January 9, 2005

Fish Head Music.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 3:26 pm

Radiators.jpgIn the previous post, I noted that, unlike most Garden Staters, I have a fondness for country music. The fact is that I like all sorts of music, except, of course, rap, which is not music, or the techno “club” crap that one often hears in overcrowded, overpriced meat markets night clubs in the Jersey-New York area. I have been flattened by live music ranging from Rolling Stones concerts to a Drum and Bugle competition (which, frankly, came as a surprise to me). Hell, when I was in Helen Georgia, there was a guy on the main street playing the zither. I hung around for about a half hour listening and wound up buying a couple of his CDs. (Turns out that his name is Toni Noichl, and if you noodle around in Google, it is obvious that he is a big-time zither player.)

Anyway, one other type of decidedly non-Jersey music that I like is “Fish Head Music,” which has been played for twenty-five years by the New Orleans-based band, The Radiators. It is quite impossible to simply describe the Radiators’ sound, which is often marked by unusual rhythms and non-traditional blues licks. They rock! While every band member is an amazing musician, to me the standout is guitarist Camile Baudoin (No names like that in Jersey). When I saw the band in concert several years ago, I was stupefied by Camile Baudoin’s mastery of the guitar.

These guys have been playing together for twenty-five years, and it shows. You might want to check on the band’s home page for concert dates, and if they are playing in your area (probably a snap for Christina, Dash, and Dale), buy a ticket (they’re not expensive) and go listen to some Fish Head Music. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

January 8, 2005

Pedal Steel.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 5:12 pm

As some of you know, I have spent a good deal of my adult life playing drums and singing in bands. I have spent all my life surrounded with music, something for which I can thank my father.

He was an amateur guitar player and a terrific singer, who loved country music and filled the house with it, either by playing it and singing it himself, or playing records by singers such as Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Jim Reeves, and Eddy Arnold. This was admittedly a bit unusual, given that the New York – New Jersey metropolitan area is one of the few places in the U.S. where country music is not big.

He taught me the rudiments of guitar playing, which provided a foundation for me to build upon over the years, even though I veered away from guitar playing for anything other than fun and became a drummer in various bands that played music that was popular in the New York – New Jersey metropolitan area. None of that dampened my fondness for country music. In fact, on those rare occasions when a country-type tune broke through into the pop charts, I would always be the one in the band to get the nod, as the other guys really never “got” it.

All the bands I played with included guitars and bass (either played on an electric bass or keyboard), and the bands I played with longest also included a keyboard and sax. Once I even got to do a short stint with a band that included three “horns,” a sax, trumpet, and a trombone. I loved it all.

However, the one thing I regret is that I never got a chance to play in a band with a pedal steel guitar, a mainstay of country music. There just wasn’t any call for it around here. As such, I never even heard one played live, much less get to watch someone play pedal steel or to even learn a blessed thing about the instrument. All I know is that there really isn’t anything quite like listening to a good pedal steel player lay in a “crying guitar” background in a country tune.

I decided to do a bit of reading** about pedal steel, and it turns out that pedal steel players are, compared to, say, guitar players or drummers, a small group. That surprised me a bit, given the importance of the instrument to country music, however, the limited number of people who play pedal steel may be traceable to the apparent difficulty of learning to play.

Physically, playing [pedal steel] requires the use of both hands, both feet and both knees. In addition there is no tactile sensation in your hands to tell you where you are on the neck so it uses visual markers. This is one instrument where you have to watch your hands, and you also have to listen very carefully to what you are doing to make sure your intonation is correct. In country music circles where it is commercially used, this is considered to be the instrument that separates the men from the boys.[link]

In addition to requiring two hands, two feet, two knees, a watchful eye and a great ear, playing pedal steel require that one be familiar with various ways of tuning the instrument. They are even formidable looking instruments as can be seen here.

Lest one conclude hat pedal steel is limited to country music, the instrument in the hands (feet and knees) of a good player, sounds sweet no matter where it appears, such as, for example, in this sound sample by Hal Rugg.

Based on what I have read, it is quite clear that I will never play pedal steel, but I still sure as hell would like a chance to play a bit with a band that plays the tunes my dad taught me and which includes a pedal steel player. I’d probably like to play guitar in that band so that I could watch the pedal steel player’s hands feet and knees in action.

Maybe some day.

**A good bit of pedal steel information can be found here.


Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:26 am

COLD, drenching rain this morning. It’s the one kind of weather that keeps me from walking in the mornings, the time when I tend to do my best blog-thinking.


January 7, 2005

Bending Over Backwards.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:10 pm

contortion small.jpg

Here is a huge photo collection of people who literally can stick their heads in their asses.

It boggles the mind to think what else they can do. [wink, wink]

Via Asparagus Pee, Gooblek & Other Neat Stuff

January 6, 2005

Lens Lice.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:45 pm

Congress has just gotten back to “work,” and Jon Corzine, our senator and wannabe governor, is traveling with a bi-partisan congressional delegation** to the four countries in Southeast Asia hardest hit by the tsunami. It is being billed as a “fact-finding” mission.

Excuse me while I meander off to the bathroom to hurl.

I cannot help but wonder what sort of “facts” these people expect to “find” that could not have been found just as well by reading the news and taking advantage of the additional information resources available to senators and members of congress.

According to Frank Pallone, a New Jersey congressman, the trip will provide him with an opportunity “to see how best to install an early warning system in the region to prevent another disaster.” I had no idea that Frank Pallone was “Mr. Underwater Tectonic Plate Guy of the World,” who will be able to sort out this whole tsunami warning system thingy while eating a catered boxed lunch on the beach.

Senator Corzine said that the trip will be an opportunity for the members of the delegation “to express our compassion.” I wonder if he seriously believes that people who have lost everything and who have nothing to eat or drink would prefer to see a helicopter full of federal legislators brimming over with compassion rather than a helicopter full of food, water and medicine.

I expect that the presence of these politicos will only serve to interrupt the work of people who are presently on the ground actually providing aid to the victims of this catastrophe, while these congressional “fact finders” pose in their new Banana Republic outfits for pictures that they hope will find their way to the newspapers, but which will certainly be featured in their constituent newsletters.

They should stay home where they can be just as useless, but at least they won’t be in anyone’s way.

** Accompanying Senator Corzine will be republican Senator Sam Brownbeck of Kansas, New Jersey Congressmen Christopher Smith (republican) and Frank Pallone (democrat), and republican Congressman Jim Leach of Iowa.

January 5, 2005

It’s In Your Pocket, Buffalo Bob!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:20 pm

Buffalo and Clarabell.jpgI recall being a little boy and watching the Howdy Doody show on the black and white television set with the ten-inch screen. One of the regular gags on the show involved someone (usually Clarabell the clown) playing a “trick” on ol’ Buffalo Bob by placing, in an obvious place, something that Buffalo Bob was desperately looking for. For example, Clarabell might “secretly” (i.e. on camera) place Buffalo Bob’s “magic handkerchief” in Buffalo Bob’s back pocket without Buffalo Bob knowing.

As the “magic handkerchief” hung from his back pocket, Buffalo Bob would ask Clarabell, “Clarabell, I’m looking for my magic handkerchief. Have you seen it anywhere?” Of course, Clarabell would shake his head “no,” causing Buffalo Bob to search even more frantically for his magic handkerchief. This drove the kids in the live audience (called the “Peanut Gallery”) absolutely insane.

Incredulous that Clarabell could have so easily fooled Buffalo Bob, the kids in the Peanut Gallery screamed, “It’s in your pocket, Buffalo Bob!! It’s IN YOUR POCKET!!!” All the kids at home (including a very young Jimbo) would likewise scream at the television, “Buffalo Bob, it’s in your POCKKKKKKET!!!!” It was frustrating to see Buffalo Bob (a genuine grownup) turn in circles, seemingly oblivious to the screaming coming from the Peanut Gallery and to somehow remain unable to figure out that Clarabell had played a trick on him.

As if this hadn’t driven the kids in the Peanut Gallery (and those of us at home) crazy enough, Buffalo Bob would stretch the gag out even more (Remember, this was live television). Over the screams of the children, Buffalo Bob would say, “Clarabell, something tells me that you know where my magic handkerchief is, and you’re not telling me. You wouldn’t try to trick Buffalo Bob, would you?” Clarabell would again shake his head “no.”

By this time, the Peanut Gallery and the kids at home were about to come completely unglued. “Buffalo Bob!!!! BUFF-A-LO BO-OB!!!! LOOK!!! LOOK!!! THE HANDKERCHIEF IS IN YOUR POCKET!!!!! CLARABELL PUT IT THERE!!!!”

After working the audience into a veritable frenzy and milking it for a few more minutes, Buffalo Bob would suddenly “discover” that the “magic handkerchief” had been in his pocket “alllllll along,” at which time Clarabell the clown would fess up to having played yet another joke on his pal, Buffalo Bob.

Man, that was great stuff for a kid. I hope that kind of thing still captivates children.

Now, having told that story, I want to tell you that this guy is frantically trying to find where he might have put his dog’s feeding dish. Can you people in the Peanut Gallery help him out?

January 4, 2005

Our Former Governor – A Comeback?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 11:41 pm

The New York Times reports that former New Jersey Governor McGreevey spends most mornings taking long walks in Rahway, the town where he as taken a “luxury” two-bedroom apartment. He also finds time most days to visit with his father and work on some real estate deals at the law firm of State Senator Raymond Lesniak, a longtime McGreevey apologist supporter, where he has been employed since December.*

Based on the foregoing, one might conclude that Mr. McGreevey has resigned himself to living a quiet life as a private citizen.

No such luck.

The Times article also notes that our former governor has had several meetings with the head of a Manhattan public relations agency about re-entering public life. In addition, he has mentioned to friends the possibility of writing a book.

Be still my farookin’ heart.

While in office, Mr. McGreevey squandered taxpayers’ money on personal expenses and accepted a fully-paid luxury trip to Puerto Rico courtesy of a mobbed-up union boss. He surrounded himself with crooks, and appointed his supremely unqualified boyfriend to head the state’s Office of Homeland Security, and then raised his boyfriend’s salary twice.

Despite all that, he would still be in office if the same boyfriend hadn’t threatened to sue him for sexual harassment, which led to Mr. McGreevey’s announcing his resignatio. Even then, he thumbed his nose at New Jersey’s voters by delaying his actual departure from the Governor’s office long enough to prevent the people of New Jersey from actually getting to vote on his replacement in a special election.

He was an utter disgrace as governor, and now he has the stones to consider returning to public life?

My advice to Mr. McGreevey is that he shouldn’t press his luck. Rather, he should continue to take those long walks, and he should use that time to reflect on how lucky he is to have avoided going to prison.

* Note: It was widely reported in the New Jersey media and here as early as October of last year that Mr. McGreevey had accepted a position in Raymond Lesniak’s law firm. He denied it back then. Not surprisingly, his denial turned out to be just another heaping tablespoon of bullshit.

Bitterman’s Excellent Adventures.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 8:52 pm

Everyone’s pal, bitterman, of the Smoking Toaster, went home for a visit during the holidays and now delivers unto us a couple trip-related gems:
Bitterman at the airport (This one made me laugh).
Bitterman eats Rocky (This one damned near made me hurl).

I get a kick out of bitterman.

Balm, Gilead, Junkies, Cheap Smokes and Bacon.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 7:26 pm

Have I ever mentioned that daughter TJ knows her way around a stage and is also an ass-kicking singer? In fact, one of her two majors in college (that would be the school that regularly sent me tuition bills in amounts that approximated the size of the gross national product of a small European country) was “Theater.” She writes, amusingly methinks, about her experience in one of the many college productions in which she appeared, and her post ties the seemingly disparate elements of the title of this post together.

January 3, 2005

Lipogram Anyone?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:39 pm

What’s a lipogram, you ask? If you guessed that a lipogram is a letter full of fat, you would be wrong. If you guessed that a lipogram is a fat-measuring unit, you would wrong again. Fear not, for I am about to tell you what a lipogram is.

A lipogram is “a text that purposefully excludes a particular letter of the alphabet.”**

Ernest Vincent Wright, in 1939, created a 50,000-word story, entitled Gadsby, without once using the letter “E”. In order to ensure he would not inadvertently use the letter “E” in a word while creating the manuscript, the author tied down the letter “E” on a manual typewriter.

Some of the more interesting composition challenges he noted were: the inability to use many, if not most, of the past tenses of verbs to the extent that they end with “—ed,” and the unavailability of numbers between six and thirty. Pronouns also posed a problem “for such words as he, she, they, them, theirs, her, herself, myself, himself, yourself, etc., could not be utilized.”

Wright also pointed out that he did not accomplish this feat simply by dropping the “E’s” and replacing them with apostrophes. He stated, “All words used are complete; are correctly spelled and properly used. This has been accomplished through the use of synonyms; and, by so twisting a sentence around as to avoid ambiguity.”

The project took five and a half months.

So, let’s see…..

This group of words is my dumb stab at forming a basic lipogram, much as Wright did in authoring his fifty-thousand word story known as Gadsby. It ain’t easy! I cannot imagine writing an entire story like that, much less a 50,000 word story.

Clearly, the question is why would someone bust his ass for five and a half months to create such a thing?

Beats me. I don’t know.

**One has to wonder whether those zany Clinton staffers who removed all the “W” keys from the computer keyboards in the White House prior to the Bush’s moving in were merely fostering the creation of Presidential lipograms.

Thanks to The Presurfer for posting the Gadsby link and getting me to think about yet another goofy thing.

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