Friday, May 30, 2008

Cousinnephew update

The cousinnephew in his graduation robe (experimental film camera angle)Wondering what happened with my cousinnephew, his application to film school and all those films we watched over Christmas break last year?

He was accepted into the film program! He starts in the fall!


Monday, May 26, 2008

Banjo versus TV: Week 21

Banjo 143 hrs, TV 128 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.

A heavy week for business, a light week for the banjo. A good week for DVDs about princesses. (Enchanted was very good; Ella Enchanted was okay, if only because it got me to add Somebody to Love to the list of songs I want to learn to play on my banjo.)

Also in the last week:

  • So You Think You Can Dance started on Thursday. The redhead and I love that show.
  • What a shame to lose the great Dick Martin this last week. I've been watching a bunch of documentaries about The Smothers Brothers (folk artists, among many things) and Steve Martin (banjoist, among many things). Rowan and Martin are often cited as an influence. Besides, Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In is one of my earliest TV memories.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dinner with Microsoft

A couple of tech authors, two evangelists from Microsoft and I went to dinner the other night. As the conversation strayed from topic to topic through the night, someone would say, "Oh, you've got to send me a link to that."

So, for those of you who were there: here are all those links.

For those of you who weren't there: These are the kinds of things that geeks talk about when Microsoft treats them to a nice meal.

Thanks for the great night out! I think we had as much fun as our NDAs would allow!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Banjo versus TV: Week 20

Banjo 140 hrs, TV 120 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.

After last week's successful jam session I've found myself on a learning plateau. Which, Mike tells me, is to be expected after reaching a goal like that. So I've been taking it easy and just picking through my favorite songs.

In preparation for my next push, and as a reward to myself for reaching a goal, I've order up some song books.

More on these when I leave the plateau.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Bourbon Street Refugees in a Chicago El station

I met a string band in a Chicago El station today. They're working their way from New Orleans to Oregon.

2008-05-19 Bourbon Street Refugees 002

They told me they've been together for just a short while. When I asked their name, the woman with the fiddle and washboard told me they were called The Bourbon Street Refugees in New Orleans.

That sign says, "TRAVELIN' BAND. HELP US OUT." I gave them a few bucks. Their banjo player is a mandolin player who's been working on his banjo since November. He's a frailer, but said he'd like to give picking another try the next time he gets his hands on some picks. I happened to be carrying some picks (of course) so I donated them to the cause.

They told me I could post a couple of videos, so here they are in all their cell-phone-camera glory.

Good luck on the tour, folks!

We left with Mom before the fight broke out

Update: Darn it. I read the date wrong so this whole post doesn't make any sense. The incident occurred on Friday night; we were there on Saturday night. You can just ignore this post. The band on Friday night was The Tony Smith Show and not Roy and the Orbitz.

What is all this fuss I hear about Roy Orbison songs and Chicago cops?

Never mind.

Roy and the Orbitz

Mom, my little sister and I left the Chambers lounge on Saturday before the fight broke out. We'd finished our meal and caught just the first few songs by the Roy Orbison tribute band Roy and the Orbitz.

The first I'd heard of the fight was when my sister sent me a link to two Chicago Tribune videos: "Officer accused of beating 2 people in a bar" and "Cop charged in bar attack tells a different story".

Depending on whom you believe, we missed either:

  • A Chicago cop beating up on a fifty-year-old woman and her sixty-one-year-old boyfriend for no reason (and then fleeing the scene) or
  • A fifty-year-old woman asking a Chicago cop to dance with her, her sixty-one-year-old boyfriend hitting her for asking and the cop hitting the boyfriend (and then fleeing the scene)

The cop, who had some vaguely-described prior run-in with the police in 2006, has been relieved of his duties. He was arrested by the Niles police, was released on bond and is to appear in court in June on charges of battery.

So the question is: If Roy and the Orbitz are called to testify, and are asked to do so in song, what Roy Orbison song do you think they'd sing?

Update: A cell phone picture I took that night. As much as the lead singer looks like Roy Orbison, the bass player looks like Colin Mochrie. Perhaps they should add Hyakugojyuuichi!!! to their repertoire.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

Banjo versus TV: Week 19

Banjo 135 hrs, TV 113 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.

The big news this week was my sister's jam party.

She told me she'd invited a bunch of musicians with a variety of skill levels. Translation: Several good musicians and me. But her trick worked. I had a blast at my first jam party!

The band played...

...the singers sang...

...I kept up on my banjo when I could...

...and when I couldn't...

...I hammered away on the pots and pans.

The crowd had a good time and gave me more compliments than I deserved (and almost as many as I could want).

I was very nervous about the jam. The set list was available in advance, so I brought it to my weekly banjo lesson and asked Mike for advice. After giving the list a once-over (Initial assessment: "You're screwed.") he helped me pick out some songs that are within reach of my current skill level.

Here are the songs on her set list that were doable:

And here are the songs that were beyond my reach for now:

The band was very kind to me and moved several of the songs to G so I wouldn't have to capo. Thanks, everyone, for making me sound good!

Also in the last week:

  • As I was practicing over lunch at the park, Jared Voss came up and introduced himself. Jared's a guitarist with Mattithias and the Stereo Expanders who likes the idea of lunch-time practice in the park. We exchanged contact info; maybe we can set something up.
  • Yay, pawn shop bluegrass! I got these used CDs on the cheap at our local pawn shop:
    • Flatt & Scruggs at Carnegie Hall
    • Don Reno: Founding Father of the Bluegrass Banjo
    • Dead Grass featuring Vassar Clements
    • The Three Pickers (Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs)
    • The Grass is Blue by Dolly Parton
    • All-Time Southern Gospel Hits Collection (OK, it's gospel and not bluegrass. Sue me.)
    • Bill Monroe from the Country Music Hall of Fame Series

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Punisher Meets Archie

Thanks to a tip from the indefatigible Chris Sims I have a new addition to J.R.'s wish list:

Archie Meets the Punisher.

You never see Mr. Weatherbee and Wilson Fisk at the same time

Or is that The Punisher Meets Archie?

Frank Castle, meet Pureheart the Powerful

Either way, I want it.

Update: And I got it for my banjoversary. Thanks, Mom!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I found Power Girl!

Long-time readers (Hi, Mom!) will recall that I'd made a promise to this woman.

The Mighty Monarch vs Powergirl

We met at Wizard World 2007 in Chicago. I was wearing a Plastic Man costume, my nephew was wearing a Woozy Winks costume. The meeting went something like this:

Some dude: (Tapping me on the shoulder.) She wants you to come over.

Me: Huh?

Some dude: (Motions towards the woman in the Power Girl costume.) She can't leave the booth and she wants you to come over.

Me: Power Girl!!!

Her: Plastic Man!!!

(I run over to the booth, dragging "Woozy" with me. A big hug as we talk over one another.)

Talking over one another: ILovePowerGirlILovePlasticManAlwaysBeenOneOfMyFavoritesOhMeTooWeHaveGotToGetAPicture.

Me: (As we pose.) You realized that I'm going to have to PhotoShop this so my arm wraps around you.

Her: Of course!

Me: I'll get you a copy.

But, dummy that I am, I neglected to get her contact information. So, even though the picture came out beautifully and I got not just one but two great PhotoShop mods of it, I didn't know how to get a copy to her.

Until now.

The woman, I've discovered, is Liana K, co-host of the popular Canadian show Ed & Red's Night Party.

Liana K Liana K and Ed the Sock

Here's what Wikipedia has to say about her.

Liana Kerzner (born 1978 in Toronto, Ontario), better known by her stage name, Liana K, is a Canadian television entertainer who co-hosts the talk show, Ed's Night Party.

After studying English Literature and Anthropology for a time at York University, she abandoned her academic studies in 1997 when she was hired for behind-the-scenes work on Ed's Night Party. This eventually led to Kerzner earning the positions of senior producer and co-head writer of the program. By 2004, she joined Ed the Sock to become the first female co-host on the show.

Kerzner has also been involved in many of Ed the Sock's other media projects, including the annual Fromage specials and Smartass: The Ed the Sock Report, both on the Canadian cable music and variety television channel MuchMusic.

Kerzner has been also active as a performer in theatre and competitive dance from a young age.

She's also a comic book fan and she loves cosplay. And she blogs.

So I'm going to drop her an email (or blog post or something) with a link to this post so I can finally get her the photos.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "OMG, J.R.," you're thinking, because you think in initialisms. "You and Liana K are so much alike. Blogging, comics, costumes, hand puppets. Ravishingly good looks. How are we going to tell you apart?"

I can see your difficulty. So I used information from our respective sites to create the following chart of comparisons.

Liana KJ.R. J
Liana K as Batwoman Liana K as Knockout Liana K as Hawkgirl
Liana K as Leia Liana K as Sheena Liana K as Red Sonja
Liana K as Poison Ivy Liana K as ?
1965 Clown 1975 Alien and alien dog 1983 Jester
Jack Skelington, Woozy Winks and Plastic Man do lunch at Wizard World 2007 2007 Galactus
Your results:
You are Spider-Man
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.
Wonder Woman
Green Lantern
Iron Man
The Flash
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz
Your results:
You are Spider-Man
You are intelligent, witty,
a bit geeky and have great
power and responsibility.
Iron Man
The Flash
Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
Click here to take the Superhero Personality Quiz

Hope that helps.

Banjo versus TV: Week 18

Banjo 126 hrs, TV 109 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.

Mike, my instructor, approves of the approach to pinky and smoothness that I described last week, so I've been doing more of the same this week. And by "more" I mean "less" since I haven't had much banjo time this week.

One of the things fueling this: I have got to watch some more TV. Just look at the trend through last week:

At this rate it's going to be too easy to keep my banjo hours over my TV hours. And next month's trip to Midwest Banjo Camp is just going to make matters worse. I figure it'll be about 23.5 hours of banjo time, even if I don't participate in any of the off-hours open jam sessions.

If I let my banjo hours fall much farther behind my TV hours, the TV hours will provide no motivation at all.

So I'm going to freely indulge in as much sweeps-watching as I want.


I am far too amused by this obscenity-filled list of source code comments from early Mosaic code.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Helen Killer

Helen Killer #1Here's hoping that Helen Killer is everything that Chris Sims says it is. Sounds like a comic for the ages.

Update: Oh no! Everybody's sold out of Helen Killer #1! I've tried three comic shops. Good thing that Wizard World Chicago is coming up next month; I should be able to find a copy there.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Banjo versus TV: Week 17

Banjo 122 hrs, TV 100 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.

I worked on two things this last week: my pinky and my smoothness.

For the pinky, I played Rocky Top from my Easy Banjo Solos book. Its chord progression (G-C-G-Em-D-G-C-G-Em-D-G-Em-G-F-C-G-F-G) includes a little bit of the pinky-centric D and F chords. I had to play this song at a painfully slow pace, but I played it.

And speaking of pace, I worked on my smoothness by setting my metronome at a leasurely 100 beats per minute and playing all of my songs (except Rocky Top) at that speed. I kept wanting to go faster, but it was good for me to stick to that pace and to concentrate on a nice, smooth play.

Also in the last week: