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Ukulele & All That Jazz - 
 

Jazz in the Valley

Last year for the weekend of July 13 - 15 I was at the Southside Social, a "yearly gathering of performers, families, craftspeople musicians, artists, anarchists, teachers, rural clans, urban escapees, and freaks of all kinds" that is hosted by some friends of mine up in Concrete, WA. Me and Dean Hedges (erstwhile bass player for Snake Suspenderz) camped, played in the show and had a great old time.

While there a lady named Melody told me about a great gig she knew about in Ellensburg, WA. She took my card and said she'd recommend me to the guy who sponsored the gig. Over the course of the last year I'd completely forgotten that conversation. But she didn't.

A few weeks back I got an email from a fella named Mark at the D & M Coffeehouse asking me if I wanted to play at their downtown location for their part of the big Jazz in the Valley fest. As a result, last Saturday the trio version of Snake Suspenderz -- me, Thaddeus and Andrew (aka Sketch) -- played one of the nicer gigs we've had.

continued after the break...

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Co-blogging at ezFolk

After 8 years of a static front page, Richard Hefner has changed the ezFolk site to have a blog as a front page. This is an idea that I toy with occasionally for my site, but haven't really explored fully.

The ezFolk site has gotten to the point where Richard is starting to delegate some stuff too. He's gotten at least one additional moderator for the ezFolk forums, and he's offered me the chance to be a co-blogger for the home page. I took it, and gladly. I've had my own ezFolk site for some time now -- and one for Snake Suspenderz that's been rather shamefully ignored -- and I've also enjoyed the forums. A little effort on my part doesn't seem like much trouble to help Richard out. He's gamely run the site all this time off of his own dime (and sweat equity like you wouldn't believe) all for free for us musos. 

So far all I've posted is a little "introducing me" entry, but I already have plans for a couple of entries for down the road.

As my regular readers here know, I have difficulties with the daily blog slog, so I've only promised 3 or 4 entries a month. If I do more, cool, if not, no problem.

There's an active community of ukulele players there (including Richard himself) but there's also info on all sorts of other instruments and a ton of musicians who post tunes there. Whether you're a player or a listener you'll find something to interest you.

Go check it out!

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Ukulele Evangelist interviews me

Todd Baio, the Ukulele Evangelist did an email interview with me recently.

Yeah, I'm posting this 5 days later, but you know how I am!

I keep seeing other folk in the uke scene being interviewed and was a trifle jealous. But it's not really the kind of thing you ask for, so I waited semi-patiently. I'm glad I did. He's just starting his blog and it looks like it's going to be a good one. Glad to be a part of the initial offerings.

Check out his entire blog. There's a lot of good stuff going on, especially (but not entirely) if you're a relative beginner.

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Only in Seattle

I'm really thinking I gotta get out of this place.

Seattle selling five troublesome toilets on eBay.

These little gems were scoffed at by thinking people long before this development. I mean, $1,000,000 per toilet? What were they thinking? That they could beat the Pentagon at stupid, wasteful (ahem... pardon the pun) expenditures? What's the prize for that?

But here we are, a mere 4 years later, trying to sell 'em off at a huge loss.

Starting bid of $89,000? That's less than 10% of what we (yeah, we, the taxpayers) spent on them in the first place.

What a shitty deal, hm?

And no, I'm not going to apologize for that pun.

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Ouch! That's gonna leave a mark!

I almost titled this one "With friends like these, who needs enemas?"

Men sentenced for setting friend's crotch ablaze.

Now, I like to take a drop or two, but not until I pass out and certainly not in the company of such jovial jokers.

Sheesh. Some people's kids, y'know?

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The ukulele can lead to all sorts of things

I have a Google Alert set up that mails me a daily digest of everything that it finds on the web (news stories, blog entries, etc.) that mentions my small, four-stringed friend. Sometimes you get the oddest results though.

For instance, the Polish version of the FCC has the acronym UKE. I could certainly learn more than I want to know about how Poland allocates bandwidth and such if I followed those links.

But today it led to something only tangentially uke-related, but delightful nonetheless. It's this interview in an Irish paper with Peter O'Toole. 

What a lovely old raconteur he is! May I please be something like that when I'm 74?

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Excellent music biz (life?) advice

Bob Baker just posted an email he received from Joe Vitale. I heartily concur.

Stop looking for reasons why your music career (or life in general) can't work. That's a self-fulfilling prophecy if ever there was one.

Let's just say that you strive and strive and never "make it" to whatever level you consider your goal. I'd say, "So what?"

I don't want to be lying on my deathbed regretting. And that's what you'll be doing if you subjugate your dreams to so-called reality. You may well have to make temporary compromises for current exigencies. But that's no excuse for giving up on your real happiness.

Look for the positive. Imagine the positive. Never give up. Never give in. Never say die.

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New ukulele

At about 3pm today the nice Mr. Postman delivered my new (to me) Tiki Flea ukulele. Soprano sized, of course.

This is the one with the rosewood fretboard upgrade instead of the stock plastic one. It also came with my favorite strings, Aquila NylGuts.

Now you may be thinking to yourself, "But Hob man, you're broke, how did you ever afford this?" And hell, under ordinary circumstances you'd be right. I just went to the the Fleamarket site and calculated the price of this new. Good grief! By the time you've added shipping you're near enough to $300 as to be no never mind. So how did I afford something like this? Well, it sorta went like...

My friend Nina Coquina (check out her MySpace too) emailed me. She said that she'd just bought the concert-sized version of it and was going to sell the soprano one. She knew I'd been lusting after one for some time and she offered me a price that, as it turns out, is less than half the price -- even when you include shipping -- of buying it new. The next day I'm at Pike Place Market thinking, "Boy, I don't have that kind of money but it is within my reach. I wonder how long I have to come up with it?" And while I'm thinking this two things happen.

One... a vendor at the Market came up to me and said she'd heard I knew about computers. Well, yep. She wanted some help with a specific situation and some general computer training.

w00t! There's a chunk right there.

Later that afternoon we got number two... Thaddeus called me up and allowed that we had a surprise (to me) gig at the Burien Strawberry Festival. The two together were enough "surprise" (aka un-planned for) money to pay for the uke. I considered this a message from the universe that this was my ukulele. Go for it!

But wait!

The very next day one of the vendors I used to work for called to offer me a "fill-in" day. OK. I wrote back saying, "I'll take it!"

As it turns out, the computer consult by itself raised the money.

I'm so happy!

When I first started getting serious about the ukulele, long about 7 years ago, the first ever person I found online that played was this fella named Tiki King. I downloaded all his songs and checked out his fabulous site. I also corresponded with him some. By this time I'd also discovered the Fleamarket Music site and their forum. At that point they were only making their larger uke, the Fluke. I looked into it when I was trying to get a decent player and liked it pretty well, but really wasn't into the shape of it (kinda like a balalaika) and I was also getting more hooked on the soprano size. Flukes are concert sized (and now, tenor as well).

Then, due to popular demand, they came out with the Flea. It was at first only soprano sized, but since then they've come out with a concert version. I played a couple and liked them a lot more than the Flukes, but I'd already gotten my Glyph and wasn't that interested.

Then Tiki King made a deal with the Magic Fluke Co. to design some of the faces of their ukes. That eventually included the Tiki Flea.

I had to have one.

But time went on and I couldn't really afford one. So it went on my "one o' these days" list.

Now, thanks to the kindness of Nina, I can afford one and I actualy have it in my sweaty little paws. It may be "used" but you sure can't tell by looking at it.

I have a uke collection now. (Four is a collection, dammit!) Never thought I'd see the day.

I'll take a "family" picture soon and post it here.

Meanwhile I'm going to go back to strumming.

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Bozo dies

Larry Harmon, the most famous Bozo the Clown, passed away yesterday at age 83.

While not the original Bozo, he played the part for years, bought the rights to the character and franchised them. He made millions off of the franchises, animation deals, product tie-ins, etc. Guess you might say that Bozo was no bozo.

He claimed to have trained 200 or more but I think they must have reproduced. There are countless bozos on the road today and many, many in government.

I don't know how famous Bozo is amongst generations younger than mine, but he was definitely a part of my growing up years, and, of course, the name has joined the vernacular. So I guess we're all bozos on this bus. 

R.I.P.

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Happy Fourth

...if you can stand the concept.

I've been sitting here mentally penning a screed on what the 4th is all about as (violently) opposed to what America seems to have become.

But I've been reading my usual blog list at the same time and I don't think that I could do half as well as Rogier van Bakel, a naturalized citizen, does here in his blog, Nobody's Business.

This Fourth take a few minutes amongst the barbeques, fireworks and such and ponder what it meant to our founding fathers. Maybe think a bit about what you can do to try and steer it back in that direction.

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