Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Weird weather

Earlier today, it was raining and 43˚. I was wearing a windbreaker over a sweatshirt outside. Now it's -2˚ and windy. The rain we had earlier turned to sleet, then snow that looked and felt like white Dippin' Dots™, then plain old snow. It's predicted that it will get down to -12˚ tonight. That's a swing of 55˚ in about 12 hours. Weird.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Reptile Palace Orchestra @ Folk Ball 2008

Folk Ball 2008 has come and gone. Here's a video of The Reptile Palace Orchestra's first two numbers. I'm the guy in the hat on the right. First is "The Enchanted Reptile Palace" by RPO cellist and songwriter extraordinaire Seth Blair. Seth sings along with Anna Purnell. Second is a song the name of which, embarrasingly, I don't know, but folkdancers around the country refer to as "The Turkish Hora." The audio quality isn't great, but it captures the atmosphere pretty well. More about the whole event soon.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Veseliyka & The Reptile Palace Orchestra @ Folk Ball 2008

I've been remiss in getting this up in a timely manner. Luminiferous Ether already has a good post up, so this may be redundant to you, my loyal reader, but, if you can manage it, get your butt on down to the Memorial Union for Folk Ball 2008, (Friday, 1/25 - Sunday 1/27.) I'll be playing with two different groups this year. Friday night (9:00 p.m.) with Veseliyka, a village-style, all acoustic balkan band, and Saturday night (sometime after 11:00 p.m.) with the Reptile Palace Orchestra, a high octane, eclectic electric ethnic group. Dance and singing workshops throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, and dance parties Friday, Saturday and Sunday night. Of course, there is also the opportunity to buy stuff, from music to "ethnic" clothing.

Folk Ball is a very cool event. People come from all over the midwest and beyond, it's very family-friendly (although there is an occasional sourpuss - there's at least one in every crowd) and it's just cool. Live music and dancing until the wee hours, no alcohol is served on the premises (although you can go downstairs for beer if you're so inclined, and some of the crowd is) so the people in attendance aren't the type who have getting drunk and stupid as their primary goal.

I already mentioned the two groups I'll be playing with, but I also heartily recommend Madison's Yid Vicious, Milwaukee's Izvor and Sloboda as well as the Twin Cities' Orkestar Bez Ime. I'm not too familiar with the other groups on the schedule, but I imagine they'll be worth checking out, too. Regardless, it is a rare event that offers so much good music and for free, at that (donations are encouraged.) For a full schedule, check here.

In true village style, the boundaries between bands will get kind of fuzzy. I'll be playing with two groups, reed player Greg Smith is a member of both RPO and Yid Vicious. David Kantor and Yuliyan Yordanov will be playing with Veseliyka as well as doing a duo performance on Saturday. And, of course, you can expect to see a lot of Harley Schoville (drummer and percussionist for Izvor and Sloboda) and his brother, Robert (drummer and percussionist for The Reptile Palace Orchestra). It has become something of a Folk Ball tradition for the Schoville Brothers to play percussion together in all three groups. The Schoville Brothers make a truly monstrous percussion duo; it's worth the price of admission by itself. Harley will also be filling in for Yid Vicious on Friday.

Anyway, Folk Ball is a true community gathering and celebration in the very best sense. I always enjoy it, at least.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Winter. Again. Sorry.

I apologize if I'm sounding like a broken record (does anyone remember what a record, broken or otherwise, sounds like?), but I find winter to be such a wonderful time of year, and we're actually having a real winter this year.

The whole family has been rather under the weather for the past few days, but Molly the Super Dog (that's why she wears the red cape), still needs to get outside. Yesterday, since I was probably suffering the most, Ms. Geranium, the Emergency Backup Bark Park Guy, was kind enough to take Molly out to the bark park for her daily exercise. Today I was a bit better, while Ms. Geranium seemed worse, so I resumed my duties as Bark Park Guy (we suspect that that is how Molly thinks of us.)

Temperatures had risen to above zero, so it felt downright balmy. As a result, the bark park was more crowded than it had been for the last few days.

The bark park to which we usually go (there are several in the area) because it's the easiest one to get to from our house, is part of a park that borders one of Madison's wealthiest neighborhoods. Therefore, in addition to deadbeats like me, it also attracts people "of means" - you know, the kind of people who own dogs as fashion accessories ("what do you think, will my yorkiepoodalemeranian or my bitchnfreeze go best with the new Hummer that I bought to accent my new highlights? Or should I wear a wig and take the Bentley and the toy schnotzu?") Today I chatted for a few moments with one gentleman who was complaining about the cold and bemoaning the fact that, for business reasons, he was only able to spend one month at his house on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Although he seemed like a nice enough guy (for a rich bastard), I just couldn't bring myself to feel sorry for him. But, thanks to those rich folks, it was Free Burritos For All™ day at the bark park! Just kidding, the car pictured above must have belonged to the other deadbeat dog owner.

It was snowing again, so even though I was still feeling a bit pekid, it felt good to be up and about in The Elements. For some reason, you can't see it in these photos (maybe it's the camera - I also found the photos of fog I posted a while back didn't look anywhere near as foggy as it looked in real life - on second thought, maybe it's my eyes), but the snow was falling pretty heavily when I took these.

Did this sign keep me from walking out on the ice? Only my hairdresser knows for sure.

I just liked the way the snow was sticking to the bark in this one.

Snow covered fungus.

Etc, etc.

Season's End

Well, football season is over, at least for me. The Mighty Pack fell to the New York Giants, ending what has been one of the more entertaining seasons I've witnessed. Oh, well. I guess it's time to intone the PFM (Packer Fan's Mantra: There's always next year!)

Coach Mike McCarthy is cold but not happy.

Remember, it was below zero with a wind chill in the minus twenties.
Some people don't have the sense they were born with.
(Actually, I don't know what that really means,
but I thought it sounded good.)

Men don't have a monopoly on not having the sense they were born with. Or weren't born with. Or.... hmmm, wait a minute, I'll get there eventually... maybe.

These women don't have less of the sense they weren't born without...
Ow! I think that last sentence busted something in my brain-pan.
Photo by Elizabeth Roherty

Anyway, that's it for this year. There's always next year. There's always next year. There's alwaysssszzzzzz....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Glorious Winter!

Sorry if I'm sounding like a broken record, but it's cold! And I like it! The snow sounds different when you walk on it. It isn't squeaking yet, but it has a cold and crunchy feeling to it. The air is brisk and invigorating. Nothing makes one feel more alive than being outside and properly dressed in real cold weather. We haven't had any extreme sub-zero temperatures yet this winter (I think we've only dipped into the minuses a couple of times), but I'm looking forward to it.

It wasn't that cold out when I took these pictures a couple of days ago, but we did have fresh snow, which always begs to have photos taken. Unfortunately, the batteries on the camera died before I could get very artsy. Oh, well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fun with Favre

Here's an example of what makes watching Brett Favre and the Packers (the only socialist team in major league sports) so much fun to watch. In this photo, Favre takes some time to have a snowball fight in the middle of the game, nailing teammate Donald Driver. Driver later got him back in the middle of Favre's post-game interview with a snowball to the helmet. Favre clearly enjoys playing football, which makes it more fun to watch.

“That was awesome. I’ve been hoping for that for 17 years. I wanted to play where you couldn’t see the field and the snowplow comes out. It just kept getting worse and worse.”

-Brett Favre after the Seattle game.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Mighty Pack, again.

Apologies to Crayons for the following post, but it has to be done.

Yesterday I watched the Packers (who remain the only socialist team in major league sports) play the Seattle Seahawks with PoodleDoc and PoodleDoc, Jr. I love to watch football when played in snow or rain (surprise, surprise.) If you ask me, teams that play in domes are a bunch of wimps. When the game began, it was snowing lightly. By the end of the game it was snowing quite heavily, ideal conditions for a January football game.

The game started out badly for the Packers, who, due to two fumbles by Ryan Grant, were behind 14-0 just four minutes into the game. Over the years, I've seen the Packers lose many games they should have won, and it looked like this was going to be one of those games. Lo and behold, the Mighty Pack, including the aforementioned Ryan Grant (who left the game in the fourth quarter with 201 yards and three touchdowns - both of which are Packer post-season records), went on to play practically perfect football in every way for the rest of the game, winning 42-20, which will put them in the NFC Championship game against the winner of today's Dallas/New York game.

It was fun watching the game with PoodleDoc and PoodleDoc, Jr, despite the fact that it had to be viewed on PoodleDoc's rather testosterone-challenged television; I'd say it has about a five-inch screen. We engaged in the time-honored game of "Predict The Next Stupid Comment Made By The Announcers." (Well, Tony, I think if the Packers want to win this game, they're going to have to score more points than the Seahawks.)

While it helped that the end result was a decisive Packer victory, the snow on the field and the good company made for a very enjoyable football viewing experience. The only downside was that watching football, even when I go elsewhere, has the potential of creating conflict between Ms. Geranium and me, which I feel bad about. Sigh. Sorry, Ms. Geranium.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Bomb Iran? No, thank you!

I haven't put much of a political nature on this blog, mostly because other people do it so much better than I can. If I attempted to post about things political, you'd be seeing things such as "Bush is evil. Cheney is a crinimal." I just find it very difficult to organize my thoughts when it comes to world events, politics, etc.

It's looking more and more like BushCo, regardless of what most of us think, are going to take "military action" against Iran. This administration has already shown a complete disregard for the opinions of the citizens as well a complete disregard for actual facts. Despite the helplessness I feel surrounding this situation, I think it's important for all of us to do whatever we can to remind people that "military action" means killing innocent civilians, environmental disasters, destroying historic treasures and spending mountains of money that should be going toward helping people (health care, schools, housing, alternative energy - the list is practically endless.) Most citizens of the US probably couldn't find Iran on a map, much less conjure up an image of that country, and, guess what? Iranians don't really seem all that different from you or me. From what I can tell from pictures I've seen, it's also a beautiful country and Bush and his buddies want to blow it up. I can't believe that they can get away with even talking about it. They'll do it anyway and convince enough of us it's what we want. And the f***ing democrats will go right along with it. When do we get to impeach them?

I'd like to thank all you people who, day after day, remind us of what is happening both in this country and in the rest of the world. Keep it up.

Here's a little slide show I found on YouTube. I would guess there are lots of others out there.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Goodbye snow

The last five days or so we've had temperatures above freezing and a fair amount of rain, to boot, so all our wonderful snow is melting away faster than you can say ... something. On Monday I went to the bark park and the warm, humid air in contact with the still frozen snow created fog as thick as, umm ... very thick fog. Although it saddened me to see the snow disappearing, I've always enjoyed fog, so I used the crummy camera in my mobile telephone (not too long ago, having a telephone and camera combined in one device that fit in your pocket would have seemed impossible, and here I'm griping that it doesn't take good enough photos!) to take some grainy photographs of the soggy, foggy scenery.

Look, you can see the sun in this one!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Motor Primitives in the "studio"

I spent the last two days (many thanks to my wife, children and dog for tolerating my absence) recording with The Motor Primitives (see post here for some photos.) Rather than going to an actual recording studio, we hired Ken Busch (of Aniv de la Rev fame) to bring his gear to our drummer, Robin's house, where we rehearse on a weekly basis. Most recording studios aren't very pleasant physical spaces in which to spend large chunks of time. Having actual sunlight in the room was a new experience for me while recording, as was seeing a large dog or two walk past me while trying to lay down a track. The end result is still an unknown, but I must say that I feel better, physically, than I have ever felt after two days of recording. The familiar environment made the whole endeavor much more relaxed and I think it allowed us to be more efficient. Things that from past experience would have normally taken multiple takes were frequently finished in only one or two. Laying down vocal tracks also seemed much easier without the stress of feeling like we were in a "Recording Studio." Credit must be given to engineer Ken Busch for being very relaxed and easy going, offering his opinion when he thought it was necessary or when asked, but also giving us credit for being seasoned musicians who know when things are right and when they aren't right. (It's always good to have an unbiased set of ears around, but it's also important for the engineer to let you do your thing without trying to impose his or her personal tastes on the project.) My band mates were also less uptight than is often the case while recording - supportive of different levels of perfectionism and ways of doing things. Recording can often involve large amounts of time spent being ready to go while waiting for someone else to finish their bit, particularly when working with a small budget (and we are talking seriously small budget on this project - it's not unusual to spend tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars on recording alone. It's possible to record each individual note by each individual player separately and multiple times, and some people actually do it that way. I think our budget is around $500, so we're not going to achieve perfection. We're hoping for something that sounds pretty good and is fun to listen to.) That can lead to internal tension, something that didn't seem to be a problem at all this time around. At one point, Pam made a rude gesture in my direction (involving a single extended finger) which made me laugh. Later, she commented that it was refreshing to be able to do that and not have it result in hard feelings. That little exchange made me think about how this group works so well together with very little of the interpersonal clashing I've experienced in most groups. Sure, we disagree about things, but so far we've been able to deal with artistic disagreements without anyone taking it too personally - an anomaly in artistic endeavors with which I've been involved.

As I said, the finished product is yet to be realized (we still have to go through the whole mix-down and mastering process.) In the past, at this point in the recording process, I typically feel like things sound pretty bad, but it usually ends up sounding much better after mixing. Thus, my hope is that, since I'm feeling pretty good about how things sound right now, after mixing it will sound even better. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

On hiatus

I will be out of commission for the next couple of days. The Motor Primitives will be recording what we hope will be our next CD. We feel we need something that represents our current line-up as well as our new material. Rather than going in to a studio to record, we are bringing someone in to record us in our rehearsal space. It's something of an experiment dictated in part by our budget, but also an attempt to make it as comfortable as possible, hoping that a familiar environment will result in a more relaxed performance. We'll see how it turns out. In the mean time, the forecast calls for warm weather with a possibility of rain. We'll probably be losing much of our glorious snow over the next few days. Bummer.

Friday, January 4, 2008


Okay, I know this may seem a little weird, but I admit that I've been feeding a few spiders, or at least allowing them to feed. These spiders have been catching and feeding on mosquitoes in our house, and I haven't been able to bring myself to eliminate their food source when cleaning up. I must give credit (or blame) to our neighbor David for encouragement (or enablement, if that is actually a word) in this regard. He admitted to me that he harbors a similar fondness for spiders, which made me feel a little bit less weird about my own behavior. It seems to me that the spiders have been providing a service by catching mosquitoes and it would be ungrateful to take their food away from them. Thus, I have refrained from vacuuming up their webs while doing housework, or even from taking them outside, since they have gone to so much effort to set up house, as it were. Now the spiders have died, so I will clean up their webs, but, to me, it seems right to honor their contribution to the household before I remove all evidence of their existence. Thank you, spiders, for keeping our mosquito population down. I will assist your offspring in the same manner next year. Salutations!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Winters of Yore

As you may have guessed from posts past, I love winter. I love snow, cold weather, everything. I love walking in it. I enjoy driving in it, ice skating and sledding. It has been a long time since we've had what I call a good winter. So far, this winter has been pretty good; as of early January, we've had more snow than has been the case for a number of years and, even though we've lost some of it to warm weather and rain, we still have a fair amount left. Who knows, maybe I'll be able to get a little skiing in this year. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Here are a few photos from around the neighborhood.

A neighborhood street:

Railroad bridge:

The Yahara River, not far from our house, looking upstream:

The Yahara River, looking downstream:

John Greenler, a friend of mine, posted another photo of the Yahara River, maybe twenty miles downstream from where these were taken. He's a better photographer than I am.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Sorry that I haven't been around too much lately. Between preparing for the Veseliyka show, agonizing about the job situation and general christmas and family stuff, it seems there hasn't been much time for anything else.

2007 was a difficult year for me in many ways. My father and grandmother both died this past year, I lost my job and our dog, Georgia, died as well. My oldest daughter also left home for college this year and, while that is part of the natural order of things, it's not entirely without its difficulties.

But enough of that! I think we as a culture dwell a little too much on the whole "out with the old, in with the new" business, but I would like to wish you all a joyful 2008.