrs. McGrath," which you can find on Springsteen's Seeger Sessions CD and a medley of Jesse James tunes.

This one lady got up and sang a rousing gospel tune a capella and it just killed.

A great night for the first amendment.

As for the Canary line-up, I was first with my original tune "A Man without Arms"-- a song I am working on from the Peter Case workshop. I don't think it got the laughs that I had hoped, but did ok.

Billy C followed with his song about an old fictitious dog, based on an actual dog, but changed up enough so that it really is a fictitious dog. He got a great response. Princess Canary actually came with us and sang "I Will" by the Beatles as Dad Billy C accompanied her on uke and Do played bongos. I have played on this song also, but we realized too late that our ukes were tuned differently and there was no time to fix that. Just as well. While watching Princess Canary sing, I had one of those sentimental realizations that none of my nieces or nephews are children anymore. Princess is the youngest and will be a senior next year. Time passes.

Blowhard C got up and sang a tune. Most of us accompanied him. Do on conga, Billy C on huevos, me on stomping and clapping. It was a song that he had found on Myspace. We weren't sure when the song was over, so Billy C and I continued playing our instruments until Blowhard turned around and gave us "the look."

Do also played percussion for a couple of other folk. For someone who had not planned on playing at all, she was pretty busy.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Game Show

My theory regarding audience participation-type game shows is that, while the producers want the audience to be rowdy and have a good time, people who show up to be members of said audience and/or participants are basically meat to be used to fill up the seats in the studio--happy, clapping meat.

Yesterday, the Sis and her family (Reverend Canary, Diva Canary, Sluggo--Diva's boyfriend--all visiting from PA) and myself went to a taping of The Price Is Right. We had e-tickets, which we found out were not as good as studio tickets--neither of which guarantees that you will get in. They overbook to ensure a full audience as well as a broad selection of possible contestants.

So, we all get there at 8 AM for the 4 O'clock taping. I won't go into detail, but three out of five of us were in nuclear pissy mode--largely because they didn't share the enthusiasm for going to a game show that my sister and I had.

About 900 people showed up for the 1 O'clock taping (there were 300 seats available--there were also around 900 people for the 4PM show). These folk were sorted by the pages, whose basic goal was to get the seats filled--not to be fair or compassionate. Each ticket holder would be assigned a priority number, which took a couple of hours--and these seemed to be assigned not in the order each person arrived, but depending on where each person was told to sit. For example, I ended up with a higher priority number than Pammy C, even though she had been seated in the row ahead of me because my page was quicker than her page.

If you asked a page a question--any question--you got "I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do about it." Some would go to the trouble of smiling, but most were brusk and dismissive.

It was funny to watch ticket-holders who would get into arguments with pages because they felt they had been treated unfairly or because they had a better idea of how to run things. Some pages were friendlier than others, but every time, the complainer would end up being told that they could always leave if they didn't like it. On more than one occasion, the page offered to call security to take a complainer away. So we figured out right away that, whether or not we got on the show would be helped by going to a page and complaining.

There was one lady who would not leave no matter how many times or how many ways she was told that she would not get a priority number because she did not have a ticket. She stayed up until we began filing into the studio and somehow managed to get into the taping.

The five of us got separated early in the process. Dave and I ended up in one row, while Pammmmmmmy C, Diva, and Sluggo ended up in another. Once you were seated, you sat--for a long time, until someone gave you a priority number. People got antsy and cranky and openly defiant while sitting--but nothing could be done about it. By around 10 AM, we were given priority numbers and told to come back at 1:30 to begin casting for the 4 PM show.

The five us strolled over to the Farmer's Market and moped around for awhile. Diva and Sluggo and I munched on savory crepes from the crepe booth--theirs were sweet, mine savory. Very tasty. I also got a fruit salad at a fruit stand which, although skimpy on the mango and papaya, was pretty good. They don't have fruit in PA, so Diva and Sluggo were amazed and delighted.

We than strolled in the midday heat to the new shopping mall across from the studio. Mind you, it was Tuesday, not a big shopping day. All around the mall were people we had seen at the studio, who were given priority numbers and told to come back. Huge groups of them, many wearing identical outfits so as to identify themselves as a group on camera, wandered around shopping, dining, strategize....

Rev C and theorized that, with the economy being bad it being a Tuesday, one reason the show was so overbooked was because even the people who left the studio angry and frustrated would probably stop at the mall and look around and probably even buy stuff. It was good for the local economy for them to overbook.

Anyway, we got back to the studio at 1:30 and they had already started the selection process. The Rev C realized that Pammmmmmmy C wanted to be on the show more than he did, so he traded his spot to her. Pammmmmmmmy C and I got on and the Rev, Diva, and Sluggo left us in our glory to go play in LA.

Pammmmmmmy C and probably sat there for another couple of hours as the standby's got moved in groups from bench to bench-each bench putting them closer to the studio.

Pages walked around taking pictures of everybody, checking our ID's and had us all fill out cards with our personal info. This was interspersed with long bouts of waiting, which, again, got people cranky.

My sister diagnosed a guy in line as having Assburger's, a condition in the autism family. He was alone, and you could see that the process was setting him off. He would lecture people about the television business and pace around into the comfort zones of others. From time to time, he did did this wiggly thing with his fingers that looked like he was casting a spell on his own head. Pammmmmmy C works with autistic kids and knows a lot about the habits and behaviors.

The final step of selection was the interview. We had heard all day about the interview. The interview would give the producers ideas about who they wanted as contestants. We had wondered how they could interview 300 people without keeping us there all night.

This was the interview. They lined us up in tens and stood us in front of a peppy guy who would go down the line and ask each person what they did for a living and then make a joke to see how that person reacted. Behind the peppy guy, this woman sat and made notes on a pad. From her notes, the contestants were selected. Each interview lasted 10 seconds. Maybe 20.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Bird Watching

One thing that I have learned from the Peter Case Song Writing workshop is that you have to go out and not write sometimes. You've got to do something to take your mind off of what ever you are working on--or even take your mind off of what ever you aren't working on even. Ray Bradbury calls this feeding your sub-conscience. You must allow good things into your head in order for good stuff to come out. Hemingway used to spend hours in art museums looking at paintings and sculptures--really studying them.

So I have been trying to do something like this about once a week--just going out and looking at stuff. One place I have gone to a couple of times is this local bird farm where they have lots of parrots, finches, parakeets and canaries. I used to be a bird-owner and have been surprised as to how many varieties are available now. And I guess there have been great strides made in breeding some difficult-to-breed birds. One reason I never got a new bird after my last one died was because many were captured in the wild and shipped to this country in horrific conditions which left many of them sick or dead. Not good.

So I visited this week and walked around for about an hour and looked at the birds.

Many of the larger birds are in this area where people can look at them up close. Some are in cages, some are out on perches. And you can walk right up and pet them or talk to them and sometimes they will crawl right up your arm. I'm talkin' big birds like cockatoos, macaws, african greys--birds with serious plumage and serious beaks. If a bird this size bites you, they can break your finger, so it's important to read the sign next to each bird before reaching out to touch them, but many of them are very friendly.

Out in the aviaries, there was a cockatiel section. I hadn't realized the variety of cockatiel mutations. Most parrot type birds live in flocks and have the usual alpha male thing going on. When they want to show their dominance and/or warn off any intruders, they raise their crest and spread there wings as far as they can and screech at you. A couple of them were doing this to me--sitting right on the front perch and representing. One grey whiteface in particular was letting me know that I'd better not try anything.

In another cage, there was this lone blue and gold macaw in with a flock of ring neck parakeets. Parrots are social birds and travel in flocks in the wild, so this macaw wanted to be in a flock and, since this was the only flock available, he seemed to want to join the ringnecks. He sat on a perch towards the back of the aviary, several ringnecks on either side of him, keeping their distance, since he was about four times their size. Every once in awhile, the macaw would sidle over to one end of the perch to visit the ringnecks and the ring necks would scrunch up against the wall. Then, the macaw would sidle over to the parakeets one the other end and they too would scrunch up against the wall, clearly wanting nothing to do with this monster. Then, dejected, the macaw would return to the center of the perch, squawk sadly, and stand there alone--the ringnecks on either side remaining huddled together on the extreme ends of the perch.

I had other birdventures as well. All-in-all, a relaxing afternoon.

The Dark Knight

When I mentioned the old "Dark Night Returns" Graphic Novel, Nephew Canary was impressed because--well--I am an old guy with no past beyond his 19 years. Before then, I didn't exist.

I explained that, as a teacher, I pride myself on keeping up a passing awareness of pop culture and that, back in the late 80's, I had a gaggle of students who loved that stuff and gave me copies of the graphic novels they had read. In fact, in the '90 yearbook of one particular yearbook, my faculty pic shows me at my desk reading "The Dark Knight Returns," proving to the world that I was a hip young English teacher.

So Nephew Canary allowed me to go see "The Dark Night" with he and his friends. Everything good that has been said about it is true. There were several predictable twists that I was glad to see happen, as sappy as they were. There were also several surprise twists--one of which I was unhappy to see happen. That Heath Ledger re-defined the Joker. Every other portrayal that I know of basically built off the same concept. This one is DIFFERENT. If this character ever returns, it will never be the same.

I'd say more, but I don't want to spoil it for anyone. I'm funny that way.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Song Writing Workshop with Peter Case II

So I took that first songwriting workshop with Peter Case--he formerly of the Plimsouls. The guy knows his stuff. I liked the workshop, but many participants were reluctant to share any songs they had written. I myself am used to writing workshops in prose and poetry, but they are different animules. When the leader asks if anyone wants to read what they have written, there usually is a sort of breathing period before anyone volunteers. In this workshop, you had to be ready to throw down. Billy Canary says that it's a punk thing--or maybe just a musician thing.

So I shared my song at the final meeting. These are a reasonable facsimile of the lyrics:

I went to see my doctor

He said boy I know what makes you ill

And like with almost everything

There remedy is in a pill

There’s a pill that makes you jittery

There’s a pill that holds you still

There’s a pill that helps you sleep at night

And there’s a pill for that pill.

So take your medication.

Take it every day.

Take your medication,

And your troubles will melt away

There’s a pill that makes you happy

There’s a pill that makes you sad

There’s a pill that I can give you

For the best sex you ever had

I’ve got a pill that makes you tired

So you can take a little nap

There’s a pill to take once after meals

To help you take a crap

So take your medication.

Take it every day.

Take your medication,

And your troubles will melt away.

Both Billy C and Do took the workshop as well. Billy C wrote a song about the dinosaur's contribution to modern civilization and Do wrote a song called "40-Year-Old Woman with a Teenagers Mind."

Good workshop.

Billy C and I are enrolled in the follow-up workshop. This one meets at night and Case seems to be more in his element, biorhythm-wise. I brought 2/3rd's of a song and played it. Here are the lyrics:

A Man without Arms

Verse 1

G Dm

Sometimes I feel like a man without arms

Am G

Pettin’ a dog without any head

G Dm

I can’t feel the fur. He can’t feel my fingers.

Am G

So we both stand there reaching instead.

G Am C G

So take me as I am, I’ve nothing to offer to you.


Just come when I whistle


Or when you get this epistle

Am G

I’ll likely be waiting for you.


G Dm

Sometimes I feel like a conductor

Am G

For a band in a land without song

G Dm

I stand in the gazebo, wave my arms and the players just sit there

Am G

In silence in front of the throng.

G Am C G

So take me as I am, I’ve nothing to offer to you.


Just listen right there


As I conduct the air

Am G

I dedicate this silence to you.

Note that it has a title and chords. It's in 3/4 and I envision it as a country western song.

The assignment this week is to write a teen hit and a B-side. My hit project is called "In the Bleachers at Midnight." I post it when it's ready.