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At last you can get your Jazzed Desserts!

After much fumbling about and a truly hideous number of hours editing, I’ve finally put together a show based on an idea I got from Fran Snyder of ConcertsInYourHome.com.

They’re essentially a “mini house concert.” A brief gathering of friends for food, conversation and live music in an intimate and approachable setting. They’re easy and inexpensive to host. They’re strictly acoustic so you won’t upset the neighbors. (But you should invite them, they’re a great way to strengthen existing friendships and forge new ones.)

I’m available solo for these shows and with my duo, Hobbit & Hare. Currently we’re limiting this to the greater Seattle area, but we could be convinced to roam a bit farther in the future.

Find out all the details here.

Best Busking This Year (so far)

And to think, when I woke up last Sunday I thought the best thing that would happen to me was putting on new underwear!And to think, when I woke up last Sunday I thought the best thing that would happen to me was putting on new underwear! (Because I finally got around to replacing my elderly, tattered ones. And yes, it is kinda sad that this would be so exciting.)

The really scary part is that we almost didn’t do Sunday. Sketch had to move his art studio because the building it was in had just been sold and told me Friday that he might not be able to do the weekend. I said, “Can we skip Monday instead? Sunday has been really good to us.” Fortunately, he agreed.

So we came in to Pike Place Market on Sunday and were able to get the 10am and noon sets on our favorite busking spot. Our first set was a bit over $37 each (not bad at all) and then our second set was amazing. I don’t recall seeing that many bills larger than singles in a given set before. Two 20’s, a 10, and half a dozen 5’s. Add in the 1’s and the chump change and our second set was a bit over $67 each.

Do the math kids. That’s right, we each took home $100 (plus small change) for our two hours of playing. And Sketch was able to leave the market by about 1:30pm and still get some moving done.

It’s really not just the best this year, but in the top busking days ever!

And yeah, the new undies were nice too.

In The Immortal Words Of Han Solo

wpid-rooster-Image-Graphics-Fairy.jpg

don’t do this!

This past Sunday I did a class A “screw the pooch” maneuver. I could’ve avoided it altogether if I’d just paid attention to the terse advice Han gave to Luke way back in that first Star Wars movie. But I’m getting somewhat ahead of the story. It went something like this…

Until the Monday previous to this tale, the winter busking had been nearly entirely dismal. We (Hobbit & Hare) kept hoping for a sign that busking season had opened up, but we were barely getting blips on the proverbial graph. That Monday, for the first time this year, we managed to cross $50 each for a two set day. Our Thursday was a trifle lame, but on Friday we did slightly better than Monday. Excitement ensued. We decided that, with the holiday weekend and all, we’d give a try Sunday at Pike Place Market to see what we could do.

Turns out we could do surprisingly well. We got there in time to claim the 10am slot at our favorite busking spot, the Joe Desimone Bridge. For the first 30 minutes of our allotted hour the money was coming in at a very nice pace. Then, around the 35 minute mark, I broke a string.

Were I still playing guitar, that would be no big problem. As long as I had a replacement string, or the string broke at the bridge and I had space to repair it, I could be up and flying in 5 minutes or so. A ukulele’s nylon strings take a day or so to settle in. The busking day was over.

Fortunately, ukulele strings don’t break very often. I think this string was like number 12 in the 14 or so years I’ve been seriously banging on the uke. I had busking weeks with guitar where I broke more than 12 strings. Unfortunately, that leads to a false sense of security on the subject. And it’s right there that the poor old pooch got it.

See, I own 2 nice acoustic ukulele and 2 that I can plug into a sound system. I bought the second of each type specifically because I was concerned that when the rare string broke, it’d be barely into one of my paid shows. If you suddenly have to stop the show when busking it’s a bummer. If that happens at a paid gig you’ve managed to not only put a black mark on the ol’ reputation, but also to spoil someone else’s special event.

That’s a Bozo No No, Timmy.

Since I was so laser focussed on the paid gig aspect, and one of my constant rules in busking is to carry the least amount of gear possible, I let the overconfidence take charge and didn’t carry the spare on busking jaunts.

In short, I didn’t listen to Han when he said:

You can’t really tell how a busking crowd is going to react from one minute to the next, but we were well on track to having a set where each of us cleared $50+ when that string snapped. That’s very disheartening. Especially when it’s the result of your own fuck up.

So I’m going to listen to Han from now on and also to that other philosopher, Blind Blake, who said, “That’ll never happen no more.”

My First Birthday Present

modeling my new mustache wax

Yesterday was my 59th birthday. For whatever odd reason, this one depressed me somewhat. Probably the combination of a stressy winter that spring hasn’t done diddly to ameliorate, my usual struggles with the “art police” about what a fraud I am, and possibly a soupçon of the “incipient mortality blues.” But please don’t take this to mean the birthday was some unrelenting tragedy.

For one thing, my sweetie took me out for the Chinese Buffet. Also my little brother zapped me enough cash to not only refurbish my ailing main harmonica, but also to afford a bottle of decent bourbon. I’ve been drinking mostly cheap rye, so that’s a treat. But before all that, my first present arrived.

A little over a week ago I got some cash as an early birthday present from my sweetie’s mom. Having been out of mustache wax for a couple weeks, the first thing I did was take some of the money and order a replacement supply. This led to one of those fortuitous accidents.

I was searching for some Firehouse brand. I’d used it once before (thanks, Acep!) but hadn’t bought any of my own. While clicking on the links Google presented me, I discovered an extra firm hold was from a company called Can You Handlebar? and the description and reviews for it sounded like it was just the ticket. It’s called Secondary (the medium hold is called Primary) and I had it in my hot little paws two days after ordering it.

Terry Thomas

The picture of me was taken the day after I received the wax at about 7ish pm. I’d applied it around 10 hours before. You’ll note that it’s still in shape. The extreme angle on the bends and the little points are all still perfect. Prior to finding this wax even the firmest stuff I’d tried would have faded after that much time. I’d end up looking like I was sporting a miniature version of the Terry Thomas “frayed at both ends” ‘stache. It worked fine for Terry, but isn’t really the look I’m going for. I know it’s silly to be all excited about something as simple as this. But, as any of you regular readers will have discovered by now, I happily accept even the minor victories. And really, with all the time and energy I spend fussing with the thing, anything that makes life simpler is a good thing.

A New Video And Its Saga

OK… maybe not this much new lighting

Back on the 11th Hobbit & Hare played at the Gathering Grounds coffeehouse in Sultan, WA. My sweetie went along and snapped some pictures of us (using my phone) as well as getting a video of our last song. I had intended to give her the proverbial high sign a few times while we played in order to get more video, but I forgot.

Fortunately, she remembered.

Quick note for you tl;dr people. The video is at the bottom of the page.

Unfortunately, the lighting in the place wasn’t quite right for the video camera and the vid turned out really dark. I figured I’d sniff around on the Play Store for a video app that would let me jack about with the brightness and contrast so I could fix these sort of issues when they, inevitably, arose again.

So I sniffed around, downloaded several that showed up in my search, but it wasn’t until the third one that I found brightness and contrast adjustments. I tried it out and it seemed to work fine, except that when it came to saving, you got fed off into an ad. What joy! Not going to buy the thing if I don’t know whether iMovie will deal with the output. I kept searching but with no more luck.

I decided to give the close one another try. I reinstalled, did the adjustments, and lo! It actually saved the thing. Furthermore, iMovie agreed that it was indeed a video file it could chew on. The only drawback is that they’d put these big, broad, white stripes at the top and bottom, with a watermark in the bottom one.

No big deal. They’d made it plain that this was just the trial version. Certainly the ugly watermark shtick would go away with the “pro” version, right? So I uninstalled yet again, searched up the pro version on the App Store, paid my $9.99 (plus tax), and hit another reinstall.

Now it’s time to fire up the program–hey! cleaner UI, no ads!–load the video, do the adjustments, and save it out. It all went well. Now we’ll open it up in iMovie and… drumroll, please…

It still put the two damn white bars on the thing! But that’s not enough. Oh no, kids! On closer examination in iMovie, it turns out that the other program basically shrinks the video size down by half (in both height and width) and, to frost the fucking cake, reduces the definition. Even going back in and cropping the video doesn’t work. It just sticks the white bars and grey space back on.

So… several days have gone by now and I’ve edited the video three times. I finally decided just to make it a plain, one camera angle thing. At least the dark video has been mostly rescued.

It. Should. Not. Be. So. Difficult!

All the code to do all this stuff already exists. But the app writers are bent on a path of dumbing down the software to meet their idea of how dumb the users are.

OK. Thanks for putting up with my rant. Here’s the video. Check it out and let me know if it’s worth the trouble next time. If you like it, please share!

If for some reason the embedded video isn’t working you can watch it here.

The Mezzanine Jazz Scene

​Hobbit & Hare at the Capital Hill Station (pic by Dan Schindler)

​Hobbit & Hare appeared on March 17, 2017, at the Capital Hill Station, as part of the 1st Anniversary celebration of the U-Link light rail line opening. Thanks for having us, Sound Transit! And thanks to Ms Luz for the recommendation!

One interesting sidelight is that I use Mailchimp for my email newsletter. Recently I read about an odd ad campaign they’d started that was based on “something that rhymes with Mailchimp.” They chose about 8 or 9 entries. The mezzanine level of Capitol Hill Station (where we were playing) is decorated with the faux movie posters from that campaign. You can see the “KaleLimp” one right behind us, and a little strip of the “MailShrimp” one peeking out from behind the blue curtain. I’ve seen the MailShrimp video. It features a young fella in a big corporate mailroom. He’s wearing a hat like Freddy, the Mailchimp mascot, and is about to eat a shrimp sandwich. It’s one of the shrimp in the sandwich singing the MailShrimp song.

Very odd. I like it.