Sunday, December 30, 2007

Veseliyka @ Folklore Village

Somehow, I seem to have become a member of yet another band, at least temporarily. The name of the group is Veseliyka and they play traditional balkan music. Balkan music is, to me, some of the most exciting music in the world and it is a joy to have the opportunity to play this music in yet another band (The Reptile Palace Orchestra has a lot of balkan music in its repertoire, although RPO tends to "reptilize" most everything we do) and to play it on a different instrument. Veseliyka consists of David Kantor (gajda and kaval), Yulian Yordanov (vocals and tupan) and me (tambura.) David is an excellent musician and Yuli is a former professional dancer and dance instructor from Bulgaria who can also play a mean accordian and is a superb vocalist. The instrument I'm playing with this group, the tambura, is an instrument I had never played before. I must be insane. I don't know, exactly, the history of how they came to ask me to play with them, but they were in need of a tambura player for an imminent show at Folklore Village's annual Christmas Festival in Dodgeville, Wisconsin. I suspect I wasn't their first choice. Probably, they would have preferred Biff Blumfumgagnge, string player extraordinaire of the Reptile Palace Orchestra, The Gomers and numerous others. I believe they asked a few other people as well, including my brother Bill. Bill suggested that I would be a good candidate if they were looking for someone who could pick up an unfamiliar stringed instrument and learn a bunch of songs in a hurry. I decided it would be worth a try. I had about three weeks to practice the songs prior to the performance on December 29. On the night of the show, my mood was dampened a bit due to the fact that my family was not allowed to accompany me, the event having sold out. (I have been involved in very few gigs where my family was not welcome to attend, usually at no cost [we were prepared to pay for their admission on this one.] Families of musicians and other performers sacrifice a great deal. In addition to the time spent at actual gigs, there are countless hours spent at rehearsals, practicing, etc. With very few exceptions, it's sort of an unwritten rule in musical circles that performers often bring family members with them, and they are treated like any other guest. Add this to the fact that my family and I have been involved, on and off, with FV for over thirty years, and I have to say that there were some harsh words spoken in our house about the whole business. There is much more that could be written about this particular issue, but for now, I'll just say I may have had somewhat of a bad attitude during much of the festivities.)

Folklore Village had brought Yves Moreau to teach Bulgarian dances for the day and we had sent him a list of the songs we were going to play so he could teach dances to go with them if he thought that that would be the thing to do. I must admit I felt like somewhat of an impostor playing an instrument I didn't really know how to play in the lofty presence of Mr. Moreau. (Of course, I often feel like an impostor when I play. I just pretend I'm a real musician and nobody seems to know any different, so what the heck.) After the dinner, the folksy speeches and the cute skits, it was time to play. Lo and behold, people danced. And they thought we were great. I really enjoyed playing and, when we finished, the applause was quite loud and enthusiastic. Hah! Fooled 'em again! It looks like I will have at least one more opportunity to play with Veseliyka. Look for us at the Madison Folk Ball on January 25, 2008 at the Memorial Union on the University of Wisconsin campus! If you have the chance, check it out - the Folk Ball is a wonderful event which I have attended every year for the last ten years or so.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Happy holiday thingies!

Hello? Is there anybody out there? Five days of internet and telephone problems can give one a sense of disconnectedness in these times of electronic communication. Add to that the fact that this all started happening on the heels of a dual-gig Friday (one at 8:00 a.m. and another, out of town, at 10:00 p.m.) which saw me arriving home at about 3:30 a.m. on Saturday. Of course, after dragging myself out of bed on Saturday, there were christmas errands and a dinner engagement (I think - it all seems so long ago.) It rained all day Saturday, destroying so much of our beautiful snow, and later in the evening the temperature dropped and it all froze (I had to chisel my way into my car on Sunday morning.) Somewhere during the freeze is when our phone and internet connection went somewhere else. Many of our neighbors were in the same boat, so I assumed the weather conditions were responsible. I’ll skip the boring details, but I will say that it was particularly inconvenient to have all this take place while relatives were coming to town and plans were supposed to be taking shape for the ensuing days. It all seems to be working now and I’ve just finished catching up on the most important e-mails, so I thought I’d put a little something up so my readers (I think I have at least six "regulars" now) wouldn’t think I’d deserted them. Happy holiday thingies everyone! (Yes, I intentionally avoided saying “Merry Christmas”, partly because I enjoy pissing off those fundamentalists and partly because not everyone does christmas™.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reptile Palace Orchestra: Neenah, WI

I'll be playing with the Reptile Palace Orchestra at Cranky Pat's in Neenah, WI tomorrow night (12/21/07) at 10:00 pm. If you happen to be in the area, or know someone in the area, it should be a good time. I'm told they make a mean pizza.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


It has been a good year for icicles here in Madison. Unfortunately, while they look cool, they're can cause damage to property and can also be dangerous. Our next-door neighbors had a really impressive collection, but when I went out to get a picture, I found that their landlord had knocked them all off. Here are some others:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Another broken record

The Mighty Pack, still the only socialist team in major league sports, secured the 2nd seed in the playoffs with a 33-14 win over the
St. Louis Rams today. Thanks to Philadelphia, they have a shot at the top seed, although, in order for that to happen, Dallas needs to lose one game and the Packers need to win their last two. Probably the most notable event in this game was Brett Favre surpassing Dan Marino's record of 61,361 career passing yards. Favre now holds just about every record a quarterback can hold. Most consecutive starts by a quarterback (251), games won (160), career touchdown passes (440), pass attempts (8,715), pass completions (5,351), interceptions (438) and now passing yards (61,405). Pretty amazing.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Five Little Known Facts About Me

I’ve been tagged by Dr. Monkey von Monkerstein with the Five Little Known Facts About Me meme. Memememeeme. Me. So, here goes:

1) I have birthmarks on my stomach in the shape of the Big Dipper. Really. Okay, so one of the stars/marks is missing, but the other six are there and it definitely looks like the Dipper. Maybe I’ll have the seventh one tattooed some day.

2) I can roll my stomach. Like a bellydancer. I learned how to do it when I was but a wee bairn by using my rolling stomach to make waves in the bathtub. I've succeeded in teaching Sparkly Seacow to roll her stomach, too.

3) I used to work for a company that makes high-end electric guitars. One of the instruments that we made was cursed. Seriously. Maybe I’ll tell that story at a later date.

4) While a member of Appliances-SFB, I played at the legendary and now defunct CBGB. Oddly, it seems that just about everywhere that band played over the 17 years I was with them has either gone out of business or burned down. A-SFB was an exciting group with which to be involved. Most gigs were an experiment in controlled (or uncontrolled) chaos. Unfortunately, although we played a lot and released three albums, one of which was released in Germany, we never managed to achieve any commercial success. I choose to believe we were ahead of our time. I'd link to them, but there's not much to which to link. The albums can be purchased from Rockhaus (the third album is available now, and the first two should be re-issued any week, now). I found a YouTube video here, a review of our second album here and some poster art here.

5) I saw Jim Morrison’s gravestone in Paris not long before it was stolen. I must point out that I didn’t go to a lot of trouble to see it. It was merely coincidence that the friend that Ms. Ether and I were visiting while on our honeymoon lived about a block from the cemetery. It was something to do while walking around the neighborhood. Cemeteries in Paris are much more crowded than cemeteries in the U.S. We didn’t think it would be possible to find any particular grave without being lucky, simply because you couldn’t see more than a couple of graves from any one spot. Kind of like trying to find a building in New York city without knowing its address. Well, we found it all right, and it didn’t take much luck, either. Gathered around the grave, looking seriously bummed, were a handful of youngsters dressed as punks and goths: lots of black clothing, studded leather, spiked mohawks and black eyeliner. I felt like saying something like "Yup. He's still dead." But I didn't. The area surrounding the grave was littered with cut flowers in empty liquor bottles. While leaving the cemetery, we met a man (seemingly Indian or Pakistani, by his accent - due to my ignorance, I can’t be sure), heading the other way with a book that listed all the famous people buried there. I remember Victor Hugo was one. He asked us, in his melodic accent, “Excuse me. Do you know where is the grave of Jack Morrison?” Just follow the spray paint, dude. You can't miss it. Throughout the cemetery were graves defaced with spray paint that said “Jim” with an arrow pointing in the direction of Morrison’s grave. Unbelievable.

Now I tag Cinderbelle, Sparkly Seacow and Luminiferous Ether.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Way Things Go

I just got an e-mail from a friend of mine. You know the kind of e-mail I mean - obviously been making the rounds, a fair amount of hyperbole, etc. It was about this "Fantastic Machine" that took these people 13,029 hours to build, blah, blah. After looking at it, I was pretty sure it was fake, and sure enough, it was; no such machine exists. But, it reminded me of a great film called "The Way Things Go" made in 1987 by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss. It's about half an hour long and the whole thing is just a Rube Goldberg type experiment. It has no point or function, but it certainly is fun. I give it two big, enthusiastic, well-lubricated thumbs way, way up. To see the whole thing, you have to buy or rent it. Or get it from your local library. Here's a little clip:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


So, last Saturday night, after all the insanity of the first part of the day was done, Ms. Geranium/Ether and I attended the Bereaved Parents Support Group's remembrance service. Ms. G/E wrote about it and did a much better job than I could. Every year, it seems that it falls on the same day as Sparkly Seacow's final play of the season which also means cast party, which in turn means preparing food for the party, buying last minute "Secret Buddy" gifts and either chauffeuring kids or making arrangements with other parents to do the chauffeuring. Then it's off in a mad rush to get to the service in time to tune up. Then we get to stop for an hour of stillness, listening, thinking about our daughter, Sophie, and also all the people around us who have also lost children. It's an intensely emotional experience.

After the service, there was some time for socializing with the people we've come to know over the years, but then it was off to a gig with The Reptile Palace Orchestra. The service was on Madison's far west side and the gig on the not-too-far east side. And, of course, it was snowing, so visibility and road conditions weren't too good. Since I had stayed at the service a little longer than I had planned, I had to keep reminding myself to take it easy; I would make it with enough time to get set up and, even if I didn't, there was no need to hurry. Once I got there, of course there wasn't a parking spot anywhere near the house where we were playing, so I lug my gear through the snow, running late (although I had warned the rest of the group I would be showing up at the last minute) and feeling a little stressed once again. I had no idea for whom we were playing (this is not an unusual occurrence with this group - I go where they tell me to go and see what's what when I get there), I only knew it was a private party. Upon entering the building, which was a large old mansion, I found a wild party in full swing. We were playing on the third floor, so up the two flights of steps to a large, crowded remodeled attic, trying to politely work my way through all the party-goers with my bass and assorted pieces of equipment. Fortunately, I was able to do it in only two trips. The band before us was still playing, so I needn't have worried, after all. I stashed my stuff in a corner and looked around for the rest of my band mates, none of whom were anywhere in sight. When I found some of them (gathered around the food, of course!), I inquired as to the nature of the festivities. It turned out that it was the annual holiday party for a local hospital's emergency-room staff. I must say it was quite a contrast, going from the remembrance service with it's sober mood, to this gathering of people hell-bent on having fun. When I say wild, I don't mean the excessive drinking of a fraternity party, but there was a definite sense of people letting loose. Many were dressed to the nines (or maybe tens or elevens) and there was an impressive spread of food and drink that appeared to have been catered by an organization that hired young Russian women to keep the refreshments well-stocked. One band member thought the servers were volunteers from the hospital staff, but that seemed unlikely to me. Anyway, I was definitely feeling a bit overwhelmed by the extreme environmental juxtaposition. It must have been obvious since our singer approached me to make sure I was alright. It seemed like it was going to be a loooong night.

Now, please bear with me a moment while I go off on a tangent about what keeps me playing music despite the meager rewards. After most gigs, I can look back and think "that went pretty well," or "I had a good time tonight" or "that wasn't my best gig," or something along those lines. People tell me I'm a good bassist. I make no such claims, but, every now and then, for some reason that I'm not able to reproduce at will (the moon is in the seventh house, or something like that), I can have a sort of out-of-body experience while playing; I feel like I'm channeling some god (goddess?) or other, or I've somehow managed to tap into some primal force. It feels pretty good. Better than just about anything in the world, actually. I'm not saying that I do anything that anyone else couldn't do, or that anyone listening would even notice anything different from any other night, but when that happens it feels as if the music flows right through me without any interference from my brain. It's those moments that keep me playing through the times when I feel like a terrible bassist, it's too much work, I don't get paid enough, and all those other things that could cause one to hang it up. That probably doesn't make any sense at all, but it's the best I can do for now.

So, back to the party. Okay? Okay. Dreadfully hot, crowded and I feel like my head is going to explode from too much everything before we even start playing. Then, we start, and I have one of those nights. Maybe it was due to the spiritual nature of the remembrance service. Maybe the moon was in the seventh condo on the right. Maybe it was because everyone in attendance was flying high and I knew I could stray into uncharted territory and no one would notice or, if they did, care. Maybe it was some combination of all of the above. Or maybe it was just the weird mould on the unpronounceable cheese. I really don't know, but it seemed that the whole band was listening and responding to each other exceptionally well and at least some of the audience was really enjoying the music. It was great.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

What a week!

What a week it has been. Sparkly Seacow was in the last week of her play, Ali Baba and a Few Thieves, (which requires lots of driving kids around, preparing stuff for the cast party, etc) Ms. Geranium (aka Ms. Ether) was preparing (sewing like a mad woman) for the "No More Shopping Days 'Til Peace" sale she had dreamt up, she and I attended and played a song at the Bereaved Parents Support Group's remembrance service (I intend to write more on that, maybe tomorrow), I had three rehearsals and a gig (maybe more on that tomorrow, as well) and in-laws are visiting. It's all good stuff, but I'm tired.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Dang, it's cold!

I just got back from walking the dogs and my fingers are . . . wait a minute! Do I have fingers? Where are they? Uff da! It feels great, though. I loooove cold weather!

Rogue viral story

Okay, so I swiped the first bits of this from Dr. Monkey von Monkerstein. I admit, I wasn't tagged as one of The Three Chosen Participants, but WTF, it's all for fun, right? Now I'm going rogue. I copied what had been written so far and added my own. Nyaah, nyaah! I tag Luminiferous Ether, Cinderbelle, Sparkly Seacow, Crayons and Jess Wundrun. If you're not tagged and want to be, it's because I'm a moron, not because I believe you to be unworthy. Seeing as this story has already gone rogue at this point, why not be a little roguish yourself? As if you need my permission. The only problem I can see is, how does one follow the infinite directions this might take? Don't know. Maybe someone out there has the answer.

I woke up hungry. I pulled my bedroom curtain to the side and looked out on a hazy morning. I dragged myself into the kitchen, in search of something to eat. I reached for a jar of applesauce sitting next to the sink, and found it very cold to the touch. I opened the jar and realized it was frozen. (Splotchy)

"That's strange," I said out loud to no one in particular. My fingers slowly reached towards the jar again. My body experienced a wave of apprehension as weighted blanket covering me as I did so. The jar was completely frozen. I picked it up and stared at it, my fingers stung with little knives of chill. "What the..." again I spoke aloud. Then I realized what had happened with a shock. Suddenly the jar flew from my hand. It shattered creating a collage-like mixture of frozen applesauce and glass shards on my kitchen floor, the lid lazily rolling to a stop across the room.(FranIam)

She flicked the lid with her massive big toe. "So, I guess I'll be having another Camel for breakfast and you'll be having a breakfast date with the Electrolux." She lit her Camel cigarette as she turned to open the closet door where we kept the vacuum. "In case you're wondering how the applesauce got frozen, I seem to recall you insisting that I stick it in the freezer before we went to bed last night." She pushed the Electrolux at me and it squooshed through the rapidly unfreezing applesauce and the glass shards. "This kind of crap happens all the time when we go drinking with the Brazilians." (Dr. Monkey)

Suddenly, the front door erupted in an explosion of wood splinters. “Jesus in a bucket! They’ve found me!” I thought as I dove out the kitchen window. My experiments with frozen applesauce, Camel cigarettes and Electrolux vacuum cleaners were supposed to be a secret, but, apparently, they weren’t as secret as I had thought. What would happen if the formula fell into the wrong hands? All my work, for naught! Who had leaked the information? Was it her? Or possibly one of the Brazilians? “Now the damned Department of Homeland Security will ruin everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve!” was the last thing that went through my mind before I was surrounded. (Enriched Geranium)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Snow snow snow snow snow

Last Saturday's snowfall has now turned solid as concrete. Now we're getting some nice, light, fluffy snow to make it look all nice and soft and pretty like. Easy to shovel and no gigs to cancel! More snow! More snow!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

More biking!

Since even before becoming a deadbeat (read: unemployed), I've been trying to make more use of my bicycle. I can use the excercise, for one thing, and it sticks in my craw to give money to the rich bastards that control most of the world's petroleum. Even though I try to always fuel up at a Citgo (the only nationalised oil company owned by a democratically elected government: Venezuela), I also hate the fact that, every time I drive my car, environmentally speaking, I'm contributing to the problem and not the solution.

Here's the trusty steed parked on the Yahara River bike path. It's a Trek 750 (made in Wisconsin!) purchased in 1992 and recently modified by the good people at Revolution Cycles to make it a more comfortable ride.

Madison has truly become a great city for biking. This tunnel alone, finished about a year ago, has made bicycle access to and from my house so much easier. There are still a few parts of the city lacking adequate bike paths, but, for the most part, you can bike to so many places without needing to fight traffic. Many times, it's actually faster than driving.

I also love the fact that, when you bicycle somewhere, you're much less isolated from the things around you. I've driven past this part of Lake Mendota countless times, but rarely really look at it when in a car. I took these photos on a rainy day about two weeks ago while coming home from downtown. I got rather wet, but that was okay. I appreciated the weather more as a result of being out in it.

Now that winter has finally arrived, I will have to figure out how to continue bicycling. All this snow we just got makes it rather difficult, but once the streets are cleared, it should be mostly a matter of dressing properly. Last Friday I rode about 7 or 8 miles in 20 degree weather. My torso was too warm and my face, fingers and legs were numb by the time I got home. Clearly, I wasn't dressed properly.

Show canceled

Snow. Sleet. Freezing rain. Show canceled. Major bummer. I know it was the right thing to do, but I enjoy playing with this group so much that it's disappointing to have a gig canceled. I hate snow.

Saturday, December 1, 2007


It's snowing. Nine inches are predicted today, followed by freezing rain. I love snow. Lots of snow. But, I have a gig in Waukesha tonight. Hmmm....

Friday, November 30, 2007

Woe unto Wisconsin

A large portion of the state of Wisconsin is grieving today. Yes, we'll all miss Evel Knievel. And we have to face the fact of The Mighty Pack's loss to the despised Dallas Cowboys. While the Packers represent everything there is to like about football, the Cowboys are the exact opposite. Owned by an ultra rich jerk, all glitz, stupid mascots and artificial turf - it's hard to swallow. Not only did the Packers lose, but Brett Favre was forced to leave the game with an injury. He didn't play very well before he got hurt, either. Interestingly, backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers (I like to call him Mister Rodgers) came in and, after a shaky start, almost managed to save the game. Alas and alack, it was not to be. Oh well, it's only football, after all. There's always next week. Or next year.

An interesting note about this particular game was that it was broadcast by the NFL Network. As a result, it wasn't possible to watch it unless you got your opiate via satellite - no cable or regular networks had it. People across the state were outraged. Come on, folks! It's only television. If people spent as much energy on important issues as they do on whether or not they can watch a stupid football game.... but I digress. So, if you wanted to watch this game and didn't have satellite, you had to go somewhere to do so. Every bar in the state with a satellite dish was packed (sorry about the pun) to capacity. I had a rehearsal that kept me from getting an early seat in one of my neighborhood watering holes, but thanks to our rock-star status and all (hard to get that written down without choking), our keyboardist and I were able to get in midway through the first quarter even though they were turning people away. Feeling rather important, I went up to the bar to procure a refreshing fermented malt beverage and found myself standing next to (drum roll ..........) Chad Vader (the body, not the voice - if you haven't seen these videos, check them out). Confused, not knowing if I should feel humbled or special to be in such lofty company, I couldn't think of anything to say (like, maybe "I believe in you Chad. I also believe in elves" or "Do you have any live goats?") and opted for silence rather than risking stupidity. It made the ignominious defeat just a little bit easier to bear, knowing that the body of Chad shared my pain.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Motor Primitives in Waukesha, WI, 12/01/2007

The Motor Primitives will be playing at The Main Stage in Waukesha, Wisconsin on December 1, 2007, 9 pm.
That's this coming Saturday, for the calendarly challenged.
The show is in celebration of the release of Dad The Plow's first CD. Also playing is Subatomic. Cover charge is only $5.00! For those of you who don't know Waukesha, it's about 65 miles east of Madison and 20 miles west of Milwaukee just off I-94. Let all your Milwaukee and Waukesha friends know! It should be a good time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thank you, Tammy

Lest I gave the wrong impression in my previous post, I would like to make it clear that I believe Congresswoman Baldwin is one of the best representatives in the house. I have voted for her every time she has been on the ballot and I don't expect that to change. I don't always agree with her, but I feel that she is on the correct side of most issues. Sometimes it seems that she plays things a little too safe. Sometimes I get the feeling that she may be a little out of touch with the reality that most of us are faced with on a daily basis. Sometimes I wonder if she has gotten too involved in the game of politics. Sometimes I ask myself why she voted a certain way on a particular issue. However, more often than not, I'm proud to have her as our representative. I think she really does want to know what her constituents have to say. I think she really does listen. I fear my last post was a bit negative and, while I meant what I wrote, I have to say she is one of a small handful of politicians with intelligence, integrity and compassion. Thank you, Tammy, and thank you for listening.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tammy listens?

Well, Ms. Ether, Crayons, friends Donna and Beth, and I all showed up at one of Rep. Tammy Baldwin's listening sessions tonight. I'm glad she hosts these things, as it feels more effective to speak to her face-to-face than to send emails, write letters or sign petitions. I'm not so sure how much actual listening takes place, or what good it does. Oh, well.

Anyway, I was not prepared to speak, as we didn't decide if we were really going or not until practically the last minute, but I signed up to speak anyway. Over the next few minutes, I mentally composed some points upon which to touch. I decided against writing them down, partly bcause I didn't have any paper, but also because I wanted to look at her while I was speaking. The first few people who spoke were all quite organized. Most, but not all, were there to speak about impeachment or things related. One gentleman in particular expressed many of the things I was going to mention, and a few more as well. He spoke very calmly and was really very effective. A few more people came next, including our friend Beth who was very, very good in her presentation and hit upon a number of issues that others had neglected.

Eventually it was my turn. I was a bit nervous, so I don't remember exactly what I told her, but I think it was something like this:

"Thank you for being here with us tonight. What he said (pointing to the gentleman I mentioned earlier)! Furthermore, I'd like to hrhrhghelllbbbelmphg jkerosptew hgkdlkdhgkdlkdhgkdlkd mukmukmuk brblbrblbr, grbl floogn bikit! Sorry. I'm done." (wipes drool from chin).

Then Ms. Ether spoke. She is always impressive at these things. I was too busy wondering what I had just said to remember what she said in any detail. I'm sure she will have a good post about it, though.

All in all, the sentiments of those who came were overwhelmingly in favor of impeachment. There was a great deal of frustration with the Democrats in congress. A few other issues were presented before we had to leave, but that was definitely the theme of the session.

Tammy, who is one of the more progressive representatives in the house, was sympathetic, but she also made a number of excuses about why that won't work, why it takes so long blah blah blah.

I was particularly disturbed by her response to a man who asked her for an explanation of her votes on bills relating to Israel and Palestine. She really did a great political-weasel-dance on that question. I thought he raised some very valid points (of course I did, since he agreed with me), and she evaded giving him a straight answer quite skillfully. A number of people said things to the effect of "this is Madison, Wisconsin. Do the right thing. We've got your back." I don't think she really got that bit.

Excuse me while I go put on a dry shirt. This one is still a bit damp. From the drooling, that is.

11/27/07: Update Alert! After musing a bit on what I had written above, I have this to add.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Mighty Pack emerged victorious over the Detroit Lions. It looked grim for Packer fans early in the game, but they pulled through, giving them a four game lead over the aforementioned division rivals with five games left to play. Donald Driver, shown above, had a great game: ten catches for 147 yards, yet no touchdowns. Other teams are so scared of him that it makes it possible for other players to make big plays. The guy works harder than any other football player I've seen, yet gets little credit for his efforts. Pulling in passes when he knows a big hit is coming, getting extra yards through sheer stubborness. He'd make a great bass player.

Next, the Dallas Cowboys in Dallas - the victors of that game having the inside track to homefield advantage throughout the playoffs. A big game for both teams. The Pack has not had much succcess in Dallas in the past and I dislike the Cowboys more than any other team in the league. Hopefully, I'll have good news to post next week.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


After reading this post on Monkey Muck, I followed his link, which took me to Conservapedia, the conservative answer to the "liberally-biased Wikipedia." At first, I couldn't tell if it was serious or a joke, but it soon became apparent that it was for real. I was even blocked from viewing one page because my ISP is located in Madison. I still can't believe it. Pretty creepy, if you ask me.

Motor Primitives, Harmony Bar, 11/23/2007

Hey, you know that by Friday night you'll be needing to get out and have some fun, so why not head down to the Harmony Bar and check out The Motor Primitives? There will be no cover charge (we'll be playing for tips), so it's a perfect opportunity for anyone who has never heard us. It's an experiment, of sorts. Show time is 10:00 and we'll be playing two sets. Be there, or be, umm, somewhere else, I guess.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Packers 31, Panthers 17

With six games left, the Mighty Pack is now three games ahead of second place Detroit. A NFC North division title looks like a real possibility. Too soon to get one's hopes up, though. Next game - Packers at Detroit!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Concert review: Enter The Haggis

Okay. So I’ve just joined the ranks of the unemployed. Money is tight. What do I do? Go out and spend money so Sparkly Seacow and I can hear some live music!

I suppose I should back up a little bit. I discovered Enter The Haggis in August of 2006 when I somehow found myself stranded at Milwaukee’s Irish Fest. I am of Irish descent, but I’m not a big lover of celtic music. It can be interesting, but for the most part, if you’ve heard one, you’ve heard ‘em all. So, there I was, surrounded by celtic music and wondering if I could find a quiet spot to sit and read until my kids were done listening to Garlic Storm (alright, they’re really called Gaelic Storm, but allow me my small pleasures, okay?) I checked the schedule and saw that a band called Enter The Haggis, from Toronto, was playing on the celtic rock stage. “Great name!” I thought and decided to check them out. Surprise! Not only did they have a cool name, but they were a truly exciting group of musicians. I went home, ordered some CDs from B-Side, my favorite local independent music store and, lo and behold, my daughters, Cinderbelle and Sparkly Seacow, found that they, too, liked ETH as much as I did. It probably doesn't hurt their appeal to teenaged girls that the band is young, good-looking and, oh, yes, talented, too.

Fast forward to November, 14, 2007. ETH is at the High Noon Saloon in Madison. I had endeavored to convince as many people as I could to attend, but the show was on a Wednesday night. Convincing people to go out on a weekday evening isn’t easy. Selling people on celtic rock wasn’t easy, either. When you say celtic rock, people tend to think of The Pogues. Enter The Haggis sounds nothing like The Pogues. They should really be described as a rock group with celtic and other flavors. You can hear jazz, latin and eastern-european influences but, when it comes right down to it, they are first and foremost a rock group. There are a lot of bad or generic rock groups out there, but ETH reminded me how exciting an original and skilled group of rock musicians can be. Right before they took the stage I counted around 35 people. Sparkly Seacow and I were there along with two friends of ours, PoodleDoc, Jr. and his mother. The rest of the audience looked like they could have come from out of town. Not a good showing from Madison, I’m sorry to say. Hopefully, we'll do something about that next time.

The show opened with the DeWayn Brothers, a contemporary bluegrass group out of Emporia, Kansas. They played very well, had great energy and I would recommend them to anyone who likes bluegrass, but, unfortunately for them, I would have to say it was a stylistic mismatch. They were entirely acoustic while ETH was most definitely not.

When ETH came on, they didn’t seem at all phased by the light turnout. They appeared to enjoy themselves and put on a great show for the lucky few in attendance. Their sound is huge and full of energy. I don't see how anyone could hear them live and not be energized by the experience. I am a bass player, so I have a bit of a bias, but I believe that any group can be made or broken by its rhythm section, the bass and drums. While ETH is brilliant on many levels, their rhythm section alone sets them apart from so many other groups. James Campbell (drums) laid down a tight and driving groove, yet was never repetitious. He embellished and played against and around the beat in the way that a good jazz drummer would, but the feel of the song was never compromised. He is an intelligent player who never settles for the obvious, doesn't overplay, but finds a way to make even the simplest of beats interesting. Mark Abraham (bass, vocals) is one of, if not the most, exciting bassists I have ever seen, and I’ve seen a few. I’ve seen bassists who play faster and more complicated bass lines, but Abraham was always musical in his playing. His parts had great movement, fluidity and energy in them and he made it seem effortless. Campbell and Abraham are the "oomph" in the sound, and they have a lot of "oomph."

On top of this rhythm section are founder Craig Downie (bagpipes, whistle, harmonica, guitar, vocals), Trevor Lewington (guitars, vocals) and Brian Buchanan (vocals, fiddle, guitar, keyboards). Downie is probably the most stylistically traditional member of the group. He is an animated performer and plays a mean bagpipe and tin whistle. In a number of songs, his bagpipes, whistle or harmonica were a main part of the melody or harmony, while at other times he filled the space that, in a more conventional ensemble, would have been the territory of a keyboard. This approach is a big part of the overall sound. Lewington is another high point. While skilled in many different styles, he has an ear for interesting effects, riffs, textures and tones. At one moment he would sound like a folk guitarist, the next hard rock, then avant garde. I was particularly taken with his use of effects and feedback. Also, it really must be said that Lewington is often a part of the rhythm section, locking in with the bass and drums with guitar riffs or chords, creating a truly massive sound. Then there is Buchanan, an impressive musician regardless of the instrument he happens to be playing. He, like Lewington, was also liberal in his use of effects. More or less the front man, he interacted with the audience more than the rest of the group and gave the impression that we were all his friends, and you got the feeling that he meant it.

One thing I really like in a group is when they have more than just one good vocalist, and good backing vocals and harmonies. ETH often had up to four singers and their harmonies were spot on. Buchanan and Lewington sang almost all of the lead vocals, but all of them sang except Campbell. Never was there a moment where I thought to myself “missed that one, guys.” After the show, Brian credited their in-ear monitor system for their ability to hit harmonies so well. The equipment probably is something of a factor, but you have to be able to sing well to begin with. Their vocals were superb, and I didn’t see or hear any evidence of the pitch correction equipment that is everywhere in music these days. They’ve been touring incessantly for quite a while now, and it shows. The group is amazingly tight, they look relaxed on stage and it all looks easy. Their material is strong, the arrangements sophisticated and they appear to enjoy playing together. They are at that level where they don’t need to think about what they’re doing, which gives them the freedom to play loose and have fun.

Nothing can ruin your enjoyment of a group like discovering that they aren't very nice people. I was pleased to find that they are all, well, really nice guys. After their set, the whole group mingled with the audience for a while. Craig spent a few minutes giving Sparkly Seacow some advice on how to go about learning to play bagpipes. Mark and James chatted and signed autographs. Trevor and Brian took a moment away from packing up their gear so I could take their picture with SS (see top of page.) Maybe it's a Canadian thing, but their lack of attitude was refreshing.

Why, you might ask, am I going to such lengths to tell you about this group? Well. I have enjoyed them immensely and want to share that experience with others. I can see two possibilities in their future. They could become hugely successful, and then the only way to see them will be in huge venues at huge prices. Or, if that doesn’t happen, they could tour and tour until they burn out. So, I’m telling you, if you love music, go see them now. I guess I’ve run out of ways to say how good these guys are, but they are the real deal. It isn’t often one gets to witness artists at this level of enthusiasm, creativity and skill. It may not last. I hope it does, but go see them while you can.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I am F**cked!

Well, I had a feeling it was going to come to this. After two and a half months of being, technically, Temporarily Laid Off, I found out today that my status is now Unemployed. Period. There just hasn’t been enough work at my job two keep a three-person shop busy and, as the employee with the least seniority, I was first in line for the axe. What makes matters worse is I can’t even be mad at my employer. He has been doing his best to drum up enough work to avoid having to do this and I’m certain it distressed him quite a bit to give me the news. Almost as much as it distressed me to hear it. I blame it all on the Bush administration. Our economy is in the toilet and Bush and his cronies are getting filthy rich (or filthy richer. Filthier rich? Filthier richier?) as a result. All that money gushing out of the US Treasury to fight an illegal war (or two or three) is somehow (yeah, somehow) finding its way in to the pockets of the Bush family and their pals. Why not just take our money and skip the killing part? That would be more honest. “Hi, I have more money than I can actually spend and I want yours, too.” Of course, no one has ever accused them of being honest. I don’t see it getting better any time soon, either. (Pygalgia, whose blog is well worth reading, posted this article and this article about how BushCo has negatively effected the US economy and the global repercussions.) It could be turned around. We could invest in taking care of people at home rather than in killing people overseas, but that would be anti-American. We could have an equitable tax structure so the wealthy paid their fair share of the tax burden, but if the rich have to pay taxes, then the terrorists have already won. I’d better be careful or people might think I’m a (gasp!) .... Socialist! We have to kill people so we can bring them democracy!

I'm sure things will work out, for me, anyway. There are people in the world who have much larger problems. No one is bombing my city. I'm not going to starve any time soon. There are people that care about me. I will find some kind of job, but right now the coefficient of despair is pretty high.

Did we learn a little lesson?

Did we learn a little lesson today? (Read that in the condescending tone of voice used by an adult with no understanding of children speaking to a child who is too old to be spoken to that way.) I posted a bit on the Motor Primitives blog about our recent performance in a benefit for the Madison Area Peace Coalition. I suppose I was ranting a little. Of course, I managed to offend one reader. The lesson learned is .... ummm .... I guess I'm not sure, but there must be one somewhere. I must ponder on that.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Packers 34, Vikings 0

For the first time in 94 games, the Packers shut out the Vikings. The Mighty Pack is now 8-1. Enjoy it while you can.

Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists

Last Saturday I went to hear Robert Fripp and the League of Crafty Guitarists at the Majestic Theater here in Madison, Wisconsin. The Majestic Theater has been in operation since 1906.

There have been several ownership changes recently, but, thankfully, it is still standing. I have spent a great deal of time in this theater over the years and it pleases me that it hasn't been torn down to make room for something stupid - luxury condos, a parking ramp, etc. It was great to be able to go to the Majestic and hear one of my all-time favorite guitarists, Robert Fripp.

The concert consisted of a mix of Robert Fripp's Soundscapes and the full ensemble of ten acoustic guitarists plus Fripp on electric guitar, all of them playing in Fripp's New Standard Tuning. Ten or eleven guitars playing together can make a very big sound and it was impressive. They have a broad repertoire, from a few familiar songs to more obscure and/or original material. Playing through his array of electronics, Mr.Fripp can make his guitar sound like anything from bells and flutes to, well, a guitar. There were times when Fripp played some of his trademarked intense leads, and I would have liked to have heard more of them. For a guy who doesn't appear to be very emotional, either while playing or speaking, he can get an awful lot of feeling out of that guitar of his.

Madison's own multi-talented Biff Blumfumgagnge (follow Biff and his exploits here) has been doing sound for Mr. Fripp and crew for a year or two. One would think it would be a nightmare trying to mix ten guitars, but it didn't seem to give him any difficulties. Good sound is often overlooked, but bad sound can ruin a good performance. Great job, Biff!

Most of the pieces didn't seem to leave much room for improvisation on the part of anyone with the exception of Fripp, and the visibility in the theater was not particularly good for many members of the audience. It looked as if all the acoustic guitars were Ovations, one of my least favorite brands, from a sound point of view. The body of an Ovation is made of plastic and, to me, it sounds like it. Those were really the only negatives of the evening. All in all, I'd say it was a very satisfying musical experience.

This was the last show of their tour, but if you ever have an opportunity to hear them, I recommend it.

Rocking for peace, the sequel

Well, the Madison Area Peace Coalition benefit concert was yesterday. I have one question: why is it that progressives can suck the life out of anything? I wrote more about it here.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Rocking for peace

On Sunday, November 11th, 2007, the High Noon Saloon will be hosting a benefit concert for the Madison Area Peace Coalition, featuring The Motor Primitives, among others. There will be food from Ground Zero, Glass Nickle and the Dardanelles. This is an early show (but not so early that you'll miss the Packer game).

Check out the time slots:

3 pm: Caravan Gyspsy Swing Ensemble
4 pm: Yid Vicious
5 pm: The Motor Primitives
6 pm: The Ragin' Grannies
6:30 pm: Thistle (acoustic folk singer)
(Except for the Grannies, each band has a 45min time slot.)

We do declare...We shall be the loudest band there! Heh!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


Luminiferous Ether had a post on her blog showing its monetary worth as calculated by Technorati, and I thought, if that's what her blog is worth, then I must owe somebody money for mine. I put in the address for Enriched Geranium and they came up with the figure in the graphic up above, dere. Ya, hey. Uff da. Maybe my formula for world domination was correct after all. I will share it with you.

W = k/[(3tc)squared]raised to the negative one.

W = the worth of your blog.
k = the number of kittens you ate for breakfast yesterday.
t = the temperature in Helsinki, in degrees fahrenheit, when you ate your last Egg McMuffin.
c = the quantity, in grams, of cocaine snorted by George Bush on your birthday in 1969.

The Murder Primates

Here are some pictures of the Motor Primitives at Wonder's Pub on Halloween weekend. We were supposed to look like Kraftwerk on the Man Machine cover. By the time these pictures were taken, the makeup was starting to melt and I think we just looked like well-dressed ghouls. Photos courtesy of Ms. Freakspot. They look better bigger. Click on 'em if'n you wanna see 'em that way.

New song, someday

I started work on a new song today. I'm not going to say too much about it right now other than, if it ends up sounding as good in the real world as it does in my head, it should be fun. They never do, though. Or, they never end up sounding the same when they're done as they did in concept. They tend to take on a life of their own once I start to work on them. I don't have too much control over the finished product. At the rate things are going, it should be done by 2011, give or take. Hopefully, I will have solved the hosting problem by then. Unfortunately, I'm using new software (Logic,) due to the fact that the version of the software (ProTools) I had been using is now obsolete. Fortunately, it should be easier to learn this time around, but it is a more complicated program which should, ultimately, even though the learning curve is rather high, allow me to do more stuff more easily and with less expense. We'll see.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


I go and write this bit about one of the songs I put up, and now they both seem to have vanished. Blogger doesn't seem to provide space for music files, so I've been using Google's Pages to host them. It appears that there is some issue regarding bandwidth and Google Pages that makes it so that they can only be accessed a finite number of times within a given time period. I guess I'll have to find some other site to host them if I want them to play on reliably. Any ideas?

Impeach the Moron

In the event that anyone cares, I thought it might be interesting to give some background information about the music I put up here. If this is painfully dull, someone please tell me and I won't do it anymore.

I'll start with Impeach the Moron. This was the first real attempt I ever made at multitrack recording at home using a computer based system. It was a painfully long process since I could only work on it when I wasn't at work, a band rehearsal, gig, kid's school event, etc. Furthermore, there were four people in the family competing for the one computer we had at the time and I had to learn how to use some fairly complicated software and was constantly forgetting how make certain things work.

I wanted to do something to illustrate what a total imbecile we have in the White House and decided that The Moron, himself, could make the point much more eloquently than I could. That meant hours searching for audio clips. Some were easy to find (the White House website was one of the best sources) and some not so easy. For instance, the "I'm a war president" line was one that came from his Meet the Press interview. I knew it was out there somewhere, I knew the date it was broadcast, but I just could not find an audio clip anywhere. I got the feeling that someone, somewhere, didn't want me, or anyone else for that matter, to have access to it. I did find it eventually (thanks to On Lisa Reins Radar.) Then more hours sifting through them, cutting out the parts I wanted to use, arranging them so they sounded like a song (at least to me) and trying to match volume levels for each clip.

I started the whole business with a little piece I had written on acoustic guitar, but accidentally played it much slower than I had originally planned, but I ended up liking it that way. Then I added some percussion sounds. I used a large mixing bowl for the bass drum sound, hand claps, a little lizard-shaped percussion thing that Ms. Ether had given me, a doumbek, and wood blocks I had made for my kids from scraps I scavenged at work. A bass guitar track followed, then two more guitar tracks. Somewhere during this whole process I started dropping in all the Bushisms, continually adding, deleting and rearranging. When I though I had finished, or at least decided that it was time to call it finished, I enlisted Michael Massey, an immensely talented professional musician friend of mine and extremely nice guy, to help me mix it all together and show me a few tricks and short-cuts. Of course, it sounded fine in his studio, but after further scrutiny on other sound systems, I realized something was not right in the bass frequencies. There was a constant low-end rumbling that no one else seemed to notice, but once I heard it, it drove me crazy. I didn't really want to impose on Mike's time any further, and I think he may have thought I was having audio hallucinations, so I went ahead and tried to figure out where it was coming from. It ended up being on the original guitar track upon which the whole piece was built. The A-string was vibrating any time it wasn't being fingered. So I wiped out the track and recorded it over again differently, remixed it and that's pretty much it. I've sent the song around to places like Air America, but not many people have responded, so I don't know if they even bothered to listen to it. A member of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace asked me if they could use it at a rally and Greg at In Your Face Radio, an internet station, asked for permission to play it, but that seems to be all the interest it has generated to date. All that work! But it was fun, so what the heck. On to the next.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Mighty Pack

The Packers won again today. That puts them at 7-1 for the season. Unfortunately, I forgot (yes, forgot!) to watch the game. Instead, I raked leaves, cleaned the gutters and did some other stuff around the house. There was a time when forgetting to watch the Packers would have meant some crisis had occurred, but I just don't have the energy for it that I once had. I find it difficult to take much of an interest in sports these days. For one thing, I hate television. I hate the way the game has become a multimedia spectacle. The players earn (earn?) ridiculous amounts of money while people who do important or valuable work (teachers, woodworkers and temp secretaries, for example) are either underpaid or losing their jobs. Meanwhile, the team owners are raking in the cash and the working class can no longer afford to attend a game without spending their children's inheritance, assuming they have one to spend. Nonetheless, I still follow the Packers. I like to say that they're the only socialist team in major league sports, although I might get hurt if I were to say that in Green Bay. The reason I like to say that is because the Packers are not owned by some wealthy cretin or small group of wealthy cretins. They are owned by the people of Green Bay. That could not happen in the NFL today; it's against the rules. But, as a result, the Packers will never leave Green Bay for greener pastures. And then there is Brett Favre. You can't help but like Brett Favre. His name is hard to pronounce, for one thing. He comes off as kind of a redneck, and maybe he is (he was once quoted as saying something to the effect that he didn't like Wisconsin winters because it was awfully cold when you needed to go out in the yard to take a leak,) but he is one of the most exciting players to watch, and he clearly is emotionally invested in the game. He does things that shouldn't be possible (like today's touchdown pass to Greg Jennings, Favre was falling backward and still threw the ball something like 50 yards and dropped it perfectly in to the hands of Jennings. A 38-year old quarterback shouldn't be able to do that. Yes, yes, I know, I didn't watch the game, but thanks to the magic of the internets I was able to see the highlights.) Super Bowl? Probably not. But who cares? There are leaves that need raking!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

An experiment with ABBA

I was looking at Luniniferous Ether's Site Meter statistics yesterday and I was amazed how many people had navigated to her site because they were searching for images of ABBA. There were hits from Japan, Peru, The Netherlands, all over the world. So, I just have to see what happens if I post an ABBA photo here. If anything interesting comes of it, I'll report back at a later date.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Cherokee Marsh

As I mentioned in my profile, I'm a wood-worker for a remodeling company by day. Thanks to our "president" and his policies, our economy is in the toilet. As a result, I've been laid off for the last two months. Hopefully, I still have a job to go back to, since I like my employer and the people with whom I work. However, looking for the silver lining, I've had a little extra spare time recently. I'm learning how to blug, for instance. I also have tried to get out and enjoy some of the wonderful things this area has to offer. One of those is Cherokee Marsh. It's an incredible piece of land set aside as a wetland restoration project right on the outskirts of Madison. Prime real estate for those money-grubbing developers. It's past the peak of fall colors right now, but beautiful, nonetheless. As I was walking along one of the trails, I looked to my left and saw, maybe fifteen feet away, something staring at me. It was close enough that I started thinking about how deadly those hooves can be. Anyway, it stayed still while I got out my camera (well, actually, it's my daughter's camera. I still don't own a digital camera so I borrow hers when I think I might need one. Can you say "loser"?) and got a quick shot of it before it hightailed it out of there. It's not a great shot, thanks to the auto-focus, but you can see it a little to the right of center. If you wish, you can enbiggen it by clicking on it.

Whenever I get out of the city, I'm always struck by what a beautiful state Wisconsin is. Yes, other states are beautiful, as well, and, while we don't have some of the spectacular elements here that you find elsewhere, there is a subtle beauty to Wisconsin that I find very satisfying. You don't often find Wisconsin featured in the Sierra Club calendars, but that's probably just as well. We already have too many people moving here to escape from whatever. They're usually people with too much money, they displace people who have lived here a long time and they generally bring the whatever they're escaping from with them, destroying what attracted them to Wisconsin in the process. Check out the photo at the top of this post. If you click on it and make it bigger, you'll see a McMansion on the other side of the river. It's huge, believe me. I envision maybe two adults and one child living in that monstrosity. Probably a six car garage with at least two SUVs (a Lexus and a BMW), a sports car or two and a big honkin' truck, minimum. Oh, yes, let's not forget the big ol' boat! I've worked on a house or two like that and it's nothing short of obscene. And it's getting worse. Beautiful "unimproved" land gobbled up by rich people while poverty, homelessness and the prison population go through the roof. But I ramble. Time to stop. Just one more photo of Cherokee Marsh, though.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It worked!

It worked! "Impeach the Moron" will now play at the proper speed! Tomorrow, the world! You can hear it by clicking the triangle-shaped play button on the Quicktime player on the sidebar. If it doesn't work for anyone, it may be that you don't have Quicktime on your computer. If that's the case, you probably ought to have it and you can get it here.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


I don't know if anyone will ever read this, and I'm not going to advertise the existence of this blug at this time. I'm still trying to figure out how it works. For instance, on the sidebar, I posted a song I wrote and performed. For some reason, it plays too slow. I've tried various Google Gadgets in an attempt to post music, and it's been supremely frustrating. I'll have to work on that some more. Later. In the mean time, if anyone really wants to hear it at the proper speed, go to my MyFinalFrontier page.