Saturday, September 22, 2007

Courtesty of Sully

This is from The Daily Dish
by Andrew Sullivan.

I thought it too snarky to pass up.


side note: ASU has a homegame tonight, even though she's a rabid UofA basketball fan, and loyal to her school, MedSkoolGirl has consented to attend with me. We're both wearing Pat Tillman jersies. Go Devils!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Pre-performance Note

If there is a particular section of hell for musicians it will probably consist of a two hour rehearsal where it feels like I am the only person there who ever even heard of the headliner, much less bothered to run through the sheet music that was so conveniently faxed to my home two weeks ago. The task at this level of hell is to not throw things at these dipsticks, or tell them how fucking unprofessional it is when they ask stupid questions on subjects they should already have down. I know it's a benefit and it will be hard to piss anybody off, they've spent their money for this good cause and will walk away full of banquent chicken in glue sauce and satisfaction for their devotion to charity.

Still, I think that as professionals there are certain standards that must be upheld.

I also know that anytime I feel I have surmounted and transcended this level of hell the endless hell of soundchecks awaits.

(puff! puff!) (tap - tap) check . . . check. . .check mic one. . .

(puff! puff!) (tap - tap) check . . . check . . .check mic two . . .


Ahhhh, can I please get a level on the harp?

Me: Which one?

DVFTDA: Ahhhhh, what to you call the big one?

Me: the big one.

DVFTDA: Ok, let's start there.

Trust me folks. It only goes downhill from here.

Although I'm meeting my daughter MedskoolGirl for dinner in about half an hour. Life will be pretty damned good from then on. She's going to be backstage at the show and will be coming home for a five day visit afterward.

I still hate rehearsals and soundchecks.

Big Brass Blog

Friday Random Ten

Yeah, long week folks. Luckily I'm off to Tucson to meet a dear friend and play some cool music to help her raise money for music programs in the school system down there.

My cousin, the brilliant attorney and his partner are going to hang out and feed critters while I'm gone.

Here's the first ten to bubble up this morning . . .

Sea of Love - - - Tom Waits
Billy Got Some Bad New Today - - - Tom Paxton
April, Come She Will - - - Paul Simon (live bootleg)
Irish Rover - - - The Pogues
4th Time Around - - - Bob Dylan
The Wind - - - Cat Stevens
Jivin' Man Blues - - - Dave Van Ronk
Jolie Blon - - - Doug Kershaw
The Carpenter - - - Guy Clark
Gonna Be A Country Girl Again - - - Buffy Sainte-Marie

And I'm gonna be a country girl again
With an old brown dog and a big front porch
And rabbits in the pen

I tell you all the lights on Broadway
Don't amount to an acre of green
And I'm gonna be a country girl again

Word Buffy. Fucking. Word.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Notes From a Tough Day

Things went pretty well at the funeral. There were a couple of surprises that I thought you might like to hear about.

First, "God Bless America" went fine. As a matter of fact, it was a highlight. Before the service I was talking with the young man's mother. I suggested to her, since she wanted the song played that when she gave her eulogy part that she try to get everyone singing the song with her. I told her that I would be right there to pick up and keep it going in the case of her faltering.

She talked about the way she had come to this country seven years ago. With two children from El Salvador. Then two more children came along, the husband left and she has been raising the kids all by herself working as a maid at one of the many resorts in the Phoenix area that cater to the filthy rich. She talked about her son joining the army to get the educational benefits, but also so that he could send the bulk of his paycheck home every month to help her out. She talked about how joining had put her son on the fast track for citizenship. Then she said that she had become an American citizen herself. She said that she was proud of her family, and proud of her country.

All of a sudden the rah-rah bullshit I had been associating with "God Bless America" was beginning to look a little petty. I felt a wee bit good that I had managed to hold my tongue around her. She asked the people there if they would sing with her. I hit a chord, and we sang. It wasn't stupid. It was sincere. I might have been coming in to fake my way through it, she didn't, and in the face of her honesty, I wasn't able to fake it either.

The other thing that was notable I noticed right at the beginning of the service. I usually start something like that with a small 10 or 15 minute prelude type of thing. I just warm up and pluck out some classical and celtic stuff on the harp while people file in and take their seats. I was waiting for one of the ushers to give me the high sign to let me know that they were ready to bring in the casket with the young man.

The sign came and I picked up the pipes, I started in to play "Garry Owen." Although I was playing it very slowly, stately, with a rolling kind of rhythm. I watched the honor guard enter and saw that the Sgt. Major himself was in command of them. It was the first time we've met face to face. All of our interactions to this point had been on the phone. I didn't know that he was an african-american for instance. He's a big guy. Imposing and erect. I must say that today he certainly looked every inch a soldier. Of course, he's the kind of man that I think would look every inch a soldier first thing in the morning. He really gives off that lifer vibe.

After the final ceremonies at the graveside I shook hands with the mother and went over to introduce myself to the Sgt. Major. He was looking me up and down, sizing me up. We shook hands. He commented on my wearing an all black outfit. I said Jena 6, lots of people are wearing black today. He asked about the golden eagle feathers that I decorate the drones of my bagpipes with and I told him that the apache name for the golden eagle translates as "truth eagle" and that it's an expression of my cross cultural identity. He nodded gravely and said: "I know that if we were spending time having to be around each other there would be a great many subjects we would not see eye to eye on. I will say this. You have heart and style. I'm both grateful for the way you help us out with this, and proud to be able to call on you."

I said "Sgt. Major, I've been shoulder to shoulder with men I didn't see eye to eye with many times. We held our own and did our duty. Even if we didn't take long warm showers together we reached a place of respect and affection. I can see that you are a complete soldier. I do respect that greatly. Why did you choose to attend this particular funeral?"

He said "I know this family. We attend this same church. I helped to recruit this young man. There was no other place that I could be today."

I said "Tough duty indeed Sgt. Major." He said "Call me Larry."

I said "As you wish, Sgt. Major." (waited about four beats)

"Larry, please don't hesitate to call upon me anytime I might be of service."

He said "Thanks again."

I said "You're really into this whole last word thing aren't you?"

He said "Hoo-rah troop."

I left it at that.

big brass blog

This Started Out

as a comment over at the fine blog Ranger Against War.

I'm dragging myself through the morning today. Muttering to myself. Slouching and bitching through the chores. In three short hours I will be playing yet another funeral for a fine young man who has fallen due to the misguided policy and schemes of George W. Bush and also because of the craven cowardice or callous cynicism of the Congress that refuses to do their duty and stop this shit.

I'm doing this because it fucking hurts. That's right. I'll say it again, I'm doing this BECAUSE it hurts.

It hurts to see that another young person has been brutally killed. It hurts to see the faces of the surviving family. It hurts to stand with honor guard and play sad songs on the harp and pipes. It hurts even more when it is the child of a neighbor, it hurts even more when it was a kid that I knew.

Want to know something else? It hurts even more when I'm going to or leaving something like that and realize that most of this country doesn't even know, or much care, how bad it hurts.

I have had friends, on the phone, in my house, through concerned emails, tell me that they see the toll this is taking on me. Fuck! The republican pukes have had the gall to tell reporters that they will tow the line and stay with the president until the primaries are over and they are certain to make it to the general election, then they'll come to the "Stop this fucking madness" camp. They are more concerned with keeping their pissant jobs than the fact that we are losing two or more soldiers a day while at the same time not accomplishing a goddamned thing other than losing two or more soldiers a day.

Here's my challenge to you. Find a way to make this personal. Do like Jersey Cynic and Liz did over at BlondeSense did. They got out in the street to protest. They even got Jim Yeager of Mockingbird's Medley to join them. You know Jim. He used to blog as Mimus Pauly, now he's just doing it under his name.

Make it personal. Find a way to make this shit mean something deep inside you. Make it hurt. Then Do. It. Some. More. Feel the pain, feel the sadness when a 20 year old kid gets rolled over in a truck wreck. Then go to the next one. And the one after that. And the one after that.

Keep. It. Personal. Do that and you might find a way to ensure that this madness stops. Drag people along with you so that they know how much it hurts.

My cousin and his partner are coming to the funeral with me today.

That's two more people.

Maybe we won't stop this war. It has the distinct potential of stopping itself. The military can simply break down and cease to function like it did with Alexander. Of course, it just might get worse. Still.

I'm keeping it personal. I'm going to walk through the hurt, the grief, the pain and do what I can to make something, some fucking where a little better.

That's what I'm doing.

How about you?

Big Brass Blog

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cinnamon Raisin Bread (see? told ya i'd get to it)

Let me begin by telling you that this is a recipe for a bread machine. I love mine. I've had it for nearly 20 years and it just keeps chugging along turning out beautiful loaves of homemade bread.

The smell of a fresh loaf of bread baking merrily away is one of the things that will instantly put a smile on the face of everyone who comes through the door. It's better stuff. Oh, I forgot, you have to actually slice this yourself. Wah-wah-wah. No preservatives used here. No xanthan gum or any other laboratory stuff that gets thrown into commercial loaves. Just good solid food.

This one is a perennial favorite here. The kids love it. It's great in the afternoon, lightly toasted and smeared with cream cheese and home made jam or preserve.

You can easily substitute any kind of dried fruit (or for a little slice of heaven use crystallized ginger) for the raisin and the food police will not track you down, at least not yet.


1 1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon powdered milk (or use 1 1/4 cup skim milk)
2 tablespoons shortening
2 tablespoons sugar (I use the vanilla sugar that's in the pantry)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 1/3 cup all purpose flour (bread flour works fine too, so does whole wheat, just not stone ground stuff for this recipe)
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup raisins

Put the first eight ingredients into the baking pan of the bread machine in the order listed.
Set it for Sweet Bread
Pick your crust color (mine's stuck on dark)
Turn it on.
When the first mix and kneading is finished add in the raisins. (mine beeps twice for this stage)
Walk away for three and a half hours.
Cool in the baking pan for 20 minutes. Remove from the pan. Cool another half hour before slicing.
Dig in.


A Chanty Fer Me Maties

Bein' appri'ate t'th'day of Talk Like a Pirate. . .

I gi'e thee

The tune

an' o'carse the words. . .

The Black Velvet Band

In a neat little town they call Belfast
An apprentice boy I was bound
And many's the happy hour
I have spent in that neat little town
But bad misfortune o'ertook me
And caused me to stray from the land
Far away from my friends and relations,
Betrayed by the black velvet band

Oh, one evening late as I rambled
Not meaning to go very far,
When I met with a gay young deceiver
She was plyin' her trade in a bar.
Oh, her eyes they shone like the diamonds
And I thought her the pride of the land
And her hair hung over her shoulders
Tied up with a black velvet band.

Oh, one evening a flashman, a watchman
She happened to meet on the sly
I could tell that her mind it was altered
By the roll of her roving dark eye
Oh, that watch she took from his pocket
She slipped it right into my hand
Then she gave me in charge to the policeman
Bad luck to the black velvet band

Now before the Lord Mayor I was taken
My guilt they proved quite plain
And he said if I was not mistaken
I should have to cross the salt main
Now its sixteen long years have they gave me
To plough upon Van Dieman's land
Far away from my friends and relations
A curse on the black velvet band

So come all ye jolly young fellows,
I'll have ye take warning from me
Whenever you're out on the liquor,
Beware of them pretty colleens.
They'll treat you to whiskey and porter,
Till you are not able to stand;
And the very next thing that you know, my lads,
You'll end up in Van Dieman's land.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sgt. Major Says

to me on the phone: "Do you know 'Garry Owen'."

I say "Of course I do. Harp or pipes?"

Sgt. Major: "Our young corporal ***** was 1st of the 7th."

Me: "Garry Owen it is. When do you want it played?"

Sgt. Major: "I talked to the mother and said it should be played on the pipes when we bring him into the church."

Me: "And going out?"

Sgt. Major: "I told her that the tradition is to play 'The Skye Boat Song'."

Me: "It's not a tradition that I know of. It's just a song I started playing because it's pretty, and it made a statement to me personally. It was also one of the only songs I knew when I started playing the pipes last year."

Sgt. Major: "I'm the Command Sgt. Major of this outfit, if I say that something's a tradition it is a tradition. Am I clear?"

Me: "Yes, Sgt. Major. Perfectly clear. We'll do the traditional 'Skye Boat Song' on the way out of the chapel."

Sgt. Major: "I want to thank you for this. It means a lot to us all."

Me: "It means a lot to me too Sgt. Major. I'm proud to be able to give this service."

Sgt. Major: "It's traditional to allow the Sgt. Major to have the last word."

Me: "Hoo-rah Sgt. Major."

Sgt. Major: "Dismissed dammit." (click)


Sunday, September 16, 2007

What Matters

I am playing for the funeral of a young man who was killed in Iraq on Thursday. I've been talking with his mother to work out the songs. We were on the phone and she asked if I would play "God Bless America."

I'm glad we were on the phone so she couldn't see the pain on my face as I said "Certainly ma'am, what ever you want."

I do this because it is something I can do. I know that it has a benefit, both to the family of the young man, and, according to the Command Sergeant Major, on the honor gaurd, when they know that I myself served and am willing to do this out of respect for the fallen and my own sense of duty and honor.

Robert E. Lee once wrote either in a letter or his journal (I'm thinking it was his journal kept while in West Point but I'm too damned lazy to look it up) that

Duty is the sublimest word in the English language.

I will do my duty. To this young man's memory, to his comrades, to his family and certainly to myself.

His mother will never know how hard it is for me to do this. She will only know that she asked me to do something and I said "Of course."


If You Watched Football

Then you'd know that Keith Olbermann was rushed to the hospital with acute appendicitis. He's going to be on injured reserve for at least a week.

Get. Well. Keith.


Big Brass Blog

Emmylou and Linda

Nuff said, I'm in love. Total, blushing love.