My Idle Banjo


We’ve had family visits from out-of-state this summer, and we’ve celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. This has called for hauling out ancient video for the “entertainment” of one and all. During one of these forays into the past, my daughters were remarking about some video of me with a Christmas gift some years ago. It was a banjo—something I had long wanted to try. I can be very distinctly heard saying, “Now I’ll have to learn to play the banjo.”

I did make an attempt for several months, maybe even a year. And I enjoyed it. I made encouraging progress, up to a point, at which time I found I was simply “too busy” to keep at it. I continue to be proud of my banjo, carefully selected for me by my wife and children, if not my playing. But every time I glance at it now, or see another banjo (which isn’t often), or hear bluegrass music (which isn’t much more often), I get that guilty sensation and I half-heartedly remind myself to get back to playing (which would mean starting from the beginning).

As a result of this blog, I’ve made a number of friends in recent months. Today I learned that one of them, Carol Woodside, has a shared interest in bluegrass. I replied to a comment she left at one of my posts, then learned of her blog, Woodside Roots and Branches, where her home page makes it pretty obvious that she’s a fan of Earl Scruggs and company. (You should check out the blog and the related website.)

I can listen to Earl Scruggs, if I don’t get him in out-sized doses. I’m more of a Bela Fleck listener. But I don’t enjoy guilt, and it always mixes with the joy of listening. So I don’t listen much. All because of my idle banjo.

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Update

The Washington Pugilist, having read this post, recommended a book and a CD to get me back into the banjo groove. The book is Old and In the Way Banjo Songbook. That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it? It includes tablature for Jerry Garcia riffs. The CD is called Old and In the Way. At Amazon as of right now, this CD has 34 customer reviews, with an average of 5 stars. I’ve just added the book to my Amazon shopping cart. Thanks, my friend at The Washington Pugilist.

Inflate Your Tires . . . with Hot Air


Not long ago the late-night comedians were “complaining” that there just isn’t enough material to poke fun at Barack Obama. There’s a joke for you.

In the news today was a real screamer. Obama says we don’t need to drill to solve the energy crisis. We can get the same result if we all just inflate our tires and get regular tune-ups. He was talking about our cars . . . I think. Can’t be sure since he doesn’t seem to know much about them.

There are lots of reasons to keep your tires properly inflated. But solving the energy crisis isn’t one of them. It’s safer, you get a better ride, and, yes, you can save a bit on gas mileage. And getting regular tune-ups, where you change the spark plugs and all that, just isn’t what it used to be . . . say twenty years ago when you could actually work on your own car.

Where did Obama come up with this clever idea? Surely not all by himself. But was it someone who really likes Obama and wants him to get elected? That doesn’t compute, either. Maybe the guy, whoever it is, is laughing up his sleeve in disbelief that the senator actually built this nonsense into official policy during a campaign speech.

The audio feed on this speech reveals that people in the audience were amused. Their response can only be interpreted as snickers (if you’re not pro-Obama) or nervous laughter (if you are pro-Obama). This must have taken the candidate by surprise. It’s not the kind of line he could pass off as intended humor. He must have known that his audience knew something he didn’t know. It isn’t the first time; and it probably won’t be the last.

Starry, Starry Night


When you look into the night sky, do you see stars against a dark background, or do you see space speckled with stars? And does it matter?

What say you?

Note: This question is inspired by a passage in Isaac Asimov’s novel I, Robot. The chapter titled “Reason” features a robot called QT-1, whom his builders call “Cutie.” It’s Cutie’s perspective on the stars and his view of creation and intelligence that draws attention to the difference alluded to in my question for this post. Asimov, who is generally fun to read, is in rare form in this SF novel. Will Smith starred (no pun intended) in a film based on this novel.

Quotations: On Reading


“Some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” —C. S. Lewis to his godchild, Lucy Barfield, to whom he dedicated The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

“Don’t . . . be stingy with your underlining, because if you don’t save the book’s vibrant material now, it’ll be dead to you once you shut the cover. I’m being realistic. There’s too much to read, learn, and do in this life, and unless a volume stands out as particularly worthy, you’ll probably only thumb through it again to consult your highlights. The rest of the text might as well not be there.” —Mark Levy, Accidental Genius

“Rereading is often a shock, an encounter with an earlier self that has been revised . . . .” —David Denby, Great Books

Quotations: On Wisdom & Folly


“A word to the wise is always infuriating.” —Hunter S. Thompson

Quotations: On Angels


“Angels fly because they take themselves lightly.” —G. K. Chesterton

Quotations: On Atheism


“I try not to believe in God, of course, but sometimes things happen in music, in songs, that bring me up short, make me do a double take. When things add up to more than the sum of their parts, when the effects achieved are inexplicable, then atheists like me start to get into difficult territory.” —Nick Hornby, Songbook

“Agnosticism is not a state in which the mind of an intelligent being can permanently rest. It is essentially a condition of suspense—a confession of ignorance—an abdication of thought on the highest subjects. Generally, however, under the surface of professed Agnosticism, there will be found some more or less positive opinions about the origin and nature of things all of them agreeing in this, that they negate the belief in God. It is not, in the nature of things, possible for the mind to remain persistently in this neutral, passive attitude. It will press on perforce to one or other of the views which present themselves as alternatives—either to Theism, or to Materialism and dogmatic Atheism.” —James Orr, The Christian View of God and the Word

“The number of reasonable atheist questions versus condescending atheist sneers that I have run across just directed at me in [sic] less than one in four.” —SF writer, and former atheist, John C. Wright

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