Sunday, August 23, 2009

Banjo versus TV week 75: Superhero Hoedown

A check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s ongoing plan to spend more time on his banjo than on TV. This post covers 8/2/2009 through 8/8/2009.
Banjo 470 hrs, TV 418 hours

I brought my banjo to Chicago Comic-Con. Actually, I just had it out in the car when I went to Comic-Con on Friday, but I discovered that several of the costumed folks were organizing a dance party so I ran out to the car, grabbed my banjo, ran back in and started to pick.

Wolf, V, an Imperial Stormtrooper, Snake-Eyes and several others danced around as I played.

Dancing to the banjo at Chicago Comic-Con 2009 #2

"What," I hear you ask because I have super hearing, "Did you play?"

Mostly just fast-paced rolls. But there was one improvised song that I'm particularly proud of. I called it the Superhero Hoedown. I took a melody from an old Bugs Bunny cartoon...

Hillbilly Hare

...and sang some words that are familiar to all true comic book geeks:

In brightest day, in blackest night
No evil shall escape my sight
Let those who worship evil's might
Beware my power, Green Lantern's light!

You can watch the cartoon and sing along if you like.

Also in the last week:

  • I missed another jam at Costello's. Will I ever get that free sandwich?
  • What is not to love about this video?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Help ID these costumes from Chicago Comic-Con 2009

Once again I took a ton of photos of cosplayers at Chicago Comic-Con (formerly Wizard World Chicago) and, geek that I am, I was able to identify most of the costumes and label them in my Flickr set.

All modesty aside, I'm really good at that. I mean, come on. If I can identify Beth Deville...

Beth Deville from Y The Last Man at Chicago Comic-Con 2009

...who can't I identify?

A lot of costumes, actually. So here's where you all get to help out. Can you help me identify the following?

Is this Riddler? I mean, she's Riddler-esque, but there are no question marks.

The Warden from Superjail at Chicago Comic-Con 2009
Update 8/16/2009: The Warden from Superjail! Thanks to Money Mike for the ID.

This guy is really familiar. Death Something? Something Walker?

Costume at Chicago Comic-Con 2009 046
Update 8/11/2009: Skeletor. I am so embarrassed. Thanks to all the folks at AgileTek's company meeting who set me straight.

OK, so I don't know my women of GI Joe. Yeah, I know the woman on the left is Baroness, but who's the one on the right?

Costume at Chicago Comic-Con 2009 059
Update 8/9/2009: Baroness and Scarlett

Darn it, I know I've seen this costume in a previous year and was eventually able to identify it as a character in a video game. What's her name?

Costume at Chicago Comic-Con 2009 063 Costume at Chicago Comic-Con 2009 064

She definitely wanted to strike this pose for the photo. Should that be a hint as to who she is?

Costume at Chicago Comic-Con 2009 116

Yes, she is adorable. But who is she?

Costume at Chicago Comic-Con 2009 120

These are characters from Street Fighter, right? But who? (Yeah, I'm weak on post-1986 video games.)

Costumes at Chicago Comic-Con 2009 081 Costumes at Chicago Comic-Con 2009 082

Friday, August 7, 2009

Geocaching: I finally found a geocache!

All right, I also had help from the iPhone app.

The further adventures of J.R. Jenks, world's worst geocacher.

It finally happened. After trying on and off (mostly off) for over two years I finally found a geocache. All by myself, unless you count my friend who pointed it out to me. (Thanks, Gizmo.)

But yes, while busking at Handy Park in Memphis last week we I found "The Composer Series - W. C. Handy" (GCVPTA). And it was the actual geocache, not a crack pipe or anything.

Yay us me!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Banjo versus TV week 74: Brass note for Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band

A check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s ongoing plan to spend more time on his banjo than on TV. This post covers 7/26/2009 through 8/1/2009.
Banjo 467 hrs, TV 414 hours

I took a trip to Memphis for the dedication of a brass note to Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band, organized by Arlo Leach. Arlo taught the jug band class I took earlier this year at the Old Town School of Folk Music. As part of Arlo's tribute to Will Shade, he invited any available jug banders to come down to Memphis and play at the ceremony. So we did.

2009-08-01 Will Shade & the Memphis Jug Band brass note ceremony 009

2009-08-01 Will Shade & the Memphis Jug Band brass note ceremony 020

Yes, that's me in the brown tux that my dad wore as the choral director of John Hersey High School. (School song, which Dad wrote: "Hail to you / Our alma mater bright / Hersey High, Hersey High. / Hail to brown / And hail to orange and white / Hersey High, Hersey High.")

Will and the band's brass note is on Beale Street, right across the street from the notes for Memphis Millie and Elvis.

Brass note on Beale Street for Will Shade and the Memphis Jug Band Brass note on Beale Street for Memphis Minnie Brass note on Beale Street for Elvis Presley

Arlo dubbed us the Brass Note Jug Band and we played for a couple of hours. Our set list [with timing for the two WAV files we recorded]:

  • Stealin' Stealin' [4:43 on STE-008.wav]
  • Little Green Slippers [11:00 on STE-008.wav]
  • Cindy (Beedle Um Bum) [14:40 on STE-008.wav]
  • Overseas Stomp [17:45 on STE-008.wav]
  • Fourth Street Mess Around [21:00 on STE-008.wav]
  • Rock Island Blues (1927: Leroy Ervin) [24:45 on STE-008.wav]
  • Coney Island Washboard [31:20 on STE-008.wav]
  • Tear It Down [34:35 on STE-008.wav]
  • Going to German [38:45 on STE-008.wav]
  • Back to Memphis [43:30 on STE-008.wav]
  • Kansas City [48:15 on STE-008.wav]
  • Keep It Clean [52:00 on STE-008.wav]
  • C.C. Rider [0:15 on STE-008.wav]
  • Rider (It Won't Be Long Now) [5:15 on STE-009.wav]
  • Memphis Jug Blues [9:27 on STE-009.wav]
  • Jug Band Quartet [? on STE-009.wav]
  • (?)(Crow Jane?) [? on STE-009.wav]
  • Jug Band Waltz [? on STE-009.wav]
  • Who Pumped the Air in my Doughnut [31:00 on STE-009.wav]
  • (?) Blues [35:00 on STE-009.wav]
  • You May Leave But This Will Bring You Back [40:00 on STE-009.wav]
  • Alabama Jubiliee [45:10 on STE-009.wav]
  • What's the Matter with the Well [47:45 on STE-009.wav]
  • KC Moan [51:40 on STE-009.wav]

(At least I think that's pretty much it. Corrections are welcome.)

I played along on my sawed-off banjo as best I could, which was better than I thought. That 12 bar blues stuff makes backup playing pretty easy. I didn't do any banjo solos, but I'm getting there.

I did make up and sing a verse to Back to Memphis that worked out pretty well:

Oh we went down to Beale Street to give Will Shade a note.
Oh we went down to Beale Street to give Will Shade a note.
'Cause the Memphis Jug Band played the finest music ever wrote.

Big praise to Arlo for organizing such a great event.

Update: See an article by the Beale Street folks, some pictures on Flickr and some more pictures on Facebook.

Banjo versus TV week 73: Not much more to say

A check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s ongoing plan to spend more time on his banjo than on TV. This post covers 7/19/2009 through 7/25/2009.
Banjo 452 hrs, TV 411 hours

I've already described this week's big event: meeting Earl Scruggs at RockyGrass. So there's not much more to say.

Except, maybe, that RockyGrass sure did add a lot of banjo hours to the scale.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Breakfast with Earl Scruggs. Rockygrass. A new Nechville banjo. Best weekend ever.

Why was the last weekend in July the best weekend ever? Let me count the ways.

I finally saw Earl Scruggs perform. Remember last year when I was so excited about going to the Four Corners Folk Festival to see Earl Scruggs perform? And how disappointed I was when Earl was ill and had to cancel, last-minute? Well I finally got my chance to see Earl.

How did this happen?

My friend Warren scored RockyGrass tickets, backstage passes and a hotel stay. Warren, a great banjo player from Colorado, is a long-time friend of the Scruggs family. He did the tablature for Earl's book and, as you'll recall, he filled in for Earl when Earl was ill at 4CFF. The Scruggs family had tickets and VIP passes to RockyGrass which they gave to Warren, then Warren gave one set to me.

J.R., Kyle and Warren at RockyGrass 2009

That's me, Kyle and Warren at RockyGrass. More on Kyle later when I talk about my new Nechville banjo. (That's right, a new Nechville banjo. I did mention that this was the best weekend ever, right?) But first, more about that hotel stay I mentioned, which resulted in...

I had breakfast with Earl Scruggs. Since we were staying in the same hotel, I got to have the free hotel breakfast with the whole Earl Scruggs with Family and Friends band. I asked Earl if I could have a photo as proof, since I could hardly believe it myself.

J.R. and Earl

But enough about my stalking of Earl Scruggs (with family and friends). RockyGrass was so much fun, it'd have been great even without the extra helping of Scruggs goodness.

More RockyGrass highlights:

  • The gorgeous Colorado scenery of RockyGrass
    RockyGrass main stage Tubing the RockyGrass Festival The Bluegrass Hula Vertical rocks at RockyGrass 2009 Beach scene at RockyGrass 2009
  • Showing off my sawed-off banjo
    Trying out J.R.'s sawed-off banjo at RockyGrass 2009
  • Strangers sharing their funnel cake
  • Vocal harmonies workshop with Anne & Pete Sibley
  • Constantly being mistaken for Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon ("Dude, it was five in the morning and you had that woman dancing on that cooler, remember?")
  • Having a VIP backstage pass
    Serving up the VIP food at RockyGrass 2009 VIP food at RockyGrass 2009 The VIP outhouse at RockyGrass 2009
  • Lots of great bands
    Claire Lynch at RockyGrass 2009 2009-07-25 RockyGrass 080 California at RockyGrass 2009 2009-07-25 RockyGrass 079 KC Groves & The Blue Maddies at RockyGrass 2009 Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper at RockyGrass 2009 Hot Rize at RockyGrass 2009 Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers at RockyGrass 2009 Yonder Mountain String Band at RockyGrass 2009 Chewbacca likes Yonder Mountain String Band Play "My Gal" Please, Yonder Mountain String Band
  • Dancing in the rain
    Rain at RockyGrass 2009 Under the rain tarp at RockyGrass 2009 Under the rain tarp at RockyGrass 2009 (closeup) Dancing in the rain at RockyGrass 2009 More dancing in the rain at RockyGrass 2009 "Can I get a picture to send back to my wife?"
  • Tom Nechville teaching me how to loop back the string on the banjo peg so it doesn't slip
  • Band contest
    Band contest finalists at RockyGrass 2009 Packway Handle Band at RockyGrass 2009 49 Special at RockyGrass 2009 The Hillbenders at RockyGrass 2009 Watching the band contest at RockyGrass 2009
  • Quietly sitting off to the side, playing chords on my banjo, along with the band
  • People in cool T-shirts
    John Hartford banjo quote on a T-shirt Don't blame me, I voted for Ash
  • Taking a hike while playing my banjo
  • Jamming (and recording jam sessions for later use in practice)
    Porto-Party jam at RockyGrass 2009 Inside the Porto-Party jam at RockyGrass 2009
  • Spending time with Warren
    Warren Kennison Jr at RockyGrass 2009 Warren packs for RockyGrass 2009

Best weekend ever.