Monthly Archives: July 2016

Finger Picking Techniques

Those of us who love our music, for me finger picking my guitar, we don’t have much to complain about. So what if it is rough on hands and fingernails. Who hasn’t had split nails most of their life. I talk to other musicians and it is always the same story. Basically when asked, “What do you do,” they reply that they just, “live with it.” Some have resorted to lotions and potions to cure rough hands and some are pretty heavy duty and potent. Unless your wife or girlfriend complains about your skin, you probably are thinking why bother. My answer is why not? We certainly are not going to give up finger picking or aren’t going to resort to some new as yet undiscovered technique. Not unless it yields some mighty good music, that is.

One of my fellow culture vultures told me his mother whips up a homemade concoction that heals his rough skin within two three days of regular application. It beats anything he has found in a drugstore: those watery hand creams that disappear within seconds. No, they don’t make a product for guitar players. Not much of a market the manufacturer would likely say. So let’s get back to my friend’s mother. She uses beeswax melted together with essential oils and some lanolin on the stove in a double boiler to pervert burning the brew. She then adds some mineral oil at the end which she whisks in. there are no preservatives necessary if the lotion is used within one month. It can sit on the shelf and be used from a simple screw-top jar as needed. It does not go in the fridge as it makes the beeswax turn hard. As for scent, it depends on which essential oils are used in the mix. You can customize it for the eventual user. His mom makes a different one for each of his friends and they love it. They rant and rave how good it is and no one is suffering from telltale split nails and fingers anymore. What a great gift! All she has to do is make a new batch once a month. Now, if you don’t happen to be this guy’s friend, you are out of luck. Or you can try to make your own stuff if he will give you the recipe, but that I doubt. You can find recipes on line for hand cream, but it is hit or miss to go this route. I wouldn’t expect to get search engine results for guitar player+ hand cream + homemade.

I suppose if I query other friends, I will find some other alternatives such as petroleum jelly. I also think that guitar players rough skin problems are shared by construction workers as you might ask a few of them. They have to clean their hands so often with pumice stone and other abrasives that it makes the skin practically raw. They must have some secret products they are willing to divulge. If not, I should introduce them to my friend’s mother. She could start a little cottage industry and make some money.

Crap Day Today.

Oh man. Just a really crap day today. I dropped my phone and the screen cracked, everyone on my line at work seemed to be having an awful day and felt like taking it out on me, and the coworker I carpooled from school with left my window partway down and it rained INTO my car. It’s enough to make me want to punch something. But I don’t really have anything that I wouldn’t have to replace or get charged to fix, so that’s not really a choice. Suuuuuck. I went to the campus gym for awhile in an attempt to work it off. I brought earbuds and loaded up some old school Pearl Jam and some Foo Fighters. I ran three miles on the track, took a shower and felt a ton better. Until I got back in my car and it smelled like wet dog. Yeah,thanks, Henry. The whole stupid cycle started all over again. It is times like this when I’m glad I have a nice stereo and satellite radio in my car. I put my car on the Octane station, turned it up, and just yelled the whole ride back home.

It might seem weird that angry rock actually calms me down and makes me feel better when I’m like this, I don’t know. I never thought about it before right now. I guess when it’s something you’ve been doing for as long as you’ve been able to pick the music you want to listen to, it just seems normal. Now that I’m putting it out there on the internet, though, I am starting to wonder. Anyway, I am going to stick with what works. I am curious, though, does anyone else do this? Or am I the only one?

I talked about this once on my student radio show once but it was at like three in the morning so there weren’t a whole lot of listeners, and the ones who are listening tend to be drunk, so not a very philosophical or coherent crowd, you know? But I honestly believe that there are songs that trigger memories—you hear them and are instantly transported back to a moment in your life, either good or bad. Maybe you heard it on the radio after an especially bad breakup, maybe it was playing when you passed your road test, maybe it was playing to cover up some extracurricular activities with the girl that lives down the street. It doesn’t matter how many times you hear it, that’s the place you go back to. There are other songs, at least for me, that I can play when I’m down that will cheer me up, or calm me down when I’m super angry. It’s like comfort food, but with music, is what I’m trying to say. There’s other stuff that gets me super pumped and that’s usually what I play at the gym or on my way to work if I really need to psych myself up to go there. Then there’s assignment music, the stuff I have on in the background when I’m writing a paper or something that is easy to tune out because I can’t stand silence.

What about you? Do you have go-to bands or songs for certain things?

Losing Big

Culture vultures hang together. They share favorite bands and good times associated with them. They can’t stop talking shop. Recently, some fellow travelers, including some staff members from my radio show, and I decided to hang together for another important reason: mutual good health. We decided that a few of us could shed some recently packed on pounds and so we elected to stage a “Biggest Loser” style weight loss contest loosely modeled on the TV show. How hilarious we all thought. Would it be too embarrassing? Naw, we aren’t shy. It was to be a fun good-spirited way to prod us into getting on with our diets. A few of us have meant well but have been procrastinating a bit too long. So a contest was the way to go as most of us are competitive by nature. We would have a great prize. Some collector’s albums from my personal collection. Here’s how it would go: We were to have a group weigh in once a week for two months, and then declare a winner. Speaking of a weigh in, the chief component of this little mutual effort was the best bathroom scale we could find. We needed absolute accuracy to be sure who was losing big the fastest.

Someone had a new scale called My Weigh Elite—Silver. Sounded good. It has .2 pound readability with a capacity from 300 to over 500 pounds. It would do fine. No one weighs near that much. It would be easy to read the digital display. That was a key element. We needed accuracy and no cheating. No ordinary simple bath scale this one. It could show weight and muscle mass and everything in between. A real marvel. If only it would play old school alternative rock every time someone lost a pound. Then it would be worth its weight in silver.

Apart from doing a job of calibrating the contest, this baby is great to look at with its super sleek, elegant design. Neat looking all around. It has a thin glass platform that is only ¾ inch thick that is extra durable, necessary given its high pound capacity. Its sleekness is complemented with a bright blue, backlit weight display. This will make weigh in time fun.
There will be no mistakes thanks to the scale’s large weight display of one and a half inch digits and the aforementioned backlight. It also has a step and weigh feature so no one will have to bother bending down to switch the bath scale on…you just give it a quick tap it with your foot. The scale turn on and you can get to weighing. Pretty easy, huh?
In other words, no need to tap the scale to start this one! Just step on it & gives you the right weight the first time. The contest is on! With its super sensitivity, the scale will be our fair arbiter. Now shall we take bets on who will win?

Anything for the Listeners

Do you consider yourself a lucky sort of soul? The type that wins prizes or comes across a wad of cash on the sidewalk? What is luck anyway? Is luck having the job you have always wanted? Is luck having the skill to do well what you would like to excel at? I believe in luck or I would not have suggested a contest at the radio station. I wanted one of the listeners to feel super lucky. A contest implies that someone has the chance, against all odds, of getting some kind of personal gain just for entering or having one’s name selected at random. You don’t earn a prize. You don’t have to write anything or guess the right answer to a tricky question such as the name of an old alternative rock band from way back. You are rewarded with it for being lucky. In the contest I suggested, the winner would get a kitchen remodel, imagine that. Something worth over a thousand. Almost everyone has a kitchen and most aren’t updated, not even close.

All the listener had to do was call in when the time was right, and be the first to do so. We selected this remodel prize for a couple of reasons. First of all, while it didn’t relate to music, as you might expect, it was something most people would want to win. People would stay tuned to the station to hear the contest rules and how to go about being the lucky winner. If we had selected a free guitar, for example, you would have a half dozen people who play and didn’t already own one. The second reason was that we got a sponsor for the remodel so that it cost us nothing. We would simply promote the hell out of the contractor for donating the labor and the wonderful array of new appliances. There were to be the best kitchen faucets featured, the kind everyone wishes they had, but would never spend the money. They would be super elegant and sleek modern faucets that would turn any ordinary space into a room of culinary delight. Moen makes the most fabulous designs. No clunky proportions or handles, ever.

So we went about getting the contest launched and promoting the prize for a two-week promo period. We talked on air about the feel of your fingers on the long flexible faucet neck and the adjustable spray unit. How many words are there for polished chrome? How many words for delight? We had our listeners poised and ready to enter. The day for the call in was fast approaching. When the time came, we had the phones light up, but the winner would be the lucky person who dialed in first. Lucky indeed. It was a woman who said she lived in an older apartment building and boy could she use the remodel job. She liked to cook as a hobby and made it clear that she listened to the station during her preparations. She thanked us profusely and promised to put photos of her new kitchen on our website. Lucky gal, indeed!

Home for the Holidays

There is a point in time when you can’t go home for the holidays. Your student days are over and trips to visit mom and dad are fewer and farther between. Going home for the holidays somehow denotes a kind of dependency most of us no longer enjoy. It means we are returning to the home of our youth and no doubt one’s childhood room. It is a nice state of affairs to return to such comfort and ease. Being invited for the holidays is quite a different matter. You are a guest in effect and not a resident. Who doesn’t want to spend holidays with one’s family, no matter where you are in life? That’s what holidays are all about. No one wants to be in a restaurant or with strangers. It is all about family first and foremost. If you don’t life close enough to be able to visit those crucial times of the year, you can appreciate the luck of those who do. While I have missed more than my share of holidays, I have also spend many wonderful evenings celebrating Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, etc. Then there were all those birthdays, anniversaries, and other special occasions like graduation. There are actually people who feud with family and never ever return home. I feel sorry for such types. When your parents start getting older, you will never be able to recapture lost moments.

Everyone has special memories of the best holiday meals when Uncle Toby spilled the wine or Aunt Sue got in a fight with Mom but they ended up kissing and making up. The food itself is something to conjure up fondly—all that home-cooked glory. The freshly baked bread from the best bread maker in the world (my mom). For some reason, I get elected to carve the holiday bird. Maybe I just do it right or dad hates the chore. Maybe it’s because I know how to use an electric carving knife with some grace. I don’t muck up the job and destroy the turkey with all kinds of messy, random cuts. Some people say their turkey looks butchered in the hands of an amateur. When I am in charge of serving up individual slices, I feel like a master of ceremonies at some kind of ritual banquet wielding the knife like a pro. Holiday meals have become a lot easier since mom bought a new carving knife of the electric kind. Dad used a regular sharp kitchen knife and it wasn’t a pretty sight surveying the results of his futile labor. Mom had to take over when things got realty strange and he would manually yank off the turkey legs since he was getting nowhere fast with the knife. With the electric knife, you don’t make mincemeat out of the holiday turkey. I realized this right from the start. After all, who do you think was the person who suggested mom get a new knife anyway? I didn’t want to attack dad personally and make him feel bad. Other people had that job. I did corner mom in the kitchen one Thanksgiving and it wasn’t long before the electric knife appeared in the drawer.

That Was Totally Worth It

After spending a rainy, muddy day at a music festival, my care was a mess of caked on grime. Let me give you some advice, try to avoid outdoor venues in bath weather. I know, it’s your favorite band and you are dying to get away, but there is a price to pay. I did love the featured musicians and had a great time with the guys from the radio station, but when I got home, I had my work cut out for me. The car needed some serious care. It just so happens that one friend has a top rated pressure washer, ideal for such occasions as this. I borrowed it promptly and had the best of intentions of getting to the dirty matter at hand before the dried mud became a permanent fixture.

I thought it would be nice to get some help since we went as a group and have always had the policy that everyone pitches in. the question was who? I called to poll each concert attendee to see who was game. Let’s draw straws they all said. No one wanted to volunteer. I heard every excuse in the book: I have a cold, I have to work, I have guests coming for dinner, and my dog has fleas. I listened patiently but soon gave up my good spirit. I simply would appoint someone for the job. I had to approach this gently as I was getting negative vibes. Well you can bet that this would be the last concert in the rain and the last one that I would volunteer to drive to.

Okay, the dam broke. I got a call from a guilty friend and he scheduled weekend time to come over and operate the power washer. It’s not that I don’t know how to use the mighty marvel. They have just the right hose length for a person at-home car wash. Listen, Keith, he said, I don’t know how to use the power washer but I am game if you will show me. Of course, I replied. I would be only too happy to oblige. Well, he actually showed up at the arranged time on the selected day. I almost expected a no show. We set about our task and in no time the power washer had all the mud taken care of—layers that could be years old for all I know. I don’t usually keep my care this clean. It looked great. I might make a regular ritual out of power washing. It’s a do it yourself world, plus I would save money at the car wash. Now that I had my car back in tip top shape, the rainy, muddy concert in retrospect seemed well worth it.

I highly recommend getting a power washer as you can certainly tell from this blog. There are great ones online at all ranges of price. You can get a basic model for semi-industrial use and you will have it for the walk ways, garage floor, walls, and patio to boot.