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July 31st, 2016

09:11 am - RAH-BERT CRAY!

Wow. What a show at the Admiral last night!

B.B. King famously said "The Blues ain't about the notes that you play; The Blues are all about what's in between the notes..." No one takes this to heart like Robert Cray. It's utterly amazing how much emotion he wrings out of every single note. Poetry pours through his fingertips and flows from the frets of his Fenders.

I've always enjoyed and admired his guitar virtuosity and songwriting talents, but last night's show gave me a new appreciation of his stunning vocal range and expressiveness. Thanks Admiral Theater for bringing this class act to Bremerton!

Current Mood: In Awe
Current Music: Robert Cray Band: "Sittin' On Top of the World"

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June 18th, 2016

07:22 am - What ABOUT the Guns?

Cheryl Wheeler is one of my favorite folkies. She's written two takes on modern American gun culture. The first was a tongue-in-cheek send-up of fear-driven paranoia. [Is there any other kind?]

As mass shootings became more and more a part of our daily lives, her tone changed and she wrote a song much closer to her heart. I can't say I agree with her 100%, but it's time for her views to be heard, considered, and discussed. We have to do SOMETHING; we need to at least begin a dialogue to find a better way.

Here are links to both of her songs on the subject:
Don't Forget the Guns: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23Zw8NmxItE
If It Were Up to Me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Op7agdIFOGY

Current Mood: Apprehensive
Current Music: Cheryl Wheeler: "If it Were Up to Me"

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June 15th, 2016

10:10 am - Stagnated Second…

The Second Amendment is what it is. Its intent is to prevent the overreach of our government.

Our Founding Fathers designed our Constitution to be a living document that evolves along with our society. The Second Amendment has not. Instead it has been held hostage by a sect of self-proclaimed patriots that are the civic equivalent of radical religious fundamentalists.

The Second Amendment is obsolete. If it weren’t, I’d be able to keep a fully-armed F-18 at the edge of the back forty to bring to bear against the US Air Force should the Feds get a little to frisky. Or: How about an M1 tank in the barn to repel the infantry or a missile battery on the roof to shoot down the black helicopters? “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

Really? In this day and age the Second Amendment is powerless to fulfill its intent. It’s no longer possible to hold our government accountable through the threat of armed insurrection. The Second Amendment is overdue for amending, if not out-right abolishment. Until then, it is what it is: The Law of the Land. We will continue to suffer these obscene tragedies in our society as long as it remains so.

It’s long past time to turn to the ballot box and not the ammo box to ensure our government does our bidding. I think they call that “Democracy”.

Current Location: Saluting the Flagpole
Current Mood: Angry; discouraged; encouraged; sad.
Current Music: Cheryl Wheeler: "Don't Forget the Guns"

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June 11th, 2016

01:18 pm - Trading Circadia for Cascadia…
Dana Lyons is known for infusing his music with healthy doses of humor. (“Cows With Guns” is practically a cult phenomenon.) But what really sets him apart is the passion he pours into his music; a passion that stems from his deep emotional connection and commitment to Mother Earth. But to do what he does so superbly requires SO much more than mere talent (which he has in spades) and intense passion; it demands determination, dedication, and a mountain of courage.

It was an almost embarrassingly small turnout for his show last night at the Kitsap Unitarian Fellowship, but that didn’t diminish Dana’s passion one whit. The intensity and pure joy pouring from his performance fueled an enthusiasm that I hope made up for our small numbers. There were lots of laughs (of course!), but in contrast, this song had me wiping tears from my cheek. Amplifying its intensity was the story behind its creation. (But to hear that, you’ll have to go see him for yourself…)

The events of the evening gave me lots to mull over, which kept the little wheels in my brain spinning until after 03:00, five hours past my normal pass-out; but what the hell, it’s the weekend. Of course I compensated by sleeping in five hours until 09:30. I just hope I can resync my circadian clock before it’s time to get up for work when the weekend’s over...

Current Location: Looking out on the Great Salish Sea...
Current Mood: Recovering from Wow!
Current Music: Dana Lyons: "The Great Salish Sea"

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May 18th, 2016

11:39 am - Visitors...

My spine was on strike this morning. I was trying to coax it into coming back to work with some limbering and stretches in the back yard when I noticed I had company. They stayed around long enough for me to lumber into the house for a camera.

I always look forward to the red hot pokers coming into bloom. Sure, I enjoy their aesthetics for their own sake, but what I really like about them is how much the humming birds REALLY like them. [I counted eight at one point!]

[The hummers aren’t the only feathered friends fond of the pokers...]

Current Location: Back Yard
Current Mood: Better
Current Music: Blues Project: "Flute Thing"

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May 11th, 2016

09:16 pm - Afterlife/After Life?
When my Mom's Uncle Rey went to renew his driver's license, they asked him if he wanted to be an organ donor. "An organ donor?" he asked. "I'm-a ninety-sixa years old! Who's a-gonna wanna one-a MY organs?" [They renewed his license anyway...]

After they harvest whatever might help someone else, my corpse will go to a medical school where they can cut up whatever's left and maybe learn something about the effects of all my bad habits...

Current Mood: Mirthful
Current Music: Laura Nero: "And When I Die"

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March 12th, 2016

12:08 pm - 03.12.2016 Roosting Irony…

I have to roll my eyes as I listen to The Other rebumblican presidential candidates complain about The Donald “encouraging a culture of hatred”. I believe the appropriate adage has something to do with chickens coming home to roost. This has been the GOP’s modus operendi ever since they lured the Dixiecrats away from the Donkeys over Civil Rights. This is what happens when you resort to fear and intimidation to grow your political base. “You’re either with US or you’re with The Enemy…”

I was watching a documentary on the rise of the Third Reich a few weeks back. The scenes of the Brown Shirts beating on demonstrators are becoming far too contemporary in the clips of T-Rump’s recent rallies. The Elephant has lost control of the monster it created. Heavens help us if this cult continues to grow…

-Apologies and/or thanks to Mark Bryan for the unauthorized use of his wonderful painting

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March 2nd, 2016

11:06 pm - Mushroom Man...

For a good chunk of the year, I go to work in the dark. Two hours later, I get to work and it’s still dark. I work in lead-lined rooms. Ten hours later, I leave work in the dark. In another two hours I get home. It’s still dark…

I need some sunshine. Preferably somewhere the water is always warm…

Ile au Cerf, Seychelles 1978

Current Mood: Knotted
Current Music: Stevie Ray Vaughn: "Riviera Paradise"

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February 5th, 2016

08:34 pm - Resonators (A Primer)
I've become fascinated by, if not enamored of, resonophonic guitars. Most folks, if they’re somewhat knowledgeable on the subject, will look at a resonophonic guitar and say: “That’s a Dobro”. And they might be right; but not necessarily. “Dobro” is a brand name of a specific type of resonophonic guitars, but not all rezos are Dobros. Far from it – but more on that later…

Left: Wooden square-neck spider cone (Dobro-style)
Center: Brass-bodied
round neck tricone
Right: Nickel-plated brass round-neck biscuit cone

“Resonophonic” guitars use spun metal cones that look like audio speakers to transmit the instrument’s sound, instead of using the guitar’s wooden top (soundboard) to project the strings’ acoustic vibrations. They were designed to amplify the sound of the guitar in the days before electric amplification existed.

There are three basic systems used to accomplish this: tricone, biscuit cone, and spider cone resonators. The names pretty much tell their stories: the tricone uses three separate cones actuated by a T-shaped bridge; a biscuit cone has the bridge attached to the center of the resonator through what looks like a hockey puck (biscuit) and with the spider cone the bridge is attached to the rim of the cone with an eight-legged frame.

Additionally, there are two basic styles of resonator guitars: round necked (like any other guitar) or square necked. Resonophonic guitars generally require heavier-gauge strings to overcome the threshold inertia of the cone’s mass. The heavier the string, the more “push” it provides to propel the cone. Since volume was the name of the game, the heavier the string, the better. But normal guitar necks couldn’t handle the extra tension exerted by the thicker strings, so many resonators were made with bulky square necks to handle the added strain. Additionally, bigger strings need to be set higher off the fingerboard to keep them from buzzing off the frets. These factors, in turn, required the square-necked guitars be played face-up, and led to the evolution of the lap steel and slide guitar (but that’s another story…). The advantage is that they can accept a wide range of tunings. Round-neck resonators can be played face-up (lap style) or face-out, like a normal guitar, but are much more limited in how they can be tuned.

And finally, there’s the matter of… matter. In acoustic guitars, the tone of the instrument is determined by the characteristics of the woods used for the components and how they’re connected to each other. Since the tone of a resonophonic guitar is primarily determined by its resonator cone (or cones), the material of the rest of the instrument is more of an augmenting than determining factor. Cheaper laminates (plywood) actually sounded better than more-expensive solid tonewoods. Metal bodies made the metal cones ring and sing like a bell, so they began making rezo bodies out of bell materials: steel, brass, and nickel.

The history of how these different styles evolved, and the incestuous relationships between the early manufacturers, is a fascinating story in and of itself, but others have told it well so I won’t dwell on those topics here. Suffice it to say certain manufacturers became associated with specific types of resonators. The Dobro company specialized in square-neck, spider-cone wooden instruments that are played face-up, usually on the lap. This seems to be the preferred type for Bluegrass and Country music. (These instruments even seem to have an Appalachian drawl in their tone...) These typically use REALLY heavy strings, so the strings are set far above the fretboard; too far for fingering, so they’re almost always played with a slide bar, or steel.

Not to be confused with the National Steel, or just National. This was the original resonophonic brand, which made tricone resonators. This type is considered to have the richest and fullest tonal profile, but were expensive to build and therefore buy. One of the founding partners came up with the single-cone biscuit bridge design to make a more affordable version, but the other partners wouldn’t go for it. So the biscuit-bridge designer set off on his own and founded the Dobro company to make the single-cone rezos. But before he could, the other partners tried to nip the impending competition in the bud by patenting his biscuit-bridge design under National corporate ownership. To get around this, he turned the cone over inside the guitar body and came up with the spider frame to attach it to the bridge.

The relatively inexpensive Dobro resonators were so popular that National had a hard time selling their tricones, and almost went out of business. So they dusted off their biscuit patent to compete. To distance themselves from Dobro, National focused on making steel guitars. It wasn’t long before National was known more for their steel single-cone biscuit resonators than their original tricone. Although the tricones may have sounded better, the single-cones were louder, and in addition to cheap, loud was what it was all about. Although they continued to manufacture some tricones, National licensed the design to numerous other instrument companies to manufacture under their own brand. Just as Dobro became the generic name for spider-cone, wooden square-necked resonators, National became synonymous with biscuit-cone, steel-bodied round-necked guitars. As country and bluegrass bands took to the Dobro, bluesmen, buskers and itinerant musicians took to the National.

Current Mood: Groovin'
Current Music: Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings:

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January 25th, 2016

10:42 am - Devolution...
Many people mistakenly assume I'm a Democrat because I'm SO damn anti-Republican. I may perceive the Dems as the Lesser of Evils; but Evil none-the less. These same folks are even more surprised to learn that once upon a time I staunchly and actively supported the GOP. Suffice it to say I had a change of heart as the Rs sold their soul to mindlessly steam-roll the Body Politic. Maybe this will help explain:

Current Mood: Concerned
Current Music: "One of Theses Things (Is Not Like the Others) from Sesame Street

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