Saturday, July 03, 2010

Tags & Tricks, Episode One

The first episode of my all-new jazz show (the show is all new; the jazz I played isn't) is now available for your listening pleasure (if you wish) at

I'm pretty excited about it, since I enjoy jazz & wish I played more jazz but really don't know a damn thing about jazz. Maybe this will help me learn. Maybe I should write "things I learned from this week's episode" type summaries at the end of every radio show I do. I learn a lot! But then, maybe you'd think of them as "Cliff's Notes" of the shows & then you wouldn't listen. Because you don't love music. You Philistine!

Interestingly, I've used the epithet "Philistine" against people who don't love art & learning before, but until now, I didn't really know what it meant. I assumed it was Biblical, but here's the explanation, taken from this web site:

"The key turning point toward the modern sense of the word occurred in Germany. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a quarrel between university students & local townspeople in Jena in 1693 resulted in the killing of a student. In a sermon at the student's funeral, a speaker used the German word Philister ('Philistine') as an insult to the townspeople. Soon German university students began widely applying the term to anyone they regarded as an outsider, that is, someone who was not a student, hence a nonstudious, unenlightened, uncultured person."

Now that's something I learned today!

Friday, July 02, 2010

What Is "Tags & Tricks"?

My desire to express as many elements as possible of my music collection can be wearying. It was hard enough, oh those many years ago, to come up with the name "Self Help Radio" for a radio show. (I was originally going to call it "Too Stupid To Die.") (Back in my KVRX days the best name I came up with for my show, which aired on Mondays, was "Thursdays With Gary." So the tagline would be, "Every Monday night, it's Thursdays with Gary!" That book "Tuesdays With Morrie" came out around that time, which made the name seem derivative & stupid.) (Yeah, like "Self Help Radio" is original.) (Anyway.) Now that I have "Self Help Radio," "Sugar Substitute" & "Dickenbock Electronics," I wanted equally snappy names for my new jazz & old-timey country & blues show. But what?

I was reading around about jazz & on this Wikipedia quotes page, I found this "definition" of jazz from an obvious fan in 1927:

"Jazz is not a 'form' but a collection of tags & tricks."
Ernest Newman. The Sunday Times, "The World of Music", 4 September 1927.

That's hilarious, yeah? So why not call the show "Tags & Tricks"? So I shall.

& hey! It premieres tomorrow! Look for it on!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Pretend Moral

A cautionary tale of two men who couldn't play guitar, written by little Dickie Dickenbock.

One man who couldn't play guitar was Dave. He not only couldn't play guitar but was tone-deaf.

The other man who couldn't play guitar was Rick. He loved rock & roll & wanted to be a rock & roller. In fact, he loved the work "rock." He appreciated when bands sang songs about "rock." When his favorite radio show, which had "rock" in the title, went off the air at his local public radio station, he almost didn't renew his membership until he realized there was another show with "rock" in the title replacing it. It was a completely different show, but he felt that it was important that the word "rock" was out there.

Naturally, the two of them formed a band. It was awful. They found a drummer who could keep time, & a bassist who looked mean, but no matter how they tried, Dave & Rick couldn't play guitar. They played for friends at parties, they played a "battle of the bands" night at their favorite bar, they practiced in a space where other bands could hear them, & the verdict was clear: they weren't a very good band.

It also didn't help that Dave was the lead singer.

One night, at a show where they opened for a friend's band, a very nice man named Jeff happened to hear two guys at the bar making fun of the band. The drinking buddies started with band's name - Solid Rock - & quickly found their way to the band's sheer inability to play. Jeff was infuriated by this. In addition to the cruelty of the comments, & the lack of sympathy for anyone having to perform in a live venue, the two fellows - Jeff thought - seemed to think such people couldn't get better. What if this were their first show? Maybe even the Beatles sounded like this when they had just started!

Jeff decided to become the band's manager. He did everything in his power - straining his marriage, missing a promotion at work, investing his own money in the band's future - to help Dave & Rick get lessons, have time to practice, have places to play.

But nothing helped. They never got any better. Their songs were derivative, their on-stage antics embarrassing, their skills barely progressing past their first show. (Some even say the drummer lost the ability to keep time.) When the bassist was arrested for assaulting a man he thought was hitting on his girlfriend, Dave & Rick, exhausted by all the hard work they put in & resentful of the world's disinterest, told Jeff they were quitting. Rick said, "It's okay. Rock & roll will never die."

Jeff eventually lost his job & he & his wife separated soon after.

The moral of the story is this: you can encourage anyone to follow their dreams, but you probably shouldn't get involved. More often than not, it's not going to end well.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Day Of The Remains

I've already mentioned that this week's episode of Self Help Radio is available for listening at, didn't I? It's about tunnels. You love tunnels. You should go listen to it.

My wife just left me. Now, wait, that came out wrong. She's going to come back. I hope. She says she will. She's going to Africa to do scientific stuff for an entire month. That's right! Thirty American days! & it's summer, so the days are longer!

Anyway, my wife has temporarily left me so of course I can now concentrate on making great radio for you. Unless you're leaving too. Well, I will assume you're not. & if you are, don't tell me. I'm too fragile at the moment.

I am going to make great radio for you for the month of March. That's wonderful, isn't it? Starting this Saturday, when I premiere my jazz program, "Tags & Tricks." Why is it called that? You're have to listen!

Since I put it on my website, you know, you can listen to it anywhere. Even if you're leaving. Rats! I should have told that to my wife.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Whither Tunnels?

I feel like I've been in a tunnel for a couple of days & have only now emerged. My apologies for not being as disciplined with this blog as I should, but the wife is leaving the country for a while (she's not on the lam, just being a scientist) so I've been spending time with her. Also, I nap a lot. So please, pardon my tunnel vision.

But! The tunnel has a light at the end & that light is this week's Self Help Radio, which went off with the adequate number of hitches (whatever that means) & which you can listen to at your leisure at

Might I suggest listening to it in a tunnel?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Preface To Tunnels: The Many Tunnels I've Been In

I guess I've been in a lot of tunnels. The longest tunnel - & possibly the scariest - was the tunnel under the English Channel. That tunnel is 31 miles long. Shorter tunnels I go through nearly every day - underneath the railroad tracks that separate Huntington-by-the-river from Huntington-by-the-highway. (I don't know if those are official designations.)

There are some awesome tunnels through mountains at the Virginia/West Virginia border on highway 77 in the Jefferson National Forest. I don't know how long they are but they are fun to drive through. It made me think of the tunnel in The Fugitive, well-lit but with mysterious doors into which Harrison Ford can escape.

A tunnel I've been through multiple times is the tunnel that separates the Oakland/Berkeley area from the eastern suburbs of the Bay Area (where the wife is from). It can be unbearably hot on one side of the tunnel, & then, emerging toward San Francisco, the temperature will have dropped twenty degrees, & it's the perfect temperature for rolling down the window & speeding toward The City.

The wikipedia says that "tunnels in general... are at least twice as long as they are wide." I would also think that tunnels tend to be horizontal - or somewhat horizontal - so a hole in the ground is a tunnel at all. A tunnel can be on an angle, of course. Just not vertical. Although - now that I think about it - though the wikipedia (again) says a tunnel is "an underground passageway," surely you can have tunnels in giant spacecraft, yes? Or giant vehicles of any kind? & those aren't technically underground, are they?