Saturday, December 31, 2005

Poetry stirs the high seas on New Year's Eve

You gotta love tradition -- especially when the military's involved, and big ships, and strange poetry. That's the holy trinity of a strange ritual reserved for seafaring officers who draw the short straw and end up pulling the midwatch on New Year's Eve while the rest of the crew's rockin' into the dawn. The best part: Somtimes the officers have to rhyme words that are a wee bit more strenuous than "Hamsterman" and "Amsterdam":

On his New Year's watch on Lake Erie a few years ago, Petty Officer Nyx Cangemi, a spokesman for the Coast Guard in New Orleans, wrote his log out in the common English poetic form of iambic pentameter.

But that was no easy task: "The last phrase had to be: opcon and adcon of comcogardgru Detroit," he recalled. "It essentially meant that the station was under the operational and administrative control of Coast Guard group Detroit."

Now those are some words that are guaranteed to not show up in your rhyming dictionary ...

Happy New Year to all friends of TDA, and to all members of America's military serving here and abroad.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Chihuahuas gone wild!

It's not a "man bites dog" story, but it's good anyway: A pack of five angry Chihuahuas attacked a cop in Fremont, Calif., who was taking a teen home following a 3 a.m. traffic stop. "The officer suffered bite wounds to his ankles," the SF Gate story says, proving that they don't call those dimunitive dogs "ankle-biters" for nothing.

Fremont's getting pretty freaky, judging from the police blotter report from the Associated Press: Just two hours before the tiny hounds went wild, some sicko allegedly entered a woman's house and installed a porno screen saver featuring "erotic Indian art" on her computer.

Was there a full moon last night, or is this just pre-flood lunacy?

Bowling strikes a chord with kids


The old 10-pin smash'em-up is making a comeback in schools across the USA, with varsity bowling teams booming and students flocking to freshly polished maple lanes.

"I'll be doing this the rest of my life," Pennsylvania bowling aficionado Lindsey Bitler, 16, told the Associated Press. "I love it that much."

The AP trend piece that anoints bowling as a coming kingpin of school sports even goes so far as to call bowling "cool," although the "in-school bowling kits with plastic balls, pins and 20-foot long carpet that have arrows for aiming points, just like real lanes" described in the story (and foisted upon gym teachers by the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America) sound about as brilliant as those hokey late-night "astro bowl" schemes with black lights and fluorescent-painted pins.

No matter the modern mutations, it's good to see bowling on the rebound. Unfortunately, the pin monkey is still an endangered species everywhere but the fabulous Koz's Mini Bowl in Milwaukee.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Rocker turns squeezer

Chad Allan isn't exactly Pete Best, but he did quit a couple of up-and-coming rock bands a long time ago, right before they hit the big time. What's he doing now? Playing accordion at the senior center. And loving it, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

Allan bailed from The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive long ago (his is the voice that sparks The Guess Who's cover of "Shakin' All Over"), and now he turns on the seasoned citizens with a mix of piano rock (Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire") and squeezebox classics ("Beer Barrel Polka").

Keep on squeezin', Canadian brother of the bellows!

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Outfit your guinea pig

When I see a headline about guinea pigs, I've just gotta click. And when I see the dateline is a TDA stomping ground like Winona, Minn., I usually slap my forehead and say, "Small world!"

Well, slap me silly -- it is a small world. And Winona's own Carly Austin-Kukowksi cranks out costumes for some of the world's smallest inhabitants: guinea pigs. She crafts Santa suits, football uniforms and even year-round wonders like leopard-print dresses, according to the Winona Daily News.

To spur business, Austin-Kukowksi took out a classifed ad that read: "Christmas costumes for guinea pigs. $7. Santa, elf, many more. Must see to believe."

I'll say. Wonder if she does hamster work ...

Merry Christmas, happy Chanukah and all that jazz

It's double-dipping time this year as Christmas and Chanukah collide. No matter what you're celebrating -- even if it's Festivus -- here's a big ol' happy holidays wish!

(And if you or someone you love just got a new computer, now's the perfect time to load it up with TDA Freebies like wallpaper, AOL Instant Messenger icons and more.)

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Festivus rules in Pennsylvania

Turns out Festivus -- "America's favorite made-up holiday" -- didn't start with that crazy Seinfeld episode. It was created decades before by the father of Daniel O'Keefe, the writer who penned the memorable show.

The Festivus rituals are the same, though: "a night of airing grievances, feats of strength and, of course, the aluminum Festivus pole," CBS 22 reports.

The whole things sounds fun, including the "feats of strength."

"This usually means wrestling," says Pennsylvania real-estate broker and Festivus celebrator Jack Munch. "I've seen parties where it deteriorates into five people wrestling in the snow in the backyard. The whole thing is a blast. You never know what's going to happen on Festivus."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Mall sacks Santa for squeezebox action

Canadian Scrooges shut down a fund-raising Santa when the enterprising elf pulled out an accordion to help pump up donations.

With donations lagging, the Salvation Army Santa drew an enthusiastic crowd when he broke out his squeezebox and started playing Christmas tunes.

That's when the trouble started: Security workers at the World Exchange Plaza in Ottawa claimed they were just doing their jobs by "responding to complaints about the noise" and shutting down the squeezin' Santa, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (as noted on the message board of an absolutely huge squeezebox rock band -- thanks Doctroid).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Accordion crime shakes Petaluma

OK, maybe nobody's too shaken except for Joe Chiesa, the victim described in the Petaluma (Calif.) Argus Courier news brief headlined "Accordion stolen." Reminds me of a joke I heard once. Or twice. Or maybe a million times.

Anyway, here's the info on the hot box: "The Italian-made Concerto accordion was black with red bellows or folds. It was in a soft black rubber case. The serial number is Z66." If you spot it, call the Petaluma Police Department at 707-778-4372 or Joe at 707-539-1407.

Good luck, Joe. Hope you get your squeezebox back.

'Snowzilla' update: Fark delivers pix!

World's greatest annotated news site Fark.com delivers the goods once again. Dive to the bottom of this wacky thread for photos of "Snowzilla" and the frozen Frankenstein who created it, along with incredible images of even more-amazing snow creations. Who woulda thunk it?

(Thanks, Marty, for the tip! And thanks, Anonymous, for tracking down Snowzilla pix on The Anchorage Daily News site.)

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

'Snowzilla' comes to life in Alaska

An Anchorage man on a winter mission built a 16-foot-tall snowman with beer bottles for eyes that somebody (maybe a copy editor?) dubbed "Snowzilla."

"The kids and I started out doing a snowman, and it started getting kind of big, then it started getting kind of out of hand," Billy Ray Powers told the Anchorage Daily News.

"It's solid ice," he said. "I put the arms in with my power drill."

Powers got some help from his neighbor, Darrell Estes, who jumped in and helped with the mammoth project.

"It just turned into a monster," said Estes. "People stop by, and they're just flabbergasted. They walk up and knock on it to make sure it's real snow, not Styrofoam."

The Associated Press picked up the story, and the Snowzilla tag got added somewhere along the line. Now, if I could just find a picture ...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Hey, Santa, howzabout in-car satellite TV?

If TDA still drove around the country in a pimped-out custom van, and if I still believed in Santa Claus, here's what I'd ask for: KVH TracVision A5, a $2,300 in-car system that delivers DirecTV directly to your back seat. (Just another reason why it's actually cheaper to fly to gigs.)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Dawgz Rule Northbeach

I got a chance to find out what all the buzz is about in SF last night at the Grant & Green Saloon. After parking 1/2 way back to Marin County, I walked 30 minutes through my old stomping grounds in SF and finally arrived in North Beach. After a couple of rejuvenating beers with EBDZ, they hit the stage and promptly began to blow the roof off that old biker bar. The post seminar- after dinner out of towners didn't know what hit them, but it sure got 'em moving. I've got a feeling the Dawgz will become a favorite at this historic blues venue. Way to go dudes!

Behold ... the Etherknot!

It's not Weird Al's fabled "Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota," but it's close.

The Etherknot is a 145-pound (and growing!) ball of discarded computer cables and whatnot. And, because it's a work of "art," it's got ... meaning. (Lil help, please.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Don't fear the jug!

When it comes to makin' merry, you just can't beat the Christmas Jug Band. Suzanne and I got the front-row treatment Tuesday night at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley, Calif., and the show was truly great. Paul and fellow piano/accordion player Austin de Lone had everyone cracking up with their piano acrobatics, and Tim Eschliman and the the rest of the band delivered maximum seasonal musical fun, as per usual. Jim Rothermel and Adam Gabriel, who played on Lawnball, kicked it twisted-Christmas-style, as did Norton Buffalo, Blake Richardson and the rest of the red-and-green crew.

XM Satellite Radio caught the CJB bug -- maybe you should, too! (I guarantee that you'll love the band's latest album, Uncorked.)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Boogie rules The Bone

Ha! The Electric Boogie Dawgz song "Won't Stop Rockin'" got the most votes on 107.7 The Bone's "Local Licks" Web poll. Thanks to everybody who voted!

The song's up there for a second week, so if you've got a second, please vote again. Make that pretty please, with polka on top.

(And who cares, you might ask? Well, Bill and I played on the EBDz CD Sloppy, Fast & Loud, and EBDz leader Bret Hagen plays Jim in the TDA video for "My Friend Jim." Small world, huh?)

Friday, December 9, 2005

Rudolph the red-nosed marketing gimmick

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer -- the ultimate underdog Christmas icon -- sprang to life in 1939, straight from the pen of Montgomery Ward copywriter Robert L. May. The company printed up millions of copies of May's charming story and handed them out for free after the writer convinced Montgomery Ward brass that Rudolph's red nose was not necessarily indicative of a drinking problem, according to the Urban Legends Reference Pages (better known as Snopes.com).

The back story on the birth of the glowing-nosed reindeer is pretty amazing, too, thick with "work for hire" copyright tragedy and an eventually benevolent corporate decision to give May the rights to his work (which earned him a living for a while). Now, if there was only a holiday that needed a Hamsterman mascot ...

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Lucky Mule kicks out flaming accordion T-shirts

After yesterday's post, several people wrote me to say how much they liked the cover artwork for the Electric Boogie Dawgz CD, Sloppy, Fast & Loud. Well, here's a secret: Lucky Mule, the Oakland, California-based clothing and custom printing company that produced the Sloppy artwork, also created the flaming accordion T-shirts we sell all across the country (and, indeed, worldwide -- and did we mention that TDA Fun Packs are available online now? I thought so.)

Chief Kickin' Mule Courtney Callahan also did T-shirts for the Electric Boogie Dawgz and the Mad Maggies -- check out the Lucky Mule Web site for more of his cool creations.

Xmas Jug Band on XM

I got in the band van yesterday morning, turned on my XM radio and was greeted with the sound of yours truly singing "Plant A Santa" off the CJB's "Uncorked" CD. It sounded pretty darn good. Many thanks to Lou Brutus at XM for dropping us into the holiday mix! Looks like the "Answer is Blowin' in the Jug" tour is off to a good start. Hope to see you at one of the shows!

Paul

Monday, December 5, 2005

Vote 'boogie' on 107.7 The Bone

It ain't exactly polka, and there are no accordions involved whatsoever, but a TDA side project is getting some airplay on Bay Area radio station 107.7 The Bone.

The Electric Boogie Dawgz song "Won't Stop Rockin'" is featured this week on The Bone's "Local Licks" show. You can hear song clips of several local bands online and vote for your favorites.

Why should you care? Well, the TDA rhythm section plays on the EBDz record, Sloppy, Fast & Loud. Bill had to drop out of the band due to a couple of other commitments, but I'm still playing boogie bass in between TDA gigs.

If you've got a minute to spare, it would be great if you could check out the tune and vote the straight boogie ticket. We'll be submitting TDA tunes to the Bone's local show in the near future, too ...

Fun Packs hit the Web

It's our best deal ever -- TDA Fun Packs available online for the first time! The TDA Fiscal Advisory Committee says Paul's lost his mind ...

Sunday, December 4, 2005

Accordion crime stumps Alaska cops

I read the very entertaining Accordion Crimes by E. Annie Proulx, but I never figured I'd read about an actual accordion crime.

This one's pretty mysterious: Cops in Kodiak, Alaska, found some dumped items in the woods after a string of break-ins, KTVA reports. Among the "electronics and other expensive products," they found a full-size accordion and a rather bizarre-sounding piece of art (a "wall hanging shaped like a miniature bar" with a "rowboat tied at a miniature dock and a tiny sign reading, 'You know you are too drunk when you can't fish.'")

The kicker? Nobody's reported either the squeezebox or the artwork missing. Sounds a little like that old joke where the accordionist is worried about leaving his instrument in the car because he's afraid the accordion will be stolen ...

Saturday, December 3, 2005

Sing the joys of eggnog

When we played the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, we had a Sunday slot. Which meant -- you guessed it -- there was no bourbon. We had a great time anyway, and can't wait to go back.

Now, straight outta Kentucky and courtesy of Maker's Mark, here's a seasonal recipe that's sure to warm your heart.

Maker's Mark Bourbon Eggnog

1 Liter Maker's Mark
1 Quart milk
1 Quart heavy cream
2 Dozen eggs
1 1/2 Cups sugar
Nutmeg for garnish

Separate eggs and beat the yolks until creamy. Whip sugar into the yolks, then bat the whites until they stand in peaks, adding 1/2 cup of additional sugar if desired. Beat the yolks and Maker's Mark together and add the whites. Beat cream into a froth, then add milk and cream to the egg mixture. Add nutmeg to taste and garnish each cup with a dash of nutmeg for a dash of color. The recipe makes 2 1/2 gallons and is fun to give away in mason jars to those lucky folks on your shopping list!

Whip up a batch and uncork some holiday hits by the Christmas Jug Band.

P.S. The makers with the mark recommend the following safety precaution (as if salmonella can live through that bourbon blast): "Remember, make sure and use eggs which have been pasteurized if you can find them."

Friday, December 2, 2005

Hungry for nostalgia?

Now that you've eaten your way through those Thanksgiving leftovers, maybe it's time to restock the cupboard. If you're craving a little nostalgia, it's time to hit Hometown Favorites. The site's got several sections, including "the hard-to-find grocer," which knows that the quickest route to the brain's nostalgia center is through the stomach. Get out your credit card, and the site will connect you with soothing (and nutritious!) tastes from your past.

Whether it's cereal (remember Count Chocula and Booberry?), soft drinks (Frostie Root Beer), snacks (Screaming Yellow Zonkers) or even legumes (Ranch Style Beans), this online store is a virtual cornucopia of delicious brands that still survive in certain regions of the country. And don't get me started on the gift center or the candy store (ah, banana BB Bats and chocolate cigarettes) ...

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Listen for me on "Polka Universe" tonight

Memo from the Shameless Self-Promotion Department: I'll be hitting the airwaves between 10:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. Pacific tonight on "Big Lou's Polka Universe," broadcast here in San Francisco on KUSF 90.3 FM and ear-accessible over the Internet as well. (To listen online, just click the Listen Now button on the KUSF website.

TDA founder Big Lou, her bass-playing hubby Dave and I will be chatting a bit, talking about upcoming weekend shows by The Mad Maggies and spinning a track or two from the Maggies' debut CD, "Crazed and Enthused." (Bill and I played on the record, and I still gig with The Mad Maggies in between TDA shows.)

Should be fun.

Milwaukee gets a new beer hall

Our good Wisconsin friend and sometime merch guy Bill from Milwaukee passes along a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article about a new Bavarian beer hall set to open this month in the city.

"This might be right up Paul's alley," Bill writes. "Beer, brats and 'unconventional' entertainment. Hummm, I wonder where we might find an 'unconventional' musical act to perform there?"

The beer hall's called the Old German Beer Hall (love the name), and it's owner, Hans Weissgerber III (love that name, too), says he just wants to give Milwaukee a little dose of gem├╝tlichkeit, the German word the paper describes as "a sense of cordiality and friendliness" (but which my high-school German teacher defined as "drunken fellowship").

We had a blast at the legendary Shank Hall last time, Onopa Brewing Co. is always a hoot and of course Summerfest is still the ultimate TDA gig (especially when we play the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage with Leinenkugel's and WXSS, or whatever corporate-branding goulash they slap on that big huge stage). But I can't wait to see the new place. Sounds like a winner of an idea.

Oscar the Wonder Dog


It's been a tough week up here. Our little Oscar ruptured a disc in his back sometime over the weekend and by Monday afternoon had lost the use of both his hind legs. It broke our hearts to watch him try to walk. He didn't know what was wrong with him and neither did we. We took him to an emergency vet in Poulsbo and they tried a treatment of steroids overnight. In the morning they told us there was no improvement, so we had a tough decision to make. There is a vet hospital in Lynnwood, (just north of Seattle), that does back surgery on dachshunds all the time and has very good success. I don't think I have to tell you that this is not cheap. The thing is, there is a pretty small window of time that you have to act on an injury like this, so they told me to think about it, but not too long. They needed to know in an hour or so if I was going to come and get Oscar and move him to Lynnwood for the surgery. After that, it might not be worth it. The kids were in school and LuAnn was at work, so off I drove to Poulsbo, mulling this over. I talked to LuAnn a couple of times, and my good friend Jim Mead, who is very active in animal rescue. By the time I got to the Hood Canal bridge I had made a decision. I called the vet and told her we were going to go for it. Oscar has been a big part of this family for 5 years and there's no way I could just give up on him. So, with one hand on the wheel and the other holding his head, I drove (and ferried) the little guy to Lynnwood. They were ready for us when we got there. I was so dang choked up I could hardly talk to the tech who briefed me on the operation. She was very reassuring and told me the doctor was very good and had done the same operation on her dachshund. The doctor called us later that night and told us the surgery went very well and he was cautiously optimistic about Oscar's chances. Yesterday we got the good news that Oscar was standing up! They are very confidant that he is going to be fine, after a few months or rehabilitation. We all breathed a big sigh of relief. We are hoping to bring him home on Friday.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Accordion blogs apparently don't rule

Blog search engine Technorati says there are only two blogs about the accordion. Even more shocking: There's only one about accordions (plural). And that would be TDA's Wall of Wheeze.

We're No. 1! We're No. 1! (Except when we're No. 2, hot on the heels of Intervalle Blog. Which is French. Which is Greek to me.)

Accordions and tires make for strange combo

Oklahama businessman Bill Puroff squeezes a little life into his work day by playing accordion in his Tulsa tire shop. He keeps a couple of accs at the appropriately named Bill's Tire Service and picks one up when he feels like having a little fun. "I just come in here and goof off and enjoy it," Puroff told KOTV.

Like many accordionists, Puroff played when he was a kid, then abandoned the instrument for decades before jumping back on the squeezebox express.

"I've always heard music is good for the soul," he said, "and I think it is."

The combination of accordions and tires does seem a little strange -- although I guess they've both got air in 'em. But I'm guessing Puroff would never have made the news had he been a guitarist or a juggler.

Annoying device keeps pesky teens at bay

U.K. inventor Howard Stapleton came up with a novel device for keeping rowdy teenagers from loitering in front of stores. He calls the teen-be-gone gadget, which emits a high-frequency sound that adults can't hear, The Mosquito.

"It's small and annoying," Stapleton told The New York Times. The Mosquito's irritating buzz supposedly can be heard by almost everybody under 20 years old and by almost nobody who's over 30.

A South Wales store owner, who attests to the device's effectiveness, says he was about to install loudspeakers to pump classical music into the parking lot to help disperse troublemaking teens, but the Mosquito does the trick nicely.

Like a Lawrence Welk tape loop wouldn't do the trick ...

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Squeezytunes tracks down accordiana

Want to see some cool stuff?

Squeezyboy, the guy who runs the Squeezytunes blog, digs up squeezebox treasures on eBay and publishes cool vintage accordion photos as well. It's a wheeze-worthy site that gets updated frequently. Where does he find the time?

Monday, November 28, 2005

Did you pig out with a geek?

Even nerds love Thanksgiving. BBspot serves up a heaping helping of funny with its "Top 11 Signs You're Having Thanksgiving Dinner With a Geek." Read it and evaluate your feast.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Christmas Jug Band uncorks seasonal shenanigans


Every year about this time, Paul hooks up with an all-star band of San Francisco Bay Area musicians to play the loopiest Christmas songs you've ever heard. It's called the Christmas Jug Band, and it's a boatload of fun. While the band has posted its tour dates, I can't say for sure what shows Paul will be playing -- things are usually kind of loose that way. But I can tell you that Christmas Jug Band CDs are available now, and the season wouldn't be the same without listening to "Santa Lost A Ho," "Santa Don't Do It" and "Daddy's Drinkin' Up Our Christmas." Lewis says, "Check it out."

Friday, November 25, 2005

Cleveland rocks -- and polkas

If I was in Ohio right now, I'd check out the Traditional Thanksgiving Cleveland Polka Weekend, which runs through Saturday.

"It's a polka convention without any business meetings," says organizer, emcee and polka DJ Tony Petkovsek. "It's all socializing."

Cleveland-style polka pioneer Frankie Yankovic "always said it's the happiest sound around,'' Petkovsek told the Akron Beacon Journal. "We do get the middle-age to older crowd, but also a lot of college types who are home that weekend, so we get an infusion of young blood."

Jeff Pecon, leader of the Jeff Pecon Orchestra, says the event will be loads of fun. "There are different styles of dancing, a smoother gliding style and the Polish hop," Pecon says.

The Buckeye State does it again.

Beware the llamas of death

The Larson Family Winery in Sonoma, Calif., sits on nice, relaxing property and produces some decent vino. It also boasts a llama named Dolly. Cute bugger. Love to stand beside the pen and maybe pet it's weird head.

Now I know why it's head looks weird.



The beasts have "three sets of razor-sharp 'fighting teeth,' which llamas use to rip the scrotum from male competitors in the wild," according to a story in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The article informs the world of a cute little llama problem called "berserk male syndrome," and tells a nasty tale of farm chores gone horribly wrong.

Now, maybe Dolly's a female llama. And maybe females don't go berzerk, or even have those wicked fighting teeth hidden in their skulls. Then again, maybe I'll just stand back a bit from that llama's pen next time I head up north.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving from Lewis and Suzanne

Hope this long weekend finds ya'll long on great and/or weird food and short on stress. While we won't be making a green-bean casserole, we will be baking Cajun-style oyster dressing (using an Emeril Lagasse recipe from the Food Network) and pecan pie (that recipe's secret).

Cheers! (And watch out for those giant balloons.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Toxic wave rolls toward Chinese city

A 50-mile toxic slick of benzene and other chemicals is causing a massive freakout in Harbin, China. Thousands of fearful residents are fleeing in the face of the environmental scum that began rolling down the Songhua River after a series of explosions at a chemical plant upstream, The Financial Times reports.

The good news? The local Anheuser-Busch plant continues to crank out the brew, saying the city's water shutdown has "not significantly affected" production.

Beer aside, the Chinese nightmare makes America's Thanksgiving rush seem like a walk in the park. A nice, well-manicured park. In broad daylight. With a loyal pit bull at your side, and a well-stocked picnic basket over your arm.

Yum! Green bean casserole turns 50

Thanksgiving's all about eating. And while the Hattiesburg (Miss.) American tips its Cajun culinary cap to the monstrous turducken, the Bozeman (Mont.) Daily Chronicle sings the praises of an all-American classic that's celebrating its 50th anniversary this year: the ever-lovin' green bean casserole.

Make whatever you want this turkey day -- everybody's got their own family traditions, after all -- but plenty of people around the country will be enjoying Dorcas Reilly's original recipe, cooked up in the Campbell Soup Co. kitchen in 1955 and now supposedly responsible for moving $20 million worth of cream of mushroom soup a year.

Happy Thanksgiving!

P.S. The green bean casserole has held a special place in TDA's history ever since some Wisconsin fans showed up at one of our early Summerfest shows toting a steaming-hot dish of the stuff. We've been good friends ever since.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

World's ugliest dog dies


Sam, the world's ugliest dog, barks no more. The purebred Chinese crested hairless -- whose bald body, gnarly teeth and Mohawk-like patch of hair catapulted him to the top of the ugly dog charts at the Sonoma-Marin Fair and even landed him an urban-legend entry on Snopes.com -- died Friday at age 14, KCCI reports.

Sam's website serves up loads of pictures of the unsightly pooch, a rescue dog who had a peculiar impact on his owner's love life. RIP, Sam.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Squeeze away that stress

Everybody knows accordions tickle the ears. But some Connecticut squeezers claim that picking up the ol' stomach Steinway is good for the rest of your body as well.

"I found new life," Bob Vitale, 68, told the Hartford (Conn.) Courant. "I used to have a bad back and a bad stomach and taking Zantac all the time. I used to eat that stuff. But since January, when I started playing again, it all disappeared. I couldn't even pick up a pencil. Now I can pick up a refrigerator. My doctor told me it was all stress. It released all my stress."

Vitale is a former accordion teacher and a member of the Connecticut Accordion Association, an organization founded in 2004 by Marilyn O'Neil. The group is growing by leaps and bounds, with a 22-member accordion orchestra. That's a lot of stress relief!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Cool Festivals

The Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN and The Vegoose Music Festival in Las Vegas would be a blast to play. The catch is you have to be invited to perform. This differs from most of the other festivals we play, where we send in a promo package and then cajol them into putting us on the bill. You might find this hard to believe, but pitching TDA can actually be a bit of a hard sell to the uninitiated. With that in mind, and in keeping with our "never say never" attitude, if you happen to know a guy who used to be married to a gal that is now married to the director of either of these festivals AND he owes you a huge favor...well, you know what to do.

Thanks,

Paul

Late-night fun in Frisco

You know what's great about living all crammed together in a big (but very little) city like San Francisco? Neighbors. (And craigslist.)

UPDATE: OK, the scary/annoying saw-totin' neighbor is in Boston, not Frisco. (That's the last early morning post from me.) And, of course, I realize this whole "ain't neighbors a drag?" concept falls squarely in the "stone-throwing glass-house dweller" realm, what with the sounds of squeezeboxes emanating from our home on a regular basis.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Stop pushing the dork button


Carl Finch, our buddy from Brave Combo, takes a swipe at lamebrain media mavens who use our beloved squeezebox as a sort of lazy shorthand for "square."

"The most ill-informed, mainstream media/ad people are the only ones left on this planet who insist that polka is square," Finch told The Providence (R.I.) Journal. "This is the music you go to when you need a laugh in an ad -- everybody goes to polka; everyone goes to accordions. The only thing is, they're the only ones who think that now."

When Brave Combo was born in 1979, Finch and his cohorts purposely picked polkas and other ethnic musical styles because of the cultural beating those genres were taking in an era of coliseum rock and disco balls.

"Anything that at that time most people would label as uncool," Finch said, "we wanted to take that music and play it to skew someone's notion. To shake the foundation of a belief.... If anything, we're trying to project the idea that any attempt to be cool or hip, by anybody at any point in history, was a folly.... Our approach is, let's level the playing field and be equally irreverent to all forms, which means anything can be a joke. Because if you don't laugh at the absurdities, you're going to be Mr. Miserable all the time."

After 26 years, a dozen records and two Grammys, it looks like the happy plan worked. The band's new record, Holidays, is out now, just in time for, well, you know what.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Weird job of the week: wasp collector


Being a bass player in a nearly all accordion rock 'n' roll band gives me a special appreciation for people with strange jobs, and John Eason's certainly got one. The Nelson Mail headline says it all: "Work sucks, but he gets a buzz."

Eason's a wasp collector. The New Zealander dresses up in a moon suit, then hunts down German wasp nests -- which can be as big as cars, according to the article -- then sucks the angry insects out with a wacky-looking device that looks decidedly Dr. Seuss.

He then freezes the wasps and ships them to the United States, where they are used in the manufacture of sting-desensitizing drugs. Crazy!

Obituary: Emiliano Zuleta-Accordionist

I'm not familiar with his music, but after reading the obit, I'm going to check it out.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Want a symphony job? Go accordion

John Morris Russell wants to be the next music director of the Akron Symphony Orchestra so bad that he's pulling out all the stops. On the musical menu for his audition: An overture to Leonard Bernstein's Candide, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 -- and an accordion concerto.

"I'm sticking my neck out a little bit, using an accordion concerto, which is not usually an instrument for an orchestra concert," Russell told the Akron Beacon Journal.

Russell plans to have the squeezebox soloist, Joseph Macerollo, talk to the audience before the performance. I'm guessing the first words out of his mouth won't be, "What's the difference between an accordion and an onion?"

Friday, November 11, 2005

Scandinavia Calling

Something decidedly Northern European has been going on lately at TDA. First it was a request for a bumper sticker from a woman in Norway. Then a CD sold to another woaman in Norway. Then a request for an interview from a writer for a Norwegian Accordion Magazine. Then, yesterday I got an email from a DJ in Sweden who's mad for our stuff and wants all our CDs to play on his show. Here's the URL for the radio station. http://sr.se/vast/ Maybe you'll hear TDA on there soon. Maybe it's time to book a tour of Scandanavia. I hear Sweden is nice in May! Actually, I just made that up. I have no idea what Sweden is like in May. Anybody know the best time to go?

Look out, Monterey, here we come!


Tonight we break new ground on California's Central Coast. We will be performing -- three sets, baby -- at Monterey Live, a cool club we've never had the pleasure of playing. I stole this picture from the venue's website -- looks swanky! Just imagine that velvety-plush room, only with 1,000-kilowatt accordion players lighting up the stage (and all those empty chairs crammed with squeezebox fans).

Saturday we return to one of our favorite old haunts, The Palms in Winters, California. Always a good time.

We've got some new material (including a great new Paul Rogers ditty called "Tandem Bike" that features a heartwarming duet delivered with feeling by Carri and Paul), so come on down ...

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Conjunto legend Esteban Jordan sounds like a trip

He looks like a trip, too. The San Antonio Current's juicy excerpt from Michael Corcoran’s new book, All Over The Map: True Heroes of Texas Music, sheds a little more light on a guy who's been called the "Jimi Hendrix of the accordion" since the late '60s.

Jordan sounds like a real character, and he's apparently got a chip the size of a squeezebox on his shoulder: "I’ll take a dude outside and whip his ass if he disrespects me," he says. "Society can’t touch me, man. Never has. I never went to school, never been trained how to act. I’m an animal, bro."

The intrigue over "notorious troubled genius 'El Parche,'" (The Patch) grows. Time to check out his catalog.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

What are you wearing this weekend?

Hey Suzanne and Susie! What costumes are you wearing to the gigs on Friday and Saturday? I saw this really outrageous bright orange flared skirt at the Goodwill today. But passed it up because I'm trying to create a classier image and all. I may pull out the turquise tutu again. The only problem is I only have this horrible 80's aerobics leotard that goes with it. What to do??? It's so stressful being a rock accordion star. We need a costumer. Paul, is that in the budget?

Now, I have noted your responses to my last, well actually first official, blog entry. So, would discussing costuming ideas be considered appropriate use of the blogoshpere technology? I'm sure the fans would have some input, if they ever discover our Wall of Wheeze. Or maybe it's just that we have any fans . . . anyway, notice that I didn't mention the C word once. He's doing really well, though, by the way. They unblocked his little urinary tract, and he's peeing all over the place now! We're very relieved. Blogging is fun!!!

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Accordions rule in the Beehive State

The squeezin' is good in Utah, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. Paul Pasquali's peddling high-end, Swarovski-crystal-studded accordions (price tags up to $15,000), Brad Nelson's pumping out tunes with the Pagan Love Gods and the Utah Symphony, and amateurs are coming out of the closet, the paper says.

"It's so square, it's hip," Nelson says.

The state's even got its own "Jimi Hendrix of the accordion," 64-year-old Janet Todd of The Bavarians, who sounds like a hoot, even if that particular description is getting a bit overdone.

The only thing squeezebox-related that the state's missing, apparently, is some new accordion jokes: The ones that round out the article are as old as, well, a musty attic accordion.

My Cat

cowboy
Hey Carri, great picture of Juniper. This is a picture of my cat, Cowboy, on my red TDA petticoat. Paul is sitting here drinking coffee with Lewis and me. He loves the cat pictures a lot.

Monday, November 7, 2005

Hah!!


It worked! This is thrilling. Instant gratification. Seeing yourself published IMMEDIATELY. In my first-ever blog, written a few minutes ago and published to some cyber-hinterland, I mused about why one would be drawn to blog. How I'm usually roped into using new technology by some mini-disaster like having a car break down in East L.A. at midnight with no cell phone or being cashless in Europe because of some idealogical opposition to ATM cards. But blogging . . . having an unlimited audience and no one to shut you up. That's power. That's democracy in action. That's what can turn the accordion into a revered instrument, a symbol of might and power. Oh dear lord, help me. I've just discovered the "upload picture" button!! I can also publish unlimited photos of my cat. You will, hopefully see him in the upper left corner of this post. Well, until my next day off (probably sometime around January) . . . keep squeezing.

Testing

Will this appear on the wall of wheeze or in my own little cyberspace niche that even I know not how to find??

I forgot to celebrate National Accordion Day

... but the guys and gals at New Jersey's Acme Accordion School didn't. A couple of quotes from the Courier-Post story could be ripped out of a TDA interview:

"They either laugh with us or laugh at us, but people always laugh," said 68-year-old squeezer Glenn Zuroski. And Ruthann Christophersen, 70, really nails the accordion zeitgeist: "You either love it or you hate it," she said. "But it's like religion or politics -- you can't change anyone's mind."

We'll keep tryin' ...

Somebody put a cork in this weird wine

When the Lord turned water into wine, it's a sure thing he didn't slap this outrageous label on the vino. The Smoking Gun calls Westlake and Rheins' Jesus Juice "blasphemy in a bottle," and that's probably not far from the truth.

TDA press mention of the day

We get written up in some cool publications, but this one's gotta rank near the top for excellent title/logo. Thanks for posting the cool pix from Modesto, Bacon Press.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Jimi Hendrix of the accordion?

Drake leLane over at Thus Spake Drake raves about Steve Jordan, an eye-patch-sportin' dude who's been called "The Jimi Hendrix of the Accordion."

Holy crap!

I thought Paul was the Jimi Hendrix of the accordion. (Plus, I was pretty sure Dick Curless was the only cool musician to ever wear an eye patch.) Guess it's time to check this Jordan guy out ...

Squeeze into a hot burrito

When we finally get booked for that Texas squeeze fest we keep hearing about, we'll have to swing by Freebirds World Burrito to see the in-store art.

The chain's San Antonio joint "features a wall mural depicting Texas Tornados musicians the late Doug Sahm, Flaco Jimenez, Freddy Fender and Augie Meyers. Other highlights include a flock of flying accordions that burst through the wall and are suspended through the restaurant," The Bryan-College Station Eagle reports.

The Freebirds Web site is cool, too, with a chopper-riding Statue of Liberty named "Libby" (who also roars through the air at several locations of the Texas burrito chain), wacky commercials starring tinfoil creatures, and a how-to on eating a gynormous burrito (something we know all about in San Francisco, thankyouverymuch). I'm getting hungry.

Saturday, November 5, 2005

Don't fear the squeezebox

We've got bad news for Keith Lockhart, music director of the Salt Lake City Symphony. In a little man-on-the-street column in The Salt Lake Tribune asking people to reveal their greatest fears, Lockhart says he's totally scared of the multi-squeezebox assault:

"I'd have to say the only thing I'm afraid of is large accordion ensembles," Lockhart admits. "One at a time, they're fine. But put a bunch of them together in a room and ... watch out!"

Get ready to be scared big-time, Keith. Most therapists will tell you it's important to confront your fears. So, next time we roll through Salt Lake, we're looking you up, buddy. Bwaaaa-ha-ha-ha-haaaa!

Gee, guess I'm one of them fancy bloggers now

Feels real nice.

Can you fit a melody to "Lizard in the Whizzer"?

Yikes! This Aftenposten story (with cool picture) about a big, carnivorous, black-and-yellow South American lizard winding up in a toilet sure beats the Bernal Heights rat I found treading water in mine last summer. Seems like song material for sure. Good luck, Paul (and thanks to Coast to Coast AM for the link).

Who wants to keep Santa Cruz weird?

Squeezebox freak the Great Morgani does, that's for sure. A story about the Keep Santa Cruz Weird campaign includes an awesome pic of one of the wackier accordion ensembles I've ever seen.

The Great Morgani goes on to tell Metro Santa Cruz why he's into keepin' it surreal in SC:

"I have lived in Santa Cruz since 1947," he says with a chuckle. "I have seen all the changes and all the good and bad stuff. Everyone says, 'Wow! You lived through the '60s and the hallucinogenic generation,' but I was playing the stockbroker. I used to think, look at those weirdos, never thinking that one day I would be the one on the box in a ridiculous costume."

That's a sentiment I can get behind. It's truly weird how you can stumble into a strange musical situation -- like, say, bass player in a mostly all-accordion rock band -- and wind up setting up shop in a house of mirrors. Guess that's what makes life worth living. (That and gettin' up and doin' stuff and goin' back to bed.)

P.S. As it happens, we just played Don Quixote's International Music Hall in nearby Felton, Calif. That was a good time for sure (except, maybe, for the long drive home over 17), but we met some really cool folks. It's always like that down there. Can't wait to get back.

Friday, November 4, 2005

Time for a beer drinkin' polka

I'm working on a beer drinking polka. It's called "A Glass of Beer". To my knowledge there are no other polkas like this.
Well, maybe one or two. Of course, this one will have the usual TDA twist to it. It's one of my "what if" tunes, as in: "What if a beer drinking carpenter was asked by his sister to put together a doll house for his little nieces? A piece of cake, right?
Well , maybe not......" Stay tuned!

This Texas acc fest sounds cool

We keep hearing about the International Accordion Festival near San Antonio. And San Antonio Express-News writer Jim Beal Jr. even pretty much calls for a TDA appearance at next year's fest. Love the sound of " in-your-face accordion royalty" -- we've gotta get down there!

Ladies and gentlemen, we have blog

Are we over this yet?

Let's get this party started

Only one thing missing here ...