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What better way to end my second year of NaBloPoMo than on a high note? Today Thad, sal and I busked at the Ballard Sunday Market. A new variation on the Snake Suspenderz trio. This is the first time ever sal was there and the first time any of us has been there in well over a month. Sketch couldn't make it down today or we'd have done the whole band thing.
The Fallen Angel took me down there on her way to some errands she had to run. This got me there about about 9:30 am, a half-hour before the market officially opens. No buskers in sight so I simply camped out at our favorite spot. Shortly thereafter sal arrived and, right around 10 Thad got there.
Thad brought just his guitar and trombone (oh... and a harmonica or two), sal was totally tuba. I brought the big busking kit (with fancy tip bucket, signage, CD stand, etc.), my National reso soprano and Ohana sopranino ukuleles, and a few harmonicas.
We played, took a break and played some more. Total playing time was less than two hours, probably closer to 90+ minutes. Except for a few tunes, we had a crowd gathered for the whole time.
We had a little girl (who, as it turns out has very sensitive hearing and a big love for music) stand in front of us for several songs, hands over her ears, but totally zoned in on us anyway. I wanted a picture of her for our web site. "Our average audience."
We had a little girl and her mom come up just before we started our second round of playing. She (the girl) wanted to try the instruments. She couldn't have been more than 5 or so but dang if she didn't manage to get a note or two out of the tuba! She strummed a bit on my ukulele as well.
We cheered her on.
It's our job, you know. Not just "a musician's job to encourage the young'uns towards making their own" -- though that's pretty important -- it's a matter of everybody should share those kind of experiences with kids. That's what makes for curious and thinking adults.
We need more of the latter.
We had dancing babies. We loves us some dancing babies.
We had CD sales and tips.
And I mean, tips.
In that short period of time we brought in a tad over $30 each. Plus the CD money. I'll finally be able to get my newest uke back to its builder for the bit of bridge tweakage it needs. Shipping it off tomorrow.
It was also just a blast playing music with my friends -- and to an appreciative audience. Snake Suspenderz has a rehearsal later this week and a gig next Saturday night. I can hardly wait to play again.
As the last bit of this year's NaBloPoMo I'd like to say thanks to all you regular readers for... well... reading this blog regularly!
If you're a phellow uke-phreak reading this, and you haven't already joined up with the Ukulele Social Club, I encourage you to do so.
It is one of the Ning.com social networks. Ning allows you to form your own social network (about anything) and has lots of built-in goodies to keep things interesting.
The Ukulele Social Club is like MyUkeSpace, with extras. It combines your own profile page, the ability to post blogs, comments, videos, audio files, photos, and forums on topics you decide all in one place. Plus special interest groups (within the main subject of the network) and lots more.
The Ukulele Social Club was started by Marcy Marxer, a Grammy award winning folk musician, children's entertainer, and ukulele phreak. As of this writing there are about 116 members (I am member #10), and it's still a young project.
The more, as they say, the merrier. Come and help make this the "Web 2.0" ukulele gathering place.
Not only does this qualify for both the "just plain cool" and the "just plain weird" tags, but I also got to learn a new word, ullage. That's just plain cool all over again.
Doug Skinner is, btw, one of my ukulele heroes. You can find out just why by checking out this video of Doug performing "Are You Havin' Any Fun?" on the Midnight Ukulele Disco site. No flash. Just substance, humor and charm.
That's what I'm talking about!
Watch some of his other videos too. You'll like 'em.
A couple weeks ago I was on the bus on lower 1st Avenue in downtown Seattle, heading north. It was at the beginning of the "peak hour" and the bus was already filling up with commuters, most of them heading out to Ballard like me. Being one of the articulated buses, this meant quite a few folks. I was sitting in the rear section.
For those of you unfamiliar with Seattle's Metro bus system, the core downtown area is a free ride zone for most of the day.
I watched a guy get on the bus via the front door. He walked back and sat on one of the side facing seats, right on the part where the bus bends when cornering. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out one of the little "airline bottles" of some sort of booze, opens it, and sucks it down. By this time we're already pulling up to the next stop. The doors open and he gets up and exits via the back door.
And it's a good thing I love the great oaf. Because just a few minutes ago, while finishing up a last task before making my daily NaBloPoMo entry, he decided he had to check out the little space to the right of my computer desk. It apparently looked Jack-sized to his one beady little eye.
(And Jack-sized is quite substantial as you'll discover if you click the photo and view it in its popup. There's a case of motor oil partially visible behind him for scale. He's about 20 pounds of puss.)
In the process of his exploration he stepped on the powerstrip's switch and turned my computer off.
Of course, he gives me the little kitteh "What?" look when I hollered at him about it.
Fortunately, I'm running Ubuntu Linux. On the old Windoze box I'd have to wait while it chided me for turning off without permission and checked out to make sure it hadn't hosed anything up in the process.
I also use Firefox as my browser. So when I fired it back up it told me it had shut down unexpectedly and politely asked if I'd like to go back to what I was doing when it happened. All three tabs opened up where I was and I just continued on like nothing had happened.
All in all, it was a more successful busking day than this past Friday. I had a real good first set (solo ukulele) and the second set (with Thad) wasn't awful, but it could have been better.
It was mainly marred by this woman who was wandering around selling puppies. Yep.
She gathered a crowd of more than a dozen and blocked traffic right in front of where we were playing. They had two of the crafts booths jammed up and were so close to our tip bucket that I know they cost us somewhere between $5 and $10 in missed gratuities. She ate up better than 10 minutes of our allotted hour.
And she was not supposed to be there, doing that.
We are not amused.
I must say the new stand for the CDs worked well -- though no sales from it as yet -- and being able to get the "please tip for photos" sign up off the floor helped quite a bit. I saw a number of photographers actually noticing the sign and tipping.
After the second set I went up to the bus stop and, because of the Seahawks game, waited for more than an hour. I only saw two buses in that time, where there should have been four. And both of them were packed to the gills.
I decided that I had better things to do than stand, freezing and cursing, waiting for the mess to clear up so I could get home. I phoned my friend Chris (who lives near the Market) and visited with him and his bird Phineas for an hour or so.
Much as I may be tempted to blow it off, if the weather isn't too hideous tomorrow, I'm going out again.
Can't catch a fish if you don't throw your line in.
To the left you'll see a picture of my new, improved cd stand for the busking rig. You can click it and the other pic for a larger version (in a popup).
For the longest time when any iteration of Snake Suspenderz went out to busk we'd set our CDs up leaning against a case or leaning against the fancy tip bucket's stand. This made them subject to being trod upon, kicked around and otherwise abused. As you might imagine, that sort of thing did not put any of us into our happy place.
Then Thad found a cool cigar box and bought it. The box happens to be the perfect size to carry two stacks of CDs in. I made a sign for under the lid and things were a bit better. We'd sit the box between and a little ahead of us and it didn't get kicked around much. But then, it also didn't attract much attention there on the ground and thus, we still weren't selling a lot of CDs.
I took my Tiki Flea ukulele out to Pike Place Market and did some solo busking today. I arrived prior to the day stall people's roll call time and wandered about a bit, coming back to the bridge spot in time to catch the 11:00 am set.
I played the set (for a measly 12 bucks) and then, because while I was playing a bunch of other buskers arrived and lined up, I waited around in the cold for 4 hours, finally playing my second set at 4 pm.
I about froze my fiddly bits off whilst waiting. I don't know the actual temperature, but with the breeze going it was cold. I did a lot of wandering about, visiting with the craftspeople and sales agents, just trying to stay warm.
To my utter surprise, the second set was (marginally) better than the first. I had waited all that time pretty sure that it was going to be a bust.
Last night Thad and I went out to an open mike. We saw lots of friends there and listened to some good tunes. The place was so thick with musicians that each of us only got one song.
Thad and I (Snake Suspenderz Classic) played my song, Daisy Fraser, on ukulele and trombone. Shortly after our set we sold two of our $10 CDs and one of the $5 ones. Due to how the money is split up between the people on the recordings, that meant we made $10 each for our one song.
Today we went busking at the Pike Place Market. In two sets (an hour per set) we made about $2 more (each) than last night.
Every weekday morning I do 4 online crosswords with my coffee. I have to do something to get the brain firing after all. Weekends it's only 3 because, for whatever reason, the USA Today one takes weekends off. In any event...
This morning one of the puzzles had the clue "It provides the bass line" and the answer was "tuba."
This amused me (and was an easy one for me) as my band, Snake Suspenderz, features salamandir holding down the bass line on, yep, tuba.
Well, it amused me, but it could just be one of those "guess you had to be there" things.
It starts with a simple, short ragtime piece that I cobbled together from this demo by Pete Howlett of his new Cherrylele, a lovely little soprano ukulele made of indigenous (to the UK) woods. Add in a bit from one of Pete's earlier tutorial vids, tart it up some, and here you have it.
I only blather on for about 40 seconds after the tune. If you're one of the subscribers I'm blathering to, thanks again!
I also used this as an excuse to play around a bit more with iMovie, using some small fades and "cross-dissolves." I like that a lot better than just the picture snapping into place and starting to play. Hopefully I'll be able to master it enough to do a fancy one I've plotted out in my fevered brain. We'll see.
A quick note to other (non-ukulele-centric) bloggers that might be reading this. I'd like to expand views on my videos to more folks who don't watch just because it's a uke vid. So...
If this is something you'd normally do in your blog and...
If you dig one or the other of my vids...
Could you please spread it about a bit? Embed and/or link?
The third day of this year's NaBloPoMo I was checking the blogroll to see if mine had made it to the list. It hadn't (at the time) but I discovered Uku-Ali's blog. She was playing her Fluke and singing "All of Me," one of my favorite tunes, and one that I have on YouTube. I think she has a fabulous voice and I like her clean, solid uke accompaniment as well. Here she is performing "All of Me."
I immediately added her blog to my RSS aggregator and have been enjoying her daily posts ever since. I keep expecting to see her on Ukulele Hunt, but so far, nope. So I decided I'd just have to "scoop" Woodshed on this. Maybe he'll read this and put another one of her vids on his Saturday UkeTube or one of his other features.
It's been a looooong day. Tired as I am though, I'm not giving up on successfully completing my second NaBloPoMo. So a quick report on my day.
Once again I was at Pike Place Market, flogging Tom's smartass t-shirts. Sales were hideously slow for most of the day. I made about a third of my sales in the last 90 minutes.
Proof positive that persistence pays.
The good parts?
I did cross $400 in sales for the second day in a row, just not as large a final total today. But between the two days I got enough to pay off Thad for the melodica, slip some more money to the Fallen Angel, buy food and drink and still have a reasonable chunk of cheese left over for later.
Also, during the real slow time mid-day, I went out and, in addition to buying lunch, I purchased a new mechanical pencil. The old one developed a nasty habit of not holding the lead properly, so it kept slipping back up into the barrel of the thing. Very annoying when one is trying to write something down, hm?
To celebrate my new pencil, I pulled the moleskine out of my bag and wrote a whole verse and part of a second on a new song. When I finish hammering out the lyrics I think I'll hand 'em over to Thad and let him come up with the chords/tune. He's much better at that part than I am.
Plus, when Thad brought over the melodica, he played a tune he'd just recently penned called "I Know How Sausage Is Made" and I like it. And yet another original tune for the CD.
Yeah! That's what I'm talking about.
We want to do a CD large enough to put up on CD Baby and consisting of mostly original tunes. We're going to find a (or maybe two) tune(s) to cover that we think folk will search for. Hopefully when the search, they'll check out our version and buy the CD.
Today I sold t-shirts (with assorted smarty-ass sayings on them) at the Pike Place Market. My friend Tom Graham makes them. I have several that say things like, "The liver is evil, it must be punished" and other such bon mots.
I was set up next to a fellow named Adam who, along with a lady (who I believe is his wife) makes and sells macrame and bead bracelets with your named spelled out in them. He not only has a huge array of premade names but will happily whip out a custom one for you. I told him what I'd like and about a half hour later he gives me the bracelet you see in the thumbnail photo to the left (click it to make it larger).
I've taken another picture (that you can see to the right here) showing a bit of the red and sort of silvery-charcoal grey beads that make up the rest of the bracelet.
I didn't get a pic of this, but at one end of the bracelet there's a loop and at the other is a small button (just a regular, black shirt button) that serve as a clasp to the bracelet.
if you're a ukulele phreak like me and would like a similar bracelet, you can contact them via their website, Name Bracelets and order your own. For less than $10 (including tax) you can own one yourself. And if you're not local they'll ship it to you for free.
I was (and am) way broke and would have gone out to busk today except all week the forecast has been "cold, rainy and generally shitty."
But lo! Starting about mid-morning and lasting well into the afternoon it was sunny (if a bit brisk) and generally lovely. Coulda got at least one set of ukulele strumming goodness in. Damn weather guessers! They're starting in on the default "it'll probably rain" already and the worse the weather is likely to be the more accurate I need the forecasts.
I don't want to freeze my fiddly bits off but I'd definitely like to busk as often as possible through the nasty season.
Shakespeare might have been wrong about killing all the lawyers first.
Well. No. Probably not.
I did have two pieces of musical goodness today though. The melodica that Thaddeus ordered for me came in today (a day early, no less!) and Thad and I chiseled, filed and sanded at the lyrics to the song I mentioned in a recent post and we have it at least to the "let's try it out on the band" level.
I'll have some pics of the melodica soon and just as quick as we can get a good "rehearsal tape" of the new tune I'll post about it here.
Time for beddy bye now. I'm flogging smart-ass t-shirts for my friend Tom at Pike Place Market for the next couple days and need my *cough* beauty *cough* sleep.
In one of the odder coincidences lately, just three days ago I posted about Yo-Yo Ma & Friends and the tune they did that featured accordion and bagpipes. Today I'm in the Ukulele Underground forums and a member there named HailelSela posted a link to a vid of him and one of his bandmates doing a tune on ukulele, accordion and bagpipes!
He lives in Germany and his full band is called Bordunrausch and is a quartet. I can't find a web site for them though.
Partisan hacks, the infamous media and a seemingly endless array of pundits slave away daily trying to split the USA in half. If we're split in half, why did more than 60% of us turn out to vote last Tuesday?
I can't find a hard number yet that I can trust, but it's definitely 60%+. And we may be heading for a record turnout when all the absentee ballots and such have been accounted for.
Could it be that red, blue or other, the majority of us still care about our country?
I think so.
The fabulous Ze Frank has set up an area on his site called from 52 to 48 with love. It'll probably bring a tear to your eye. But it is exactly what America is supposed to be about.
It has been pointed out that Ze's stats are a bit off. It should be 53/46 with the remaining 1% being third party voters like myself. I find it amusing to be a one percenter when considering what the biker community means by the term.
Yes, sir. Me, Willy, and the rest of the outlaws.
All that aside, come 1/20/09 Mr. Obama will be our president. Disagree with him when you need to (I know I will) and cheer him on strongly when you agree (I'll do that too). Different voices, striving for consensus, are the foundation of our Republic.
But red, blue or outlaw, let's listen to each other a bit more and yell at each other a bit less. We're all in this together and it'll make for a greater USA.
It's ok, you Democrats and any independent sorts can read it too. It's a humorously slanted but quite hard-hitting screed in the Weekly Standard titled, We Blew It, written by a fella called P.J. O'Rourke.
While I don't agree with Mr. O'Rourke on 100% of his positions, this goes a long way towards explaining why someone of my conservative bent would be so upset about folks thinking the the soon-to-be-defunct regime we've toiled under for the better part of a decade are actually conservatives.
And no, slapping a "neo-" on the title doesn't make it any more true.
You all know by now how much I like music with oddball instrumentation. So how about world-famous cellist, Yo-Yo Ma on the John Colbert show along with his friends on percussion, double bass, accordian and bagpipes?
A month or so ago Thaddeus mentioned he had an idea for a song and briefly described it. He was working on a chord progression for it and had a title and concept. I thought it was a great idea.
Today he came and visited me and in the course of chatting mentioned he'd come up with the chords but hadn't done much more lyrically. I pointed towards my guitar and said, "Let's hear it."
As a quick aside... I haven't touched my guitar in months and when he pulled her out of the case, she was still in tune. Not bad for a cheapie. And she sounds good too.
Long story short... we hammered together a number of verses and one bridge.
Still needs another bridge and all of it could stand some filing and polishing but I'm pretty chuffed about there being some new Snake Suspenderz material. We really have to get a recording together that features the new lineup and we all want it to be original material rather than covers.
We're hoping to have a rehearsal in the very near future. If at all possible, we'll make this one our next rehearsal tape.
When I posted my first (quite lame) video on my YouTube channel way back on May 12, 2007, it was more in the nature of an experiment than anything else. My girlfriend had taken it from way the hell in the back balcony of the Columbia City Theater with a very cheap digital camera that also did videos. It was just lil' ol' me, playing solo ukulele as part of a Burning Hearts Burlesque show.
The camera's mechanical zoom wasn't sufficient and its software zoom was simply bogus. The result was a very dark video. The audio was, at best, OK, but the only time you could see me was in the microsecond flashes when someone in the audience snapped a pic. Fine then. It was, after all, just an experiment.
I'd like many of you to wake up too, but I fear that's too much to hope for.
But that's not my rant. The folks who voted so overwhelmingly for Obama, no matter what I might think about their ideology or their apparent lack of constitutional knowledge, did one thing that many libertarians did not.
They showed up at the polls and voted their conscience.
For that I salute them.
As an aside, the most rabid of Mr. Obama's supporters seem to think he can wave a magic wand and everything will be all roses and rainbows again. I only hope that they will come to their senses enough to do what I plan to do re: our new president.
Give the man a chance.
Don't expect miracles. Let him work as hard as he can for what says he believes in, but don't expect it all overnight.
If given a chance, he may actually do some good for our country. I want that to happen and will support our new president in any of those endeavors.
My real vitriol is saved for those whose comments I've read on various libertarian blogs and such who have haughtily held their noses up and exclaimed how they just weren't going to vote for anyone, not even Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate who got my vote. One said something to the effect of "I won't give my permission for anyone to lord it over me."
Newsflash, dickhead. You just cast your vote for the Obama/McCain ticket.
I knew Barr didn't have the proverbial snowball's chance of winning. I simply wanted to cast my vote in the, apparently vain, belief that enough of us voting together could raise the profile of the Libertarians (or Green Party or Constitutional Party or any other "third" -- really, second -- party) so that the main stream media, the gatekeepers of the debates and the populace in general would have to pay at least some attention to other ideas.
So thanks a bunch, assholes. I hope that you feel all ideologically pure as you watch the parts of the constitution our recent fascist masters haven't trod upon get stomped on by the new socialist-leaning near-overwhelming majority.
I'm sure you'll have all sorts of sniffy little rants in the various online comments sections. But I won't pay attention to them any longer than it takes to click the "thumbs down" buttons next to them.
It's going to be an interesting four years.
Good luck Mr. Obama. And good luck to all the rest of us as well.
So yesterday I write up a brief precis of my adventures and made note of the fact that I'm very tired by the end of the day. Indeed, I fell asleep lots earlier than I usually do.
And then some drunken fuck calls me up at 1 am!
I don't even know what language he was speaking. Thunderbird? Mad Dog 20/20? Sterno?
Let's just leave aside the fact that it costs me a dime on my pay-as-you-go cell phone every time I hit "send" (which of course, you also do when answering). I was tired and that does not make for a happy conversation (brief as it was) with some stranger in the wee hours.
So, if you must get drunk and phone somebody, stick to those that are already in your phone's memory. Don't try to hand dial anybody.
As an aside... "dialing the phone" is an interesting bit of dead language. When was the last time you used a dial telephone?
I use my cell phone as my alarm clock. I had decided last night that, unless the weather was incredibly filthy, I'd go to the Pike Place Market and busk a set or two.
Even though the morning roll call is later on Sundays -- for the craftspeople, buskers don't do a roll call -- I figured I'd get up at my usual time of 6:30 am. I could then have enough time for coffee, crosswords and the rest of my my morning routine and hop in the shower as well. Then catch a ride with my housemate who has to be there by roll call.
So the alarm goes off, I go downstairs and start the coffee, use the bathroom, etc. I wait around long enough for the coffee to reach the point where I can grab a cup and head upstairs. It's now around 6:45 am.
I fire up the computer and log in. I glance at the time. It's now about 5:50 am.
Then the light slowly dawns, in my feeble brain at least. Outside it's still quite dark.
I have my main computer -- running Ubuntu Linux -- automagically contact the US Naval Observatory's cesium clock everytime I boot up and it syncs my clock. If I'd have paused to think about it, which I didn't, I would have assumed that the cell phone would get the message about going back to standard time whenever it pinged to see if there was a tower close enough to get a good signal.
Apparently it either doesn't ping regularly, or the cell signal doesn't carry that info. It wasn't until I shut the phone off and restarted it that it copped to what time it actually was.
So I got a very early start today.
I did go down and busk a couple sets. I did it solo because I thought that the weather was going to be somewhat nastier than it turned out so I didn't contact Thad to see if he wanted to join me. The hat wasn't anything to get too excited about but nothing to cry about either.
Then I had a little adventure driving my housemate's van back home (long story why) but I took care of it too.
I've been home a while, I'm fed, and I'm tired. Luckily I have only one more thing I must do (besides posting this for NaBloPoMo) and then, if I feel the need, I can happily crash out.
Yesterday saw the passing of a Chicago (and nationwide) legend, Studs Terkel.
Author, television and radio personality, jazz afficionado, unrepentant liberal -- even through the years, such as the McCarthy era, where such a label could get you into serious trouble -- Studs has been memorialized in this wonderful obituary in the Chicago Tribune.
His self-chosen epitaph? "Curiosity did not kill this cat."
This is my first post in my second year of NaBloPoMo; National Blog Posting Month.
The idea is simple. Post at least once per day for the month of November.
I successfully completed it last year and was very pleased. It didn't lead to a post a day for the rest of the year, but it definitely led to more posts this last year than any of the previous years I've been blogging.
I'm hoping to complete it successfully this year and even increase my next year's posts. Heck, I might even win one of the prizes.