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Goodnight, Miss Kappelhoff

I know what you’re thinking — that doesn’t look like Doris Day! I nicked it from the Wikipedia article (which also says she’s 97, though most of the articles I read said 95).

She’s gone, anyway. And a very decent sort of lady she seemed, too.

Once upon a time, I collected 78 rpm records. One day, I picked up a few of Doris Day’s thinking, “ha ha — it’s Doris Day!” Ignorant little minx, me. In fact, she was a highly successful torch singer before she went to Hollywood and seriously debated with herself whether she’d rather sing than act.

I won’t opine on the debate, but I’d like to share my favorite Doris Day record: Say Something Nice About Me. A superficially sweet song with a deeply bitter aftertaste.

And, of course, Uncle Al won the dick. I expect to see you all back here Friday. 6pm WBT. DEAD POOL ROUND 121.

May 13, 2019 — 9:28 pm
Comments: 14

Presented without remark

crumb

alsocrumb

This song came across my feed today. I present it without comment. Never heard it before, not going to favorite it, but I am — I admit this — an unironic, unapologetic fan of R Crumb and the Cheap Suit Serenaders.

Yes, I have some inkling what a perv Crumb is. Please not to be telling me details. I like this music.

I have all his albums but the first one which, as far as I was aware, was never re-issued on CD.

But wait — I’m wrong! Looky here. It was reissued. In 2002. In…Japan?

Oh, Japan! I ain’t paying £250 for a Robert Crumb album.

January 15, 2018 — 8:58 pm
Comments: 13

…and then the band…

theband

The Morris dancers were dancing to this snappy quartet. I have to assume the tuba is not generally a part of English folk music.

Is that a tuba? Or is it one of the odd ones, like a ‘baritone horn’ or something? My dad played a mystery horn of about that size toward the end of his life. He was very deaf. Said it helped him with his breath. Ye gods, was that fun to be around.

Short shrift again tonight. I’ve been cleaning closets. This is a bit of a lie, as they don’t have closets here.

They don’t have closets here. Let that sink in a moment.

But we have several funny little dead-end alcoves where shit gets stuffed haphazardly, waiting for the inevitable shit avalanche. It is now sorted into varieties of shit and stacked in neat boxes.

October 25, 2017 — 9:29 pm
Comments: 15

Physics. Huh.

phu

Here’s an article about the physics of the banjo. Specifically, why it twangs.

It starts thusly: “Today, we get an answer thanks to the work of David Politzer at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, who in his spare time, is a Nobel prize-winning theoretical physicist.” Call me crazy, but I’m guessing theoretical physicist is his day job and this banjo thing is something he does in his spare time, but that’s about the last thing I understood.

It’s fucking physics, man. Of course I didn’t understand it.

This I got. I think. If a sound vibration is matched with a vibration that is similar and several tens of hertz higher, it sounds plinky. You can (apparently) make this happen in Audacity by making a sound and screwing with it. It doesn’t apply to things like guitars and violins because wood tops aren’t as springy as a banjo head.

But I got all tangled up in the difference between the frequency of the sound and the frequency of the vibration. And that made me feel stupid. And that made me sad.

Don’t be sad, Weasel! It’s the weekend!

February 24, 2017 — 8:41 pm
Comments: 18

RIP Dr Stanley

ralphstanley

Ralph Stanley died last week, and that’s an end to all the original men of Bluegrass, I suppose.

I know it doesn’t seem like it, but Bluegrass was strictly a Twentieth Century musical style. It borrowed heavily from traditional music, of course, but it was a highly formalized and particular form that started with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys (hence the name), particularly when Earl Scruggs joined them in 1945.

Stanley and his brother Carter had performed together since the late Forties, though Carter drank himself to death in the Sixties. Their sound was very heavily Appalachian. Ralph’s singing style was typical of the genre — a high-pitched, whining sort of sound called “high lonesome” and often compared to a ghost wailing through a forest. It’s eerie. And probably an acquired taste.

Listen to the chorus of The Fields Have Turned Brown to hear what I mean.

Stanley’s career had a sudden resurgence late in life when he did the soundtrack for the Coen Brothers’ film O Brother Where Art Thou. The album — particularly the song Man of Constant Sorrow — was a surprise hit.

As a personal aside, I hated that fucking film. It was the beginning of the end for me and the Coen Brothers. Films like Fargo poked fun of people but seemed to do it with affection, but O Brother was full of tone deafness and sneering contempt. But good on Ralph for ending his life on a high note (oh, pun, I suppose).

And thus a sad footnote to a strange week. Good weekend, everyone!

sock it to me

July 1, 2016 — 9:17 pm
Comments: 13

Weirdness

peghead

At the stroke of midnight I made my deadline! I hate to take on freelance work and never solicit it, but when I get axed I don’t know how to say no. Particularly as it’s a display for a local charity.

Charities. Making you feel guilty since…forever.

Anyhoo, in the comments to the previous post, the question came up — why does that banjo have four strings, but six tuners? See, this is why I love British banjos. They’re so gosh-darned weird.

That is actually a five-string banjo, and it’s strung typically for a zither banjo. Observe the headstock in the picture above (a banjo of mine, and one that I’m convinced was made out of a piano stool).

Four strings go directly from the headstock, across the nut to the bridge. One goes into a little hole (indicated by the arrow), under the fingerboard in a tube, and pops out at the fifth fret. That’s called a ‘tunneled fifth.’

And the sixth peg? Just for show. Some British banjo makers claimed that three pegs on one side and two on the other just wouldn’t look aesthetically pleasing, so they made the tuners pointlessly symmetrical.

I once suspected that this was boolsheet and they did it because standard three-on-a-side tuners were mass produced and cheaper, but you sometimes see this arrangement on the fanciest and most expensive of zither banjos. So…artard, I guess.

Sorry I gave you short shrift this week. What the hell is shrift, come to think of it? Oh. Google says it’s confession, like to a priest. If you give shrift, you are shriven. Okay. Back here tomorrow, 6pm WBT — DEAD POOL ROUND 86!


sock it to me

June 9, 2016 — 11:10 pm
Comments: 7

Mine! All mine!

banjo

Look at this fugly beast. JUST LOOK AT IT! This is probably the ugliest banjo I’ve ever seen, and now it belongs to me.

Well, it will do, if the eBay seller ever puts it in the post. The suspense is killing me.

banjo2

If I’d known Britain was the Land of Goofy Banjos, I’d have moved here years ago. This will be goofy banjo number ten, if anyone is keeping score (eleven, if I manage to pull off the ukulele conversion I’ve been playing with). Though technically, this one is (probably) Swiss. From the description:

Here is my uncles old banjo he had in his shed I don’t know exactly how old it is but I’m 50 and remember he had when we were kids my auntie said that he bought it backdrop abroad before she knew him when he was in the army and she thinks it was Switzerland and can only remember him say he got it off an old man on a farm who made it for his loved one

That’s right, it’s a lurve banjo.

It’s a proper five string. Four store-bought ones either side, and then see that peg in the middle? The one that looks like it was chewed out of a rutabaga by a frenzied mink? That’s the fifth string peg: the string goes under the fretboard below the nut and pops out again at the fifth fret (that little white dot is the fifth-string nut). Very common feature in goofy British banjos (actually, a tunneled fifth is now an option on custom-made fine American banjos, one of which this emphatically isn’t).

These old things often don’t age well, owing to some of their more eccentric design features. But, then, they don’t cost much, either. And it’s not like they’re musical instruments or anything.


sock it to me

March 1, 2016 — 9:15 pm
Comments: 13

Night in the old town

stmaryinthecastle

Steeleye Span was very good. The crowd was very old, but we made a respectable amount of noise. Booze was served. A good time was had by all.

The venue was something else. Believe it or not, that neoclassical thing in the middle of the picture was built as a church. The picture is maybe 1915. The building has recently been renovated into an arts center, St Mary in the Castle.

You’re not aware of it so much; it doesn’t look like that from the outside. You enter through a nondescript modern glass box down at the base there, but then you find yourself in a lovely semicircular hall. With a dome. And pillars. And less than comfortable straight-backed chairs, but we’ll ignore that for the moment. It’s early days and they haven’t got everything worked out yet.

Like the acoustics. The sound was kind of muddy and the instrument separation wasn’t good. Not enough to ruin the gig — not by a long shot — but those pillars play merry hell with the sound system.

But it was very impressive and pretty easy for us to get to. Hope they have some more good stuff there in future. Good night!

sock it to me

December 11, 2015 — 12:19 am
Comments: 6

This is old

cocker

This came up in conversation today. Now that I’ve looked it up, I might as well share.

I can’t find a reference, but per my memory: the story goes that a guy made this and sent it to his girlfriend for her birthday (you’ll see a dedication to April). And then it went viral, back in the happy olden times before “go viral” was a thing people said.

If you’ve not seen it before, enjoy.

sock it to me

August 20, 2015 — 10:57 pm
Comments: 9

I bought a sad ukulele

uke

I bought this at the country fair. It is a sad, sad ukulele. The brand and model is a Jetel 5 and it has 1937 written inside in pencil (also Dalington, Sussex and a name I can’t quite make out).

I managed to get it completely apart without breaking any of the metal bits (metal fatigue is a serious problem in these old things) so I stand a chance of getting it all put back together again.

Don’t ask me why. My shriveled stump of a maternal instinct is triggered by grubby stray animals and really messed up gear (the guys at my shooting range offered to help me buy smarter after I came in with a succession of crappy handguns. Crappy handguns that I loved, thank you anyway fellas).

I already have an excellent uke. I’m thinking of making this one into a piccolo banjo, if I can figure out a clever way to hang a fifth string off’n the fifth fret.

sock it to me

August 11, 2015 — 8:58 pm
Comments: 15