Monday, February 22, 2021

e pluribus haiku anthology: 3487 haiku

Available by paperback on Amazon: $5.99 + shipping
Available on Kindle $4.99
Available on Kindle Unlimited

This volume combines all the haiku from e pluribus haiku 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and the original, e pluribus haiku (2011). The 3487 refers to number of haiku, not kind, as they are all 5-7-5, given a somewhat unique style. This single volume will ultimately replace the others, as it contains everything that is in each of them, with an updated style.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

O'Dowd, P. & McMahon, S. (2021, Jan. 25). Bela Fleck's Journey to Find Truth in Origins of the Banjo. WBUR. Listen Live.

To me this is one of the few kinds of good news that we've had in the past year, outside of the election of Biden, which is only good in a negative kind of way. What's good here, about this, is that someone who has enough money to pull it off can actually go to Africa, meet important people, have serious cross-cultural integration of musical styles, and come out with a lasting bond.

It's so good that I'm going to have to sit on it until I get my hearing back, and listen to every note.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Throw Down Your Heart (2008)

This was Bela Fleck's movie about his trip to Africa. He was looking for the origin of the banjo; he found lots of things, but didn't find the origin of the banjo, really.

My first problem is that as a banjo picker and African movie fan, I would love to sit and watch this whole movie several times. But as a person who has lost some hearing to an allergic condition, I find it difficult to listen to. It's partly because I know what I'm hearing but am not quite able to hear it. It's very frustrating.

But I'm also considering writing about Bela Fleck, and if I do, this movie brings up a number of questions.

First, is it possible to put into writing what is happening here? I can understand the movie producers choosing to let the music do the talking. They went to a lot of trouble to get various Africans to agree to be filmed, standing around and appreciating his music, when for example some local musicians come up and play music with him. It's the kind of thing I can appreciate, having traveled extensively with a banjo and having had some of those experiences, although my venues were the London tubes, Winnipeg Manitoba, and Banff. But the movie producers don't have to answer questions that I would want to know: did the banjo evolve into the instruments these Africans are playing? Can people communicate across cultures when even musically they have different kinds of languages?

It's the kind of movie I want to study, and I will. I'm curious if he sees it as a kind of culmination of his career, a peak of what he's done for the banjo, or what: how does he himself see the trip? I think he obviously had the kind of profesional filmmaking expertise to take with him, and made a good film out of it, and I'm curious if this film has changed people's view of the banjo at all, or even, of him. I believe it was a highly acclaimed film. And, successful, for its limited genre. Some of these are actually questions; by now I don't know what I'm talking about. All this is to learn. Comments please.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Bela and Abigail, part II

I really respect these two. It's partly because there are only so many good banjo pickers in the world. And Bela is unquestionably one of the best. Abigail has the distinction of bringing it to China; this is something I would call otherworldly. To Chinese, the banjo is definitely another world.

Bela once took some people to Africa to find the roots of the banjo. This is to me amazing. I am not sure what he found. But I can definitely say that they have both done something with the banjo that I always wanted to do.

Back when I could hear better, I'd play the banjo in all kinds of places. Once I took it to England for my brother's wedding. I also had two young boys, and suitcases for travel, so the London Tubes were really an experience. But someone noticed that it was a banjo and made a big deal out of it. You don't see banjos in London every day.

But back to Bela and Abigail: I am strongly considering writing a biography. It would be positive. I like them both though I have not met them. It's the kind of story the world needs to know.

When they had a son, people called him the Holy Banjo Emperor. They crowned him. They figured, if he had Bela for a dad and Abigail for a mom, he had to have the purest banjo genes on earth.

Poor kid. But, I'm sure he's doing well. They are great people and I'm sure they do what's best for him.

The heck of it is, Bela is a tourer. He sets up a rigid jampacked tour schedule and stays on the road most of the year. His Flecktones know motels in every major city I'm sure. I don't know when or if they come through this area (El Paso? Maybe more likely Denver or Phoenix?) - I'd like to hear them, but more important, to meet them, and ask about how this touring thing is working out. What about the coronavirus (Do bands still tour?)? What happens with the little boy?

I first came to like Bela through the Drive cd. He had played all kinds of innovative banjo music, and I respected him for that, but I didn't like hearing the banjo do all that stuff when what I loved about it was its pure, harmonic, full nature as applied to bluegrass. In Drive he showed he could do that too. He does more than tour; he produces cd's. I could tell you more about them if I could hear them better. But it's actually quite difficult writing about music. I'm not sure if I'm up to it.

It's a story, though, and the world needs to know it.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn

 Lately I have lost some of my hearing and, as a result, some of my enjoyment of music. I attribute it to a combination of high altitude and allergies, but whatever it is, I am not as active in the music scene as I used to be.

One of the ways I could remain active in it (as I have always loved music) is to write about musicians and their lives. A biographer chooses to play a role in history by putting a focus on someone's life, thus making people in the future more aware of someone's contribution in what we know as the world. It is hard to describe music in words, or even musical contributions (describing the influence of one's music on the direction of a genre, for example), and I am not sure I would be good at it. But I've become interested in non-fiction as a genre and have been writing about my family, and may continue with non-fiction just because I can.

Now, about Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn. They are interesting people and good musicians. They have a young son who gets various nicknames based on the banjo skill he has inherited. In some ways it's a story about touring, because Bela Fleck is known for a constant touring schedule, and it's hard to raise a child on that. 

That's all I have to report. I like them. I would go into it trying to make them look good, and trying to show the influence they have had on the banjo and on the kinds of music one can play on it. I don't know if I'll have time to really carry out this project. I started looking into them: their tours, her time in China, his trip to Africa to find the roots of the banjo. It was the kind of story one could easily get more involved in, and write a good book about. It's a project. It's on the table. It might happen. If you know any leads, let me know.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Hands Off That Pear

Hands Off That Pear

& 23 other short stories
Available on Amazon $5.29 + shipping
Available on Kindle $3.79
more coming!

Monday, July 06, 2020


A wild thing has happened. Many of you know me as a musician; I was a banjo picker for many years and then had a shorter but intense run as a fiddler; I was even a Texas fiddler, which was awesome. I played music I loved and had good friends to play it with.

Then circumstances led me to move to the Sacramento mountains of southern New Mexico, where I live now. Life was actually lucky to me, my wife and the last four of my ten children, because just as we moved way out to the end of a mountain road, up against the national forest and not far from the Apache reservation, this whole covid thing hit and being way out here in the mountains was just the best place to be.

But here's the rub: something happened in my inner ear. It felt like tiny tubes got plugged up by allergy-generated fluid of some kind. I don't feel like I've lost my hearing, exactly, so much as I feel like a lot of what I hear is coming through water, and is therefore not that clear. I have trouble getting exactly what people say. And I no longer enjoy music. It sounds like it's coming through water.

Now when you have ten children, there are some advantages to deafness, especially since my wife is still under a lot of pressure and has been for a little too long. Under this pressure she's sometimes on me for this or that and here's the heck of it: the last two, both girls, like to hum and sing, often in the car. Now I've also come to the point where I hate to just rag them, though I could. But ironically, of all the things I should hear, like directions, or where to put something, instead I hear that humming very well and miss a lot of other things.

All this means that I don't really believe I'm deaf. I may have lost quite a bit, yes, but I feel like if I come down from the mountains, or just shed me a few kids, I would get it back. Now this covid stuff has it so we are all isolating out here, me and my wife and the four kids, and the isolation is getting to us a little, especially the kids, who don't cotton to isolation all that much, though they at least have each other. There are elk bugling out here, and various other sounds, lots of birds, even deer and turkeys. I hear some of it. I hear guns and oddly enough I like the sound; that's the one thing that doesn't sound distorted, and I've never felt anyone was shooting close enough to even vaguely be a problem. Lots of hunters around here, and they take their guns out and practice, is all.

What I'm saying is, if I could trade these mountains for my complete hearing, I'm not sure I'd do it. I've got the pine smells, the cool summer air, the fresh breeze - and, even though I had a great time in Texas, playing music and all, Texas is a world away now - in many ways. We're just not in a hurry to go back.