Monday, November 19, 2012

Two Great Brazilian Bands You’ll Probably Never See Outside of Brazil

Here are two very different contemporary Brazilian bands that have two big things in common:  they are exceptionally talented and will never tour America, probably because it would cost too much money for airfare to get them all here.  They are both large groups:  reggae supergroup Natiruts has 12 members, big for a reggae outfit, and the Spok Frevo Orchestra is a big band with 18 musicians.  Only a big grant from the Brazilian government or a carioca industrialist would get them to come north.  Embraer? Tap Airlines?  Brahma beer?  Can any of you help?

Frevo is a style of Brazilian music based in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco and centered in the capital Recife.  Reggae is immensely popular in Brazil;  you see more teeshirts with Bob Marley on it than you do Jay-Z Stevie Wonder, or Michael Jackson.  Both bands are energetic and exciting:  Natiruts is body music and fun to dance to, while Spok Frevo is an unbelievably tight jazz orchestra, with snapped tight ensemble work and great soloists.  You could bring them to  the Monterey or Playboy Jazz Festival–or to Montreux–and they’d blow people away.

These two groups aren’t about saudade.  On the contrary, they can really turn on a crowd no matter where they go.  Thanks to my Brazilian music guru, Robert Rogness of Wine Expo ( for tipping me to Natiruts.  I’d already heard about Spok Frevo.

Here are some clips of both bands:
Click here to view the embedded video.
Click here to view the embedded video.
site for Spok Frevo:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Charles "Papa" McCoy - Blues Mandolin

1909 - 1950

Charlie "Papa" McCoy is considered as one of the three most important mandolin players in blues (the other two being Yank Rachell and Johnny Young ).

He recorded with Tommy Johnson,Ishman Bracey, Mississippi Sheiks , Joe McCoy(his brother), Memphis Minnie, Tampa Red, Georgia Tom. All his recordings are listed here.  You can read more about him on his tribute website:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Rockstar Violinist Was Just Named The Fastest Person On Earth

A Rockstar Violinist Was Just Named The Fastest Person On Earth:

ben lee fuseViolinist Ben Lee, who can play Flight of the Bumblebee at an average of 15 notes per second, is declared the quickest human on the planet.

Judges and scientists working on the Discovery Channel show Superhuman Showdown unanimously voted the 32-year-old musician the fastest superhuman on earth, after he beat off stiff competition from a speed shooter and a base jumper.

Ben and his fellow competitors were tested in a controlled environment and researchers used magnetic electrical pulses to measure the contestants' brain activity during their tasks.

Among those vying for the title were the world base race champion Frode Johannessen, who can 'fly' unassisted at 170pm and speed shooter Jerry Miculek who can fire eight rounds on four targets in 1.06 seconds.

Head spinner Aicho Ono, who can perform 135 head spins in one minute, and speed eater Pete Czerwinski, who is able to eat a 12 inch pizza in 34 seconds, also tried their best to win the coveted title.

Ben was thrilled to have been declared the winner: "It's taken tens of thousands of hours of practice to reach this speed but it definitely helped that my parents were musical and encouraged me to play."

He has played the violin since the age of five, and at 16 he was awarded Daily Telegraph Young Jazz Composer Of The Year. He has now insured his fingers for £3 million.

His record for playing Flight of the Bumblebee note perfect on the electric violin is 58.05 seconds.

Source: PA

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Raga a good bargain

Raga a good bargain:

It is difficult to keep up with EMI's bargain boxes, and this 10 CD Ravi Shankar Collection - which is selling in the UK for under £20 - slipped under the radar. These highly desirable compilations are genuine limited editions and some are already deleted, so hurry. Collin Walcott was a disciple of Ravi Shankar's who went on to be the guiding spirit of the uncategorisable Codona - read more here.

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Tenor Banjo: A Little History

Banjo: from the Portugese "bandore", and Spanish "bandurria"

Since they were part of slave trade, musicologists see early banjo-like instruments made of gourds primarily as early as the 17th century.

The first white man to popularize the banjo was "Sweeney" in 1830.

Tenor banjos became popular in Irish music in 1962 with the Dubliners re-tuning the instrument in from a C,G,D,A tuning (like a viola, cello), to a G,D,A,E tuning (like a violin) for ease of playing by fiddlers.

Tenor banjos were also used in the early 1900s in New Orleans Jazz Bands and later Dixieland bands for their volume and chordal capabilities.

Today, tenor banjos are still quite popular in Irish music and you won't see a seisun without one!

A Mode Mnemonic

Remembering all seven of the church modes can be a challenge.  I remember them by using a mnemonic.  I've heard many different ones over the years.  This is my favorite:
The 7 Church Modes

I've Developed Perfectly Logical Modal Associations. Listen!
  1. I've = Ionian (Major)
  2. Developed = Dorian
  3. Perfectly = Phrygian
  4. Logical = Lydian
  5. Modal = Mixolydian
  6. Associations = Aeolian (Natural Minor)
  7. Listen = Locrian
I also like this one: "I Don't Play Loud Music About Love"

Now the way to remember the notes in a mode is that the interval between the half steps on the white keys on the piano are the same: B>C; E>F first, and second, which note the mode starts on.  If you remember those two things, you have all the intervals of the modes!

C = Ionian (C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C)
D = Dorian (D,E,F,G,A,B,C,D)
E = Phrygian (E,F,G,A,B,C,D,E)
F = Lydian (F,G,A,B,C,D,E,F)
G = Mixolydian (G,A,B,C,D,E,F,G)
A = Aeolian (A,B,C,D,E,F,G,A)
B = Locrian (B,C,D,E,F,G,A,B)

Another way to remember the modes is to use all white notes, memorize sound then transpose to different keynotes.   For example:

In the Ionian Mode, the half step interval is between the 3rd and the 4th notes and the 7th and 8th notes.  That one is easy to remember because it is the "major" scale.  The intervals are R,W,W,H,W,W,W,H

In the Dorian Mode, the half step interval is between the 2nd and 3rd and the 6th and 7th notes.  It has a "minor" like sound.  The intervals are R,W,H,W,W,W,H,W


  • The key to using the modes, or being able to hear them in compositions, is to practice/drill the scales until you "get them in your ear", until they are part of the monkey brain - the same place that stores all of your other musical references.  
  • Go through the music you already know and try to pick out the modes.  Set those aside and categorize them in terms of which mode they belong to.  As you develop your modal "ear", you will soon be able to know immediately which tune is in which mode.
  • I recommend practicing the modes every day in addition to scales, arpeggios, chords and bowing/picking patterns.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Papa Charlie Jackson Volume 1 1924 1926 Shake That Thing

Was this the first rock and roll tune?

Goree Carter Rock Awhile

Debate surrounds which record should be considered the first rock and roll record. Contenders include Goree Carter's "Rock Awhile" (1949)

How To Play Smokin by Boston - Verse - Adam Smith Guitar Lesson

Boston - Hitch a Ride (solo cover)

Punch Brothers: Brandenburg Concerto No. 3

There's a lot of space in your music, but it's all you need

There's a lot of space in your music, but it's all you need:

I remember at Tassajara [San Francisco Zen Centre] once talking to a classical composer and musicologist named Lou Harrison. I apologised to him for the lack of music there and for the fact that there was even a rule against having musical instruments. "Nonsense!" he said. "This place is full of music. You have all the musical instruments and music you need. I hear your bells, that thick hanging board and the drum going from morning to night. There's a lot of space in your music, but it's all you need".
I was reminded of that passage from David Chadwick's book Thank you and OK! An American Zen Failure in Japan by last night’s resignation of the BBC director general George Entwistle. This blog's criticism of the BBC predates the current Murdoch press witchhunt by some years, and On An Overgrown Path has repeatedly expressed concerns about the management controls within the BBC – the very factor that precipitated the present crisis. But I feel no schadenfreude about recent events, just a great sadness. I joined the BBC from university in 1971, and not only do I owe any communication and technical skills that I have today to my time with BBC Radio, but the idealistic culture of what was then a public service broadcaster left a profound impression. However, over the intervening four decades the rise of the commercial nexus, the deregulation of broadcasting, society's fixation with celebrity, and the almost infinite increase in communication bandwidth has created an out of control media monster of which the present day BBC is just one part. But I cannot sit in judgement, because on an infinitely more modest scale On An Overgrown Path - and this post - is also part of that new media monster. And push-button publishing and citizen journalism in the form of blogs and social media have not - as was once hoped - levelled the media playing field, instead they have merely reduced it to the level of the lowest common denominator.

As the Newsnight scandal has shown, there is no space in today’s media: speed has usurped accuracy, sound-bytes have replaced considered debate, and anything goes providing it falls outside the narrow definition of defamation. At the heart of the problem is the simple fact that over the past decade the number of news events has not increased, but the demand for news – driven by digital communication technologies – has increased exponentially. With the result that the reporting of news – genuine or otherwise – has expanded to fill the available space. It is inevitable that media organisations around the world will be watching and learning from the Newsnight scandal. And it is also inevitable and right that the result will be more rigorous editorial controls that constrain the supply of news, thereby leaving space in today's sprawling broadcast schedules. Classical music and the other arts need to do some fast thinking and seize the opportunity to fill the post-Newsnight media vacuum. And on my part I have resolved to leave more space in my blogging. That is Lou Harrison above - more on this under-appreciated composer in New music nourished by the forgotten past.

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10 steps to learn the bass fretboard...

1. Stop feeling confused about the bass guitar fretboard. Just do it!

2. Understand that when divided in half, a string produces the same note, but an octave higher.

3. Understand that there are only 12 possible tones on a bass guitar. They repeat in lower and higher registers, but a C is a C whether low or high.

4. Link tip 2 and tip 3 together: The octave is subdivided into 12 steps. Each is represented on the bass guitar by a fret. If you keep counting after 12, 13 will be the same as 1, but an octave higher.

5. Understand the "distance" between the strings (the fancy word is intervallic relationship. Each pair of adjacent strings is separated by a perfect fourth. If you have problems understanding intervals, go back to that, and come back when you are ready.

6. Learn how a major scale is played on any single string. For now it does not matter if it sounds good. Just focus on where the notes are ON A SINGLE STRING.

7. Say the names of the notes out loud as you play the major scales we've just discussed.

8. Sing everything you play on bass. This will engage your sense of hearing at a far deeper level. It will help you grasp the bass fretboard from your intuition.

9. Visualize all of what you have learnt in your mind's eye. Form a clear mental picture of it, and picture yourself going over all the steps. Practice this for 5 minutes a day, until the image is clear and sharp.

10. Download the free fretboard diagram here, print it out and tape it to your music stand, and put one in your bass case! Try to spot relationships as you go along. But don't worry too much about it. Your understanding of the bass fretboard will deepen together with your understanding of theory. Take it one step a a time!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Evolution of the Bass in A Nutshell

The earliest use of the bass in the USA was with Dixieland music, performed from the 1917s in the south, also known as New Orleans Jazz Music.  Dixieland was originally played with a tuba (patented in Germany in 1838), or Sousaphone.  Later the stringed double bass was used when bands started playing in whore houses and were able to stay in one position.

The Dixieland sound is a mixture of musics including Marches from John Phillips Sousa and Ragtime (1850s).  Sousa's parents were from Portugal and Bavaria (Germany), where the Tuba was invented.  Marches were commonplace in Germany in the 1700s and 1800s, especially in classical music by Wagner, Mozart, Beethoven and others; and also in the military to assist in transportation of troops from one place to another.  Sousa was heavily influenced by this music, and his marches have become quite famous in the world of Dixieland and origins of Jazz (1920s USA), and Swing (1930s USA).

The 1940s brought Jazz to Europe, where it was reintegrated and regurgitated.  In the US, String Bands in the 1930s and 1940s started using the bass in combination with the guitar and mandolin to lay down the rhythm track for the band sound.  And later, influenced by the Blues, Rockabilly became Rock & Roll and the double bass was changed to the electric bass guitar in 1951 by Fender.

The rest is history.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Róisín O Teaspora

Róisín O Teaspora: Marking new wave of emigration with cups of tea The Irish group Róisín O grew up with the mighty roar of the Celtic Tiger as Ireland’s economy went from strength. For the first time in centuries, it looked as though emigration from Ireland was at last a thing of the past. Sadly, that wasn’t the [...]

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Great art has come forth from masters of public relations

Great art has come forth from masters of public relations:

The ongoing claims that government support is necessary to shield true artists from the commercial world’s philistine demands is a hangover from the Romantic version of the creative genius. Certainly much great art has been produced by artists who thought of themselves as solitary geniuses, warring against an unenlightened public, and great art has at least as often come forth from masters of public relations and in response to demand.
As classical music's funding crisis deepens that quote certainly provides food for thought. It comes from Roger Evans' newly published biography of Xavier Montsalvatge, and the Catalan composer - who lived from 1912 to 2002 - was a latter day master of public relations. In contrast to fellow Catalan Pau Casals, Montsalvatge chose appeasement and not exile when Franco came to power in 1936. He composed for the dictator’s political films while consorting with Catalan separatists, and balanced a career as a high profile music critic with his role as one of Spain's senior composers. Montsalvatge’s attitude to politics mirrored his approach to music which he expressed thus – “nothing can have more interest than atonality that coexists with and confronts tonality”. In his biography Evans describes Montsalvatge as “a supreme master of political manouevering… perhaps his greatest political triumph of all, besides having simply survived, was the lack of appearance of all such calculation”.

In support of the thesis that great art comes forth from masters of public relations is Montsalvatge’s music. The Spanish conductor Juanjo Mena and the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra have taken a bold step to reverse the unjustified neglect of Montsalvatge with a highly recommended Chandos CD that includes his best known work, Cinco Canciones Negras (Five Negro Songs), and his little-known masterpiece, the 1985 Sinfonía de Réquiem – outstanding sound on that disc incidentally captured in the BBC Philharmonic’s new studio in MediaCity, Salford. Montsalvatge was greatly influenced by Latin-American music and his virtuosic and tuneful sixteen minute Calidoscopi Simfònic, which is also on the CD, should certainly be in the repertoire of one of the Venezuelan boy bands.

I bought the Chandos Montsalvatge disc online, but a copy of Xavier Montsalvatge: A Musical Life in Eventful Times came speedily from the delightfully co-operative Pendragon Press, Hillsdale NY in response to my request. Roger Evans’ invaluable biography is in the same series as James Gollin’s biography of American early music pioneer and public relations master Noah Greenberg. I was disappointed at the response to my post about Noah Greenberg earlier this year. So being a practitioner - but unlike some fellow bloggers not a master - of public relations I am plugging that post again today. Xavier Montsalvatge was born, possibly of Jewish stock, in the Catalan town of Girona which I visited in the Spring and featured in A Sephardic Moment. 1912 to 2002 - see how a composer can be made interesting and newsworthy without jumping on the anniversary bandwagon?

My header image is from graphic artist Mark Landman. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk Also on Facebook and Twitter.

JAM with Chrome

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tim Maia: Brazilian Soul Wizard’s Star is Rising

Tim Maia: Brazilian Soul Wizard’s Star is Rising:
Tim Maia has a new cd out on David Byrne and Yale Evelev’s superhip Luaka Bop label.    It’s called The Existential Soul of Tim Maia.  He started the Black Rio music movement, a genre based on American soul and funk music.  Maia’s biggest influences were not Brazilian but rather American soul and funk music from the 60s and 70s.  Today his nephew Ed Motta–an amazing multi-sided talent— is one of its current practitioners, sounding like George Benson classics from back in the day.  Unfortunately Tim Maia isn’t here anymore, but his legacy and influence is stronger than ever in Brazil and elsewhere too.  He died in 1998.  And now, 15 years later, comes the first stateside release.
My friend Robert Rogness of Wine Expo ( is an authority on Brazilian music and many other subjects, told me this after reading the article on Tim in the latest New York Times Magazine:
I always joke that Tim Maia used the Bob Marley Method to superstardom: go to the US, work in a car factory, learn English, then get deported for smoking dope…..on a serious note, you cannot underestimate the force and power of the Black Rio movement. The government was seriously afraid when thousands of kids wearing afros took over a soccer field for a dance with that music. That was NOT the face they  (the generals, the dictatorship that ruled Brazil between 1964 and 1985) wanted to project. Plus, even though it took decades to happen,  Tim Maia Racional, Vols. 1 & 2, are now damn near the Sgt Peppers of modern Brazuka (Brazilian slang for “really Brazilian) pop, many tributes and covers.
 Here’s a link to the NYT article:
I couldn’t have said it better myself.  The new record will help Tim Maia find a bigger audience;  never mind that it’s coming 15 years after his passing.
Here is Tim Maia in action (thanks again to Robert Rogness for selecting these videos).
Click here to view the embedded video.
and a song called Chocolate:
Click here to view the embedded video.

Vivaldi: Recomposed by Max Richter…..Thank Goodness

Vivaldi: Recomposed by Max Richter…..Thank Goodness:
I love Vivaldi’s music.  His lesser-known sacred works had a big influence on Bach, too.  What I hate, however, is calling somebody up and getting the v/m greeting, “Please enjoy the music while your party is being reached”.  Then it’s “Spring” from the Four Seasons.  I won’t enjoy the music, I’ll hate it!     It’s already irritating enough that your call is being screened and maybe its recipient will decide it’s not important enough to answer, but having to listen to this well-worn classic on hold just brings on Clockwork Orange moments for me.  (for those who don’t remember, it’s the 1971 Kubrick film where the lead character–Malcolm McDowell– is brainwashed to the point where his beloved Ode to Joy, the great choral passage from Beethoven’s 9th, makes him retch and vomit.
Can’t we at least get some remixes?
Such tokenism is done with other music too:  Miles’ Kind of Blue, Brubeck’s Take Five, and others.  Why must we always listen to the same top 40 fluff in the elevator,  waiting on the phone, at the gas station, shopping mall, or even online?  Is Muzak to blame?  Can’t other songs be substituted?   Why can’t we hear Cecil Taylor or Edgar Varèse for a change (just kidding).  On the other hand,  John Cage might be a good idea.   But seriously, a great disservice is done to these great compositions by trivializing them.
Which brings me to my subject:  Here is a version of Vivaldi’s war horse, but it’s “recomposed” by Max Richter.   It’s a new Deutsche Grammophon cd, and the results are really good, even for people like me who suffer from the aforementioned Clockwork Orange syndrome.  I suggest you check it out.

David S. Ware, Jazz Avant Garde Saxophonist, RIP

David S. Ware, Jazz Avant Garde Saxophonist, RIP:
Tenor saxophonist David S. Ware just died on October 18th at the age of 62.  Most people, even jazz fans, have never heard of him.  He was an uncompromising avant-gardist who wouldn’t appeal to most people.  And he never tried or wanted to.
In this age of mediocrity and hype people like him become more singular.  I’m thinking about certain fixtures of smooth jazz but won’t mention any names.  You know who they are.  Ware followed in the wake of other progressives like Steve Lacy, John Tchicai, Frank Wright, and of course the late Albert Ayler, whose 1970 death by drowning in the East River at just 34 remains a mystery til this day.
If I played his music on KCRW I’d probably lose 90% of listeners and only keep those who were distracted or doing something else and not really tuned in.  Henry Rollins would fare better, because he regularly features musicians who lived and played on the outer edges of the musical universe;  listeners will stay with him.
For me Ware is important because of his unwillingness to compromise in his art.  I saw him in November, 1977 at a loft club called Axis in Soho.  It was a time of the loft scene in New York City, and people who bought in the neighborhood made a lot of money as this area became gentrified, hip, and popular.  I don’t think the loft scene survived the gentrification of the area.
I’ve put out an impressionistic photo (not by design but by necessity) that I took with my trusty old Olympus OM-1 SLR camera, pushing Tri-ex film to 1000 to get whatever light I could in the dim interior of the loft.  The color photo is much more recent

Dezoriental: Orientalism Influenced World Music from France

Dezoriental: Orientalism Influenced World Music from France:
Dezoriental-world-music-from-franceToday I would like to write a band from France. If you like to hear colorful world music, Dezoriental is a band for you. From the name of the band, you could guess their musical understanding. The multicultural band consists of French and Algerian members that their music root is Algerian music. Do not think that it is an Arabic band. Sometimes, you could hear melodies from Sahara Desert; sometimes, you could hear Arabic influenced Indian rhythms; sometimes, you could dance with hot Balkan music and gypsy music melodies. Is it only traditional music? Absolutely, no! Dezoriental also use Jazz, European music, gypsy music, French ballads, and the other world music elements. It is a good fusion of traditional eastern music and contemporary western music. The colorful band Dezoriental brings you a funny and cheery trip with their hot oriental rhythms and influences.
Dezoriental, World Music from France, Vesoul.
Dezoriental consists of six members from France and Algeria based members. The band’s official line up is Abdel Sefsaf (Vocal Drum), Aloua Idir (Oud, Guitar), Jean-Luc Frappa (Back Vocal, Accordion), Stephane Prost (Back Vocal, Percussion), Frederic Delluci (Tuba), and Laurent Falso (Drum). You could hear both contemporary music instruments and traditional music instruments in Dezoriental’s musicality. You could also hear instruments from different cultures performed by guest artists and performers. I suggest oud’s sound that you could read my article about an oud virtuoso John Berberian. I believe that you will enjoy hearing Dezoriental’s multicultural melodies with colorful eastern rhythms. I also suggest watching their live performance. You will appreciate it.
Dezoriental has two studio albums. Let us see their discography.
  • Dezoriental (2001) is a successful debut album that it contains more Arabic and Algerian elements. I suggest the enjoyable album. My favorite songs are Booster, Desert Blues, No Made in France, Dezoriental Trip and Trans Saharien.
  • Terra Incognita (2003) is the album that contains modern elements. I suggest the colorful album extremely. Vesoul, Aung Sann Suu (Queen), Jazz Hair, Soumelia, Leila, and Terra Incognita are my favorites in the album. Do not lose the rich cultural concept album.
Dezoriental is an exciting and colorful band that I suggest the band extremely. World music needs more groups like Dezoriental. They have never made any album since Terra Incognita album. I hope we could hear their more songs. I could not find their official website. You could check their pages and listen to more preview songs from Last Fm.
Bye for now!



Yiddishe Cup has played in 19 states and Ontario.

Our most recent state is Massachusetts.

I didn’t tell anybody about our Massachusetts gig, except Ari Davidow, the dictator of Klezmershack, a Boston-based website.

I didn’t shout, “We’re playing Boston!”  Wouldn’t be right.   I didn’t want to drive the Mass. bands crazy. There are so many good Jewish wedding bands in Massachusetts.

How did Yiddishe Cup get the Massachusetts gig?   Connections.  My cousin Margie.  She hired us for a wedding.

Mass. football huddle
The band stayed at the Marriott near the Natick mall.  The food court at the mall had take-out Indian food; you don’t see that very often in Cleveland.

Yid Map
Notice, we haven’t played Kentucky.  That irks me!

Daniel Ducoff — Yiddishe Cup’s Sir Dance-a-lot — collects refrigerator magnets of states Yiddishe Cup has played.   Twelve years ago, I gave Daniel magnet-investment advice.  I told him to buy “Kentucky.”

Kentucky is ridiculously, abuttingly close, to Ohio.

What’s with Texas?  We’ve played Texas three times.  Once at Temple Emanu El in Dallas, and twice at the Chamizal National Memorial park in El Paso.

Some people think Yiddishe Cup plays only in Cleveland.  I hope this map straightens them out.

Buckeyes and fellow travelers, here are the Ohio towns we have played. (Obama and Romney have nothing on Yiddishe Cup.):

Elyria, Akron, Lorain, Warren, Youngstown, Oberlin, Wooster, Lakeside, Toledo, Springfield, Alliance . . .

Kent, Canton, Granville, Gambier, Lancaster, Findlay, Columbus, Delaware, Hiram, Cincinnati, Dayton, Oxford, Celina, Urbana.

You can find good Arabic food in Toledo.

Gambier is a not real town.  It has a post office, bookstore, pizza parlor and Kenyon College.   Mount Vernon — an authentic town –- is just a few miles from Kenyon.   Hey, we played a wedding in Mount Vernon.  Please add “Mount Vernon” to the list.

Yiddishe Cup probably won’t play on the West Coast unless one of my sons marries a West Coaster and the wedding is out there.  That’s our best hope.  Boychicks, you can use a DJ for the breaks.  No problem.

Yiddishe Cup’s number-two hang-out state is Michigan . . . Ann Arbor, Detroit, Flint, Kalamazoo, Calumet, East Lansing, Evert and Grand Rapids.

Calumet is in the Upper Peninsula.  We  flew there via Minneapolis.  We should have played for change in the Minnie airport so we could color in Minnesota on the map.

Michigan has so few cities.  What percentage of Michiganders live in Metro Detroit?  My guess is 33 percent.  [42 percent –- Google.]

Mappin’ . . . Have you looked at a map today?  (Electoral College maps don’t count.)


My op-ed “It’s Campaign Season; Ohio is Swingin was in the Sunday Cleveland Plain Dealer.  (Similar to post below.)

Hava Nagila: The Movie

Hava Nagila: The Movie: Here is an interesting article in the NY Times about my old nemesis, "Hava Nagila." How ‘Hava Nagila’ Took Its...


My 32nd wedding anniversary was no milestone.
But it was, sort of, because I got my wife, Alice, to go to synagogue — a major accomplishment.  I used the come-on of a free bottle of wine.
My temple passes out Israeli wine to all the anniversary couples.  For example, every married couple with an October anniversary gets a bottle of vino on the first shabbat in October.   Alice and I took our places on the bima (altar), next to eight other couples, while the congregation sang and clapped along to “Simon Tov,” a song of congratulations.  Thirty-two years of marriage was worth something — a bottle of wine.   The “winning couple,” as the rabbi put it, was celebrating 55 years of marriage.
It was like a Reverend Moon ceremony. The congregants read aloud: “These couples have come to the synagogue to give thanks for the institution of marriage and for their mutual love and devotion.”
No preening bat mitzvah girls on the bima. No nervous bar mitzvah boys.  Just married couples:  old guys with gray ponytails, younger guys in bankers’ suits.
The Bible reading that week was from the Creation Story. The rabbi mentioned that ever since Adam and Eve fouled up, we are all going to die, which makes life interesting. Because if we lived forever, we wouldn’t do anything.  For instance, “Why diet if you can put it off for 500 years?” the rabbi said.  “Things get more interesting when there are time constraints.”
What did Adam and Eve do when they became empty-nesters?   They had no peers.  Who did they hang out with?
After temple, Alice and I walked to everywhere we have lived together.  Luckily, “everywhere” was within 2 1/2 miles of the synagogue.
We went to the Oak Road duplex we had rented as newlyweds.  The owner of the duplex wouldn’t let us in.

Bert and Alice. (Polaroid by Herb Ascherman Jr.)
We went to our starter house, where our three kids were born.  We got in. The bungalow looked better than when we had lived there. The kitchen had been gutted and remodeled.
We went home –- to our present house, where we bounce off the walls nightly, waiting for grandchildren to appear.
One in four divorces is by 50-and-overs.  About half my friends are divorced and/or remarried. I look for reinforcements for long-term marriage wherever I can.  I need an ally.
I found one.  No, two:  the synagogue and a bottle of wine.

This happened in 2010.  Been back for more wine since.

I wrote a quasi-review (more of a rant) about Harvey Pekar’s latest — and probably last — comic book.   The review is at today’s

Les Poules huppées

CRESTED HENS, THE (Les Poules huppées). French, Bourrée à 3 temps (3/8 time). E Dorian. Standard tuning (fiddle). Composed in 1983 by French...