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READIN started out as a place for me
to keep track of what I am reading, and to learn (slowly, slowly)
how to design a web site.
There has been some mission drift
here and there, but in general that's still what it is. Some of
the main things I write about here are
listening to (and playing) music, and
watching the movies. Also I write about the
work I do with my hands and with my head; and of course about bringing up Sylvia.
The site is a bit of a work in progress. New features will come on-line now and then; and you will occasionally get error messages in place of the blog, for the forseeable future. Cut me some slack, I'm just doing it for fun! And if you see an error message you think I should know about, please drop me a line. READIN source code is PHP and CSS, and available on request, in case you want to see how it works.
Latest addition to The Kitchen Tapes mix is short and sweet. It is an old fiddle tune that I've been wanting to learn for a long time; last night I went ahead and tried it out. After five or six takes I got a version I'm pretty happy with.
Let's listen to Jonathan Coulton singing about the Mandelbrot set. (Allow me to recommend that you watch the video at full size.) If you squint just right, you will be able to see the fractal squiggles as they approach you turning into Escherine staircases (/dragons?) descending into infinity.
A bulbous, pointy form
Let z1 = z² + c. z2 = z1² + c. z3 = z2² + c. If the series of z's will always be close to c and never trend away from c, that point is in the Mandelbrot set. Thanks for the link, Ed!
By this time
I was beginning to get very popular around that good old town of mine. I had many offers to leave Kid Ory's band, but for some time none of them tempted me. One day a redheaded band leader named Fate Marable came to see me. For over sixteen years he had been playing the excursion steamer Sydney. He was a great piano man and he also played the calliope on the top deck of the Sydney. Just before the boat left the docks for one of its moonlight trips up the Mississippi, Fate would sit down at this calliope and damn near play the keys off of it. He was certainly a grand musician.
When he asked me to join his orchestra I jumped at the opportunity. It meant a great advancement in my musical career because his musicians had to read music perfectly. Ory's men did not. Later on I found out that Fate Marable had just as many jazz greats as Kid Ory, and they were better men besides because they could read music and they could improvise. Fate's had a wide range and they played all the latest music because they could read at sight. Kid Ory's band could catch on to a tune quickly, and once they had it no one could outplay them. But I wanted to do more than fake the music all the time because there is more to music than just playing one style. I lost no time in joining the orchestra on the Sydney.
Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans
Just because you're not a drummer, doesn't mean that you don't have to keep time.
Pat your foot & sing the melody in your head, when you play.
Stop playing all those weird notes (that bullshit), play the melody!
Make the drummer sound good.
Discrimination is important.
You've got to dig it, you dig?
Reading Fug You this morning, I had a pleasant surprise -- a photo of old favorite Jim Kweskin and the Jug Band playing, and right in front is Maria D'Amato on the fiddle! I had completely forgotten she played violin, have just thought of her as a singer for years now.
So I've got some inspiration for the weekend, I want to get "Richland Woman Blues" happening on fiddle. (Also, I want to record "John Hardy was a desperate man", which I've been working on this week.)
Here is a bit of reminiscence about Maria, from Joe Boyd's White Bicycles. Joe went to the 1962 Cornell Folk Festival with Geoff Muldaur:
"We got lost on the campus and by the time we arrived the show - a double bill of Sleepy John Estes and Doc Watson - was over. At the post-gig party, the two men - both blind - sang old hymns shared by the white and black communities of the rural south. We noticed a dark-eyed beauty with a long black braid accompanying the Watson party on fiddle or keeping time with a set of bones. Geoff was too shy to talk to her, but swore that he would marry her. It was the young Maria D'Amato..."
Just then Slippers, the bouncer, came into the bar and yelled: "Hello, Mayann. What in the world are you doing out on the stroll tonight?"
When she told him we were making the rounds he thought it was the cutest thing he had seen in a long time. Then he insisted that we have a drink with him.
By this time my mother and I were getting pretty tight, and we had not visited even half of the joints. But we were determined to make them all; that was our agreement and we intended to stick to it. Besides we were both having a fun time meeting the people who loved us and spoke our language. We knew we were among our people. That was all that mattered. We did not care about the outside world.
Autobiography and memoir have never been my cup of tea, really. But right now I am reading two autobiographies and digging them (Fug You, and Satchmo: My life in New Orleans), and I'm thinking I may have figured out how to read and enjoy the genre. Essentially it is this: don't read the book as the life story of the person who wrote it; read it as you would read a novel, and paying special attention to the "minor characters", that is to say the people around the author. A well-written memoir -- and these very different books are both well-written -- will give you some insight into the lives of the people who are not its primary subject, and this insight can allow you to see yourself in the picture.
(The embedded video is a YouTube playlist. After each song, the next one should start. Use the fast-forward and rewind buttons to skip around, or visit YouTube to get links to the individual songs.)
The Sailor's Hornpipe (trad.) 1:30
Frim Fram Sauce (Nat King Cole via Diana Krall) 2:59
John Hardy was a desparate man (I am not sure if this is trad. or by a Carter) 3:55
East Tennessee Blues (trad.) 1:28
Barbara Allen (trad, Child ballads) 6:08
Serpent at the gates of wisdom (Robyn Hitchcock) 4:03
Jeremy's Breakdown (The Modesto Kid) 1:19
All songs arranged by The Modesto Kid. That's like nearly 22 min. of music! Fully a ¼ of it Barbara Allen, whoa...
Recordings are made with Kodak Zi8, whose built-in mic is for all its smallness and cheapness, one of the best recording instruments in my house. Edited and saved using Windows Live Movie Maker and YouTube's "edit video" function.
Update: I changed the set listing a bit, so the first two comments below will no longer make sense. ("Humoresque" used to be included and is no longer, since it (a) was not recorded in the kitchen and (b) did not rise to the level of these tapes.) A word about the arrangements: I'm really taken with this form! It seems like something brand-new.
I am embarking on a new project this week. Recently Yascha Mounk of The Utopian contacted me to ask if I'd like to contribute some short translated pieces to their site's blog. Naturally (given that I've been reading and thinking about Vásquez' work so much lately) the first thing to come to mind was Juan Gabriel Vásquez' weekly column for El espectador, which seems almost perfectly suited for this format. I made contact with Anne McLean and received permission to give this a try -- the first column is up, his January 26th column about Salman Rushdie's canceled appearance at the Jaipur literary festival: Bullies and their certainties.