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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Vital Interest

Yesterday I blogged my speculation that there are at the very least NATO special forces at work with the Libyan tribes fighting against Khaddafi (or however the hell you spell it). Today, it turns out I'm correct in my guess.

Yep. Great Britain is a member of NATO and their special forces are on the ground in Libya's civil war. I also speculated that Obama would arm the guys shouting Allah'u Akbar. Turns out he authorized arming these guys several weeks ago, according to the NY Times.

None of this jibes with his high tone speech on Monday night.

Obama-speak is rather suspect these days.

Consider this -- the first offshore drilling permit in the Gulf of Mexico was issued by the U.S. government to none other than BP! Nothing has been done to make blow out protectors more viable. Yet, Obama says "we have learned" from that disaster.

Learned what exactly? That there's oil in Libya? I think we already knew that.

And what will we learn about nuclear power after the unfolding Japanese tragedy? That radiation is safe as long as corporate profits in the energy sector are unaffected? Actually, why not -- since the drinking water of huge swathes of Pennsylvania is being poisoned anyway, so that T. Boone Pickens and the other billionaires can get richer by fracking natural gas in the Marcellus Shale. If the water is poisoned, what's a little radiation in your food?

The next time you hear the corporations' Storyteller in Chief utter the words "vital interest" you would be advised to grab some K-Y jelly and bend over.

CHAPTER TWENTY NINE OF BROADWAY VAMPIRE, AND AN OBSERVATION (or two)

There are now twenty nine chapters (and the prologue) of Broadway Vampire posted on line for your reading pleasure.

On the political front, I'm tempted to rant about Obama and Libya. However, I've been so busy since his speech that sitting down to sputter out a few words will have to wait beyond these three immediate observations:

All those "freedom fighters" you see shooting into the air are not shouting "Aloha Akbar". What they are shouting is what suicide bombers shout with their last breaths, and it is the war cry of jihadis everywhere.

These "freedom fighters" went from being ragtag and unorganized to being able to take cities almost overnight. That means someone stepped into the leadership breach. Was it experienced mujahadeen? Or was it special forces from NATO? Or both?

And I'll leave you with a couple questions about Obama-speak: When exactly did bombing a country become a humanitarian act? I thought humanitarian acts consist of providing food, clothing, shelter, medicine and like that? Will providing weapons be the next humanitarian act? And how did that work out when we armed the mujahadeen in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Johnny Peppers' favorite

Johnny Peppers sent me a link to this YouTube video with a note that it's the best movie clip he's ever seen. As I'm a huge fan of Cole Porter and Christopher Walken, I'm posting it:



And here's the skinny on the tune, from Wikipedia. The Ginseng Roots Band must add this to our tune list.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

CLASS WARFARE AND CORPORATE FASCISM IN THE WHITE HOUSE

President Obama has proved himself a member of the corporate fascist elite. No surprise  if you've been paying attention. On what do I base this assessment?

Let's start with Obama's Chairperson of the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness Jeffrey Immelt. While the middle and working class are being ground down to dirt, General Electric -- the country's largest corporation, which Immelt also chairs -- had a very good year in 2010.


The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. (Read the rest of the story here.) Immelt was appointed by Obama in 2011.

And who did Obama appoint as his new Chief of Staff this year? Bill Daley, whose previous position was a top executive at JP Morgan-Chase -- the bank that aided and abetted Bernie Madoff while joining the rest of the Wall Street banks in destroying the world economy for their own gain. JP Morgan-Chase made $17.4 billion in profits in 2010. Daley, in 2011, received almost $5,000,000.00 in pay and bonuses for two months work before leaving for the White House. (Go ahead. Google it.)

Who do you think Daley's looking out for? Who do you think Obama is looking out for?




Friday, March 25, 2011

Vampire Bankers

More war. Fewer jobs. Rising gas prices. And damned if the stock market isn't higher!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

RANTS?

The news these days, especially regarding Libya, is so baffling that it's all beyond me. When one poll, touted on CNN, show that 70% of the American people support the attacks on Libya, comment is beyond me. Nothing makes sense. Nothing is believable. There are no good guys.

Best to focus on the music and the storytelling.

 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

GINSENG ROOTS BAND PERCUSSION KIT UPDATE

Okay. So last night Johnny Peppers (s.k.a. JJ Deluxe) came by and we worked on the band's percussion kit. There's still a lot of fine tuning to be done but here is a photo that Peppers took this morning at home and emailed to me:


Last night we added 26 "bells" (mainly pot lids that ring nicely when hit with a ball end plastic mallet/drum stick).

The whole set up consists of:

31 total bells gongs
one bike horn
4 Mongolian temple blocks
2 LP quick snap blocks
one cow bell
a  bean can
&  a single splash cymbal

All mounted, as Johnny Peppers puts it, "in a Tone Sensational Fashion".

Stay tuned.

Monday, March 21, 2011

R.I.P. Pinetop Perkins

The great blues piano player Pinetop Perkins passed today. Somewhere I've got some snapshots of me and him after I interviewed him on the radio one day about five or six years ago. He was in his 90s already, played live in the studio, and told stories from another era of music and life. He was smoking Kool cigarettes on the fire escape before and after the broadcast. What a character.

He told me he ate the same thing at every meal -- two Big Macs and two of Mickey D's apple pies. I was aghast but it sure seemed to be serving him well.

If I can find those photos I'll scan and post.

Requiescat In Pace.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Up and Down the River

Yesterday was first rate. JJ Deluxe aka Johnny Peppers and I rolled into Easton, PA for lunch with Brian Gormley and the Parisian-born documentary film maker Patrick Morell of Golden Rabbit Films, who is in the area to make a profile doc about Brian. Morell is just back from 2 years making a film in Tibet. So, he was full of stories and after a long leisurely lunch, we all decided to adjourn to Chez Gormely in Upper Black Eddy to continue the conversation. First Brian wanted to do some shopping.

So, Deluxe aka Peppers (Do you sense a handle transition coming on here?) and I decided to drop in at a local boite that features live music and where we'd like to get the band booked. We did a little music flash -- 3 songs for the bar maid and the manager -- and got ther good news that the owner/booker called while we were playing and had been listening to some of our music yesterday morning and was going to be calling me with two dates, soon. That would be cool. Then I could mention the place's name, update my calendar, and so forth. I've got to update that calendar soon, anyway, as we've got a number of community bandstand/gazebo gigs, library gigs, local festivals and so forth coming up. Anyway, they loved us and Deluxe loved the selection of beers. ( I was the designated driver and abstained.)

Easton is a great little city, one of my faves on the planet. The confluence of the Lehigh into theDelaware creates a natural energy about the place. There's a fairly vibrant local art scene. And there's the State Theatre which used to be on the vaudeville circuit, as well as a try out house for Broadway shows. Now it brings culture to the region in the form of touring showslectures by the like of Anthony Bourdain, and concerts. (Without a damn casino!) Easton also has some good restaurants that feature live music.It's a very manageable urban environment.

After our brief musical interlude in River City we rolled down to UBE and Gormley's studio. The river is still running high after the rains and the snow melt. But it was nowhere near overflowing its banks. I love riding along the Pennsylvania side of the river, as there are so many waterfalls that you pass as you drive.

Once we got there, we played some music while Patrick took some snaps and worked out his camera shots for the art doc. Brian invited us to stay for dinner and grilled some lamb which he served with couscous and salad. I allowed myself some wine with dinner. Then we played more music and I abstained from the absinthe. By midnight I was clear-headed from the 3 glasses of wine at dinner and we rolled back north.  

Spring is very much in the air here on the mountain. The crocus are up and blooming. Deluxe-Peppers just called to say he got home okay and what was I up to.

It's time to practice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How Did I Become A Musician?

Recently, I was asked for my music resume. I'd never before had such a request. So I sat down and started jotting down all the various musical highlights and projects in my life. I was 14 years old when the music bug bit. I was in bands in high school and, other than my time in the Air Force, I've been playing music pretty much since then.

I played guitar and sang. I played various flutes. A number of times I found myself without an instrument or money, and would borrow somebody's guitar and hit the streets, playing and singing whatever handful of songs I knew at the time, and conjure up enough money to keep me from becoming a potential Jean Valjean (though I'd already been in jail, it was for reefer, not stealing food).

For much of my life, I thought of myself as a writer who played music. I always believed that, despite my background, lack of education, etc., my writing would "catch on" and I'd be transported to Olympus and join the other immortals of the pen. My reward for the years of privation would be oodles of money and beautiful lovers.

Since the name of this blog is what it is, it's pretty clear that didn't happen. Oh, I'm still scribbling away. It's gotten tougher as the money has dwindled for all writers but those Olympian few and anyone who writes for a Conde Nast publication. I still send my plays out to theaters, for whatever that's worth.

Nowadays, I don't go straight to my writing desk when I get up. First I practice for two or three hours. I still write every day but it's what I want when I want. Sometimes a blog post feels like enough for a day, even though I've got a new musical and a new dramatic monologue chugging along, as well as a novel.

I recently ran into a TV producer when I was playing music at a local boite and he was looking for a certain type of song. I told him I had something that might work but there was a part of it that was political and it might need some reworking. I quickly added that I'm very flexible. He laugbhed and said that, at our age, flexible usually means we've been beaten down. Ain't that the truth?

My point, though, is that it's all okay with me. I'm a musician. I'm a working class bohemian. Fortunately I've got an awesome music playing partner in JJ Deluxe. We get out there and play tunes up and down the river. We play in restaurants and pubs at night and by day we're happy to go into retirement homes and play for the folks there. They love what we do. They know and love a lot of the old tunes. I'm not going to get rich doing it. But I'm not going to starve to death either.

So, how did I become a musician? It's irrelevant. Somewhere along the line music was all that was left.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Natural iodine -- a public service alert

Radiation knows no political boundaries. I feel terrible for the Japanese people, who are facing radiation poisoning after the huge earthquake.

Can the radiation reach the USA? If it gets into the jet stream, the answer is yes. If you follow the weather closely, like many of us country folk, you will have observed storms this past winter that crossed the country from the west coast to the east. These patterns were often attributed to the forces of the jet streams.

There is nothing anyone can do to halt something like radiation in the jet stream. However, you can start taking kelp capsules to let your body naturally absorb iodine, which will protect the thyroid gland. This is a better approach, I believe, than the massive doses of iodine handed out on the spot once a disaster occurs (like the ones being handed out in Japan now). I've read that supplementing the iodine (kelp) with vitamins B and C helps the body absorb iodine better. Please do some research on this for yourself.

Here's a link I found for inexpensive kelp capsules with free shipping, from a reputable source. However, I should note that the price rose almost $2 (two dollars) between the time I ordered mine this morning and now, as I write this:

http://www.puritan.com/kelp-571?searchterm=kelp&rdcnt=1

Hopefully, it's unnecessary. The good thing is that kelp won't kill you, unlike radiation,

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras Photo Blog

The Delaware was rising. That didn't stop Uke Jackson and the Ginseng Roots Band. They played 3 hot sets for a packed house at the Buckwood Bistro, with some special guests.

The musicality of it all began earlier, when Uke Jackson and JJ Deluxe trekked to the West End of Monroe County, PA and played a special Mardi Gras show in the afternoon at a retirement community. One old darling kept winking and blowing kisses at Uke, then finally escaped her handler and charged. She wanted to dance with the Ukester. He kept on singing, did a two step around the floor with her, and promised to meet her later. Ah well. It's unlikely she remembers he was even there. Nonetheless, the music made her and all the other residents come alive for an hour.

Then as the sun set and the river rose, the music began to thrum and the crowd arrived. Musicians from as far away as Washington D.C. had heard about the gig and the crowd was treated to some hot roots and sweet croons for 4 hours. The amazing and venerable Chuck Slate sat in but no one got any photos (that we know of. If you got some, please let us know!)

Special thanks to Chaz deBourbon for BGAstudios.com for the pix. Here's some of what the crowd saw (For what they heard, check the playlist at the end):


Uke Jackson:


Left to right: JJ Deluxe (Johnny Peppers) on bass sax; Banjo Annie Pike (Mrs JJ Deluxe in real life) on tenor guitar; Jack "Jersey Fats" Bryce on the licorice stick; Chris McMillan on the cornet; Uke Jackson; Moneky Skulls Mooney on percussion:


As always, JJ Deluxe had the saxophone mojo working all night long -- on bass sax, tenor, and soprano:
On the bass sax, with an Eb Sousaphone on the wall, and Mrs Deluxe (NOTE: Oysters sur la table.):


Uke got festooned as the night wore on:


The music was so hot they kept a fire extinguisher handy:


Jersey Fats got saxy, too, with a curvy soprano:


The band played on, and on and on and on:



SET ONE

WALK RIGHT IN – C

WHEN YOU’RE SMILING – Bb

BEI MIR BIST DU SCHON – Gm

LOVE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER – F

OH BABY – F

NOBODY KNOWS YOU WHEN YOU’RE DOWN & OUT – Eb

ST JAMES INFIRMARY – Dm AND Fm (alternating choruses)

LIMEHOUSE BLUES – F

SOMEBODY STOLE MY GAL – Eb

MIDNIGHT IN MOSCOW – Cm

I CAN’T GIVE YOU ANYTHING BUT LOVE – F

THAT DADA STRAIN Gm / Bb


SET TWO

STRUTTIN’ WITH SOME BBQ -- F

KANSAS CITY KITTY – G

POOR PAPA – G

BACK IN YOUR OWN BACK YARD – F

BALLIN’ THE JACK – Bb

THE SHEIK OF ARABY – Bb

BILL BAILEY – F

DO SOMETHING – Bb

LOVE POTION #9 – Am

THICK STACK OF HUNDRED DOLLAR BILLS – Bb

UKULELE LAND – F

WILD MAN BLUES --  Bb



SET THREE

5 FOOT 2, EYES OF BLUE – C

SWEET GEORGIA BROWN – Ab

BLUE SKIES – F

MAMA’S GONE GOODBYE – Bb

I AIN’T GONNA GIVE NOBODY NONE OF THIS JELLYROLL – Bb

BYE BYE BLACKBIRD – F

LITTLE GRASS SHACK – Bb

SOMEDAY YOU’LL BE SORRY – Eb

WASHINGTON & LEE SWING -- Bb

DARK EYES – Cm

WHEN THE SAINTS GO MARCHING IN – F

I’LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS -- F


Your devoted editor and ukulele player is now off to bed. Don't forget to check Broadway Vampire for a new chapter before noon. and when you're looking for some live music, please think of Uke Jackson and the Ginseng Roots Band. We gots the chops!





Mardi Gras!

Uke Jackson and the Ginseng Roots Band
Tonight, Tuesday, March 8
at the  

7 'til 11 PM
Hot Roots and Sweet Croons

CALL 908-475-5777
to reserve your dinner table
The food is great!

Friday, March 4, 2011

WOW! Philadelphia Folk Fest is 50

This summer will be the 50th Annual Philadelphia Folk Fest. That makes me feel -- well, older than 50. I was at the 10th Annual. I lived in New Hope, PA back then and used to busk under one of the canal bridges.

And I was at the 40th Annual, and a few in between. The Philadelphia Folk Fest is the granddaddy of them all. If you've never been, you should start planning now. August 19, 20, and 21. It's an awesome time!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

BRUINATION

Spring moon bear drives the dogs nuts tonight
wrecking birdfeeders at neighboring 
house without hounds. Talk of the town,
"that bear!" Of course, there are many bears.
Some folks are saying government should
"Do something!" Do what? Kill off the bruin?
Drive one more species into ruin?
Chemical lawns replace miles of wood
to appease resurgent endless growth scares.
Do we need more houses up and down
the valley? More bulldozers laboring,
but no black bear lumbering through the night?
Stop suburban blight and unchecked bloat.
I say we enfranchise bears. Let them vote!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chapter 25 of BROADWAY VAMPIRE

Chapter 25 of Broadway Vampire is now available for your reading pleasure here. Enjoy!

FAT TUESDAY PRESS RELEASE


 
INNOVATIVE FOOD DRIVE KICKS OFF AT BUCKWOOD BISTRO
TO CELEBRATE MARDI GRAS

For Immediate Release: March 1, 2011

On March 8, Fat Tuesday revelers at the Buckwood Bistro on Route 46 in Delaware, NJ will have a chance to win a ukulele as part of the evening’s festivities. Everyone who brings a can of food or other nonperishable food item to the restaurant will receive a raffle ticket. The food will be distributed by a local food bank. “We are happy to be part of this effort,” says Chef Jean Louis.

The ukulele giveaway is part of Ukuleles for Food, a new effort by Uke Jackson and the Ginseng Roots Band. “I love to give away ukuleles,” says Jackson, a band leader and playwright who is best known locally for his radio broadcasts of ukulele music. Among his past efforts giving away ukuleles was Ukes for Troops, which sent more than 2,000 ukuleles to troops who requested them while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ukulele has long been a favorite among soldiers and sailors in far away conflicts, due to its diminutive size and portability. It was a source of live music for troops serving in the trenches in both world wars. 

“We will be giving away a ukulele at every gig for the foreseeable future,” says Uke Jackson. “We call ourselves a ‘good time music’ band. With times being hard, it’s only right to help the less fortunate while we party. Giving away a ukulele to benefit local food banks makes it fun for everyone, and easy to help out. It’s a no brainer.”

Chef Jean Louis loves the idea of tying the Mardi Gras revels, an annual celebration at the Buckwood Bistro, to the kick off of Ukuleles for Food. “Traditionally, Mardi Gras is the night before Lent begins. We get a great crowd here that night. This year everyone can go home to bed knowing that they benefited the less fortunate.

 Adds Uke Jackson, “And all thanks to the ukulele! How cool is that?

In addition to the ukulele, Jackson will also be giving away a copy of his novel Broadway Vampire and the paperback version the book and lyrics from his cult hit musical comedy Ukulele Land.   

The festivities begin at 7 pm with Uke Jackson and the Ginseng Roots Band playing a selection of New Orleans jazz and other favorites from the American song book until 11 pm. Guests will be festooned with traditional Mardi Gras beads. Dinner reservations are advisable and can be made by calling 908-475-5777. The Buckwood Bistro is located across the street from the Knowlton Township Elementary School on Route 46 in Warren County.
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