Saturday, June 11, 2011

June 11, 2011 - Hal Smith

My Influences

Hal Smith
Drums, history, and pure awesome

I have a friend,
His name is Hal.
He's one serious hell of a pal.

As a musicianer, I feel it's important to quickly find some connection, a common language, that can be used to deliver music and its spirit to others. Ensemble!
Sometimes it takes a little while to get to know another musicianer; shyness, external situations, etc. might slow the process. Sometimes it never happens.
Hal Smith would be one of the very best illustrations of a musicianer effortlessly falling into spirit and step with his peers. I've seen him lock-in to many different bands, each having its own sound and feel; each airtight and seamless, no doubt due to the effortless mastery of a certain impeccable drummer and his glad willingness to produce heartfelt music.

The first music I shared with Hal felt as if he and I had been playing together since we were in grade school together. Since he and I did not both attend Audubon Elementary School, the experience must depict Hal's innate ability to find some connection, a common language, that can be used to deliver music and its spirit to others.
Hal is a true ensemble player!

Off the stage, Hal has been a highly supportive friend and guide. He's quick with a joke or a clever diversion to avoid negativity.
His friendship, the same as his musicianship, is airtight and seamless. Again, ensemble!

A great many thanks, Hal! Your inspiration, friendship, musicianing, and newspaper wielding are nothing short of the very best anyone could desire. I look forward to much more of it!

Check out Hal Smith in cyberspace:


"Let us become inspired by inherent beauty, and not impassioned by manufactured hate."
~ Nima Shirali

Sunday, March 7, 2010

May 7, 2010 - Tony Campise

My Influences

Tony Campise
Musicianer, genuine human

Tony Campise was a regular portion of my experience at The Elephant Room since I had moved to Austin.
I first regarding him as the jovial fellow who cracks wise with the band and spreads a general good humour about the place. I didn't know until later that he was such an accomplished musicianer boasting a polished resume.

It was at Gino's Italian Grille where I really started to hang out with the man. I played there every other Thursday with Erik Hokkanen and it seemed that every other Thursday, Tony was coming to spend the final hours of his day at Gino's. Upon entry, he would make the rounds to say hello to just about everyone in the place (I think he somehow knew everybody in Austin) and, of course, come to the stage to joke with us. Erik would invite him to play with us and, after a few minutes of enjoying the music and the company, merry-making and rabble-rousing Tony would grab an instrument and swagger up to the stage.
The music he played with us was always great. Afterwards, as the restaurant closed and folks went home, Tony would sit and share stories with all of us. He would also take some time out to support and encourage our musicianship in the warmest way.
Those hangs started turning up at The Elephant Room for Pharaohs gigs. I'm so very thankful for so many good musical memories and quality support from such a genuine man.

A few weeks after suffering the house fire, I recall playing a Pharaohs gigs at The Elephant Room. I had played the gig and was heading home. Tony was playing there for the later show. We ran into each other upstairs at the door. He very kindly held it open for me as I muscled my instrument through the opening.
I'm not sure exactly how he knew something bigger had happened to me but he asked me if something was amiss. I told him that the house had burned a bit but everything was coming together despite the misfortune.
Tony seemed to turn off the usual light-hearted wise guy at the moment he heard about the fire. He asked me to make sure that I had his telephone number and told me that I was to call him at any time, day or night, if I needed someone to help me get through the emotional waves that I might be experiencing. He shared some kind feelings about the situation and some good advice. Then, we went our separate ways. For a few weeks after that, whenever he bumped into me, he would check to make sure I was doing well.
I may have been in a good place but it was such a good feeling to know that there was somebody who wanted to check in on me just because he thought I might need it.
Mr. Campise!

So, it's that good spirit that I'll carry with me when I remember this good man. It goes without saying that I'll remember his great music, light heart, and his wit.

Thank you for everything you've given all of us, Tony!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Austin Bass Community

My Influences

Austin Bassist Community
Great Musicianers, Awesome Humans

Ten years ago, I moved to Austin with just a few things on my mind: Is it possible pay the bills as a professional musicianer? I need to grow as a musician and as a bassist. There are, at least, four bassists in the Austin area that have a solid idea about how to slap the instrument as compared to one bassist in the Philadelphia area who has a novice understanding of the art. To be sure, I can get a few lessons from these four bassists before Austin kicks me out!

Things looked pretty optimistic.

Mark Rubin, Adam Booker, and Billy Horton welcomed me to town rather soon after I got here. It took about a year before I met with Kevin Smith.

In each case, these guys were very kind to me. Each of them encouraged me to keep playing and listening (the best advice any musicianer can share). Each of them had gigs around town that I took in as much as possible. (translated: lessons paid in whatever tip money I could afford) Mark and Kevin passed me recordings of other great bassists from other times or places. Adam and Billy shared with me tips for newer bassists.
There was a general openness that seemed to indicate that I was accepted as part of the larger group. I felt welcomed and inspired to achieve more and become a better musicianer, bassist, and person.
Those first months turned in to a year and then some. I continued to meet more bassists like Rob Jewett, Thomas Durnin, and Bob Alexius. The one characteristic that I found most common in the bassists I met who were living and working in Austin, Texas was kindness. It was a kindness that invariably gave way to so many other strong and laudable personal traits. It was also a kindness that marked strong professionalism and a strong desire to foster good community.

The realization of this community seemed to spark a conversation between Kevin and me. We found ourselves hosting bass gatherings in my living room with Beau Sample (living in San Antonio at the time but later moved to Austin). For a while, every month or so, the three of us would hang out with as many bassists who decided to join us for a day of bass camaraderie. Brad Fordham, Lindsey Green, John Stansell, B.B. Morse, Chris Porth, Matt Weiner, Mike Poppit, and others would join us to share videos and recordings of other great bassists, discuss ideas on bettering technique, or to play through some tunes. These hangs were truly some of the most exciting times for me; a bunch of bassists sharing ideas and techniques in an unguarded, selfless, and nurturing way. We had grown into a definite community.

A few years have passed without any major bass parties but a few of us have still managed some smaller hangs. Josh Hoag, Huck Johnson, Kris Wade, Chris Rhoades, and Nate Rowe have all spent time hanging with me looking at bass music and techniques. I find myself in discussions about the bass with great players like Glenn Shuetz, Johnny Vogelsang, Terry Hale, and Jessica Gilliam-Valls; all of whom I would consider supportive friends, not just professional peers. P. Kellach Waddle is a close friend who is constantly at my side pushing me to do my best as a bassist and a person.

In ten years I've watched the bassist population jump through the roof. To be honest, I feared that increase would risk the heart of the community. It hasn't, though! As in the past, most of the bassists I meet are excited to spend time with each other honing our craft and sharing our art with each other.

I arrived in Austin, hopeful for just a few bass lessons from some solid bassists. I got way more than expected! We are a beautiful extended family, supporting and nurturing each other, and maintaining and cultivating our rich Austin Bassist Community.

This is what it is all about, folks!

Thank you Austin Bassists. I love you!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

June 25, 2011 - P. Kellach Waddle

My Influences

P. Kellach Waddle
bassist, composer, friend, resonator

I count myself among the luckiest folks. I get to do what I love for a living; bringing joy and light to anyone open to it through art. Through this career, as I've noted so many times in these scribbles, I've met so many great musicianers and beautiful humans.

A few years ago, my string bass gods made me aware of an incredibly talented and educated musicianer. A short time later, we had shared many discussions regarding our instrument and our career path. Then, finally, I had the opportunity to catch one of his concerts.
If there was any doubt before (and there wasn't), P. Kellach Waddle had permanently etched in my brain a phenomenal example of how to approach and use the string bass to share incredible music and to convey emotion.
Since then, I've had the pleasure of hearing Kel play again and again. If I can help it, I don't miss the chance. There is a lot to be learned from this master of the instrument! There is so much to hear and feel in his playing!

I should note that soon after that concert, Kel and I began spending a lot of time hanging out. We were fast friends. In fact, I think of it as fast brothers. Was it the instrument? Was it a common approach to music and life? Was it so many morning visits to Barton Springs before yoga?
Whatever it was, I found it to be deeply resonant. I share a kinship with this brother (composer, bassist, friend ...) that has strongly rooted itself in my core.
What kind of lucky am I to have such wealth in my life!?

Thank you for being such a great friend and brother, Kel!
Thanks for the great example of expert musicianship!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

June 8, 2009 - Trees

My Influences:

shelter, oxygen, wood, paper, instruments, etc.

As a wee kiddo, I spent a lot of time climbing the pine trees at the playground in my apartment complex.
With friends, the trees were a wonderful place to adventure, hide, and plot exciting new plans.
Cradled by the familiar and comfy branches at the tops of the trees was a great way to sit alone, contemplating all the mysteries life had offered me at that time.
No matter the human company, the trees stood watch over the playground and offered a sturdy support for fun, companionship, imagination, and a much needed connection to the Earth. (The trees also offered a great deal of pine cones -ripe and otherwise- to be used as ammo in pine-cone fights; one of our favorite pastimes ... ouch!)

I'm not sure where all the time has gone between now and then? I am sure that trees have since remained a kind of quiet fascination; I have also grown quite a reverence for these stately beings.
Lately, if you are taking in The Jazz Babies show at The Tree House Italian Grill, you'll find me during the break in the garden, under the 700(+) years old Live Oak, staring, getting lost, being comforted, and basking in the majesty of such an amazing life. I'm knocked out by this beautiful tree's size. It amazes me that most of its branches could jump off the trunk and replant themselves in the ground as notable trees. I try to imagine what was going on 700 years ago when the tree was just a sapling. What was going on in the 1300s in central Texas? How much has this regal ambassador of time seen?
If you dine at the Tree House, please treat yourself to a moment under this tree; you'll be very glad you did.

There's a magic in trees for me. I'm not in search of words to describe it; I am really quite happy just to feel it.
However, a good man once wrote something that hints at this magic.

A. Joyce Kilmer (1886 - 1918)

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth's sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.

Paul Robeson recorded this poem set to music.
Again, you'll thank yourself for listening to it:

So you know, the photo at the top and this photo just above were taken at Stacy Park in Austin. Lauryn and I had one of our first dates (and many since) under the huge live oak (at the top). That live oak found its way on to our wedding invitations as a stamp that Lauryn carved and I stare a likeness of the tree for a few moments every day on my wedding ring. Lauryn and I designed each other's wedding rings with that tree in mind.

Some links:

Oldest trees:

"We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us."
~Marcel Proust

April 27 - June 1, 2009 - Health

Because they are all directly related, I'm posting these five bits as one.

June 1, 2009

social fitness

My best description of social fitness is this: How well one interacts with his family, friends, neighbors, peers, townsfolk, countrymen, etc.
From my perspective, it seems very important to achieve some notable level of social fitness as we are a social animal and depend on each other for so much.

In my daily activities, I endeavor to be a good example by holding doors for those behind me, by signaling my intent while driving, by saying "please" and "thank you" when making requests (i.e. placing an order with the wait staff at any restaurant or bar), by NOT playing music so loud from my car or from my home that the neighbors can hear it, by taking my shopping cart back to the corral, by smiling a lot, by listening to and not interrupting the person speaking in a conversation, etc. Really, I just try to use good etiquette. It seems like a good way to practice and grow socially fit.

Be a good person and teach others to do the same by good example.
It's not a lot, but I think it sums it well.

Let's hear it for being social.
Hooray, no man is an island!

Some links:

Social Fitness:

May 17, 2009

spiritual fitness

It's probably important to clarify immediately that I am using the term spirit to reflect one's internal driving force, his deeply personal intent and energy, his will and attitude.
Spiritual is then defined: of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit.
I am NOT referring to religion as that is a social institution and would fall under social health.

This is probably the toughest talking point for fitness. It's very personal so everyone has his own concept and methods to achieve spiritual fitness.
I'll try to dilute the general idea through my own experience.

I mentioned in my ramble on physical fitness that "most of my depression and anger have subsided because of my dedication to a very regular and disciplined exercise schedule. My body is healthy, as is my mind." I was referring to a heavily loaded adolescence, filled with teen-aged angst, depression, and all-around dismal spirit brought on most likely by a lack of good sleep and the overwhelming realization that there is so much corruption in the world. Those times felt heavy and the memories are painted with the darker colors, if any. I spent a lot of time focusing on how much corruption and hypocrisy surrounded me and all the evil that we do to each other in the name of government, religion, and multi-national corporations (a trinity we can easily call power and greed). The friends with me at that time felt the same way ("birds of a feather ...")
I spent a lot of spiritual energy (unknowingly) on exploring the darker bits and pieces of what we could call my soul, as well as what we could call mankind's soul. The more I focused on the bad, the more bad I could see. The more bad I saw, the heavier my burden grew. As my burden grew heavier, each little thing, including the bad that attracted my focus, grew more intimidating and overwhelming, which made me focus more on the bad ...

Luckily, my old pal, Joe convinced me to start working out with him! The physical workout alone was enough to take some of the edge away from the all that darkness. And, even though Joe was, himself, a friend who did see all the corruption and hypocrisy, he had actually had enough sense to smile as often as possible and take in what little good he could find around him.
Oddly enough, the more time we spent working on our physical fitness, the more laughter we shared; our spirits were growing lighter as well as our bodies.

Fast-forwarding to my Austin years through the USMC years and those few years back in PA, through a steady growth period of finding the more colorful experiences and some lighter approaches, I find myself sitting at a keyboard, punching in funny little symbols that convey to a short list of good people the sum of my experience and a chronicle of the growth of my spirit. It's been a boon to my spiritual fitness to share these things.
In the time that has passed, I've been fortunate enough to meet some of the nicest people on the planet, whose good natures nurtured my somewhat bruised spirit to the point of a well-calloused but, hopefully, open-minded, helpful, and battle-ready entity. These good folks have shared laughter and tears with me, showing me that there is a chance that there is actually good in us all and, perhaps, that chance is worth the good fight.
I also found a great connection and an ability to speak through music. Music not only presented me with a voice, it presented me with an opportunity to change, in some small way, the lives of those who listen and feel what I present to them through my instrument.
Music also taught me to be grateful. Through the many compliments and thanks from individual listeners and audiences, I've learned to see the beauty in the experience. I'm completely knocked out when I learn that someone has enjoyed what I do at any level, let alone at a place where I may have helped improved or encouraged their spirit that day.

Through music and good people (and the lush and pleasing environment in Austin), I've learned to exercise my spirit. I've learned to focus on the good. The more I focus on the good, the more good I see. The more good I see, the lighter my burden grows. As my burden grows lighter, each little thing, including the good that attracted my focus, grows more beneficial and encouraging, which makes me focus more on the good ...
A long time ago, Mom and Dad, and my beautiful Grandparents taught me that I should do good all the time - not because there is a promise of a reward now or later but because good is just the right thing to do.
That's some of the best advice anyone has ever offered me and, in its practice, I have a daily exercise for my spiritual fitness: Do good things! Say thanks and mean it!

I'm not sure if that sums up spiritual fitness entirely. It's a deep subject. Hopefully, it alludes to something close to it and perhaps, a decent method to exercise this aspect of health.

Thank you, good folks! Enjoy the week.

May 10, 2009

mental fitness

Let's define mental fitness as the measure of one's capacity for attentiveness, comprehension, and interpretation.

Again, it seems fairly apparent: what should I write?
Use your brain. Use it constructively, creatively, consciously, and very frequently!

Like all these categories of fitness, mental health has had a great influence on my life.
I was raised with the old fashioned virtue, "children are to be seen, not heard." Being quiet was a rule. So, my imagination became very important to me. I could quietly go on adventures based on my surroundings or my fantastic dreams. Or, I could sit and study how the grown-ups behaved; I could judge which of these behaviors achieved the most success and how moral these actions seemed in comparison with what I had been taught or what I had gleaned from sitting quietly, studying.
As a result, I have spent the majority of my life as a quiet observer. It's yielded great treasures. I find that when one closes the mouth and opens the eyes, ears, brain, and heart, he tends to slow time and prepare the mind for learning.
This, alone, has helped me attain and maintain decent mental fitness.

I find a number of other methods extremely helpful in keeping my senses in good shape.

Who doesn't like taking the time out to read a great book?!
I love to read. In fact, there are tons of books out there devoted to achieving mental fitness! How's that for convenience!

Obviously, I do quite a lot of this exercise; I'm a musicianer. If I'm not listening, I'm not growing nor am I playing music.
I like to listen to other musicianers playing music; I like to listen to the sounds nature produces; I like to listen to the inflections and accents in the voices of others; I like to listen to the sounds machines make.
I listen to lectures on the radio and the internet; I listen to recordings of other musicianers. I listen to the thoughts and ideas of those who share conversation and debate with me.

Here's one we all know; you get to watch me stumble and grimace through this exercise regularly!
The idea of writing down my experiences formally presented itself when Master Alex suffered a great personal tragedy. At some point in his future, I thought he might benefit (or, at least, enjoy some entertainment) from one or two of my tales. I had also realized how much I wished that my Grandparents and Great-grandparents had done the same for me.
No matter how messy I felt the scribbly-drivel that came (comes) from my keyboard was, I intended to make some note of my own trials and tribulations for this amazing kiddo. As you can see, and I'm happy to say, it has become a weekly habit. Not only has it become this regular, it has become a weekly practice in finding something positive in my life, focusing on it for a short time, and taking stock of it.
Of course, there is a whole bunch of intellectual benefit we could list here, too. (Not this week, though.)

Change things up
Just because you can do something well one way doesn't mean you shouldn't try to do it well many other ways. There's a great danger in accepting only one way (Way).

Really, all physical exercise falls under the mental fitness section. There isn't one aspect regarding this health discussion that can't be placed in another or isn't dependent on the others.
However, I'd like to discuss yoga under mental health (and, I said I'd do it last week).
Yoga has been a boon to my overall health.
Physically, I'm stretch-ier. Yoga provides me with a daily reminder to rely on my core muscles more often than not. (Not an easy feat in our Western world of seat backs and recliners and lazy amenities.)
Socially, I have gathered together with an odd collection of folks five days a week for over two years to practice. Some of these folks are radically different than I am and it takes patience, tolerance, and acceptance to maintain civility with some of these folks. It's good practice to move as one unit and to be at peace with the differences of others!
Mentally, in an Ashtanga practice, one needs to be focused on his breath. This blocks out much of the outside stimuli and teaches an ability to control physical and mental stress levels. An hour to an hour and half worth of this exercise bears rather strong mental fitness fruit. Deep focus on any one thing for that amount of time can and will enhance just about anything.

So, there are some of the exercises I've used to attain and maintain my mental fitness. There are plenty more but I think the point is up there somewhere.
Hooray mental fitness!

Some links:

Mental Fitness:

May 4, 2009

physical fitness

This aspect of health seems to receive the most focus in our society. It is, of course, a very important part of health, but we should endeavor to balance each aspect with the others.
For this segment, let's define physical fitness as the physical health and maintenance of the body.

As I dig in, the topic presents itself as painfully obvious; what needs to be said?
Go get some exercise!?
Sitting around is not healthy!?
My guess is that neither of those two sentences makes for very interesting reading.

So, let's touch briefly on the lack of physical fitness. Mental illness (depression, violent tendencies, listlessness, etc.,) lethargy, obesity are a few general terms we know to be related to lack of regular exercise. I dare say that each of these illnesses is a far greater threat (epidemics) than the present "concern" over swine flu. Would it be easier to cure swine flu or obesity? I'm not so sure about that one.

What I do know for sure is that physical fitness is very near and dear to me as it enhances all the good in my life. It also diminishes the bad.
I spent a good deal of time being fairly miserable in my high school years. I wasn't the laziest kid on the block but I was certainly not interested in trying out for the football or basketball teams. I was fairly depressed and miserable all the time. I had a rather bleak outlook on the world and my own personal situation.

In the summer of my junior year, a good friend of mine convinced me to join him for three days a week of lifting weights. We added a short mile and a half run two days a week, also. He also had a pool that cooled us after the workouts.
After almost a year of dedicated time on Joe's bench, I started developing a chest and shoulders. I also started feeling less and less likely to complain about what I saw as the misery in my life. I started laughing much more and enjoying the company of friends rather than commiserating with other gloomy and irate youths. I even started feeling better about myself.
Exercise found its way into my life, settling at the top of my list of important things to do every day.

Enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps magnified that inclination just a bit - you may have assumed this much! Boot camp found me waking up at 0500 hours to stuff a mountain pile of government slop into my pie-hole, then burn off most of that fuel with morning's training schedule (running, marching, Marine Corps push-ups, sit-ups, side straddle hops, mountain climbers, running, marching, cleaning, running, etc.) Lunchtime featured a similar meal and was followed by a similar schedule. Dinner was like dessert; luckily, there weren't too many instances of constant physical exercise after that meal. We just sat around studying, polishing things, and guarding things.
Combat training, school, and the fleet were no different, really: wake up, exercise, eat, stay rather active all day, sleep; repeat.
I think the point is in there somewhere. I did a lot of physical conditioning in those years. Because of that exercise and conditioning, my mind and body are still convinced that daily exercise is not just an option; it's mandatory. And, my mind and body thank me regularly for all this effort.

After a few years of being in Austin, a friend of mine pointed out the free pool down the street and told me to start using it. Thanks to that good advice, I've been swimming on a regular basis for the last six years. Swimming has really sunk in as my favorite way to stay in shape. I highly recommend it to everyone! There's no impact (although, if your technique is really nasty, you'll develop some injury - just like any exercise) and, if you're doing it properly, you're working all the major muscle groups in your body. What's more? You're getting outside and soaking up some sun (vitamin D) and not sitting in front of one of these computers or the boob tube. If that isn't enough, you're practicing breath control and removing a lot of outside stimuli; you’re forced to focus on a few specific things: like it or not, you're meditating.

Yoga also popped into my life a few years ago on the advice of a friend. Beau argued that yoga was the best thing to do to stay in shape while touring. I couldn't deny that; there aren't always pools in every hotel, there aren't always weight rooms, you could probably run in every town but you might get lost or find yourself in the wrong side of the tracks. Yoga can be done in any old motel room or living room floor or any place! I don't think I've been on tour since his advice but I'm surely glad for it.
I won't touch on yoga any more than this today as I plan to use it as an example in one of the following two weeks' health rambles.

My high school life seems so far away from me now. Most of my depression and anger have subsided because of my dedication to a very regular and disciplined exercise schedule. My body is healthy as is my mind. I've even managed to encourage and help a few others to do the same.

So, eat right and exercise every day.Hooray physical fitness!

Some links:

Physical Fitness:

April 27, 2009


In light of last week's stay in San Antonio, discussing good eating habits seems to be rather appropriate.

The first few years of my residence in Austin, Texas found me eating one meal a day: spaghetti with pasta sauce. It was not the wisest way to eat but it certainly was cheap. Eventually, I started playing more gigs and plugged in an extra meal around lunch: hot pockets. Again, not very intelligent or responsible eating but it was affordable. I really started looking forward to restaurant gigs that offered a free meal as part of the pay.
I managed to survive on this diet for a number of years. My dear friend and acupuncturist tried her very best to convince me to eat a healthy diet but ignorance and inexperience in the kitchen as well as what I saw as financial constraints, kept me from following doctor's orders.
Eventually (and, thankfully), I met Lauryn. The two of us decided that our diet was not really all that attractive. We tried to fix it on our own. Rice, beans, and veggies started happening on a regular basis. The hot pockets were no longer allowed in the house. On the weekends, Lauryn would get excited about some appealing recipe she'd find on We'd hit the grocery store, buy fresh ingredients, cook, then enjoy the meal.
As we progressed in our diet reconstruction, a wonderful friend of ours informed us that she was offering her services as a nutritional consultant ( That meeting with Rachel was a great turning point for my nutritional life.
Rachel turned us on to a few books and websites to research, as well as her own experience and information to guide us on our path to nutritional enlightenment.
Soon after the meeting, I had given up eating wheat (as well as many other things), replacing it with more intelligent, healthy choices; I started feeling much better!
It's been over two years of eating responsibly, educating myself about food, the science one can put in his body, and how all these things affect the mind and body. I no longer buy packaged food from the grocery store without thoroughly reading the ingredients on the label and understanding just what those ingredients do when they enter and digest in my body. I carefully choose the dishes I order from restaurants. I feel better and make wiser decisions!

Night In Old San Antonio - NIOSA - "is a four-night event that celebrates San Antonio's diverse cultural heritage with fifteen ethnic areas that serve fabulous foods in over 250 food booths and provides entertainment to over 85,000 revelers." - from
Giant Three has played the Main St. Stage for the last three years. So, I feel comfortable discussing the food found in the "Main St., U.S.A." cultural area of this event. I've watched thousands of people purchasing and consuming (and/or feeding to their children!) hot dogs, fried chicken, fried cheesecake, fried green tomatoes, Fat bread, brisket biscuits, and a few other nasty poisons. It's really no wonder why San Antonio is ranked third on a list of America's fattest cities.
It makes me sad.
One third of the adult population in America is considered obese! It shouldn't be surprising; we rely on government organizations (FDA, USDA) to monitor what we put in our body instead of taking on the simple responsibility ourselves. These government organizations are lobbied by some serious corporate interests that stand to make vast profits on selling their food science to ignorant Americans. While this food science has made a lot of foodstuffs very cheap and plentiful, it hasn't bothered to consider the health implications on the population it claims to serve.
Look around, friends! High blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, all kinds of behavioral illnesses are popping up in the youth of today who are feeding on science rather than natural foods.
We fuel our bodies with food. It is so vitally important that we know exactly what our bodies need and exactly what happens to anything that we choose to put in our bodies. As a society, we have decided that some drugs are bad enough to warrant very strict laws. Drugs like heroin, marijuana, alcohol, nicotine, and cocaine are the science derived from naturally occurring plants - much like high fructose corn syrup is the science derived from naturally occurring plants. Most folks don't abuse legal or illegal drugs everyday or even every week; but we all usually eat two, three, four times a day. We are constantly putting stuff in our bodies!!!
We need to be thinking about it a whole lot more.

As for me, I know that changing my diet has made huge difference in my health and well-being. I am so thankful for time-tested, delicious, natural foods! My body is the only one I'll ever have and I intend to treat with a great deal of respect by feeding, exercising, resting, and socializing it in the best ways I can.
Hooray nutrition!

Some links:

"We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us."
~Marcel Proust

April 20, 2009 - Uilleann Pipes

My Influences:

Na Piobairi Uilleann - Uilleann Pipes
bellows blown bagpipes of Ireland

It seems like this topic has already been covered but a quick perusal of the blog says otherwise?
So, where do we start?

The Scottish Great Highland Pipes (The Great Pipes) are probably the most famous and familiar of bagpipes but are not the only flavor of this family of instruments. In fact, there are a great many varieties of bagpipes related to many different cultures across the globe.
Check out Sean Folsom's great page on the different bagpipes of the world: or the Wikipedia installment:

The Uilleann pipes (a.k.a.: Irish Organ, Union pipes, Irish pipes, elbow pipes) are one of a few varities of bagpipes claiming Irish heritage. Like all bagpipes, this instrument's tone is produced by air (from a large resevoir - a bag) being pushed across a reed. In this particular instrument, the air is pumped into the bag by way of a bellows located between the musicianer's elbow and hip.
Like many other bagpipes (not all), the uilleann pipes features a set of drones. Unlike many other bagpipes, the uilleann pipes features a second set of drones that are closed off and keyed. These are called the regulators and are used as chordal accompaniment on top of the drones. The drones and the regulators are bundled together in a drone-stock. Normally, one must be seated to play this instrument; the drone-stock rests on the lap of the musicianer.

Tonally, the uilleann pipes is typically less harsh than that of the Highland pipes; the volume is also typically less. The instrument also has a greater range of two and a half octaves.
bla, bla, bla, bla, bla ...

This is all much too technical. My apologies.
It's a great instrument and very different from the Great Highland (Scottish) bagpipes!

I have mentioned my adventures with the uilleann pipes in previous scribbles (
It's a bit difficult to say when or how I really got bitten by the bug. I think it was just a combination of excitement for a new, though, somehow, very familiar music and an ever-present urge to challenge myself with nearly impossible goals. The uilleann pipes made such a mysterious and charming sound! The players I had been enjoying seemed to offer such sweet tones and musical ideas ... I just couldn't help myself!

As you may know, I found an instrument eventually and started my study.
What a great treasure! This instrument not only provided me with hours, weeks, months, and years of study, musical growth, and entertainment, it shared with me a great friend and mentor (my teacher, Roy Rogers).

I don't play my pipes near as much as in my past but, from time to time, the scary instrument comes out of the closet and I grimace and groan as I pump the bellows and squeeze the bag until something close to music happens.
I still love it!

Hooray uilleann pipes! Thanks for all the frustration and joy!

Some links:

"We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us."
~Marcel Proust

Sunday, March 29, 2009

March 29, 2009 - Boom-ba

My Influences:

Percussion Instrument of Pennsylvania Dutch Tradition

There are two questions typically associated with this beautiful invention.
Dear friends, this is a musical instrument that is most often credited to the Pennsylvania Dutch. Really, it's any body's guess its true origin. If one does a brief search on the subject, a number of different histories can be found depending on the name used.
It appears that the boom-ba goes by a few names with respect to cultural background: pogo cello, polka cello, stump(f) fiddle, devil's (teufel) stick, lagerphone, Turkish Jingle, Chinese pavilion, etc.
No matter what you call it (boom-ba is my personal choice), it is a fantastic and joyful noise-maker! Essentially, it's a pole of some kind with any number of different percussion instruments attached. It is typically held in one hand and bounced on the floor while being struck by the other hand in some manner (drum stick, hand, magic).
This isn't really a question with an answer! My best guess: one day, some poor soul didn't have an instrument handy so he fashioned himself this device using whatever random bits happened to be in his presence. Genius!

I grew up in an area and family with ties to the Pennsylvania Dutch heritage. One of my first memories of excitement over a musical instrument was my step-grandfather's boom-ba. I don't remember him playing the thing a whole lot but when he did, it was truly wonderful!
I was permitted to try it under strict supervision; such an instrument could truly corrupt a young, impressionable mind (or, even, an aged, incautious mind).
From time to time, at family reunions, five or six of the senior members would bust out their boom-bas and have themselves quite a time (no musical accompaniment, just boom-bas).
-Definitely, a time when the question WHY? is most appropriate!

In recent years, Lauryn and I decided that we should construct our very own family boom-ba.
We did.

Lauryn premiered this great new addition at the last Big Jug Band performance! What a time we had!
I would like to recommend that everyone build his own boom-ba. It's a rather cathartic endeavor and will surely go a long way toward achieving world peace and personal harmony.
Hooray Boom-ba!

Some links:

"All night long, I dreamed of pretty girls and candy. Life is great!"
~ Alexander High

Monday, March 16, 2009

Daren - March 16, 2009

My Influences:

Daren Appelt
Music lover, Community Activist and Benefactor

Austin, Texas is a great many things to me and to many folks living here. I was enticed to move here by its residents with descriptions of many different musical genres and talented musicianers. None of these residents, however, had ever explained to me the many other treasures that an interested party could discover as part of this community.
I have stumbled on so many jewels in the last decade and each of these has anchored my heart to this town just a bit more.

One of these jewels is a gracious and kind man named Daren Appelt. Daren is most certainly a fan of music! Very regularly, I noticed his face in the crowd at a few different shows each week. When he and I finally introduced ourselves, he very graciously thanked me for my music and complimented my musicianship. As we talked, he revealed to me a list he kept in his pocket that detailed at least three different shows he planned to attend that evening. On this same list, he had a secondary list just in case one of the other shows had been cancelled or, in some other way, became impossible to attend! Obviously, this man was out to hear some music that evening!
Daren and I spoke at many other shows following the first. I came to realize that he planned each night in this manner! Wow!

Not only is Daren excited about taking advantage of how much live music this city offers, he gives it right back!
Daren regularly and graciously opens his warm home to professional musicianers in town who are interested in playing music together. He presents this opporunity as a time when these musicianers can "play" without having to "perform" for an audience. He also gives musicianers a chance to see each other ... we're usually too busy performing to catch other bands around town!
His kindness and good spirit pervades the entire house and each separate jam that pops up. There is an openness and warmth to each; to me, it seems that in each circle that forms, there is a happy willingness to meet new people, experience and learn new music, and share some good times and community spirit.
This, friends, is one of the unique gems that makes this town so appealing to me. And, friends, this gem is a heartfelt gift from our very good man! In presenting this gift, Daren is actively organizing a community and encouraging it to grow in a healthy manner!

Thank you so very much, Daren! Your gifts to me (and to so many musicianers) are cherished and priceless.
I look forward to sharing music with you at your home and at any old venue around town.

"All night long, I dreamed of pretty girls and candy. Life is great!"
~ Alexander High

Sunday, March 1, 2009

March 1, 2009 - Pam

My Influences:

Pamela Brewer
yoga instruction, guidance

During a discussion about staying in shape while touring, my old pal, Beau, argued that one can't always use a gym or swim laps, and running, while a sure thing just about anywhere, is sometimes not the safest bet. However, there is always enough space in a hotel room for a yoga practice.
I had no experience with yoga but Beau promised that I could get a good start at the "free" class Ruta Maya offered. So, one morning not too long after this discussion, Beau dropped a line and I headed over to meet him at the coffee house.
I'm quite glad for that call and even happier to have found such a great guide through the world of yoga! (Thanks Beau!)

Pamela Brewer is this great guide. Of course, she leads the morning classes at Ruta Maya and has done so for the last five years. Her classes are warm and inviting. If present and involved, one could walk away having learned quite a bit from her instruction and direction.
I have; that's for sure!

Pam has certainly shared with me so much about the physical, mental and, spiritual practice of yoga. She has also presented herself as a great example of the well-rounded benefits of the application of a yoga practice to everything in life.
We've shared a number of great conversations on the more important stuff in life ... health, happiness, social responsibility, gratitude, light-heartedness, etc. (... you know, the same stuff I talk about every week). At the end of these conversations, I walk away feeling like my head's a little more together.
What's more? She offers all this freely, happily, and without judgement of any kind.

Pam, you have been and, I'm sure, will continue to be a great guide on my yoga path and in life in general. I am truly grateful!
Thank you and see you at Ruta Maya!

"All night long, I dreamed of pretty girls and candy. Life is great!"
~ Alexander High

About Me

My photo
Austin, Texas, United States
Music has been, at the very least, a truly notable part of most of my life. It was guitar in the late '80s through the '90s, playing the punk rock and death metal until the uilleann pipes came along to show me Irish music. Somewhere in the midst of the pipering madness, I decided to pick up a string bass. Next thing I knew, I was in Austin, TX studying traditional jazz and playing string bass full-time. Music has been good to me and continues to show me the good things in life. With this blog, I hope to share some of those good things (more than likely, I'll probably share some rants, too). I hope you get something from it, even if it's just a good laugh (with me or at me: your choice).