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The Accountant (a brief movie review)

We trundled off to see The Accountant last evening, the new flick with Ben Affleck. This is a fun movie as long as you don’t take it too seriously. Instead, think of it as a comedy. That way you don’t have to struggle suspending your disbelief around the very unlikely plot.

The Accountant is like one of those superhero comic movies, only the protagonist is really really good at math – as well as being a martial arts expert and an ace shot. Oh, and he owns a Renoir and a Pollock. I like movies with characters who appreciate painting, don’t you?

I suspect this film is funnier than the writer, director and producers intended, but don’t worry about that. Just go see it and enjoy.


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Angeline the Baker (banjo practice)

Back in 1850, Stephen Foster published a song called Angelina Baker. Somewhere along the way it morphed into a fiddle tune known as Angeline the Baker. It’s a tune about regret:

I bought Angeline a brand new dress
Neither black nor brown
It was the color of the stormy sky
when the rain comes pouring down

16 horses in my team
The leader he was blind
I dreamed that I was dying
And I saw my Angeline

Angeline the Baker
Angeline I know
I should have married Angeline
20 years ago.

It’s a simple tune, just two chords. Sometimes the best tunes are simplest ones. They are “just so” as if they’ve always been with us, waiting to be voiced.

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True North – the new Lazy Allen story

The latest in my unknown and unpopular short-short fiction series, The Lazy Allen Stories, is up. It’s called True North. I hope you like it.

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A big group photo

I had a look at the Midwest Banjo Camp website this morning and realized I didn’t post the group photo. I’m in there somewhere (left side of the photo, purple shirt, straw hat).Screen Shot 2016-10-20 at 9.32.20 AM.jpg

The next camp is at the beginning of June 2017. I see they once again have an excellent line-up of instructors. I’ve been twice before and if the universe unfolds as it should, I’ll be at the next camp as well.

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Banjo Practice – Greasy Coat

Here’s me attempting to play a strange little old time tune called Greasy Coat. This is in A-modal or sawmill tuning, and as usual I’m playing clawhammer, which is the only way I know how to play.

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What’s in a name?

I had a late morning dentist appointment today to have a filling replaced. My dentist is located way across town (I’ve been getting my teeth maintained there for 30 years) and it is hard to predict how long it is going to take to get there. Today traffic was light and I was twenty-some minutes early. I parked my car and wandered across the street to the local Five-bucks. I figured anyone getting dental work done deserves a latte.

I ordered up my beverage and the person on cash asked for my name…for the cup. This was silly since they were not busy, but I gave my name. I know I should have said Fred, but I didn’t. I said my name is Eugene.

She wrote down: Y and said, Y….. waiting for me to tell her the next letter in Eugene. I said, there is no Y in Eugene. She looked at me like I was from Mars. Honest. It’s spelled E U G E N E. She looked at me skeptically. That’ll cost you a 75 cent discount, I said. What? A 75 cent discount. That’s the penalty for spelling Eugene with a Y. I have a naturally loud voice, and I could hear a few customers chuckling. I can’t….oh wait….OK. She gave me a 75 cent discount on my latte. There was only one possible response: that’s why you rock!

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Revisiting the daily paper

Back when I was in the workaday world I was a media guy. It was expected that I was aware of the news and how it related to the company. I looked at a number of key papers across the country on a regular basis – online – and along the way, I lost my taste for reading the daily paper.

Tuffy P reads The Star and The Globe on Saturdays thoroughly (we still get them delivered), but by the time weekends came around, I was done with the news. Part of it was a growing cynicism about how the news is reported, having seen first hand how some media outlets frame, position or twist events to make stories seem more or less significant.

Recently, one of our local papers – the Star –  started delivering a paper to our door each day, even though we did not subscribe. I suppose this was a marketing effort. After a while, I found myself leafing through the paper over morning coffee, checking out stories that interest me, then doing the sudoku and the crossword puzzles. I confess I began enjoying the daily paper again.

Then this week the deliveries stopped. To make a long story short, we’ve decided to subscribe to the daily paper, after not doing so in many years. I realized I liked the newspaper format. Sure finding news online is fine and fast and easy, but there is something about having that package of news in paper format I rediscovered over the past couple weeks. I realized I liked the puzzles on newsprint too. Maybe I’ll tire of these deliveries after a few months. Time will tell.

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Garden Madness

We continue to add things to the back garden.


Blue thing and an industrial spool on a pillar

We bought more old pillars at Nice Old Stuff out in Jarvis Ontario. If it weren’t upside down, and if I didn’t spray paint it blue, the blue thing would be a gold plant stand. I added in an industrial wooden spool. I imagine in its current configuration, it might be handy for detecting incoming UFOs, or perhaps decorating the garden.


We have more whirligigs than we have places to put them. There are usually a couple around in need of a little TLC. I inserted some copper plumbing pipe in this pillar, crimped at the bottom. This allows the steel rod bottom insert of the whirligig to move freely in the pipe to adjust to the wind. When this whirligig is in motion, the turning of the prop causes the carousel to operate. IMG_6735.jpgWith the pillars, along with the gate and the ladder, we now have some height elements at play in the back garden. Next I have some plans for the forested area at the back. If the weather holds, that might be a fall project, but I’m not against waiting until spring to work on it.

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Last night at the Phoenix

Somehow or another Tuffy P and I independently discovered Shovels and Rope on the YouTube machine. As it turned out, whatever kind of music it is they play, we both like it a lot. We even bought some music (in that adorable obsolete format called CDs).

As you may or may not know, not much gets past Tuffy P. She pretty much sees and knows everything. I don’t try to understand it; I just accept it. One day I was marking something on the calendar in our dining room – the paper one with pictures of Newfie dogs which organizes our lives – and noticed “Shovels &Rope” written in for the 11th.

“How come Shovels & Rope is written on our calendar?” I asked.

“Oh yeah, wanna go?”

“Of course.”

They were playing at a joint called The Phoenix. I believe that last time we were there (and this is going to seriously date us), it was called The Diamond Club. This is one of those places where people much younger than us stand for hours, crowded in front of the stage, and don’t complain about how their dogs are howlin’. We decided to go anyway.

Doors open at 8:00. That’s music talk for the opening act might start around 9:00 and the headliner will come on around 10, unless it’s someone with a bad attitude or unless it’s New Orleans (which has different rules). Had we thought about it, we would have showed up around 9:45 so we wouldn’t have to stand around as long.

Instead, we got there at 8:00. They don’t let you go straight into the club. Instead they herd you the roundabout way in to force you to pass the merchandise table. We didn’t make that pitstop. The club was, as I recalled, a big rectangle with high ceilings, various bars and a good-sized stage.

Tuffy P pointed to the staircase leading up to a balcony area and said, “let’s go up there.” We did, and what do you think we found up there? Padded bench seating, that’s what we found. Wahooo! We took a comfy seat at the front of the balcony and I headed to the bar to get us each a beverage. We watched as hundreds of people crowded into the main floor, where they remained for the whole show. It seems Shovels & Rope have quite a following here in Toronto. Who knew?  I believe you know you’ve finally grown up when you have little interest in standing up in a club for an entire evening. Just sayin’.

“Who’s the opener?”, we asked our neighbours. “Some guy with 3 names,” was the reply. It turned out to be Matthew Logan Vasquez, a guy from Austin who showed up with a bass player and a drummer and plenty of ego. He started off by saying “Hello Toronto Motherfucking Canada.” It wasn’t a really great start. Buddy had a twangy sound with an edge about it. Pretty good tunes. Lots of guitar effects. Turns out he was pretty good, even if he closed his 40 minute set with a longish tune (and I use the word loosely) – let’s call it a rocker – he sent out to the late Lemmy.

They did a quick stage set-up and Shovels & Rope came on at about 10:00 and played for an hour and a half. For those who don’t know, Shovels & Rope are a duo from South Carolina. If you were forced to categorize what they do, you might say they play folky-dolky country rock with a punky edge. You could say that but it wouldn’t do them justice. Shovels & Rope are a married couple act – Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst. They’re in their mid-30s and they have some (all good) recordings under their belt.

Shovels & Rope don’t bring any back-up musicians with them, but they tart up the sound by playing multiple instruments. At one point they were both playing keyboards, but Michael was playing guitar at the same time, strumming every few beats (I’m not sure how he managed that) and Cary Ann was playing drums with her left hand while playing the keyboard with her right. They switch off between guitars and drums. Sometimes Michael added in harmonica on a rack, and for one song played mandolin. They get a lot of sound out of two people.

Their songs are remarkably good, and their performance is super-enthusiastic and full of joy. The feeling they get across is they love to play, they love the music and they love the audience. It was a great show! Go see them if they come to your town.