Musical Monday – 70s disco

Let’s talk disco.

Wait. Don’t run away. I know what you’re thinking. “Disco sucks.”

And I agree with you. Most of it did suck. But as someone who was dragged to a few discos in my time by friends who thought that was how you met women — destroying your hearing with loud, monotonous rhythms and messing up your equilibrium with bright, flashing lights — I’ve heard more than my share of horrible songs, but I’ve heard a few interesting ones, too.

And it’s those songs I’d like to share with you.

The first song is very short, especially compared to the extended epic lengths of most disco songs. It only runs about two and a half minutes.

It’s by Funkadelic, who were a funk act led by George Clinton (they started out as a simple backup band to his other band, Parliament). The song isn’t a typical disco song, but was played in clubs.

The outstanding feature of the song is the uncredited, yet fantastic, extended guitar solo. Even George Clinton didn’t know who the guitarist was, although a Paul Warren, who was a Detroit session musician, claims he played it.

The Spinners (aka Detroit Spinners or Motown Sponners) are an R&B vocal group that formed in 1954. This song spent three weeks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

“The Rubberband Man” may at first blush just seem like any other disco song, but what separates it from usual dredge is The Spinners are just having fun. It’s a silly, upbeat song and they aren’t taking themselves too seriously. Instead of disco, I’d put this song in the novelty category with songs like “Happy ” and “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Santa Esmeralda was a French disco group that had it’s best success with Leroy Gómez, an American singer. Their first album, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” is the only disco album I’ve ever owned.

Their remake of, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood,” originally done by Nina Simone, has a lively Latin, flemenco and salsa arrangement to it that I enjoy, bit it’s the Spanish guitar that really made me enjoy this song.

As you probably know, disco spread like a disease, infecting even some of the staunchest rock acts, from David Bowie, to Rod Stewart, to the Rolling Stones.

It’s probably no surprise that KISS did a disco song, they were mostly about making money, after all.

Here is the extended version of “I Was Made for Loving You.” Feel free to skip it. I’m only including it to show disco’s influence. It is not a song I particularly like and honestly, I had outgrown KISS long before this came out.

On the other hand, I’ve read that this next song, by a band you’d never think of wither disco or dance, was considered a disco song. At least the single version, if not the album version. Their producer, Bob Ezrin, wanted a single, but Pink Floyd wasn’t a singles band, or a dance band. They played rock for sitting and listening to.

They envisioned this next song as a simple seque into the song that followed at only about 1:14 in length. Bob Ezrin talked them into the disco beat, then duplicated the track to lengthen it, added a children’s chorus, and released it as a single. It became Pink Floyd’s only number one single.

If you made it this far, thanks for listening. Aren’t you glad I didn’t include “Disco Duck?”

But here’s Ernie singing, “Rubber Ducky,” just because.



Trombone Tuesday

Yes, Trombone Tuesday is actually a thing. I Googled it prior to using the title. Really.

I was going to just restart Musical Monday, which I might do anyway, until I forget, but I wanted to focus on the most underappreciated instrument separately.

People always ask me why I play trombone. OK. Nobody has ever asked me that, especially since I only started learning how to play a week ago.

Nevertheless, I’m very aware of the instrument bigotry out there aimed at the humble trombone because I saw it first hand with my two sons.

When we’d be at a school band event, parents would ask (so they in turn could brag about their own little darling), “What instrument does your child play?”

We’d respond, “Trombone,” and you could see a visible change in their attitude. It was like we were diseased.

Their voice would also change, becoming all nasal as they looked down on us and intoned, “Oh, that’s … nice. I guess the band needs a trombone, for something. Our little precious plays the flute. In fact, she’s first chair and has a solo today.” Then they’d proceed to point out their spoiled brat.

Well, good on you, flute bitch.

To a lesser degree, we’d get a similar responses from the other woodwind parents, the saxophone parents, and even the other brass parents, like the french horn and the trumpets.

But we were proud trombone parents. Kids (and parents) were stumbling over themselves to get the “popular” instruments. There was often a flock of flutes, a tribe of trumpets, a siege of saxophones, but trombones were rare in elementary school band.

Yet very important. The trombone is part of the low brass (tuba, baritone, euphonium) and few kids wanted to play a tuba (and fewer parents wanted to lug one around). As such the responsibility for the bass fell upon the trombones.

So while the rest of the band played the melody, the lowly trombone gave the music bottom, and together with the drums made up the backbone of the song. The rhythm section is always ignored and unloved.

“But what’s so special about the trombone? Isn’t it just a funny looking and sounding instrument that goes, ‘wah, wah, wah’?”

I’m glad you asked. The trombone is unique in that it has a slide instead of valves, or keys, or holes. And because of the slide, the trombone can do something the other instruments can’t: move smoothly between notes without pausing the airflow. That’s called a glissando or gliss and it’s similar to using the whammy bar on a guitar.

So yes, the trombone, at times, can be the clown, everyone has heard this sound:

But the trombone can also be serious and sound very musical, very melodious. For instance, the following piece shows just how sensual a trombone can be:

And here is something a little faster paced if classical isn’t your style (but it should be!).

As you can see, the trombone isn’t just for men, although I’m sure none of you thought that.

“Oh, sure,” you say, “but isn’t trombone as a lead soloist unusual? Aren’t trombonists usually just sidemen/women?”

Nope. The trombone doesn’t have to be relegated to the background. Many famous band leaders have played the trombone, such as Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Nelson Riddle, Jack Teagarden, and the list goes on and on.

Oh, you want more current? Here’s the Uptown Jazz Orchestra led by one of the talented brothers Marsalis, the trombonist, Delfeaya.

OK, that was mean because Delfeaya never played his trombone in that one. Try this one then, from the Delfeaya Marsalis Quintet:

Another example is this little guy, maybe you’ve heard of him:

“Buckjump” came off Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews’ album, For True, which debuted at number 1 on Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz chart in 2011.

So yes, trombones are a very versatile instrument, used in important roles in contemporary music.

Even the legendary Alice Cooper used a trombone (as well as some other instruments, which shall remain nameless):

So there you have it. A brief introduction to the trombone.

I hope you enjoyed it. I’d like to make Trombone Tuesday a regular feature. Each week I will showcase a few songs in which trombones are used to help you appreciate this wonderful, yet extremely underrated instrument.

And I’ll try to keep the verbiage to a more manageable level.


Adventures in ADHD – Episode 344

Guess what my latest interest is?

Aw, you peeked.

Anyway, as I’ve blogged time and again, one of my most glaring symptoms of ADHD is my sudden interest in a thing.

Wow! I like that thing! I want that thing! I need to learn everything about that thing!

These sudden and overwhelming interests just come out of nowhere. I can’t predict them and I have a heluva time trying to rein them so they don’t disrupt every aspect of my life.

Here are some things in the past that I had a sudden interest in:

  • Beer steins
  • Beer brand collectibles
  • Old toys
  • Car detailing
  • Swords
  • Guitars
  • Fountain pens
  • Knives
  • Silver Age Comicbooks

My most recent interest is jazz, but the interest comes with a twist.

It started when I was at Barnes & Noble a few weeks back and I picked up a vinyl copy of Miles Davis – Kind of Blue. According to the liner, it’s considered the greatest jazz album of all time.

Well, it is really good. So good, I ordered, and read, Kind of Blue: The Making of the Miles Davis Masterpiece by Ashley Kahn. The book was great, too.

Then, to save money, I went to the library and began picking up other jazz albums from that era by those on the album, like John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, as well as those contemporary to that period, like Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy. We’re talking late ’50s, early ’60s.

Ok, no problem. What’s wrong with becoming suddenly interested in jazz if it doesn’t cost you much?

Nothing, except now I want to play jazz. Sure, I could get back into playing guitar, but I’ve never mastered that. I was never able to adequately memorize the fretboard and learning jazz is much more difficult than say, “Wipe Out!”

Plus, I my fingers just aren’t nimble enough to play fast.

And to be honest, I’m not a huge fan of classic jazz guitar. Not compared to horns. I’ve always loved the sound of brass, especially the sassy sounds of a sax.

But we don’t have any saxes laying around.

We do, however have trombones. Both my sons played trombone in school. We’ve been exposed to the sound of trombones for over a decade, even though they both recently put their instruments aside.

So, I picked up the trombone and I’m self-teaching myself using YouTube and my son’s lesson book.

How long will this interest last?

It’s hard to say. Sometimes they’re just a shot in the dark, lasting up to three months, other times they return in cycles, never really going away, just sort of sleeping then reawakening, like my passion for fountain pens, comics, so on.

This could be considered a reawakening of my passion to learn to play music, only it shifted from the guitar to the trombone.

Here I am after only two days of practice. Pretty awful.


I know five notes. B flat, C, D, E flat, and F. I don’t know any songs, just that five note scale. But I feel I’ve accomplished a lot in a short time.

I get the feeling the trombone, like a piano, has the notes laid out more intuitively than the guitar does. At least for me.

The hard part will be getting my lips in vibrating shape.

And keeping myself interested beyond three months.

And if you want to hear what a well-played trombone (or two) sounds like, try this:


Goodbye Fleet Feet

My wife and I were out and about Saturday when she noticed Fleet Feet, the running store in Brookfield, Wisconsin had a closeout sale going on.

After much arm-twisting, we walked in. They had several benches and shelves lined with shoe boxes discounted fairly significantly.

I looked through the selection in my size. They had Brooks Ghost, another Brooks I can’t recall the name, one pair of Hoka One One, which didn’t appeal to me like the Clifton did. Then the brands I usually just ignore, Mizuno, Underarmour, New Balance, and a few that didn’t even register.

I finally chose a pair of Altra Torin 2.5, which are much more neutral than my previous shoes, but I’ve always been intrigued by their wide toebox design, which reminded me of the old 1970s Earth Shoes, which also, if I recall, had a zero drop heel.

Then I went to talk my wife into a pair of shoes. She tried on one pair, which she liked, but wasn’t as keen on the Altra as I was. Then I saw a plain white box with simple blue lettering that said, “Karhu, the Finnish Sportsbear.”

I’d never heard of them, but if it’s Finnish, it’s got to be good, so I had her try them on. She really liked them.

At checkout, I asked about Karhu, and they said it’s a Finnish running shoe sold exclusively by Fleet Feet. I expressed my dismay that they didn’t have any in my size. (I had looked.)

They were nice enough to search and found a pair of Fluid 5 in size 12, about half a size larger than I normally take. I tried them on and they fit pretty well. So I got them as well.

The Karhu (left) and the Altra (right).

I asked why Fleet Feet was closing and they said not all Fleet Feet, just this location (unless I continued to buy more shoes) — the only location convenient to us. Their other stores will remain open.

Which is good, because how else will I get my Karhu fix?

I didn’t push them on the why, but I know exactly why. Fleet Feet is a full-service running shoe store. They give you personal attention, measure your feet, have you run on a treadmill to see your running mechanics, then they bring out several different styles of shoes they think will work best for you.

Because of this, their prices are closer to the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. In other words, you can find the same shoes cheaper at other shoe retailers or online.

So people (read: assholes) will go into Fleet Feet, take advantage of all their services, find a shoe that suits them to a T, then they say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and they sneak off and purchase the shoes elsewhere for less.

In other words, people are more than happy to use their services, but would rather not pay for them. It’s a sad commentary.


I’ve run in each pair once now, so I can’t really given an opinion on them, other than to say both are much more minimalist than my Hoka One One Clifton 3 were (now retired and given to my son).

Maybe I’ll give a long term review on each sometime in the future.

Karhu Fluid 5:

Altra Torin 2.5:

Run. Buy new shoes. Run some more.


Friday and the week in review

A Friday Haiku

Seventeen shot dead

In another school shooting

Thoughts, prayers, useless.

Another school shooting

You would think after Columbine, we’d have done something. Wasn’t that a horrific enough tragedy?

But no, nothing was done. And Sandy Hook, where innocent grade schoolers were killed. America was sick to it’s stomach by that one.

Still, nothing was done.

Now 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Members of Congress shed their crocodile tears, send their thoughts and prayers, but do nothing while cashing their bribes from the National Rifle Association.

How many more children need to die before the parents and survivors finally rise up enmasse to confront the spineless members of Congress and demand action?

What will it take to wake up our government to the gun epidemic in this country?

It only took one mass school shooting in 1996 for Australia to do something.

Trump sent his thoughts and prayers, then dared to blame the school, the families, students, and law enforcement for doing nothing, knowing the shooter was mentally unstable.

Actually, you orange turd, they did do something. They notified the FBI, but because you rescinded the Obama-era initiative aimed at helping keep the guns out of the hands of the mentally unfit, the FBI couldn’t do anything and the shooter was free to legally purchase the weapon used to commit this heinous crime.

Blood is on trump’s hands, as well as the hands of every congressperson the NRA has bought and paid for.

In fact, trump is also to blame because he is such an intolerate, hatefilled asshole, his attitude has has given the green light to every bigot, racist, mysoginist, homophobe and the like that their type of behavior is now not only tolerated but encouraged. They are out there openly spewing their hate and invoking trump’s name.

The shooter, as it turns out, was a member of a white supremacist group and was trained by them.

He was a homegrown, trump-approved domestic terrorist.

But rest assured, the outrage over this new tragedy will soon pass, nothing even resembling gun reform will be proposed, and the NRA will keep sending out it’s blood money.

Then we all get to pretend we care when the next mass shooting happens.

And gunnuts everywhere get to caress and fondle their handguns and rifles secure in the knowledge that no one is ever going to take their murder machines away.

Weigh-In Friday

I gained a pound, although my phone app for our scale didn’t record it, so we’ll pretend the gain didn’t happen.

If anyone is looking for a poster boy for yoyo dieting… right here.

You did What?

I pulled a shoulder muscle while sleeping. Don’t ask me how, but I woke up Sunday morning with pain shooting through my shoulder blade.

It still throbs today. I’ve been using rubs and taking pain meds (something I rarely do), yet I can’t get comfortable trying to fall asleep and the pain wakes me up when I finally do.

I haven’t done any arm exercises because of it and even when running, because you swing your arms, it hurts.

I don’t know what I did but I wish it would heal already. It’s making me cranky and I suspect because I’ve been sleeping poorly, it is responsible for the weight gain.

The Winter Olympics

I’d be remiss if I didn’t throw a shout-out to all those great athletes from every country joining together in the spirit of athletic competition.

I believe the Olympics should be free of political distractions, so it angers me when pence and his wife refused to stand when the Korean delegation entered. That just made America look petty. His stupidity reflects on all of us internationally.

I guess when he protests by not standing, that’s all right, that’s different when black athletes don’t stand.

I’d also like to point out to everyone who kept reposting a pic of the North Korean leader’s sister throwing eye daggers at pence as if they all approved of it because pence, the fact is, her hate isn’t directed at pence the way ours is. She probably doesn’t even know pence from Adam. She’s glaring at what he represents: the United States of America.

She’s glaring through a lens of hate that has been indoctrinated into all North Koreans since birth that America is evil, the Great Satan, out to destroy their lives, their country, and their very way of life.

She doesn’t know a thing about his hateful beliefs, his prejudices, his anti-gay stance, his belief in conversion therapy, not any of that.

She’s just an evil product of an evil totalitarian regime glaring at her country’s enemy.

In fact, if she knew pence like we know him and how he is part of a great fascist movement bent on destroying the America we all know and love, she’d probably be high-fiving him instead of glaring.

Consider that the next time you feel imclined to share her glare.

And finally, I should point out that Chloe Kim, who won Gold in the Women’s Halfpipe, is the daughter of immigrant parents.

Last word

Go have a great weekend. Monday is President’s Day. Go buy some furniture on sale or whatever it is we’re supposed to do on President’s Day.

I leave you, as always, with a song.


Random Friday

A Friday Haiku

Government shut down,
Congress cannot do their job,
Vote all the bums out.

Weigh-in Friday

I’m fighting another cold or maybe the same one. I’ve been sick most of this year so far with colds and a bout of bronchitis. Because of the cold this week, I didn’t run or exercise and yet, my body was always wanting fuel, probably to battle the cold.

So I was expecting to have gained weight when I stepped on the scale, but surprise! I had lost 0.8 pounds.

Don’t ask me how.

2018 Government Shutdown #2


If you blinked, you missed it, but it was there. The government shutdown for about six hours or so because several Senators delayed the vote until past the midnight deadline.

Specifically, Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), suddenly had a conscience over how this budget plan would bust the deficit wide open, completely forgetting that they had signed the #GOPTaxScam about six weeks ago without any qualms whatsoever. Not a peep.

But see, according to conservative logic, the tax bill is all right because even though it will blow up the deficit, it puts money back into the “people’s” pockets. Granted, when conservatives talk about the “people”, they don’t mean you and I, the middle class, or the working class struggling to make ends meet, they mean the wealthy, the rich, the well-to-do.

This budget plan they just passed, however, is a spending plan and conservatives don’t like that. Conservatives don’t like to spend money unless it’s for the military. Anything else, to them, is considered an entitlement and should be cut.

So you see, there are good deficits and bad deficits, according to conservatives. Good deficits happen when they are giving the rich a tax break, but if you spend money to feed and house the poor, give medical aid to the elderly,  or educate children, then that leads to bad deficits.

Oh, and see you in a few weeks, this Continuing Resolution is only good until March 23rd, when we get to go through the whole shutdown scare again.

Backwards and in high heels

This 1982 Frank and Ernest cartoon by Bob Thaves seems apropos for events this week:


Only now it should read, don’t forget that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) held the House floor for 8 hours, giving the longest speech in that chamber for at least a century, sipping only water, while in four inch heels.

That’s impressive. You go, girl.

Last Word

I hope everyone has a great weekend.

I leave you, not necessarily with a song, but a movie clip of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.



The simple truths found in fiction

I’m currently reading, Have Space Suit-Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein for the first time.

So far, it’s very entertaining and it makes me wonder why I haven’t read more Heinlein since I enjoyed Stranger in a Strange Land some decades ago.

The protagonist is a young man, Clifford “Kip” Russell, fresh out of high school, who wants to go to the moon. He works for the moment as a soda jerk in a pharmacy (the story was published in 1958 when pharmacies still had counters where customers could order fountain drinks and sometimes burgers and hot dogs, like a tiny diner).

He has a run-in with the town bully, Ace Quiggle, who verbally abuses Kip. Kip’s boss comes over and Ace leaves.

Heinlein writes:

The boss and I were alone shortly after. He said quietly, “Kip, a reverence for life does not require a man to respect Nature’s obvious mistakes.”


“You need not serve Quiggle again. I don’t want his trade.”

“Oh, I don’t mind. He’s harmless.”

“I wonder how harmless such people are? To what extent civilization is retarded by the laughing jackasses, the empty-minded belittlers? [Emphasis mine.] Go home, you’ll want to make an early start tomorrow.”

As I read that, I was struck by how relevant that thought is today, some 60 years after it was first written.

I believe today we are seeing to what extent civilization has been retarded by those laughing jackasses and the empty-minded belittlers.

Those laughing jackasses and empty-minded belittlers have managed to elect one of their own, the biggest laughing jackass, the most empty-minded of all belittlers: trump.

Heinlein predicted the rise of the deplorables!

This is why I love fiction. Hidden within the action, the adventure, the exotic situations, while the characters are weaving their way seductively through the plot, the author sometimes inserts some very provocative philosophical points of view.

Ofttimes the message is covert and you need to do some analysis to find it, but sometimes it is overt and waves it’s little hand at you saying, “Here I am. Underline me and spend a little time thinking about what I have to say.”

Or am I the only one who reads with a pencil at hand, ready to underline any line that strikes my fancy?