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Banjo Practice: Buckin’ Dun

Here’s a tune that is called Buckin’ Dun in some places and Bob-tailed Mule in others. Take your pick. I learned it at the last Midwest Banjo Camp from Cathy Barton Para. Cathy knows an amazing variety of tunes and she’s a wonderful teacher.

This tune is loads of fun to play.

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Half a boy and half a man…

Since I posted a Los Straitjackets tune the other day, I couldn’t resist following up with this one, featuring the wonderful Nick Lowe. For a very long time I pretty much stopped listening to any pop music, in favour of old time music, button accordion music, polkas, trikitixa and so on…..but I never stopped listening to Nick Lowe.

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Down the street….

Sometimes, when frustrated by the development gold rush in Long Branch, I have to remind myself how fortunate we are to live so close to fantastic spots like Sam Smith Park. Yesterday we took The Partners for a long walk by the lake….



There is lots of fresh beaver activity in the area. The line of ice in the picture above runs out from the newly renovated and expanded beaver lodge. These beavers must be in cahoots with the developers and builders around here, because this is the biggest beaver lodge I’ve seen in a long time. Below you can see evidence of the fresh beaver activity. There is construction everywhere!DSC07459.jpg

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Banjo Practice: a tune for a dreary day

It’s been drizzling all morning here in the southwest corner of Toronto. Further north, periods of freezing rain have been causing grief for motorists. It seems like the kind of day for a weird, melancholy minor key banjo tune, doesn’t it?

This tune is called 41st Avenue, written by Mark Jones. I learned it at Midwest Banjo Camp from Cathy Barton Para, in a workshop about the music of Grandpa Jones, Ramona Jones and the Jones family.

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The OA – how peculiar and refreshing!

Last night we watched the last of the 8 strange episodes which make up the Netflix series, The OA. It is difficult to describe the show without making it sound totally goofy (think multiple dimensions and strange but powerful dance moves), but oddball as the premise might be, The OA is wonderfully compelling and unusual television, and we gobbled it up, one episode after another.

The plot of the series unfolds as the main character tells her story to a disparate group of people gathered in an abandoned house. Her story involves near death experiences, kidnapping, a crazy evil scientist, and an elaborate prison in an abandoned mine. The main character is called Prairie by her adoptive parents, but she rejects that and tells folks she is The OA, as if it is a perfectly reasonable name. We know she disappeared for several years, and we know that she was blind when she disappeared but could see when she returned – and we know she returned with strange scars on her back. What happened? We only know what The OA tells us, but is she a reliable storyteller?

After 8 episodes, there remains a load of questions, and I’m good with that. In my mind, it’s OK to leave it be at this point, without attempting to resolve the story further – although I suspect Netflix will not be able to resist creating more episodes in the future.

The OA is wonderfully imaginative (to the point of being almost wacky), enigmatic and refreshingly difficult to categorize. How did something like this wind up on television?


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Banjo Practice: The St. Anne’s Reel

Back when I was playing a lot of button accordion, I knew this tune as Le Reel de Ste-Anne. These days I play mostly clawhammer banjo and in the banjo world, the tune is more generally known as The St. Anne’s Reel.

Either way, it’s usually played in the key of D and I have my banjo tuned to “double D tuning”, which is aDADE.

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Marrow Island by Alexis M. Smith

I came across Marrow Island on somebody’s list of best books of 2016. I read a brief description of the book and was drawn to the unusual premise.

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Imagine an earthquake in the Pacific Northwest destroys an oil refinery on a remote island, causing really bad environmental damage and leaving the island uninhabitable. The narrator of Marrow Island lost her father during this imaginary earthquake – he was working at the refinery. Now imagine a group of radical environmentalist idealists who populate the island with the idea of cleaning it up using mycelium – mushrooms. Now imagine the narrator is a journalist and her childhood friend lives at the commune. That is the premise for Alexis M. Smith’s novel, Marrow Island.

This novel must have been inspired in part by Paul Stamuts book, Mycelium Running: How mushrooms can help save the world. The idea of mycoremediation is fascinating and Alexis Smith did a great job of presenting a mycoremediation scenerio in her fictional commune.

I liked the story, the narrative voice and the pace of this novel. Regular visitors to this blog know I’m interested in mushrooms and perhaps this special interest helped me identify with what the people at the Marrow Colony were trying to do.