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Don’t Step On My ทารกสีฟ้า Suede Shoes

It’s Saturday, right? I’m way behind. I’m pretty sure Saturday is traditionally the day I post Thai cover versions of Badfinger songs.

I may have forgotten to post Thai covers of Badfinger songs one or two weeks out of the last fifty or sixty, but for the most part, I never miss. I like to follow that whole scene, you know, the Bangkok Badfinger cover scene. I try to stay away from obscure stuff on the Intertunnel, and stick with middle of the road selections.

Apropos of nothing, I’m fairly certain the very last time I played music is in this video right here. Seven years ago my friends dragged me over to their house to get outside some beers and make some noise one last time. I put the bass in the case after, moved to Maine, and never opened it again.

Yep, it’s a Badfinger cover. There’s also a cover version of me playing the guitar. 

Looking For Points Of Light In The Darkness

When I went to the WYSIWYG editor for this blog a minute ago, the counter read 999,999. Who knows, you might be somebody.

I don’t write my other blog anymore. The Borderline Sociopathic Blog for Boys is entirely the work of my older son now. I don’t think anyone noticed when I handed it over to him. He’s the large one playing the guitar in yesterday’s video, if you’re new around here. More people are reading the BSBFB than this blog today, and every day. That does the opposite of bothering me.

One of my readers, a gentle and generous soul, asked if my Heir could use his editing acumen to make something of the raw material of his daughter’s recital. My sons have both become semi-skilled at all sorts of things, and video editing is one of them. They both keep blogs now. No, you can’t see the little one’s blog, so don’t ask.

My Heir did a good job, I think, but you tell me. I must tell you something else about that video: It refreshed my view of my fellow human beings. I am mostly isolated from regular society now. My sample size for interactions with actual humans is vanishingly small. I mostly see the bad end of the dookie stick, and it’s skewing my opinion of my fellow man, and not in a good way.

Every once in a while, people like those three lovely girls and their parents remind me that the world is not entirely an increasingly scorched handbasket — just mostly. There are still some people who are raising their children to be productive and pleasant citizens and neighbors, with respect for tradition coupled to a hope for a better future. Don’t believe me? Just watch the video.

Perfect Pitch

My little son is only ten. He hands me teeth when he walks by every once in a while, and likes Minecraft, and riding his bike and sledding, and lots of other little kid stuff. But he’s kind of wonderful around the edges.

He plays the drums in a band with his big brother. They call themselves Unorganized Hancock. Just the two of them. He can, and has, played in front of live audiences for as many as three hours at a time, without making many noticeable errors. He’s homeschooled. He has not been drilled in drumming fundamentals very much. I gave him rudimentary lessons for a few weeks to start him off a couple years ago or so, but he really learned simply by playing along with his brother.

They were rehearsing a new song, and the little feller asked why his big brother was playing the first note of the song as a D#. That’s wrong he said, the first note of the song is supposed to be E. The big guy had tuned his guitar down a half-step, which makes it easier to sing some songs while still playing the guitar as if it was in a standard tuning. There was no way for my ten year old son to know that. He just hears the first note and knows it’s not correct.

Musicians with absolute perception may experience difficulties which do
not exist for other musicians. Because absolute listeners are capable of
recognizing that a musical composition has been transposed from its
original key, or that a pitch is being produced at a nonstandard
frequency (either sharp or flat), a musician with absolute pitch may
become distressed upon perceiving tones they believe to be “wrong” or
hearing a piece of music “in the wrong key.” Wikipedia

He doesn’t need a reference note to know what any given note is when he hears it. That’s Perfect Pitch, also called Absolute Pitch. People without the gift of Perfect Pitch can train their ear to recognize intervals from a reference note to name notes on a scale, which is called Relative Pitch, but there’s no way to “learn” Perfect Pitch. My older brother is a very fine musician, and is quite adept at hearing “Relative Pitch,” by dint of lots of work on his part. Me, I was a bad musician and don’t even play the radio now. I told my older brother that his nephew, who is also his namesake, seemed to have Perfect Pitch, he told me that he thought that perfect pitch was the noise you hear when you throw a bagpipe into a dumpster, and hit a dulcimer you threw in there yesterday. He says try the veal, too.

Wikipedia says maybe one person in 10,000 has Perfect Pitch, but that number sounds way wrong to me. I was a working musician for a long time, and played with and alongside hundreds of musicians, and never met anyone with perfect pitch, never mind among the general populace. Maybe lots of people have it, but don’t know it. It’s an uncanny thing for me to see in my little boy. It’s much more neato because it’s just a part of him, like a freckle or something.

It’s one hell of a freckle, though, ain’t it? You know who else had that freckle?

Bach, Bartok, and Beethoven; Casals, Cole, and Chopin; Miles and Ella and Hendrix…

[Update: Many thanks — no, really, many of them — to Teresa C, and Robert J for hitting our tip jar. My wife and I generally use the money to buy musical instruments for our kids and tranquilizers for ourselves]
[Yet More Update: Many thanks to J.P. in Waco, too!]
[Across the Pond Update: Many thanks to Saul J in the UK for hitting our colonist Tip Jar! ]

Brother’s Day

Nice people are nice.

Every day is Brother’s Day around our house, of course. Our two sons are very far apart in age, so the fact that they can do something together, every day, in earnest, is a blessing. I remember desperately trying to grow up in time to hang around with my much older brother, and seeing him disappear over the maturity horizon over and over. Heartbreaking, it was. The kids in the video have great fun knocking around together, and I bet they will when they’re men, too.

I worry what will happen to our younger son if The Heir lights out for adult life anytime soon. We live in western Maine, and it’s a cross between a nursing home and a mausoleum around here. There are, essentially, no small children. Most of the children that are here are borderline feral. The brothers need each other more than I wish they did. My older son has lots of nice friends because he can cast a wider net than the little feller, but the Spare Heir is lonesome sometimes. Without his brother — egad.

I used to make a joke when our first son was born: I was dissatisfied with the quality of humans available on this planet, so I made my own.  It doesn’t seem like much of a joke to me anymore. I encourage everyone to make your own humans. Making a human involves much, much more than fifteen minutes in the back seat of a car. You’ve got to raise ’em up. Like the charming kids in the video, they’ll help you raise themselves properly, if you’ll just let them. Micromanagement won’t produce a viable adult. Don’t forget to sprinkle some  Laissez faire in there, dudes and dudettes.

A year ago and more, my older son was disappointed for the umpteenth time when the other children his own age failed to show up to play music. He tried over and over again to find anyone that he could do it with. No dice. I suggested he try his little brother. I told him his brother would never let him down like that. You can trust your brother. Make sure he can trust you, too, and you’ll never falter.

On the odd, occasional day, spaced out quite a bit, I’ll grant you, and interspersed with plenty of bad dadding, I’m a half-decent father to those children:

(Thanks to reader and commenter Leon for sending Brother’s Day along)

[Update: Our friend Gerard at American Digest mashed the boys’ musical education PayPal button to remind us of how swell he his. That’s because he is. Many Thanks!]
[Update, More so: Many thanks to Charles F. from Florida for his contribution to the kids’ music fund]

She Thinks I Steal Kale

I tried to explain something to my musician son the other day. I had a hard time. The concept is nebulous. You have to ken it peripherally. If you try to look right at it, it can’t come into focus. It’s as much art as science. Hunch-y, really. I tried to describe to him what makes a song have “legs” — a term we used to use to indicate that a song is potentially useful to a performer by its very nature.

OK, so the Clutch Cargo of Country™, George Jones, had a big hit with this one back when Minutemen still rode dinosaurs to the Post Office to use the only telephone in town. That fact alone isn’t going to cut any ice at the disco, brother. Besides, he didn’t write it. He had to spot the legs in the song in the first place. If you want to glom onto the esssence of the song, and milk it to go along with your own performance cookies, the song needs to have legs. It’s got to be the framework for entertainment. It has to allow others to produce their own artifact, not just trade on the previous artifact.

The wrong people have to be able to “get over” with a song with legs. The sum of the component parts have to add up to more than the parts themselves. So you become a kind of vivisectionist, taking songs apart to see what makes them go. But just like taking that frog apart in science class, the frog doesn’t work anymore if you take it apart. The animation comes from somewhere else. To choose a song that’s going to have legs, you have to understand the frog well enough to replicate it, but you can’t kill it while taking it apart. That’s why it’s so hard to know what’s going to work.

You had a disc jockey at your shabby, expensive wedding because you didn’t want music; you wanted a list of cultural artifacts, laden with the context of your memories of what you were doing when they first came out of the radio. You wanted to eat at Musical McDonalds ™ because you wanted to know exactly what was on the menu before you entered the building. You didn’t want to rely on a chef, even a world renowned chef, because improvisation is fraught with peril. Something might happen, and your wedding would be on YouTube for all the wrong reasons — the only reason anything is on YouTube. To perform a song that has legs, you have to make the audience forget there’s another version of it they prefer for a little bit.

You’re on to something in your selection if a wave of nervous laughter passes through the audience at first, finding, perhaps, a delicious irony in the resurrection of a hoary old thing, and then the dead silence of rapt attention has to follow it.

So you search without looking directly at anything, the way a man searches for a mate in a bar. Sometimes you find exactly what you’re looking for, and the audience thinks to themselves: What a cute couple they make.

Live From The Skowtown Jail, It’s Unorganized Hancock

My two sons, AKA Unorganized Hancock, played two days straight in Skowhegan, Maine. You can see them show the Beatles a thing or two here, if you missed it. The next morning they were engaged to play “Jazz Brunch” at the Pickup Cafe.

The Pickup Cafe is really neat. Until a year ago or so, the building it’s in was a jail. You can still see bars inside the windows on the streetside facade. It’s been turned into a variegated compound of interesting businesses. There’s a mill in there grinding flour, which they sell in big bags next to the coffee urns in the cafe. There’s retail this and that, too. There’s some sort of wholesale food business that’s supposed to function on goodwill instead of cupidity. You can decide if greed is good on your own. I can testify that the coffee and the lunch we ate was really first-rate.

The cafe has three roll-up doors that allow al fresco dining during the 37-1/2 hours of good weather Maine enjoys every two years. Mainers are famously laconic, and don’t like to brag about such good fortune. They’re afraid you might be “from away,” which is what they call everyone that was born more than two hours drive from a Mardens, and they wouldn’t want to make you feel bad if you’re from some benighted burg that doesn’t enjoy that sort of sybaritic clime.

The landscaping outside the cafe was really well done. By the look of it, some of it is comestible, too. Flowers and sun with a little shade when you need it. What else could one need? Oh yes; some music.

Here’s Unorganized Hancock in their natural environment. Well, except for the lack of plaster falling off the walls in their practice room, it’s the same as their natural environment. The blue awning sheds a greater percentage of rainwater than the roof of my house does, of course; and the extension cord they require to electrify their amplifiers (and the audience) is shorter at the cafe than it is at the end of the hall upstairs, but other than that, it’s pretty much just another day at the office for our lads.

My boys play under control at all times. They can play quietly, if need be. They’re using their monitor speakers as their PA speakers with this small rig. The drums are muted with stuffed toys, and the Spare Heir plays jazz songs with a kind of brushes that look like a bundle of chopsticks. The Heir is the only guitar player, so there’s no volume arms race. Two guitars is four guitars, I always say. The audience loved them. They do a little show along with the music, and call up audience members to join them in some fun, and give them little prizes for doing so. People will climb over the prostrate bodies of their loved ones to get a free pair of sunglasses if you make them. My boys didn’t make them.

Who wants to hear them open their show with their own jazz vamp composition called Hip Gyrations? You do? I knew you would.

There’s a really pretty woman somewhere in the video. She went home with the bass player.

[Update: Dave R. has been continually generous with his donations and his support and encouragement for my boys and we’re grateful for it. If you’d like to help us buy musical equipment and instruction for our boys there’s a PayPal button in the right hand column. Many thanks!]

Pretty-Much Organized Hancock Update

My two sons, AKA Unorganized Hancock, are feverishly preparing for their two, really big performances at the Skowhegan, Maine River Fest. Well, they’re not feverish, exactly. They are a little sweaty from time to time, though. Saturday, August 3rd at noon at the big beer garden tent, and Sunday the 4th at 10:00 for brunch at the pickup cafe. Come on by, and don’t throw anything at them that they can’t pawn.

Remarks Offered At The High School Graduation Ceremony Of A Home-Schooled Son

I can remember, distinctly, the last time my son held my hand when we crossed a busy street. It seems a very long time ago now. I remember it well, because at the time, it struck me as just that: The last time.

We caution our children to look both ways when they cross a street, in order that they can cross alone when the time comes. It’s just one of a million things we teach our children — by word, a little, mostly by deed — in the hope that it will be of some use to them when they’re older. It’s a terrible thing parents undertake, to teach your children to go away on their own, but we must do it if we are to be worthy to be called a parent.

My wife and I wanted our son to be an honest, productive, kind, intelligent, well-educated  and friendly person before we sent him out into the world. We thought we could do that best by educating him at home. His mother worked very diligently at it for him, and his brother too, and I resolutely stood by her side, ready to accept any credit for anything that turned out all right.

By his intelligence and effort my son has made himself all those things I mentioned earlier, and more.

He’s worked hard on his studies, and will continue to do so, of course. He didn’t just learn things – he learned how to learn things, which is better. In the process, my wife and I have watched those childish things we treasure disappear one after another: The charmingly mispronounced word; the unsteady walk; the impolitic question about that lady with the tattoos in the grocery store; the little hand in yours when you cross the street.

We’ve entirely ruined him for ourselves, and made him useful only for strangers. I hope you’re all happy. We’re miserable about the whole thing. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Boys Are Back In Town — Yesterdays


Unorganized Hancock are back! They’ve got a cool new logo, and a new video, Yesterdays by Wes Montgomery:

It was — get this — over sixty degrees, so the boys recorded outside. No, really; it was over sixty degrees, all at the same time, instead of broken into pieces and spread over several days. Farenheit!

Wes Montgomery was such a wonderful and original player. I don’t know why my kids have such good taste. I think they’re supposed to be playing death metal at flight-deck volume or they’ll be thrown out of the garage band union, but they don’t show any inclination to annoy us or the neighbors yet.

Speaking of annoying the neighbors, Unorganized Hancock has a gig. There’s a converted church in town that has a real stage in it, along with function rooms and so forth, and my boys are appearing there next Friday night: It’s called 49 Franklin. (Scroll down to see their promo picture). They’re headlining, but they’re playing first. The drummer is a pro, but he’s got to be in bed by nine, so they’re going to blast away for an hour at 7:00 PM. Good luck to the band that has to follow them. How do you follow that?

Many thanks to everyone that’s hit the tip jar for the boys, and linked to their videos, and hit the like buttons on YouTube and Facebook. The Heir and The Spare had a difficult couple of weeks, and the love and support they receive from my Intertunnel mob means the world to them. And me. (Special thanks to Malcolm from America’s hat) We now have a computer that will play 1080p video (thanks, Cliff E !), and we were able to purchase a big hard drive to put the videos on. The boys have a keyboard now, too, and can both play it some. Look for that soon. The boys are improving by leaps and bounds these days. Me, I don’t even know which end of the piano you blow in.

(Update: Many thanks to Phil B. from Yucca Vall-E!)
(More Up To Date: Many thanks to Kathleen M. from CT for her friendship and support)
(Way Update: Thanks a ton to Stephen L. in Ohio for helping the boys out!)

Take Five, Take Two

The boys are working on things.

We’re immensely grateful for the support the boys receive from my readers. They’re good kids, and level-headed, so they don’t make the usual mistake aspiring musicians make: Going to the music store and buying expensive and superfluous things instead of practicing. But some problems are amenable to an application of money. An expensive guitar doesn’t make you a good player. But you can buy more pixels and ram them into your videos for a few bucks.

What a lot of progress they can show since the first grainy and dark Flip-cam performance they made in our attic. The video above is remix of Take Five from two weeks ago. The Heir was able to get some software that could handle Hi-Def video. No computers in our house can handle the hi-def files, but the new software allows you to work on them in lo-def and then upload them to YouTube in up to 1080p goodness. We have a Roku box, and our TV only goes up to 720p, but it’s as clear as a DVD on the screen now, and in widescreen, too, which they weren’t able to do before using only Windows Movie Maker. The sound quality is higher, too. The two cameras we purchased a little while back were capable of recording in hi-def, and now they can make use of it. The Heir also has new monitor speakers on his computers that reproduce more of the full range of sound the two of them make. He told me that he used to mix the songs on his recorder by fiddling with them, then putting them on a thumb drive, bringing them downstairs, and then listening to them on my ancient XP computer because I had a subwoofer and it was the only way he could hear if the bass was recorded audibly enough. Then he’d go back upstairs and fiddle with it some more and try again. He did it like that for months without me knowing about it. He’d only go in my office when I wasn’t there. Kids are inventive like that sometimes. It’s the reason they’re the only persons in your house that can work the child safety locks on all the cabinets when they’re toddlers.

Dave, who dared the kids to play a Neon Trees song months ago and demanded I put up a tip jar for them, wrote in the comments the other day:

Sometimes when I feel sad I go to the Unorganized Hancock youtube channel and all my troubles seem to melt away

What a lovely sentiment. My wife and I do the same thing. The boys feel the enthusiasm for their efforts coming right through the Intertunnel, and it buoys their efforts. The Heir has also started taking music lessons over Skype from the best music teacher I’ve ever heard of, never mind met. He’s my brother. He also taught me to play years ago, but we shouldn’t hold that against him. It wasn’t his fault I never applied myself. I learned just enough music to make my wife pay five bucks to meet me, and that was plenty for me. If the boys apply themselves, they might be able to charge their prospective mates twenty bucks to meet them some day.

The Roku box lets you watch YouTube videos on your TV if you know how to set it up, and we had fun watching related videos after watching our boys. There were many that were middle and high schoolers playing songs for captive audiences of parents, with songs obviously chosen by their teachers or by someone that doesn’t like them very much. They all looked like beat dogs the whole time. I think our boys know already that music is not supposed to be entertaining for yourself, it’s supposed to entertain the audience. It’s fun and gratifying if you can pull it off, but you are not there to be amused by the audience. But it’s not supposed to make you sad, for crissakes. In my past life, I termed it “Facing the Other Way.” If you face the other way from the audience, you have certain duties and obligations, and occasionally, privileges. The boys seem clear on the concept already, which will hold them in good stead in the real world in the future.

The hi-def video files are huge. We’re purchasing a stand-alone hard drive to hold them. The boys are almost done with their next numbah, and it’ll put Take Five in the shade, I’m tellin’ ya. They owe it all to you, my Interfriends.

[Update: Kathleen M. in CT’s continuing support is a wonder. Many thanks!]

Tag: the heir

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