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.