Thursday, April 27, 2017

Bands I Have Seen

This seems to be 1 of the most popular memes to sweep Facebook in a while - name 9 bands you've seen and 1 you haven't. I posted that it seemed like humble bragging (or just bragging) to me, but I was curious how many name bands I had seen - I've never been much of a concert goer. I wasn't sure I'd have 9, but I had 15. It seemed like it was worth capturing here.
  1. The Mothers of Invention - at Changes Unlimited on Hill St in Louisville, Spring 1968
  2. Jimi Hendrix - Boston Garden, Fall 1968
  3. The Grateful Dead - MIT Beer Blast Spring 1969 & Spring 1972 + 1 other time
  4. Chuck Berry - MIT Beer Blast Spring 1971
  5. Janis Joplin - MIT Beer Blast Spring 1970
  6. The Rolling Stones - Madison Square Garden, Winter 1969
  7. Ike & Tina Turner Review - ditto
  8. The Byrds - Boston, 1973? Clarence White on lead guitar
  9. Loggins & Messina - Dayton, 1974
  10. Stevie Wonder - ditto
  11. Rufus with Chaka Khan - ditto
  12. Billy Joel - Rupp Arena, 2006?
  13. Elton John - ditto
  14. Dan Hicks & the Hot Licks - Woodsongs, 2009?
  15. Prefuse 73 - techno cruise on the Hudson, 2005?
I should probably record that the band I was in, Salamander, opened for Sha Na Na at MIT in 1973 or so.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Walkaway

"Walkaway" is the latest novel by Cory Doctorow, 2017, 384 pages. I was eagerly awaiting this novel - I have mentioned how "I really want science fiction to turn its thinking to how we can create modern systems of governance to implement a post scarcity utopia.", and this is Doctorow's take on the subject.

I totally scored like a month ago. After babysitting my 2 grandsons in Louisville, I lunched with my old friend Michael Boggs. He and his wife Carol own Carmichael's Bookstore, "Louisville's oldest independent bookstsore". We ate at the Caspian Grill right next door to their Frankfort Rd store - I had a delicious gyro. We then went back to the store, and Michael presented me with their prerelease copy of "Walkaway", FTW! So I actually read the book about a month ago. I decided it would be impolite not to wait until its April 25 release date to comment on it - plus I wanted the eBook to cut/paste some excerpts.

The book is attracting a fair amount of attention. Here are 2 blog posts on it from today:

I will repeat my verbiage from my post on "New York 2140" by Kim Stanley Robinson, blogged here.

I strongly recommend that you purchase "Walkaway" and read it right now. It addresses strategies for defeating the .01% (zottas in "Walkaway") on our way to a post scarcity utopia. Plus it's an enjoyable, well-written novel, with good plotting, an interesting variety of characters, and a satisfactory conclusion without any deus-ex-machina. When you have finished reading it yourself, you can come back here and share my spoiler-filled thoughts on the book. If you are not going to read it yourself, then by all means just forge ahead.

*********************** SPOILER ALERT ***********************
You know, "Walkaway" almost seems YA - but the main characters are in their 20s, not teenagers, so I guess not. It is set in the 2070's. The main technological advance is that 3d printers can produce almost anything from readily available stock. But, there are, of course, copyright and intellectual property issues. The landscape of the US seems pretty much like "rust belt everywhere". The basic principle of Walkaway is just that - to walk away from the standard economy ("the default") and live in what is basically Burning Man on steroids. Doctorow has definitely gotten a lot out of his long time Burning Man participation. I had to look it up, and, indeed, Burning Man is a gift economy, as Walkaway culture is.

The 1st 1/2 or so of the book is our protagonists learning the ropes in the Walkaway culture. Then we get our main plot element: the Walkaways develop immortality, in the form of personality upload to silicon. Of course, the zottas are all over wanting to take control of that. At 1st, I was kind of thinking "this seems like a tangent, I wish he'd stayed focused on the economic and political issues", but then I realized, as I have commented on before (here for example), that once we get life extension or immorality, the .01% will do everything they can to keep for themselves, at the least by making it cost $1B or so. So this is indeed an important issue in any discussion of how the rest of us attempt to come to terms with the .01%.

Meanwhile, Doctorow does some serious venting about things that he finds offensive. I counted 4 major ones. Time for our excerpts. Reading the hardcopy, I dogeared the pages from which I wanted to capture excerpts, as opposed to highlighting them as I normally would in an eBook. I should have used a highlighter as well, I go back to these pages and am not sure what I wanted to capture. Ha ha, eBooks for me!

  1. The .01%. Doctorow is totally up on CEOs as psychopaths, and the malignant psychology of the .01% in general.
    “Exactly,” she said. “So people like my dad are good at figuring out how to take your company with its ‘smart people’ and get it declared illegal, poach its best ideas, or just buy it and leverage it and financialize it until it doesn’t make anything except for exotic derivatives and tax credits. And the thing is, that’s not good enough for him! He wants to be the one percent of the one percent of the one percent because of his inherent virtue, not because the system is rigged. His whole identity rests on the idea that the system is legit and that he earned his position into it fair and square and everyone else is a whiner.”

    ...

    “That’s the tragedy of the commons? A fairy tale about giving public assets to rich people to run as personal empires because that way they’ll make sure they’re better managed than they would be if we just made up some rules? God, my dad must love that story.”

    ...

    “I’d been walkaway for nearly a year before I understood this. That’s what walkaway is—not walking out on ‘society,’ but acknowledging that in zottaworld, we’re problems to be solved, not citizens. That’s why you never hear politicians talking about ‘citizens,’ it’s all ‘taxpayers,’ as though the salient fact of your relationship to the state is how much you pay. Like the state was a business and citizenship was a loyalty program that rewarded you for your custom with roads and health care. Zottas cooked the process so they get all the money and own the political process, pay as much or as little tax as they want. Sure, they pay most of the tax, because they’ve built a set of rules that gives them most of the money. Talking about ‘taxpayers’ means that the state’s debt is to rich dudes, and anything it gives to kids or old people or sick people or disabled people is charity we should be grateful for, since none of those people are paying tax that justifies their rewards from Government Inc.

    “I live as though the zottas don’t believe they’re in my species, down to the inevitability of death and taxes, because they believe it. You want to know how sustainable Belt and Braces is? The answer to that is bound up with our relationship to the zottas. They could crush us tomorrow if they chose, but they don’t, because when they game out their situations, they’re better served by some of us ‘solving’ ourselves by removing ourselves from the political process, especially since we’re the people who, by and large, would be the biggest pain in the ass if we stayed—”

  2. He has not much love for special snowflakes. I think that this is also a refutation of the "Great Man" theory, which I've talked about, say, here.
    Everyone talked about special snowflakes, and it was the kind of thing that was an insult from a stranger but not from a friend. You weren’t supposed to need to be a special snowflake, because the objective reality was that, important as you were to yourself and the people immediately around you, it was unlikely that anything you did was irreplaceable. As soon as you classed yourself as a special snowflake, you headed for the self-delusional belief that you should have more than everyone else, because your snowflakiness demanded it. If there was one thing that was utterly uncool in walkaway, it was that self-delusion.

    “You know that this is the love that dare not speak its name around here? There have been one hundred billion humans on the planet over the years, and statistically, most of them didn’t make a difference. The anthropocene is about collective action, not individuals. That’s why climate change is such a clusterfuck. In default, they say that it’s down to individual choice and responsibility, but reality is that you can’t personally shop your way out of climate change. ..."

  3. He is not a fan of the reputation economy and gamification. I'm down with that, the last project I worked on before I retired we gamified at one point, and I thought it was kind of stupid. I have 0 interest in being the mayor of my local BW3's. And I am just not that into competition. But, I share with one of "Walkaway"'s characters a sense of pride when you annotate the code and my name shows up on many, many lines, or shows up in mass quantities in the commit history log.
    “I don’t look at stats. Which is the point. I couldn’t write the whole thing on my own, and if I could, I wouldn’t want to, because this place would suck if it was just a contest to see who could add the most lines of code or bricks to the structure. That’s a race to build the world’s heaviest airplane. What does knowing that one person has more commits than others tell you? That you should work harder? That you’re stupid? That you’re slow? Who gives a shit? The most commits in our codebase come from history—everyone who wrote the libraries and debugged and optimized and patched them. The most commits on this building come from everyone who processed the raw materials, figured out how to process the raw materials, harvested the feedstock, and—”
  4. Not much love for our modern surveillance state either.
    "... No one wanted to say the word ‘walkaway’ because it was a superstition, say their names three times fast and the spies would target you for full-take lifelong surveillance. Anyone who knew walkaways were a thing couldn’t be trusted.”
In keeping with modern progressive science fiction (odd that I have to use that adjective), Doctorow piles on normalizing LGBTQ people. 2 major characters are a lesbian couple, and 1 is transgender. Keep on keeping on, good stuff.

I noted earlier the blog post comparing "Walkaway" to William Gibson's "The Peripheral". I think the far more relevant comparison is to Kim Stanley Robinson's (KSR) "New York 2140", blogged here. I read that right after I read "Walkaway", almost makes one believe in synchronicity.

Doctorow's story occurs ~60 years in the future, time enough to allow for ubiquitous 3D printing of almost anything to become a given. KSR's story occurs 120 years in the future, and the only thing which that allows time for is for the climate crisis, in particular sea level rise and super storms, to have become bad enough to have made people become really desperate. Doctorow's solution requires people to adopt the principles of Burning Man and a gift economy. Yah, us old hippies are totally down with that, but for your average Trump voter, I'd say that's pretty doubtful. KSR's plan, of a general rent strike, I think might actually appeal to Trump voter types as well as old hippies. So I really felt like KSR has the better ideas here.

Also, at 1 point, one the protagonist's asshole zotta dad points out that the Walkaways are violating all kinds of patents and other IP rent schemes. As the novel features for-profit prisons, it seems like the zottas would have been happy to throw all the Walkaways into those prisons and thereby financialize them.

One final point. I wish this could have been more spelled out in "Walkaway". Doctorow had an article in the most recent issue of Wired on the difference between dystopias and utopias. When it all goes to shit, a dystopia happens when your neighbor shows up at your door with a gun, demanding your resources - think "Road Warrior". In the same scenario, when your neighbor shows up at your door with the food from their freezer, so everyone can cook it up and discuss how everyone can survive, over a communal dinner, that is the start of a utopia. That thought is indeed food for the soul.

We need a summit. Doctorow, KSR, Karl Schroeder, and throw in David Brin for good measure. I would love to see if they could come up with a plan The Plan. We are so close on this ...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Six Collapsing Infomocracies

I recently read 3 high quality science fiction novels.

1st, "The Collapsing Empire", by John Scalzi, 2017, 318 pages. This is a space opera, with a feudal instellar empire that also incorporates a religion, set around 400 years in the future.. I'm kind of tired of interstellar empires, particularly feudal ones. Of course, Scalzi snarkily informs that the whole deal including the religion was setup as a scam by some 0.01%'ers who came up with the best way to extract rents ever. It's a good read. It is really kept moving by the mother/daughter team who head one of the monopolistic clans that are the empire's nobility who say "fuck" or tell someone to "fuck yourself" every other sentence or so, and who are unashamedly sexual predators.

2nd, "Infomocracy", by Malka Older, 2017, 350 pages. I really want science fiction to turn its thinking to how we can create modern systems of governance to implement a post scarcity utopia. This novel has some interesting concepts. Set 40-50 years in the future, the world has implemented micro-democracy. The world has been divided into 100,000 districts of 100,000 citizens called "centenals". Hard to believe that that does actually multiply to 10B. Each centenal can choose its government from a menu of political, corporate, security, military, etc. parties in (online) elections held every 10 years. Some parties have only 1 centenal, others have 10s of 1000s. Laws are specified by the party the centenal elects, giving the effect of states' rights on steroids. There is a global organization called Information that basically encompasses all the hardware, software, and content of the Internet. The party that controls the most centenals is the "supermajority", and maybe gets to take the lead in creating the overall policy agenda?

Our main protagonists are a campaign worker for an up and coming party, and an operative for Information. With regard to the plot, it's really kind of all over the place. Kind of a spy/suspense feel, with some ninjas thrown in, plus some conspiracy theory, but the drama is often quite unexpected. The created world seems to have a lot of incongruity - maybe that is intentional. Some of the plot elements seem somewhat unbelievable - like no one is in charge of things where you would definitely expect someone to be in charge - but again, maybe that is what you would get with such a micro-democracy.

Ms. Older has an interesting bio, and she uses the experiences of her world-spanning career in vivid depictions of various locales and their foods. I'm not that into travel, I may need to rethink that based on the opportunities for some different cuisines.

Not the greatest read, but, again, I welcome the concepts. I debated not ordering the sequel to this novel, but wound up going on and ordering it. It's due out in September.

3rd, "Six Wakes", by Mur Lafferty, 2017, 390 pages. I kind of bought this book by mistake when I was trying to buy "Infomocracy". It was a fortuitous mistake, this was a very good read. Set ~500 years in the future, it is a murder mystery involving the 6 crew members and AI of the 1st interstellar vessel to leave earth. The crew members are all clones with criminal backgrounds who get their crimes pardoned in exchange for spending a few lifetimes crewing the ship. Lots of shells within shells, somewhat of a noir feel. Part of the background of the story is the rise of cloning, which involves personality uploads and downloads, with technology available to edit the personality. There are the inevitable political and religious controversies. I liked this nice rant by the ship physician, arguing against someone opposing cloning on religious grounds.

“I’m so sick of that argument. I’ve been hearing it for centuries. Playing God. Wolfgang, we played God when people believed they could dictate their baby’s gender by having sex in a certain position. We played God when we invented birth control, amniocentesis, cesarean sections, when we developed modern medicine and surgery. Flight is playing God. Fighting cancer is playing God. Contact lenses and glasses are playing God. Anything we do to modify our lives in a way that we were not born into is playing God. In vitro fertilization. Hormone replacement therapy. Gender reassignment surgery. Antibiotics. Why are you fine with all of that, but cloning is the problem?”
Nice!

There was a little of the science in the book where I was kind of like "Nah, no way", but, other than that, a very good read.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

What a Maroon!

Ha ha. Someone posted this, it has always been probably my favorite Bugs Bunny line. I had been responding to all things Trump with "Ha Ha", now I have been adding this as a comment. I'm putting it here to have a quick reference to the link.

For those of you too young to remember Bugs, he was very much a trickster figure.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

New York 2140

"New York 2140" is the latest novel by Kim Stanley Robinson, 624 pages, 8 parts of 7-9 chapters each. It is in the subgenre of science fiction now identified as climate fiction. I strongly recommend that you purchase this book and read it right now. It contains what I believe is a potentially plausible scheme for turning our oligarchy / plutocracy back into a democracy. Plus it's an enjoyable, well-written novel, with good plotting, an interesting variety of characters, and a satisfactory conclusion without any deus-ex-machina. When you have finished reading it yourself, you can come back here and share my spoiler-filled thoughts on the book. If you are not going to read it yourself, then by all means just forge ahead.

*********************** SPOILER ALERT ***********************
For being 123 years in the future, there is not a lot of really futuristic stuff. No singularity, the AIs aren't very smart, no life extension, no mention of space exploration. The time in the future I think was selected to allow time for 2 major ocean rise events to have occurred: 10' in 2060 (the 1st Pulse), and 40' in the early 2100s (the 2nd pulse). Both were caused by Antarctic ice sheets escaping into the ocean. They do have new materials that allow skyscrapers 2-3x as tall we we have now, and cities floating on the oceans and in the sky. Airplanes are mostly replaced by dirigibles.

One other thing that is not very futuristic is their political and economic system. It is basically what we have now - anarcho-capitalism that has lead to an oligarchy / plutocracy. The passage of time and the inevitable occurrence of terror events has led to more security (theater) and surveillance. The main purpose of the novel seems to be to propose his very elegant path back to democracy:

  1. Identify a bubble in the world's capital markets (that shouldn't be too hard). In the presence of a bubble, financial institutions will be even more overly leveraged than usual.
  2. Amongst the 99%, organize and declare a rent (in the economic sense of the word) strike, a Jubilee. Everybody quits paying on all rents or loans of any type, and purchasing anything beyond necessities. The drop in liquidity could create another financial meltdown like 2008.
  3. When the banks come to the federal governments demanding a bailout, nationalize them instead. This was done with GM in 2008, while the banks were given a pass.
  4. Finance now works for the people! Normalize finance industry salaries and bonuses. Implement the Piketty tax, and a capital flight penalty. Happy ending!
    These new taxes and the nationalization of finance meant the U.S. government would soon be dealing with a healthy budget surplus. Universal health care, free public education through college, a living wage, guaranteed full employment, a year of mandatory national service, all these were not only made law but funded. ... And as all this political enthusiasm and success caused a sharp rise in consumer confidence indexes, now a major influence on all market behavior, ironically enough, bull markets appeared all over the planet. This was intensely reassuring to a certain crowd, and given everything else that was happening, it was a group definitely in need of reassurance. That making people secure and prosperous would be a good thing for the economy was a really pleasant surprise to them. Who knew?
Such a great idea! Fight money with money!

I note that Robinson's improved society includes "a living wage" and "guaranteed full employment" but not a universal basic income. I wonder why he is not a fan?

The economics in this book are very good. It's funny, I read something like this and think "He definitely read Piketty." And probably Naomi Klein as well. Here's some examples.

the continuous panicked quantitative easing since the Second Pulse had put more money out there than there was good paper to buy, which in effect meant that investors were, not to put too fine a point on it, too rich. That meant new opportunities to invest needed to be invented, and so they were. Demand gets supplied.

...

Every ideal and value seemed to melt under a drenching of money, the universal solvent. Money money money. The fake fungibility of money, the pretense that you could buy meaning, buy life.

...

But after every crisis of the last century, Charlotte thought, or maybe forever, capital had tightened the noose around the neck of labor. Simple as that: crisis capitalism, shoving the boot on the neck harder at every opportunity. Tightening the noose. It had been proved, it was a studied phenomenon. To anyone looking at history, it was impossible to deny. It was the pattern. The fight against the tightening noose had never managed to find the leverage to escape it.

One consequence of ocean rise that I had never heard before: according to Robinson, dating back to Roman law, property in an intertidal zone cannot be owned - it is a commons. Makes sense, I know navigable streams are this way. So the new seashore areas, where much development has been going on, are in a legal limbo re ownership. But ...
"Wherever there’s a commons there’s enclosure. And enclosure always wins. So of course she wants to kill. I’m totally with her. Put ’em against a wall. Fucking liquidation of the rentier.”

“Euthanasia of the rentier,” Charlotte corrects. “Keynes.”

Much of the good political and economic info in the book is delivered in 1 or 2 chapters per part in which a/that/the citizen/smartass/city breaks the 4th wall and addresses us directly. Here's some samples:
So the people of the 2060s staggered on through the great depression that followed the First Pulse, and of course there was a crowd in that generation, a certain particular one percent of the population, that just by chance rode things out rather well, and considered that it was really an act of creative destruction, as was everything bad that didn’t touch them, and all people needed to do to deal with it was to buckle down in their traces and accept the idea of austerity, meaning more poverty for the poor, and accept a police state with lots of free speech and freaky lifestyles velvetgloving the iron fist, and hey presto! On we go with the show! Humans are so tough!

...

The bailout of the 2008 crash, which served as the model for the two that followed it, was calculated by historians at somewhere between 5 and 15 trillion dollars. One careful guess said it was 7.7 trillion dollars, another 13 trillion; both added that this was more than the cost (adjusted for inflation) of the Louisiana Purchase, the New Deal, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the 1980s savings and loan bailout, the Iraq wars, and the entire NASA space program, combined. Conclusion: wars and land and social programs must not be very expensive. And compared to rescuing finance from itself, they’re not.

...

capitalism will be flattening itself like the octopus it biomimics, sliding between the glass walls of law that try to keep it contained, and no one should be surprised to find it can squeeze itself to the width of its beak, the only part of it that it can’t squish flatter, the hard part that tears at our flesh when it is free to do so. No, the glass walls of justice will have to be placed together closer than the width of an octopus’s beak—now there’s a fortune cookie for you! And even then the octopus may think of some new ways to bite the world. A hinged beak, some super suckers, who knows what these people will try.

...

Dark pools. Dark pools of money, of financial activities. Unregulated and unreported. Estimated to be three times larger than the officially reported economy. Exchanges not advertised or explained to outsiders. Exchanges opaque even to those making them. ... Liquidity vaporized. Liquidity gone through the phase change that makes it a gas. Liquidity become gaseous, become telepathy. Liquidity gone metaphysical.

All the parts start with some quotations, several by Whitman. The discussion of dark money concludes by invoking Whitman, in this inspirational passage:
They have all come back like the tide, like poetry—in fact, please take over, O ghost of glorious Walt:

Because life is robust,

Because life is bigger than equations, stronger than money, stronger than guns and poison and bad zoning policy, stronger than capitalism,

Because Mother Nature bats last, and Mother Ocean is strong, and we live inside our mothers forever, and Life is tenacious and you can never kill it, you can never buy it,

So Life is going to dive down into your dark pools, Life is going to explode the enclosures and bring back the commons,

O you dark pools of money and law and quantitudinal stupidity, you oversimple algorithms of greed, you desperate simpletons hoping for a story you can understand,

Hoping for safety, hoping for cessation of uncertainty, hoping for ownership of volatility, O you poor fearful jerks,

Life! Life! Life! Life is going to kick your ass.

I liked where a romance develops between a 36 YO male character and a 50 YO female character. After all the DOM(Dirty Old Man)ism of Heinlein and his ilk involving old men and young women, it is a pleasant change.

Several new words in this book:

  • Bildungsroman - a coming-of-age novel
  • jarndycing - a gerundal reference to Jarndyce and Jarndyce. Ha ha, I like this use: "jarndycing through the courts at Zenoesque speed"
  • polder - a tract of low land (as in the Netherlands) reclaimed from a body of water (as the sea)
  • till or glacial till - unsorted glacial sediment
  • aleatoric - characterized by chance or indeterminate elements, i.e., random
  • aeolia - wind (I think) - an aeolian harp is a wind harp
  • avuncular - unclelike
There were also many fun factoids throughout the book, as you would expect from an author as erudite as Robinson. I liked this assertion, from the quotations section but attributed to "Hard to believe":
Words her biographer claimed first appeared in print in the prose of Dorothy Parker: art moderne, ball of fire, with bells on, bellyacher, birdbrain, boy-meets-girl, chocolate bar, daisy chain, face lift, high society, mess around, nostalgic, one-night stand, pain in the neck, make a pass, doesn’t have a prayer, queer, scaredy-cat, shoot, the sky’s the limit, to twist someone’s arm, what the hell, and wisecrack.
It took me a couple tries to track down "Chenoweth's law", but I think it is probably in this book.

He also mentions how "these old clich├ęs had their origins in real physical reactions, common to all.": "her knees grew weak", "she saw red".

This was a very enjoyable book. It is particularly interesting to contrast it with Cory Doctorow's "Walkaway", which I finished just before it. I scored a prerelease copy of "Walkaway" from an old friend who owns a bookstore, and am waiting until it comes out April 25 to comment on it - that seems like good manners to me. Very different approaches to the same issues.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Music

I was in Naples, Florida from November 29 to December 15 and December 26 to March 13. I really got settled in down there. My music in was somewhat disrupted - nothing new in January or February. If I were in Lexington, I would have ripped some vinyl. In March I started loading stuff onto the MacBook I take down there. It wasn't much work to transfer it to my PC back here in Lexington.

Man the jam scene in Florida is great. Tuesday night the most excellent band Mudbone hosts a jam from 7:30 to 10:30 at Vodka Bar & Grill (formerly Weekend Willie's). They start calling people up to sit in at around 9. I've been going to that jam around 4 or 5 years, so they know me. The 1st few weeks this time, I was the only singer/guitarist/bandleader jammer showing up, so I was getting 8-10 songs, FTW. Later more bandleader types, including Guy Rienzi, started showing up, but I kept getting at least a few songs. Mudbone is a 5 piece band:

  • David Carlton Johnson plays bass and sings (and plays keys, guitar and drums). He tours with the Aaron Neville Quintet.
  • Mario Infanti plays guitar and sings (and drums). He played with Chuck Mangione for 4 years.
  • Ricky Howard plays guitar (and bass) and sings. He also has a rockabilly band Rick Howard and the Speedbumps.
  • Jerry Fiore plays harp and percussion and sings.
  • Bill E. Peterson is the drummer. His kit is just bass, snare, high hat, and 1 cymbal.
Steve Emerson also frequently sits in on percussion.

They are all absolutely top notch musicians and good guys. Here they are doing Chick Corea "Spain" and Jeff Beck "Stratus".

One night jamming there I was playing with a bass player named Jimmy Allen. He plays a fretted bass left-handed and a fretless bass right-handed??? He invited me to a jam Friday nights 5-8 at the Beach Box right at Vanderbilt Beach. So I started going to that one too. Other musicians there are Justin Ross and Bob Lynch, both guitarist/singers, and Drummaboi Jordon Henry (Jimmy's nephew) on drums. I got a lot of songs and had a lot of fun. I also 3 times played Jimmy's fretless bass. I did OK as long as I remembered to look at my left hand - Fretless Bass Challenge, check!

I also played at the Tuesday jam with singer/harpist Guy LaForge, and he invited me to come sit in with his band, Big Buck and the Biscuit Boys, which I did twice. They were a 5 piece band - harp, guitar, keys, bass, drums - with 4 vocalists. Big Buck (Guy) is like 6'3" and 300# and is a great showman and a very nice guy. Sitting in with Big Buck and the Biscuit Boys is definitely one to check off of the bucket list.

I also got invited to play at a 3 hour superbowl pre-party at Pelican Bend Restaurant in Isles of Capri by Rick Cain, who is lead singer and harpist for The King Bees out of Louisville. His wife Patty played keys and sang (and played bass on the keyboard) and there was a drummer. The keyboard player from BB&TBB showed up and played, as did Big Buck and Owen Evans. We had a harpalooza, with 3 harp players at once. We were playing on a pier with a dolphin swimming behind us. I took my new amp out and had a good time and got to play some new songs, and got free drinks. Woo-hoo!

Here's a pic of Big Buck and Rick Cain and a couple of the Biscuit Boys.

Finally, I made some new friends in Owen Evans and his wife Sheila. They were snowbirds from Ottawa, Canada. Owen plays harp and was pretty much always out playing when I was. He was a big Muddy Waters fan and we worked up a song he liked "Crosseyed Cat". It was decent by the 3rd and last time we did it - here's a link to a video of that last time. I like that limping guitar/harp unison riff. Sheila was taking lots of videos of us playing - if you go to my facebook page, there's like 8 there. I had some seafood I needed to use up before coming back to Lexington, so they came over and we did some serious damage to some sashimi-grade tuna from Oakes Farms.

Meanwhile, back in Lexington, the jam scene is pretty blighted. I am trying a once-a-month jam at Backstretch Bar & Grill Sunday 3-7. I am told this is different, not much blues, more like a bunch of old rockers and lots of people I don't know. I am looking forward to it. Then I will go to Coralee's Open Mic which goes from 7-9 at the new location of Cosmic Charlie's on National Ave. and play with Steve.


On the music in side, here's the end of last year's new music.

  • "Bob Dylan: 30th Anniversary Concert", many artists, 1992. Fuzzy lent this to me. 33 tracks. A lot of good stuff, but way too many tracks, so I gave it 3 stars. Steve and I have been playing Eric Clapton's very bluesy version of "Don't Think Twice It's Alright". This imported as 2014, I guess when it was remastered, but then I heard Johnny and June Carter Cash singing and I said, "Hey, wait a minute ..." Dylan comes on for the last few songs and is in particularly bad, nasal voice.
  • Norah Jones, "Day Breaks", 2016. Ms. Jones continues to produce most excellent music. She has a voice you don't get tired of. 4 stars. Here's "Tragedy".

  • Nine Pound Hammer, "Bluegrass Conspiracy", 2016. This is a local band. The lead guitarist Earl Crim I've played with a few times - he is an excellent guitarist and a very good guy. This album is very well done and engineered - but way too brash for my tastes at my age. 2 stars.
  • Todd Rundgren, "A Wizard/A True Star", 1983. I was discussing Todd Rundgren with the sound guy at Willie's Locally Known (Matt?) and he recommended this album. It is all over the place, like an experimental album with lots of drugs involved. 19 tracks, 9 shorter than 2 minutes, and including a 10:35 medley of 4 soul songs. 4 stars for the 7 tracks that sound like Todd Rundgren songs, 3 for the rest. Here's "Does Anybody Love You" - all 1:31 of it.

  • The Animals, "The Best of The Animals", 1965. Loaned to me by Fuzzy. One of the best of the 1st wave British invasion groups. Lead singer Eric Burdon stayed around in various incarnations for decades. 4 stars, except for "Ballad of Bo Diddley", which I found a little annoying, 3 stars. Here's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood", which I've been playing lately, but with more of a Reggae beat. Nina Simone also did this song.

  • John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival, "The Long Road Home", 1969-2005. 19 tracks. Loaned to me by Fuzzy. I was never that much of a Creedence fan - I'm still not. We played "Lookin Out My Back Door" back in the day. 3 stars.
  • Coralee and the Townies, "Criminal Pride", 2014. A very good local singer/songwriter and group. Coralee has been running an open mic for several years. This album is well done but a little countryish for my taste. 3 stars.
  • Pavo Pavo, "Young Narrator in the Breakers", 2016. The kind of light poppy indy rock that I like. From Brooklyn, of course. 4 stars. Here's the 1st track, "Ran Ran Run".

  • Leon Russell, "The Best Of", 2011. I have always really liked his work, but it took his death last year to prompt me to get some of his music. I worked up "A Song For You", I think my favorite of his, it is fun to play and sing. He does it in Dm, I moved down to Am. 4 stars.

Music in is now current through the end of 2016.