Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Flooded, but alive

By now you've probably heard about the record-setting rainfalls and flooding here in the Atlanta area. Our house is on a hill, so like nearly all Atlantans our homeowners insurance didn't include flood insurance. This turns out to be a mistake, because as far as the insurance companies are concerned, any water that comes from the outside in is flooding, except if it comes in through a puncture to the house caused by the weather (such as a tree opening up the roof). When there's up to 20 inches of rain (I think we were in an area that only got 15) a house that's dug into a hill becomes a concrete boat. Concrete turns out to be porous under pressure, and unnoticed cracks become large leaks, as in leaks that spew a stream like a little boy peeing. It doesn't take very many of those to sink a concrete boat.

We bailed and vacuumed as hard and fast as we could until 5:30 AM Monday, when we just couldn't go on. I learned I can fill an 8-gallon shop-vac in 9 seconds, but it takes 25 seconds to dump it and resume. Multiply that by all those hours, that's how much water I personally moved. At 9:30 we were awakened by the crash of a huge tree falling outside our bedroom. A big oak had taken two trees down with it, and just barely grazed our house without damaging it. A large branch had broken against a sliding glass door without breaking the glass. We resumed work at that point.

I put an SOS on Facebook for any friends with shopvacs and pumps who were ready to work. Three folks did show up, one friend and a couple I hadn't met yet. They worked hard with us until midnight. I'm touched and forever grateful.

Tuesday was a day of shock and exhaustion. Our whole downstairs, where I do most of my living and working, and store most of our stuff, was up to ankle deep. The drywall and paneling are damaged, and the carpet and parquet floor are ruined.

Today begins the mind-numbing amount of work and financial burden. I will not be online very often in these future weeks except for a daily email check. It will take a lot of gigs and guitar lessons to pay for this, so I do hope you'll keep me in mind. Also please remember that now's the time to book Santa for your parties, home visits, office surprises, etc.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Guitar Student Recital 2009

I'll add to this post later. Yesterday was the recital for my students at Music Do-Re-Mi in Norcross. There was much cuteness and intense concentration, supported by enormous pride and love from the audience (and instructor). This photo is my group, click to enlarge.
Do-Re-Mi guitar recital 5/16/2009
Back row: George Price, Stephanie Gibbons.
Front row: Lindsay Norrell, Brett Leal, Patrick Nercessian, Mark Burkett, Phillip Woolever, Bryce Honore, Viveka Mannam

Thursday, April 09, 2009

A Fine Time in New Orleans

I've been having a wonderful time in New Orleans. We started Monday with an hour or so of car touring, just to get our bearings and see what we wanted to see. Found a rare parking spot on Canal St between Sak's and Harrah's, pumped the meter full of quarters and hit the street. Took just the briefest pass up Riverwalk, then a short trolley ride to French Quarter, then the mandatory tourist stop at Cafe du Monde for cafe au lait and begniets. Then a brisk walk through French Quarter back to the car - it had all taken longer than we thought, we had already passed the 2-hour limit on the parking meter. Headed west on I-10, got stuck in heavy delays and took the next available exit, which turned out to be Metarie. Rode that street and it turned into a bridge, but not just any bridge - this was the Causeway, a bridge out over a lake so huge that we could see no land on the other side, like an ocean! Gave up on that after a while and took one of the turnarounds they put in every five miles or so. Came back to Metarie and got a room for the night; I hate sitting in a room when all the fun is outside, but tomorrow would be better.

Tuesday we lucked onto a parking space at Decatur and Iberville, and the parking meter was broken, so we got free parking most of the day! Walked through Harrah's casino (where a standard Starbucks coffee is $2.18 rather than $1.77) and noticed that for some reason the restroom signs were marked in English and Vietnamese. Back to Riverwalk for a browse through the shops this time, then out to the riverside and down to the ferry dock where you can get a ride across to Algiers (pedestrians free, cars $1). Had lunch at Drydock, then walked through a couple blocks of amazing old homes on Algiers point and back to the ferry. Walked back up Canal to Bourbon St and started into the colorful FQ. Just past the Hustler Club was a kind of alleyway beer garden called Bourbon Rocks, and I heard a band soundchecking inside and practicing Layla. Sounded like fun so we went in. I watched them for a few minutes then introduced myself to the guitarist, a good guy named Glen Farley. I told him I'd been advised to hit some jams while in town but hadn't found any yet, he said I could try a song here and use his guitar. He didn't ask what style I played, and all I knew about his band was what I heard of Layla, it was just that simple. The would start playing in ten more minutes, at 3:15. We walked up Bourbon a couple more blocks, and by the time we came back the band was playing some classic rock favorites. We watched them for about a song and a half before Glen called me up. The band was beyond competent, but I decided to keep it simple for a first song and I started "Keep Your Hands To Yourself". That went well, and I was invited to stay and play along for a second song, "One Way Out". Then a third and fourth. Glen came back onstage and played a few, then called me back again! I played a couple, he played a couple, back & forth the rest of the afternoon until they finished at 7:15 without a break. The band was very nice about introducing me often to the audience, and several people came up to Barbara (or me when I was offstage) asking for cards, asking to take my picture (I had my Santa glasses on) or just bringing compliments. Some of them were from Atlanta, wanting to know where else I play. I really felt well received! One very nice audience member was telling me where else to go play, but as a stranger in town I had a hard time keeping up with his directions in my head.

After the band finished, Barbara and I walked out onto Bourbon and went deeper into the party district, where the street is barracaded to allow pedestrians only. There were a half-dozen bands or more on each block, and it was still early Monday evening! We ran into the same guy who was giving me directions earlier, he and his wife were walking back home to the exact area he was recommending (called Frenchman Street, where the locals go for their drinking and music, kind of a Little Five Points vibe). Lucky us, this nice couple (Kent & Michelle Payne) took us under their wings and walked us there, giving lots of local info as we went.

We arrived much earlier than the band, so the four of us ate dinner and chatted a bit before going back and watching the next band, fronted by a guitarist named Wolf. I dropped a tip and asked if he took sit-ins, he said yeah after a few more songs. That stretched out past 11:00, most of the audience had left (oddly, they left in one lump, about 25 of them at once! Turns out they were Tulane students who apparently came in a bus) and I was about ready to give up when he called me up. I hit my funky version of "Gimme One Reason" and that went well, and I was asked to play another so I said let's change it up a lot and I did my slow, smoky "Ain't No Sunshine". Both songs got huge responses, and literally every person in the club including the band, band guests, the remaining dozen or so patrons and club owner came and shook my hand. Make a guy feel good!

By this time it was about midnight, our car was still on the street and we hadn't secured a hotel room yet, so we caught one of the many cabs that patrol Frenchman Street and rode the mile or so back to our car. It was still there, still whole, and no tickets. Relief! Once back in our comfy little cuccoon, we headed back up I-10 to a motel district about 10 miles out, scored a room and fell over. We'd had a great day, but we'd been touring mostly on foot for about 14 hours, and we went to sleep before our heads hit the pillows.

Wednesday we headed home, but we'll be back! Big thanks to Glen Farley, and Kent & Michelle Payne, for really multiplying our fun many times over. Props also to Wolf, and to CJ Solomon, another musician who enthusiastically invited us to a real jam night on Wednesday (remember the other shows weren't even jams) and I'm sorry I didn't stick around long enough. Next time!

I'm still experimenting with all the cool stuff you can do in Google maps, but here's an annotated map of what we're talking about. Click the markers. Zoom in and try the Street views, they're fun!

View G&B's New Orleans Trip in a larger map

Here's one of the street views, the front of Bourbon Rocks. Go fullscreen and take a stroll down Bourbon Street; too bad the photos were apparently taken on a Sunday morning.

View Larger Map

Friday, February 20, 2009

Dangerous new definition of "FREE"

My friends, there's always someone out there who will lie to you. Because I thought you should know, here's this from BoingBoing:

When is a free credit report not a free credit report? When it's from

I wrote an article for on my idiotic blunder of signing up with In short, don't go there. If you want a truly free credit report use, not
I clicked on the large bright orange button that said "Get your Free Credit Report & Score!" and was presented with a form. I filled it out. I hesitated for a second when the site asked for my credit card number, which it stated was "required to establish your account," but the site assured me that my "credit card will not be charged during the free trial period." Having done this before (or so I thought), I went ahead and entered the information. A shopping cart receipt indicated that the total was $0.00.

I got my credit report, looked it over, and forgot about it. A week later I was looking at my checking account register online and I noticed a $14.95 charge from a company called CIC*Triple Advantage. I didn't recall buying anything from a company with that name, so I entered "CIC*Triple Advantage" into Google. The search results made my eyes bug out of my head. This was the name of the billing entity for The thousands of search results were full of words like "deceptive practices," "scam," "ripoff," "unauthorized billing!" and "beware!" In fact, all the top results were either from people complaining that they'd been conned into signing up for a $14.95 monthly credit monitoring service without their permission, or they were about how to cancel the service.

When is a free credit report not a free credit report? When it's from

Disclaimer: I can't verify from personal experience what FCR does, but I do know that entering into Google brings up a lot more warnings than accolades. It's smart to learn from your experiences, but wise to learn from someone else's.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tres cool homebuilt ukelele, plus great song

Allow me to introduce Shelley Rickey, an artist/performer in Netherlands. She built this little uke (and by the way, it's pronounced OO-kelele), but just wait til you hear her sing! You'll find her cool blog at

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Speechless, but not songless

Here's a really awful commercial for a Microsoft product called Songsmith. The idea is that you can sing a melody (we hope) and the software finds the right chords to go with it. Interesting idea, but the music they chose is awful, and the whole commercial is hilariously bad. Definitely "sub-prime".

On the brighter side, this software may have some merit. If it gets people to sing, that's good, and I have a hunch the computer will be a bit picky about pitch so you'll be encouraged (forced, actually) to learn how to sing in tune (sorry, Kanye). And the music itself will probably develop if anyone buys this, so that future songs won't sound so much like third-world MIDI karaoke. I understand you can download this software here, but that page is not responding for me at the moment (maybe overcrowded). Let me know how it works for you. (ps, am I mistaken or is that an Apple computer the girl is using? One more chuckle at Microsoft.)

Much cooler is this device from Electro-Harmonix called the Voice Box. It picks up where the vocoder leaves off; it doesn't just superimpose your words onto a musical sound, it actually listens to the notes from the voice and the instrument, and creates the appropriate harmony parts! I wish more musicians could do this.

If you get either of these, tell me more.

"Womanizer" - stupid word

Ever had a word suddenly start sounding strange to you? Neurologists say this is common, a brief glitch in the connections to the language center of the brain. But I think that "womanizer", the title of Britney Spears' current annoyance, stands on its own merit as a really stupid word. (I won't even comment on the waste of Britney's actual singing talent, which her recordings almost never display)

I mean, think about it. According to all other usage, the "izer" suffix means this is something that converts something into a new thing. So a man called "womanizer" would be someone who converts something (probably human females) into a woman. Wow, is he really that good? Or maybe he is a surgeon?

It would be just as stupid to call a female a "manizer", unless she's so talented and instructive that she could truly make a man outta ya. Then again, so could a good drill sergeant, probably in different ways.

Tell me what you think. Who could qualify, and how?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Getting the new year rollin' (and rockin')

(This is a retropost of an email sent out on Jan 8th. You can always find my updated schedule in the yellow widget on the right of this screen)

Well, by this time the holiday decorations have been put away, the relatives have gone, the hangovers have subsided, and it's time to get things going to the extent your resolutions will allow. I've got just the thing - live music.

This Friday (and the next two) John, Jon and I will be performing with Heaven Davis. Our show together at the Peach Drop went smoothly, if coldly (it was 37F when we were onstage, and a cutting wind). Having about 75,000 watts worth of lights on us helped some (so did two layers of thermal underwear), and that along with about a quarter megawatt of sound gear and a huge stage really brought out the show. After the shock wore off (about two songs in), I felt great and could've done the whole night. I hope some of you were out there - probably so, since the final tally was about 175 thousand attendees.

But back to this weekend. We'll be at Jimmy Mac's in East Cobb, workin' it with hot blues and R&B. This is a good venue for our kind of party, so come out and shake your tailfeathers.

Jimmy Mac's
2940 Johnson Ferry Rd
Marietta, GA 30062 (678) 352-9595

Saturday I'll be performing with Rich Tomanio in support of Laura Simon at the East Atlanta Ice House, as part of a festival she's putting together around her CD release party.

East Atlanta Ice House
543 Flat Shoals Ave SE
Atlanta, GA 30316

Enjoy the rest of your week, and I hope to see you soon.

PS, if you're lucky enough to still have a job, again I urge you to get a web-based email account such as or Yahoo mail, and move this and all other personal email to that address. Then, don't access that email from work - you're being watched, and the harder times get the harder you're watched. Remember to keep me updated!