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Saturday, April 30, 2011

WEEKEND MUSIC

JJ Peppers found this group on YouTube and they seem worthy of a weekend feature, for their reso instrumentation if nothing else. and of course there's reso ukulele.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for something to read this weekend, check out the short story DEAD TOWN by scrolling down to yesterday's post. One TV producer I know already compared it to Hitchcock.

Here's the music, from Germany's 21 String Hawaiians:



Wednesday, April 27, 2011

BROADWAY VAMPIRE -- new chapter posted

Well, there are now 33 chapters, and the prologue posted from my novel Broadway Vampire. You can read it here. This means that more than half of the book is posted.

History and mystery along the Great white Way, as told by a producer who is also a vampire. So, what are you waiting for? Read it!

EDIT: The blog is free to read, in case you are wondering. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

THE GRIM FACES OF FASCISM IN THE GOVERNORS' MANSIONS

In my younger years, “the friendly face of fascism” was often spoken of among activists and environmentalists. Well, full-blown fascism is here in the USA and it isn’t friendly; it’s grim and rapacious, leering with greed and drooling with a lust for the end of democracy. Obama certainly has big-time fascistic tendencies, but he’s a lightweight compared to some of the newly elected Republican governors.

Here in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Corbett is exercising his new power to allow energy companies to rape the environment and, of course, profit from it without paying a dime. Hydrofracking is on the covers of magazines and the lips of many. It’s the process by which natural gas is extracted from shale, and it is polluting both air and water at an unprecedented pace.

The criminal Corbett doesn’t have a clue what the word “commonwealth” means. He wants to give everything away – water, air, and methane – that belongs to all Pennsylvanians. The new governor not only refuses to tax these energy corporations, he refuses to allow the Department of Environmental Protection to oversee them. Pennsylvania has more miles of rivers and streams than any of the other lower 48 states. The water quality of as many as two thirds of those will suffer degradation as a result of fracking.

Meanwhile, what the gas companies don’t tell anyone is that their process is wasteful and also pollutes the air. Fracking only recovers about 10 per cent of the gas underground. The rest of it escapes into the atmosphere. Instead of being “clean energy” as touted by T. Boone Pickens and other rich creeps, natural gas may well be the dirtiest, in every sense of the word, source of energy there is.

Monday, April 25, 2011

BACK ON MY FEET

I got knocked for a loop last week and ended up on crutches for a few days. Hence, no new posts. A number of gigs have come in for the band and dang if the down time didn't come in handy to create a calendar.

The other news is that the fashionable gals and guys who have picked up on Uke Jackson & the Ginseng Roots Band and started showing up at our gigs are now calling themselves Vipers -- which we think is super cool! (Anyone who reads this blog with any frequency and catches the Friday music postings of late knows what a viper is ;-)

The full calendar will be posted later in the week, and there will be lots of reminders and updates, and you will be able to check the calendar to the right on your screen.

Peace out. Stop the fracking!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Must see videos.

These two videos are must see! Please share them. In the first, though, Professor Wolff does misspeak. He says, in reference to recent general strikes in Europe, something to the effect that 6 million American never marched about anything.

Actually, and the point is raised in a different context by Bill McKibben in the second video, more than 20 million Americans demonstrated on the first Earth Day. As a result we the people got a Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act. Lobbyists for the banks and the US Chamber of Commerce have bribed lawmakers every year since to undo those crucial laws a little bit at a time.

Be that as it may, the rest of Professor Wolff's talk is crucial to undersatanding what's really happening with the American economy and happening to the American worker. The video is 2 hours long, and well worth every minute of your time.

Bill McKibben speaks for 15 minutes before a crowd of young people. It is another must see, if you care about what is happening to our climate. The next time you tune in a 24 hour new cable channel -- kick in the screen.

Please watch these 2 videos:





GENERAL STRIKE!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekend Music: A Song To Plant By

Have you started your garden yet? Here's a song to get you going:


Here are the lyrics, by Ben Scales, in case you want to sing along:

I'm growing marijuana in my yard I'm growing marijuana in my yard. I've got little pots of pot - Spread out all over the lot Cuz I'm growing marijuana in my yard.

I got the seed from Mexico Stuck it in some dirt and let it grow Put it in my garden with my peppers and my peas And I get all the smoke I need for free.

I'm growing marijuana in my yard, I'm growing marijuana in my yard. We keep it where no one can see - So let's keep this 'tween you and me, But I'm growing marijuana in my yard.

Yes, I'm growing marijuana in my yard, But I can't tell my boss or I'll get fired. I don't grow much just what I use - I work all day and when I'm through I smoke some marijuana from my yard.

Now the policeman wants to talk to me He says, How you gonna smoke up all that weed? He says, Money's what you're in it for - Don't you know we're in a war? Now I'm gonna haul your ass downtown with me.

And I said, Hey, man, what is it to you? How do I infringe on what you do? I beg your pardon, if you're offended by my garden But I just can't grow Prozac in my yard.

So I grow my own medicine in my yard. I give some to my neighbor for his heart. I share it with my grandma, who keeps it from her son, Cuz we all know that stuff's against the law.

Now there's nothing growing in my yard Cuz the cops took all my land and both my cars. Now I have to buy my pot - From a teen-ager in a parking lot Who's growing marijuana in his yard.

Anyone can grow it in their yard I could show you how, it ain't hard. Never mind the president, Let's overgrow the government. And all grow marijuana in our yards.


AND ON ANOTHER NOTE:


A bass-playing friend recently said to me "Rap is to music what the Etcha Sketch is to art". Maybe so, but I'm starting to like these Kottonmouth Kings:



Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

We Ain't Got Time To Bleed

This is from former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura's website. Read the original here:

LETTER TO THE RULING CLASS

You control our world. You’ve poisoned the air we breathe, contaminated the water we drink, and copyrighted the food we eat. We fight in your wars, die for your causes, and sacrifice our freedoms to protect you. You’ve liquidated our savings, destroyed our middle class, and used our tax dollars to bailout your unending greed. We are slaves to your corporations, zombies to your airwaves, servants to your decadence. You’ve stolen our elections, assassinated our leaders, and abolished our basic rights as human beings. You own our property, shipped away our jobs, and shredded our unions. You’ve profited off of disaster, destabilized our currencies, and raised our cost of living. You’ve monopolized our freedom, stripped away our education, and have almost extinguished our flame. We are hit… we are bleeding… but we ain’t got time to bleed. We will bring the giants to their knees and you will witness our revolution!
Sincerely,
The Serfs.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

VILLAGE VOICE ANNOUNCES 56th ANNUAL OBIE AWARDS CEREMONY


VILLAGE VOICE ANNOUNCES 56th ANNUAL OBIE AWARDS CEREMONY
MONDAY, MAY 16, 2011 AT WEBSTER HALL, NYC


New York, NY 
The Awards Will Be Presented By:
 
Alec Baldwin
Arian Moayed
Jim Parsons
John Larroquette
Lee Pace
Lin-Manuel Miranda 
Mamie Gummer
Margaret Colin
Nina Arianda
Patina Miller
Robert Sean Leonard
Rose Hemingway
S. Epatha Merkerson
 
*
Entertainment & Co-Hosts To Be Announced
 
The Village Voice, the nation’s largest alternative weekly newspaper, announced today that the 56th Annual Obie Awards will take place on Monday, May 16, 2011 at Webster Hall in the East Village (125 East 11th Street).
 
For the past 56 years, the Village Voice Obie Awards, founded by Jerry Tallmer in 1956, have honored the best of Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway. Structured with informal categories that change annually, the Village Voice Obie Awards recognize persons and productions of excellence. Unlike most theater awards, the Village Voice Obie Awards list no nominations publicly. In the conviction that creativity is not competitive, the judges may give several Obies in each category, and may even invent new categories to reward exceptional artistic merit
The Voice’s chief theater critic, Michael Feingold, who chairs the Obie Awards judges committee again this year, was honored as a finalist for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Criticism. The Pulitzer jury recognized Feingold “for his engaging, authoritative drama reviews that fuse passion and knowledge as he helps readers understand what makes a play or a performance successful.”
 
His fellow judges are Voice critic Alexis Soloski and four guest judges: critic Hilton Als of The New Yorker; playwright David Henry Hwang, a three-time Obie Award winner for his plays F.O.B., Golden Child, and Yellow Face; director Evan Yionoulis, an Obie Award winner for her production of Richard Greenberg’s Three Days of Rain; and critic Andy Propst, of TheaterMania AmericanTheaterWeb.com (and a frequent Voice contributor); he is also serving as secretary to the committee. 
 
Many of the most celebrated names in theater, film and television say their Obie Award was the first major recognition of their professional career. Past winner include such well-known stars such as Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, Felicity Huffman, Viola Davis, Kevin Kline, Nathan Lane, Tony Kushner, Kathy Bates, James Earl Jones, Edward Norton, and Sigourney Weaver, to name a few.
 
Because the Obies always strive to recognize artists of exceptional ability early in their careers, the award serves to encourage, support, and in some sense nurture youthful talent. The Obies help shine an important light on theater artists who are breaking new ground or just breaking through in their careers. In addition, the Obies honor those who have given years of service to the theater, with awards for Sustained Excellence and Lifetime Achievement.
 
Once again, the 2011 Obies will also honor the Off-Broadway theater community by presenting its annual theater grants, announced live at the ceremony.
 
Tickets for the Village Voice’s 56th Annual Obie Awards are $25 and are on sale now through TicketFly at obies.villagevoice.com. For more information please visit obies.villagevoice.com.
###
About The Village Voice
Founded by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher, and Norman Mailer in October 1955, The Village Voice introduced free-form, high-spirited, and passionate journalism into the public discourse. As the nation's first and largest alternative newsweekly, the Voice maintains the same tradition of no-holds-barred reporting and criticism it first embraced when it began publishing over 55 years ago.  The recipient of three Pulitzer prizes, the National Press Foundation Award, and the George Polk Award, among others, the Voice has earned a reputation for its groundbreaking investigations of New York City politics and for its expert coverage of New York's cultural scene. Writing and reporting on local and national politics, with opinionated culture, music, dance, film, and theater reviews, daily web dispatches, comprehensive entertainment listings, and unrivaled classifieds, the Voice is the authoritative source on all that is New York.
 
The Village Voice has also created such celebrated events as the Siren Music Festival, kNow Music Series, and Choice Eats, as well as the most anticipated issues and guides of the year, including the annual Pazz and Jop music poll, Film critics poll, Best of NYC, and the paper’s Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter Arts Preview guides. The Voice is New York's most influential, must-read alternative newspaper, in both print and online at www.villagevoice.com, where the site averages 1.5 million unique users each month.
 
Visit us on the Web: www.villagevoice.com/obies
 

Monday, April 11, 2011

THEATRICS?

Lately I've been mulling my limited role in theater these days. The most recent book that compelled me to read it in its entirety is David Mamet's "Theater". Other than his almost-child-like belief in "free market economics" and rants against Soviet/leftist directors and theater (including Brecht), there were quite a few interesting and pertinent thoughts conveyed in the voice of a master playwright. Right now, the play "Hapgood" by Tom Stoppard has me engrossed.

Due to tight finances and high gas prices, actually going into the city to see something is a rare event. (Forget about the bus -- it's $60+ round trip for the hour and ten minute each way trip,)  Will anything spurting from my pen these days ever make it to the boards? Well, hope springs eternal and all that.

My point is that my interest, obsession even, that once seemed to kindle my every waking moment, has ebbed. Aside from the administrator-perceived negatives of my less-than-upper-crust background, and  the so-called "free market" in the theater -- there is to me an uplifting reason why the burning desire to be recognized by the world as a playwright is now a smoldering ember: my efforts as a bandleader give outlet to many of the same energies.

Playing out with the band is putting on a show. We dress in costume (seersucker suits and Panama hats), we perform, and like the best theater -- we take a bare empty space and fill it with entertainment. JJ Peppers works with me to make sure the "visuals" (his terms) are strong. In other words, when we set up as a band, it's a stage set of sorts. Some of the songs are written by me. The order in which the songs are played is my choice. The patter between tunes is mine to speak.

My point? Some might take issue with the title of this blog and think "Yeah? What's he written lately?" -- a question that is irrelevant in the current clime of American theater. What is relevant is that my status as a showman is intact.

Come see Uke Jackson & the Ginseng Roots Band and see if you agree.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Weekend Music

First, here's 28 seconds of me and the FunkTASKtiks last weekend in Frenchtown.



Here's a change of pace (f0r me) musically:



Here's Louis Armstrong saying something about being high:



And Cab Calloway and his orchestra with the original recording of Reefer Man:

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

OPEN LETTER TO CAROL COLLIER AND THE DELAWARE RIVER BASIN COMMISSION

April 5, 2011

TO: Carol Collier and the Commissioners, Delaware River Basin Commission

Dear Ms Collier and Honorable Commissioners:

I am writing to request that you reconsider your draft regulations regarding the so –called “natural” gas industry drilling and dumping waste water into the Delaware River watershed. The job of the Delaware River Basin Commission is to look for the interests of all parties, not just greedy energy companies.

Look at the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Look at what’s happening right now at that nuclear reactor in Japan. These disasters happened, one could say, right on schedule -- as warned by environmental activists who care about the concerns of humanity at large. The waste water from hydro fracturing wells in the Marcellus Shale will be no different. In the end it will be an unmitigated disaster for the general public.

Are you really going to continue to believe energy executives when they say that pumping billions of gallons of contaminated water into the Delaware River won’t affect the drinking water of some 15 million people? Are you really willing to have poison drinking water on your conscience?   

Just because some billionaire gets all avuncular and goes on TV and some bimbo actress struts through a sound stage in bought and paid for advertising, it doesn’t mean anything these people are saying is true. Billionaires got to be billionaires by putting their personal wealth accumulation ahead of the concerns of anyone else anywhere.

To allow the gas industry to use any water from our river, to allow these greedy creeps to destroy our wild and scenic river and pollute our drinking water supplies, is the height of insanity. This isn’t about jobs. It isn’t about energy for everyone. It’s about an elite few who will do anything to increase their piles at the expense of every one else. These elite few live by the creed “Burn it and we will profit.”

Compare that idea to the quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes at the top of your own webpage:
"A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure."
Do something for the regular folks for a change. Please don’t let the rich steal our river!

Sincerely,


Uke Jackson

UKULELES FOR PEACE

So, I got an email from my old friend Paul Moore -- Israel's foremost ukulele player. He likes to send out updates about Ukuleles for Peace -- a children's orchestra project he founded. It brings together Jewish and Arab kids to play the ukulele together.

The healing power of ukulele music as evidenced by children. That's very cool in my opinion. Please check out the Ukulele for Peace website. There's both a CD and a songbook for sale, and all the money (and more from Paul Moore's own pocket) goes to keep the project going.

You can also make a donation to this worthy project via PayPal.

Ukuleles for Peace!

BACK ON FACEBOOK (sort of)

Yesterday JJ Peppers started a Facebook page for Uke Jackson & the Ginseng Roots Band. I don't have a link, not being a Facebook user/member. However, if you are on Facebook, you can search for Uke Jackson & the Ginseng Roots Band and click your approval. The page will have our gig schedule and more, soon.

That profile photo is a 300 year old ginseng root.

Monday, April 4, 2011

SITTING IN WITH THE TASK BAND

 
 Image by Dion Hitchings, courtesy Outsider Art Gallery

So, Saturday morning Brian Gormley called and encouraged me to jump in the car and drive down to Frenchtown, NJ to an opening at the Outsider Gallery. With nothing else going on, it did not take a huge amount of encouragement, and there would be a band. It was a beautiful early April day, and for some reason Frenchtown is like a magnet for me these days.  

Outsider art was first championed as art brut ("raw art" or "rough art") by the French artist Jean Dubuffet. In Frenchtown, outsider art is championed by Dion Hitchings, owner of the gallery. The current group show is of painted reinterpretations of French postcards. There is a handsome spiral bound book of all the new versions of the saucy originals. The sales benefit the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) and their arts outreach program for at risk youth.And everything is priced super-affordable. Where else do you see original art work for as little as fifty bucks? And it's colorful and cool.

Hitchings had a grill in the gallery's garden and there were burgers on the fire for all comers. The main entertainment was the FunkTASKtiks -- a group of musicians who came together when they met in the soup line. Times are tough in America, and the world right now; and times are always tough for the urban poor in second and  third tier cities like Trenton. Anyway, Hitchings put out a nice spread which was much appreciated by all.

There was kind of an open mic feel to the event, what with poets affiliated with TASK reading their work and some singers singing their favorite cover songs backed up by the band's funk groove. Even though my uke case was attached to my hand like a handcuffed briefcase in a movie thriller, open mics have really become the bane of my existence of late -- which is a whole rant unto itself -- so it was my intent to stay out of the mix.

Anyway, the drummer and the keyboard player from the soup kitchen band approached me during a break and convinced me to sit in. It being a lovely day and the Delaware River flowing by, and a new war hatched by the military industrial complex and their White House puppet, my song choice was "Down By The Riverside". The band all sang along on the chorus, as did many of the folks attending and/or aprticipating in the French postcards book launch.

There was a break that turned out to be the end of the festivities that day. A little while later, after having an iced tea at the National Hotel with Brian Gormley, and dropping by to see my pal Cleo Sharplin at her Alchemy clothing store -- we're on the Frenchtown Riverfest committee together -- I ran into all the band and a few others from the soup kitchen in the street next to the gallery. We blocked traffic after they urged me to break out my silver ukulele, and we all sang "My Bucket's Got A Hole In It". What a hoot that was. 

It was an interesting end to a week of freebie playing. Midweek, with JJ Peppers on saxophone and contrabass clarinet, we played as a duo set at the Slate Belt Nursing and Rehab Center in Bangor, PA. And on the last Sunday in March, eight days ago, we played an impromptu 90 minute set for my old pal Farmer Frank, who had a stroke last autumn and  is now in rehab at the Pleasant Valley Manor in Snydersville, PA.

All this running around and playing for the less fortunate almost makes me feel like a social butterfly.

Friday, April 1, 2011

VIPER MADNESS

This song is about that snake that escaped and was then caught in the Bronx Zoo. Yeah, right.

Have a great weekend!






OBAMA TO ORDER TROOP WITHDRAWAL

My sources tell me that the President will make a surprise address to the nation this evening. He is going to announce that all troops were pulled out of Afghanistan and Iraq, and order the immediate cessation of drone and missile strikes in Pakistan, as well as an end to American participation in the war in Libya.

According to a highly placed anonymous White House official, the President feels that it is time to live up to his Nobel Peace Prize.

However, progressives who oppose the war may be disappointed to learn that the withdrawal is scheduled to last only one day -- April 1.