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.

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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.

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