Ode to Joy

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Tonight’s the Eurovision Song Contest, and during the voting they’re singing Ode to Joy and climbing ladders. As one does.

I don’t care how camp this thing is, I watch it every year, mock it on twitter and laugh at the voting from the countries that couldn’t get their entry into the Finals.

If you have no idea what this is, I’m not sure you want to research it. My parents were visiting me one year during the weekend when the Grand Prix was on. They watched it with me and were completely baffled by the whole ordeal.

This year? I suppose the bearded lady from Austria. Or the Polish maidens churning butter & washing clothes. Yes, that was a thing.

It’s a bit like an annual World Cup for the Homosexualists. Was that an insensitive comment? I can live with that.

wish I had a river I could skate away on

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This is from one of my very favourite songs of all time, and I don’t know why. Why I love the song so much, I mean.

It’s just like that sometimes, isn’t it?

See, I’m a songwriter, so I think a lot about what makes a great song. There are lots of theories, and I’m fascinated with all the ones I’ve heard, but ultimately a good song is one you love. Full stop.

Really.

The one included below is a rare recording of River, which if you don’t know it is on the Blue record. Aunt Joni put that particular long playing album (LP) out in 1971, and every hippie chick I’ve ever known had a copy. For many years it was either the actual vinyl record, but later it was a cassette tape and then even later it was the cd.

Every song’s a classic. Really. If you hate any or all of Blue, you’ve got no heart. You’re dead to me. It’s that simple.

If you don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, go get a copy of Blue. Download it legally, go look through your mom’s music collection…really find someone/anyone who’s got a copy, then copy it for your own collection. You could even import it if that’s your preference.

You’ll be glad you did.

do what you love

Playing the guitar surrounding by sixties design wallpaper in Lisel's front room

Playing the guitar surrounding by sixties design wallpaper in Lisel’s front room

This is one of my photos from London, and I’ve been considering different ways to continue blogging about those two trips.

See, for those who haven’t been following at home, I went to London to see Robert Godden and hang out with my friends Nigel (this blog’s London correspondent) and @elaine4queeen this autumn, and then a short time later my mother was going to be in the UK, so I went back again.

I could’ve simply flown to Manchester, where she was going to arrive, but the flights were prohibitively expensive, so I flew back to London, had some meetings with people in the tea business, and spent some more time with the above-mentioned friends. Additionally, I met @vsopfables at Heathrow on my way out of town, and she and I agreed we’d have to spend a bit longer together next time. It was simply too short a visit.

So, why have I included this photo? What’s my morsel of wisdom I’d like to pass onto you today?

It’s quite simple actually.

Most people look at this, or other blogs, or twitter or social media in general as one big swirl of narcissism. Although I believe there’s a great deal of that going on in the places I’ve listed, I’d be willing to argue that it’s not all we’re about.

My message in this blogpost is really one of the bigger truths that I’ve happened upon. One of those things I’ve figured out during my brief time on this earth. It’s so simple and so obvious that the more cynical of you will likely say, ‘Was that really necessary? Did you have to make such a production of this? You’re simply proving that you’re the narcissist we’ve always taken you for.

Well, I’ve got two things to say to that. One is: some people like my photos and whimsical posts and some prefer when I wax philosophic. Some like both, but not many. Quite a few of you have expressed delight when I lay off on the text and stay with the images that make you laugh. Others could do without the filler, and respond positively to my more serious attempts.

The blogposts that take a few days of pondering and writing and rewriting…those seem to make some sort of difference. At least if I’m to believe the comments I get here and the conversations I have with people after I’ve written them. No matter how lacadasical I sometimes might appear, I take this blogging thing quite seriously.

Why?

Years ago someone said to me, ‘If you’re a writer, you need to be writing. You can’t wait for that gig to come to you…you need to keep your writing skills honed and you can use your blog to do so.

I’d toyed with several blogs, none of which I’ll bother mentioning by name, but they had no direction. They were self-indulgent to the extreme. They had no interest to anyone but me.

Then I tried my hand at teablogging, which I still do inadvertently, but I found myself talking about anything but tea. It was great fun to weave tea into these other topics, but at some point it became essential that I find another outlet for my thoughts.

Enter the Dachshund Blog, which you’re now reading, and all the whimsy that’s fit to print. It was designated as the Dachshund Blog by our good friend Lisa Galaviz  over at The Best Self-Help T-Shirt Catalogue Ever in the early days of this endeavour back in the Year of Our Lord 2011, and it took me FOREVAH to stop posting photos of Dachshunds and stories about Dachshunds. I did it eventually, but it was really difficult.

After that, I moved on to real topics that needed to be discussed. Things like poop in postboxes in you’ve got stool and less serious topics like circumcision in Germany, which I covered in getting a baby’s consent is no easy matter.

Back to the photo above. What’s my nugget of thoughtfulness?

Do what you love.

That thing – that when you do it – time stands still. Or appears to.

For me it’s writing. Or playing music.

Or planning the overthrow of a certain Eastern European government that’s been rather anti-democratic lately, but I’ve probably already said too much about that.

If you know what that is for you, do it more often. With vim and vigour.

If you don’t know what that is yet, then find out. You’ll be glad you did. I promise.

Jason Mraz broke my fingernail…sort of

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Here he is practising mind control over his adoring fans.

If you know anything about me, it might surprise you I went to a Jason Mraz show. Although I’d love to say I’m open-minded about most things, I’m particular about music. For reasons that’ll soon be obvious, I’d rather say as little about the music itself as I possibly can.

To each his own, I say…or I try. Here was a venue filled with his adoring fans, and who was I to question the man’s songwriting or performing abilities? No, I’d rather simply not go there. For one thing, I was there at the invitation of one of those committed fans and a lot was riding on whether I could mask my real impressions regarding the evening.

Instead of dealing with all of that, I’d rather focus on more important things. Things such as Jason Mraz personally breaking my fingernail. Well, not personally. Nevertheless, it did happen at his show and there were a lot of butterflies and good vibrations graphics up on screens behind the stage, so I think indirectly he’s responsible.

Why does it matter anyway?‘ I can almost hear you asking. ‘You’re a dude. Why do you even have fingernails long enough to be broken?

It’s the fingernail on my ring finger of my right hand, which incidentally is rather important to me. I play acoustic string instruments, and have never quite gotten the hang of playing with a pick. I use my fingernails. It feels better to play this way, and, in my opinion, it sounds better.

It’s certainly not a matter of  life and death, but it is frustrating. And while waiting for my nail to grow back, I’m left playing strangely syncopated rhythms that’d make even Thelonious Monk uncomfortable. Not a pretty sight, either. It’s like there’s a part of me missing.

After making such potentially specious allegations against Mr Mraz, I suppose I should at least attempt to recreate the scene. You can decide for yourself if I’ve got a case.

See, we were at one of my least favourite local music venues. There are some bad places to hear music in the world, but Zenith in Munich really is one of the worst rooms I’ve ever encountered. Acoustically, it’s the equivalent of an airplane hangar with the doors wide open.

Every time I hear a concert there, I vow that it’ll be my last. Not my last show – just the last one at this godforsaken location. It’s that bad. Don’t go there.

Then, for some reason we seem to have chosen the perfect spot in the audience to stumble in and out of the crowd. General admission without any seats means you’re going to have a bit of mayhem, and I’m all for mayhem, but there seemed to be a thoroughfare of people either leaving or going towards the prime real estate right in front of the stage and that thoroughfare went directly through me.

As if I was wearing a sign on my back that said, ‘You need to knock this guy down before you get to enjoy some soothing, uplifting tunes about peace and harmony,’ and these were some earnest and committed fans who weren’t going to let anything come between them and their namaste.

In retrospect, I realise now that I was ok with all of that. At the time, it was a bit annoying, but if it’d just been that, I’d have let the evening’s entertainment wash over me, and make my way back to my temporary bed, where I’d most probably sleep deeply with a good-natured sense of purpose and presence. This music was going to work its magic on me whether I wanted it to or not.

But then it happened. I’d come to terms with my evening and made some sort of a reserved peace with all of it up to that point. Despite the fact that I cannot prove it, I have come to understand that it was then Jason Mraz intentionally sent one of his zombie-like pod-people fans to wreak havoc on me and my carefully crafted personal détente with him.

One of those people on the well-worn path directly through where I was standing either dropped or knocked over a sugary beverage right where my bag was standing. At some point soon thereafter, I looked down and there was a lake the size of Buffalo at my feet. My things were soaked and I suddenly lost all sense of hard-fought mellowness I’d achieved as a result of the music.

In a rage, I scooped up my possessions and stormed back towards the exit. Glaring at the first aid volunteers provided by the Red Cross, who were standing by in case of an emergency, I was quietly seething that they didn’t recognise the severity of my predicament. My things were all wet and sticky. Isn’t there some sort of Red Cross protocol for just such an eventuality?

Well, there should be.

Only after I’d completely dried off my bag, entirely without any assistance from the nearby Good Samaritans I might add, I noticed that my above-mentioned fingernail had been broken during the melee.

He might be singing about eating vegan and everybody getting along with one another, but my fingernail’s gone and I’m holding Jason Mraz personally responsible.

How soon is now?

The Smiths in much earlier days

How soon is now?

No idea if the link above takes you to The Smiths video that I wanted, but it’s what I was listening to as I contemplated a quick blogpost.

What wisdom do I want to impart today?

It’s not quite a cliché, but it is so obvious that it’s easy to overlook or forget. Here it is:

All we have is right now. This very moment. Not five minutes ago. Not a few minutes or hours from now.

Does this mean we can’t plan things? Of course not. Or does it mean you can never get nostalgic? I get choked up by a memory of my dad, who died more than six years ago, on nearly a daily basis. Not my point. At all.

But even with all the exceptions and the qualifiers, the truest of truths is that you only really have now.

Make the best of it. Tell your people how you feel.

Peace with family or friends who done you wrong? Make it.

I’m not joking. Make your peace. Don’t wait for the other side to be generous. Don’t play with that sort of thing.

My day today was all about the moment.

When I awakened, I knew it was going to be one of *those* days. You know the ones, right?

Everything was going my way. Down to the most miniscule wishes. I was somehow on fire with all the things good that were happening. Not a bad place to be in.

Did I appreciate it? You bet I did. I’m still appreciating it. It’s not over. Not by a long shot.

idling right

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Played a private party on the Isar this evening, and it really was quite enjoyable. Relaxed and a bit languid, even. I told Jarrod that I used to play gigs in a tuxedo and this was much more fulfilling. Wouldn’t go back to that earlier life as a musician for anything. Not that anyone misses me in the classical music world. There are plenty of people willing to do that sort of thing – I’m just glad I’m no longer one of them.

You might be wondering what we played, so I’ll list a few of the songs here. We normally play a lot of originals when people want to hear our tunes, but this sort of event is normally all covers. I have a weird history with covers. I like the lesser-known songs of many artists, so if you ask me to play Harry Chapin‘s Cats in the Cradle, I’m more likely to pull out Danceband on the Titanic or A Better Place to Be instead.

My friend Dermot came by to listen, so we did a few Dylan songs for him. Both I’ll Be ‘Your Baby Tonight and Just Like a Woman. My compadre on twitter @Hazelblackberry would’ve approved. She likes Bobby Zimmerman.

We did If You Needed Me by Townes Van Zandt and Jarrod likes playing Whiskey in a Jar, so we did that. I’m sure Townes would’ve approved. Maybe not the song but the sentiment, I’m sure. Alan Parsons Project‘s Eye in the Sky and Daniel LanoisWhere Will I Be, which are two of my favourite songs.

Rain by the Beatles and Rod Stewart‘s Maggie May. I know that was a huge hit for him and I just said that we avoid the better-known cover songs, but by then we were just trying to play anything that people might recognize and enjoy. They were a tough crowd. Very cool and reserved until near the end. Jarrod played REM‘s You Are the Everything from the Green album.

We’ve been doing Friend of the Devil (music by Jerry Garcia and John Dawson & lyrics by Robert Hunter) since we were playing guitar and bass (before the ukulele obsession), so we did that and later we closed the evening out with Brokedown Palace. It was the perfect ending to a party on the bank of the river. Look up the lyrics. They’re beautiful.

At some point, I’ll upload a recording of Idleright. It’s the least I can do.

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Mustard and a Piece of Bread

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Jarrod and his Sponge Bob ukulele

We’ve been playing together for a little more than a year, Jarrod and I…parties and other informal events. Several times at the International Songwriters Evening Munich, which has been a pleasure. Nevertheless, we have plenty of other things going on, so we haven’t bothered coming up with a name. We play our own tunes, as well as relatively unknown covers (the more obscure the better).

But all this is about to change. Not dramatically. Not quickly. But change it must. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, we’re not partial to entropy. We’re playing at Corso Leopold, which is a festival that takes place in the middle of one of Munich’s biggest streets (Leopold Straße). They block it off – it’s not like we’ll be sitting there while traffic whooshes by – and the festivaling commences.

The website is pretty straightforward if you’re accustomed to German. However, if you try using your google-fu and translate it unsupervised, you might encounter a bit of whimsy. Would you like to see a bit of that? Of course you would:

‘When taken to the streets of Munich, he has a lot to see. But nowhere will open his urban diversity so boisterous, as colorful and surprising as to unsrem (our) large hard-Schwabing. On the Corso Leopold is enjoying the big city, slightly self-indulgent as it is now time, as great in front of a mirror.’

Is someone being taken to Munich against his will? That sounds ominous. Schwabing is one of the more popular neighbourhoods in the northern central part of Munich, but I’d describe it as neither large nor hard. Is it in fact ‘now time‘? Really? I suppose that is a bit self-indulgent. And then the announcement goes on:

‘Amazed, because we are immodest, pushes himself as the crowd in front of the attractions. Come on, there’s something for everyone. Culture for everyone. It works! is the motto. And linger, enjoy life. Corso’s is on the event.’

Are we immodest? Merriam-Webster tells me that this means: ‘not conforming to the sexual mores of a particular time or place‘. Are we really all of that? Well, ok. As it’s written, let’s push ourselves as the crowd. According to this translation ‘It works!‘ is the motto. I can think of poorer mottos. As they say, ‘It works!

So, you’ve been informed: we’re playing at the Corso Leopold. To be more specific, we’re playing at the ‘Theater der Flaneure’ on Sunday 10 June 2012 sometime between 17 and 18 o’clock (according to the map provided, it’s near the Gisela Straße U-Bahn stop). The only thing that’s missing at this point is that we need a name. We’ve been talking quite a bit lately about idling, and our newfound obsession with the ukulele seems to go well with said idling. So the name we’ve come up with is:

Idleright

If you can’t make it, I’m hoping we’ll have some footage I can link to later. Oh, and this is the first time we’re playing ‘Mustard and a Piece of Bread‘ live in front of other people. That’s exciting.

How about all of that? I think It Works!

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some ukulele whimsy

is like an inverse sandwich

‘Tell me have you seen the marvelous breadfish
Swimming in the ocean waters?
Have you seen that the marvelous breadfish
Is like an inverse sandwich
For fishermen and sharks?’

There’s no explanation for my fascination with this, but I’ve been watching and listening to it for more than an hour and I can’t get enough. No, I’m not on anything stronger than a pot of Assam tea. I’m clearly easily amused.

Thank you to @carocreature who turned me on to this. Her twitter account is blocked, so you’ll have to request access if you want to follow her. That’s ok. If she let’s you behind her wall of invincibility, it’s worth the price of admission.

bread fish image curtesy of booksandquills' tumblr

Stand reckless, stand rowdy…Stand true

Not sure why, but I’ve noticed that melancholy music often lifts my spirits more than an otherwise happy alternative. And one of the best options when I’m looking for something a bit brooding is the band Lambchop.

Here are the lyrics to Please Rise, which is on their OH (Ohio) release:

Stand about, stand aloof
Stand aside, stand apart
Stand back, stand away
Stand up

Stand over, stand to
Stand against, stand before
Stand with, stand alone
Stand in

Stand it out
Stand it out
Stand it out
Stand it out

Stand up, stand through
Stand down, stand around
Stand ready, stand inside
Stand me

Stand them, stand hurt
Stand strong, stand along
Stand reckless, stand rowdy
Stand true

Stand it out
Stand it out
Stand it out
Stand it out

Stand down, stand down
Your shoulder to the sea
Stand down, stand down
Your shelter from the rain

Stand down, stand down
Stand beside your enemy
Stand over me
Stand over me

Stand down, stand down
Your shoulder to the sea
Stand down, stand down
Your shelter from the rain

Stand down, stand down
Stand beside your enemy
Stand over me
Stand over me

You know, I could easily go through and pick the words apart. Discuss what the words might mean the same way I did when I was younger and would desperately try to discern what on earth Michael Stipe was talking about.

Instead, I’m just going to let the words wash over me. Put the song on endless repeat and let the words soak into my skin. Somedays trying to figure out what it all means is truly overrated.

 

 

 

 

The Ranch

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The way the Germans see The United States in general and the Americans in particular is a much more nuanced story than I could ever fit in one measly blogpost. And to be upfront about it, I’m normally drawn to the more critical and even confrontational views. It’s too easy (and naive) to believe everybody loves the Red White and Blue.

Nevertheless, when I’m minding my own business and going about my typical day, I’m often a bit taken aback when I encounter people who have very positive impressions of my homeland. In my own strange and tortured way, I like where I came from and love some of my countrymen/women very deeply. Having said all that, I don’t advertise it.

Some Germans find out I have family in Texas, and suddenly they have a volley of questions that come barrelling out of their mouths. Did you grow up with horses? Uh, no. My grandmother had a farm, but it was truly agribusinessDid you wear a cowboy hat to school? I most certainly did not. What’s a real rodeo like? I assure you, a real rodeo is nearly as alien to me as it is to you.

Imagine my surprise when one of my clients asked me about the song I Like Beer. It won’t surprise you to know that I had no idea what she was talking about. None. Where on earth had she even located such a song of questionable quality/taste? Well, she was only too happy to inform me about the The Ranch. It’s a terrestrial radio station in the States, but you can also listen to it live-streamed anywhere in the world.

A few other titles that may or may not surprise you:

‘She’s Cold as the Beer She’s Drinking’

‘Barmaid, Pour Me a Vacation’

What do I think about this? I’m conflicted. It’s a little weird. Some Germans, as well as many Bavarians, have a rather idealised picture of life in Texas. I don’t want to dissuade them from thinking people are living a life of freedom-loving badass-ness. There are certainly plenty of people in Texas who believe that’s what they’re doing.

And I don’t want to give the impression that the perspective the Germans have isn’t nuanced. When it comes to geopolitical issues, postwar Germans are actually quite adept at such nuance. They see the American brand and know that some of it is bluster. Some of it is nostalgia. Many older Germans remember soldiers handing out chocolate bars as they liberated the war-ravaged cities. Those old-timers would likely say that that’s definitely something to be nostalgic about.

But what do I think about The Ranch providing the people of my adopted country with a slice of Americana? Still not too sure about this one. Luckily, I know some of the people who read this blog will have some clever answers for my dilemma.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to Kevin Fowler‘s ‘I Like Beer‘:

She was alone at a table for two
I said, Now's the time to make my move
So I got me a beer and I bought her  ... on the beach

She saw that umbrella stuck in the glass
That chunk of pineapple made her laugh
She took the beer from my hand and said thank you, man
I didn't take her for the longneck kind
She said boy have you lost your mind?

Chorus
Hell yeah, I like beer
It gets me grinnin' from ear to ear
Not just every now and then
I'm talking 365 days a year
I can do it around the clock
I don't like it just a little, I like it a lot
Even hot hell yeah, I like beer

Ooh, I love it

Yeah, it's good for your heart, it's good for your mind
It's good for gettin through a lonely all night
Everybody knows you shouldn't drink too much
So why does it always seem like it's enough

Chorus
Hell yeah, I like beer
It gets me grinnin from ear to ear
Not just every now and then
I'm talking 365 days a year
I can do it around the clock
I don't like it just a little, ooh, I like it a lot
Even hot hell yeah, I like beer

Everybody now, come one!

Chorus

Yes I do
Hell yeah I like beer

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