A collection of ephemera.
I was out of town on vacation and got tied up with a few work things, so I haven’t done much updating here for the last couple of weeks. In that time:
1. Another white emo guitar guy won The Show. Wow, what a change of pace. I think it’s time to adjust the judging process here so the Army of Tween Girl Texters don’t continue to control the outcome.
2. I saw (part) of my family at a Georgia sea island vacation. We all rented a vacation cottage together, and I got to see my brother and three of my sisters (I’m from a family of seven kids). Also, Tybee Island is a great place to visit.
3. I made a discovery. As part of the process of cleaning out and repairing the shed at the house (see below), I found a box marked ‘books and electronics.’ I only saw books when I opened it — but when I got rid of the books, there were a half-dozen harmonicas and a microphone there. The mic was the one I used at my wedding, and it has a ceramic element that is much-loved by harp players and no longer made. I thought it was gone forever, but it’s just been in the corner of my shed for a decade. And the harps were kind of cool as well — there were a couple of Huang harmonicas in there, which were what I used when I was broke in the 1980s, along with several Lee Oskars and a couple of Marine Bands. I’ve cleaned them all and most of them work just fine.
4. The Washington Nationals have become more awesome. That Memorial Day game was an unfair travesty — they had to play a late-starting TV game in Atlanta, get on a plane and fly to Miami for a day game the next day — but the Nats continue to beat up on their National League East counterparts. Considering that almost every team in the East has had a little run this year and every team might crack .500, the team that can beat its in-division rivals is likely to be the one that wins the division (and conversely, the level of competition in the division means it’s less likely to produce a team with the record needed to be a wild card). And remember: Michael Morse, Drew Storen, Jayson Werth et al are still out of service. This is going to get better. And don’t forget about the Orioles — I definitely have a pilgrimage there in my future.
The shed has mocked me for a while. I let some English ivy get into the walls on one side and the ivy promptly rotted the siding, meaning that to fix things, I’d have to 1)clean up the hellish mess in the shed so I could get at the walls and 2)the repair would require ripping out the walls and replacing them.
I really, really didn’t want to pay a grand to a handyman to do that work, so I took the natural route: I procrastinated. And when I say “I procrastinated,” I mean that I put off the repair for a year.
But my wife got tired of looking at the steadily worsening situation out there. “Let’s fix it for my birthday,” she said. I felt reasonably confident we could do that, and once I got out a tape measure and realized these walls were nothing more than standard-width plywood siding, I was convinced.
One thing I love about big-box hardware stores: They really can help you out. The plywood siding would have to be shortened two feet on the long end — from 8 feet to 6 feet. No problem: Home Depot cut them to size. Then all I needed was some stain, some small crowbars and a mallet with a heavy head.
The weekend came and we went at it. Cleaning out the shed was less work than I thought, but ripping out those walls was a nightmare. The contractors who originally put up the shed apparently loved their nail gun. It took substantial work to get those panels out of the wall, and the nails were mounted in the studs so well that attempting to pull them sometimes caused the nail heads to fly off while the rest of the nail remained in place.
But, thanks to the proper application of crowbars and a few Hulk-smash swings of the heavy mallet (not to mention a few kicks to the wall from the inside), the walls eventually surrendered. Replacing them was much easier, since the shed framework already was squared — it basically just took a drop-in replacement. We added two coats of redwood stain and the task was done. I’d put the total work time at about five hours — if we did it again, we probably could cut that to three hours. Better still, we have a usable shed again.
A few weeks after Levon Helm’s death, Donald “Duck” Dunn is gone. You might have seen him playing that bass and smoking that pipe in The Blues Brothers movie (or the godawful Blues Brothers 2000 sort-of-sequel). But the fact is, he laid down a groove for a whole generation of musicians who loved Memphis music. Here’s a nice piece on him from The New York Times.
Update 5/14: Here’s a nice appreciation on NPR.org. On my Facebook timeline, I noted that Dunn and Helm grew up a short distance away from each other, right on the Mississippi River delta. “You could feel that rich soil under your feet every time they played,” I wrote. That’s the feeling I try to conjure up when I’m on stage.
So Now There Are Four left on The Show. Perky Country Teen got kicked over the side Thursday in a mild bit of an upset, one week after The Singer I Want To Front My Bar Band got it. What we mostly have left are children — undeniable proof that America’s Army of Text Messagers have a tendency to skew mighty young.
Personally, I love this guy. He’s Otis F. Redding personified — except with more range. He’s not the greatest interview in the world — he still seems a little dazed by it all, and who can blame him? — but once he hits the stage: POW. The problem is that he seems like a throwback even to me, and I don’t think the text-messager army has a clue who Otis F. Redding even is. I can root for him — but that probably means he is a dead man walking. Predicted finish: Fourth.
I have been alternatively amazed by the vocal prowess this teen displays and creeped out by the way the show keeps dressing her like she’s Jody Foster in Taxi Driver. Going against her: America’s already thrown her over the side once, but the judges hauled her back in with their one and only boat hook. She’s also a diva-style singer, and diva-style singing seems even more old-fashioned these days than Otis F. Redding. Predicted finish: Third.
If you told me even a month ago that this once-terrified kid would still be around, I would have professed amazement. But something clearly has happened here — she’s gotten used to being in the spotlight and now seems able to shed the stress that was holding her and her voice back. There is nothing — NOTHING — that the teen texters like better than a late comer racing three-wide down the stretch. I’ve seen this kind of personality win The Show repeatedly. If she keeps it together — and in her case, that’s always an open question — she could win it. Predicted finish: Second.
Can somebody explain him to me? I don’t get it. Week after week, the judges talk about what an original artist he is. Wha-wha-what? He looks like Dave Matthews, he sounds like Dave Matthews, he dresses like Dave Matthews, he moves on stage and even has the same facial expressions as Dave Matthews, and he plays a Taylor acoustic — the same guitar favored by You Know Who. He has less vocal range than anyone who has reached this stage of The Show ever and I can’t recall him ever venturing more than four feet from his microphone on stage. Oh, yeah: The tween girls and their bedazzled smart phones, armed with Mommy’s Unlimited Text Messaging Plan, appear to love him. Predicted finish: First.
It all plays out over the next three weeks. We’ll see what happens. More importantly, we’ll see if the winner can make an actual impact on the music industry. Last year’s champ actually has done pretty well, but I’m not super-confident about the long-term chances of any of this crew.
Back when I was on Cayamo in February, I was watching a band on the pool deck when a man walked by, wearing a soccer jersey in the color that we’d call Carolina blue here in the U.S. I knew what it was. “Manchester City!” I shouted.
He came over and decided to take pity on the American. In a very British accent, he carefully explained to me that City was the real Manchester football club — not those posers who played for United. He used a lot of small and simplistic words to explain to me the importance of this — not knowing that I’ve watched the Premier League for the last several years via cable sports networks.
United probably is the most famous sports team of any type in the world, and City has spent whole decades playing a very distant second fiddle to the Red Devils. But not this year. This year, United and City stand 1-2 in Britain’s Premier League, and if City beats United on Monday, City will take the league lead with only a couple of games remaining. Considering that City stomped United 6-1 on United’s home field earlier this year, City’s chances look good.
You can watch Premier League games almost every day if you’re lucky enough to have Fox Soccer Channel available to you. On Monday afternoon, the big boy in the room — ESPN — is going to broadcast the game live. It’s certainly the biggest club soccer match since United met Barcelona for the European team championship last spring. If you’re a sports fan who’s had little exposure to really top-notch professional soccer, this is the game you want to see.
P.S. — I’m a fan of the Blues, although I’m also a fan of Wayne Rooney’s remarkable hairline.
Hokum is written by Randy Lilleston, a Washington-area journalist. This blog contains a variety of insignificant thoughts. I started it in March 2006, but a
stupid unfortunate event in November 2007 led to the accidental deletion of all posts before August 2006. Enjoy.