Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Banjo versus TV: Week 16

Banjo 115 hrs, TV 93 hours
A weekly check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s resolution to spend more time in 2008 on his banjo than on TV.

This week, as portrayed by the graphics from Hal Leonard Banjo Method Book 1:

Also in the last week:

  • Illinois suffers a 5.2 earthquake along the Wabash Valley Seismic Zone the day after I play Wabash Cannonball on my banjo. Coincidence?
  • Came across a quote from Earl in a 2006 Rocky Mountain News article:
    Gary Scruggs reminded his dad that when he started out, most banjo players were country comedians such as Stringbean and Uncle Dave Macon.

    "Uncle Dave told me I played good in a band but I wasn't a damn bit funny," Scruggs said.
  • Saw Slightly Bent at the No Exit Cafe in Chicago. The banjo player, Bill James, was friendly and informative when he found out I was a banjo newbie. Thanks for the tips, Bill!

    Here's a video from a Slightly Bent performance in January:
  • I watched a Netflix copy of Earl Scruggs: The Bluegrass Legend: Family & Friends. This PBS documentary was shot in 1969. It captures an interesting moment in banjo history – just after the 1969 breakup of Flatt and Scruggs. Highlights:
    • Foggy Mountain Breakdown with Earl on the Banjo, Randy Scruggs on guitar and Gil Trythal on the Moog synthesizer
    • Earl's joins a Vietnam War Moratorium protest in DC. "I'm disgusted and sorry about the boys we've lost over there."
    • An interview with Earl's best friend. "Prior to Earl Scruggs, the banjo was a rhythm instrument; it was an instrument of the clowns."
    • A classmate of Randy Scruggs, goofing on the J. Edgar Hoover's book, Masters of Deceit, which is being handed out to all of the seniors at their southern high school.
    • Earl and Bill Monroe warm up backstage at the Grand Ole Opry.
    • Joan Baez describes how she confessed her crush on the shy Earl to a stranger in a ladies' room, who was (of course) Earl's wife Louise.
    • In the middle of singing It Ain't Me Babe and with baby Gabriel on her knee, Joan Baez slips into a hilariously dead-on impersonation of former lover Bob Dylan.
    • Many other examples of Joan Baez being charming and funny during a rough time in her life. From Gabriel's age I'm guessing her scenes were shot in 1970 during husband David Harris' 15-month incarceration for refusing to serve in Vietnam. Earl asks Joan to sing If I Were a Carpenter with him and Randy, "for David". Really, you should pick up this DVD just for the Joan Baez scenes.
    • Lots of other performers, including The Byrds and Bob Dylan.
    Highly recommended. And now I must get:

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Banjo versus TV: Week 15

Banjo 104 hrs, TV 84 hours
A weekly check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s resolution to spend more time in 2008 on his banjo than on TV.

Squeezed in a little practice during a busy week. Spent much of my time in my Hal Leonard book, especially on...
The Pinch

Also in the last week:

  • Good topic at the BHO: "What was the worst piece of advice given to you when you were first starting out?"
  • I've been rewatching Understanding the Formula of Music, the DVD I discussed three weeks ago. I pick up a little more with each repeated viewing. For example, this DVD has taught me what an arpeggio is -- a journey of understanding that began in 1970 when I first saw this scene in The Aristocats:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Banjo versus TV: Week 14

Banjo 100 hrs, TV 77 hours
A weekly check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s resolution to spend more time in 2008 on his banjo than on TV.

Another week in which the TV (6 hours 42 minutes) beat the banjo (3 hours). I think I'm hitting a low patch in my enthusiasm. Which happens. (See Reid Toth's article, "Motivation, Procrastination and Instant Gratification" in last month's Banjo Newletter.)

Also in the last week:

Mentos Passwords for Stupid Fools Farting Sweet Home minus Garfield

Seven links:
  1. Leningrad Cowboys & Red Army Choir - Sweet Home Alabama
  2. GRC's Ultra High Security Password Generator
  3. April Fools (Flickr group)
  4. fart-sounds.net
  5. Garfield minus Garfield
  6. Computer Being Stupid
  7. Diet Coke + Mentos

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Banjo versus TV: Week 13

Banjo 97 hrs, TV 71 hours
A weekly check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s resolution to spend more time in 2008 on his banjo than on TV.

Kind of a slow week, banjo-wise. I ate into my surplus by watching some trashy TV with the redhead. (Hurray for Best Week Ever and Girls Next Door!) But the banjo is still way ahead.

I suppose I should reflect on the whole Banjo versus TV project, what with this being the thirteenth week and therefore the project's one-quarter mark. I'm very happy with my banjo-playin' progress. I can now pluck six songs or so with modest skill, which is a good start and is waaaaay better than I'd be if I hadn't been putting in the hours.

In other words: so far, so good.

Also in the last week:

  • I picked up my spare banjo from the shop. Now both banjos have fifth-string capos.
  • I registered for Midwest Banjo Camp.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

They kidnapped my banjo on April Fools' Day

We HaVE YouR bANjo...

I arrived at my office on this fine, April 1st morning and discovered a ransom note, hanging from my office door by a banjo strap.

We have your banjo.

If you ever want to see your precious banjo again prepare 300 unmarked AgileBucks and dial 847-699-XXXX for the drop point.

No cops.

I rushed to my banjo case; the one I keep my spare banjo in so I can do some early morning practice at the office. Opening the case, I discovered that my banjo was gone and that it had been replaced by a rock. A mocking rock that laughed at me and glowed with the message "BEWARE!"

It was clear that the kidnappers worked for AgileTek. They wanted to be paid in AgileBucks; the currency that we use for our rewards at AgileTek. (Click on these pictures...
What Are AgileBucks Made Of? A$1 - The Ada A$5 - The Wirth A$10 - The Codd A$20 - The Bertrand
...for a little background on AgileBucks.)

What to do? What to do?

(To be continued.)


I prepared three bundles...
I prepared three bundles for the kidnappers
...and made contact with the kidnappers. I got my banjo. They got their bundles of AgileBucks. As instructed.

Almost exactly as instructed. I mean, the note did say "unmarked," right? So I made sure that all of the AgileBucks in the middle of each bundle were totally, completely and without a doubt...unmarked.

Well, they SAID they wanted unmarked AgileBucks

Happy April Fools' Day, you rotten, banjo-thievin' scoundrels!