Feed Us A Live Insect

Friday, September 29, 2006


Please raise a glass for our wonderful dog, Penny. She was a very sweet, very tough old girl, but after years of gradually losing mobility from hip displacement she went into a sharp decline starting about two weeks ago and got worse and worse very fast. She was in chronic pain from her hips, and so was on increasingly huge doses of medications to make her comfortable and keep her able to walk--but in turn those meds were destroying her liver and making her really, really sick. We knew she was in trouble when she suddenly stopped being able to go on walks with our other dog (she'd make it to the end of the block and collapse, and I'd have to carry her home--she weighed about 60 pounds), and then on Tuesday she stopped being able to walk at all by herself and was vomiting uncontrollably. She went into the vet's on Wednesday morning and stayed there overnight for observation, and when we went to get her yesterday evening she was so weak and miserable and her prognosis so bad that we accepted the vet's advice and had her euthanized. It was hard to see her go like this--as of two weeks ago she was still her normal self, and it's as if she just sort of fell apart all of the sudden.

Penny was already an old dog when we got her from the pound, and had apparently been through a lot. She wound up in the pound because she was one of the dogs that a woman had "hoarded," as they say--this lady had started out as a rescuer, specializing in pit bulls, but had stopped placing her dogs in homes and started keeping them for herself. By the time animal control caught up with her she had about eighty dogs crammed into a two-bedroom house in Glendale. They were stacked on top of each other in those portable dog carrier things, and (as the lady had skipped town just prior to her arrest) had been left without food or water for four days in the middle of summer, in 100+ temperatures without air conditioning.

We don't know how long Penny had to live in the carrier, or what her life was like before she'd been "rescued" by the hoarder, but it didn't really seem to affect her disposition much. She wasn't skittish or squirrly (although she didn't like to be walked by anyone except Mary or me) and was downright calm and easygoing all of the time. In fact, I didn't even see her at first when we visited the pound, as she was basically the only dog in the whole place who wasn't trying to leap out of its cage and devour us and our other dog. When I finally spotted her she just got up nonchalantly and kinda sidled up to the edge of the cage so I could scratch her through the bars. I knew right then we were taking her home.

It's really, really quiet in the house without her now. She was a real doggy dog--she smelled bad, she farted (a lot), she snored, she groomed her genitals loudly, she would get up multiple times in the middle of the night to go tapping across the living room with her nails, she ate feces. I mean she was disgusting, really. And she was clever: once I was walking her and looked down to see that she had half a sandwich in her mouth--where she got it, I have no idea. On her last good day, last Sunday, when she was still pretty much herself, she stole and ate half a pizza off of a card table when we weren't looking. I was proud of her, and I'm glad she got it.

Goodbye, Penny. I miss you.

(note: I gotta scan her picture. I'll put it up here as soon as I can).

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Rock-It, Hawthorne, with E>K>U>K

Since our video release show was postponed until October, we just had two September shows, which is never really enough for my taste...this one was down in Hawthorne with E>K>U>K. We actually played The Rockit a couple of times about two years back. I remember one of those shows very fondly, there were a whole bunch of older folks (in their 50's and 60's, I think) dancing around drunk to "The Spandex Hitman." At one point--my memory is kind of foggy on this--a largish lady in her 40's started yelling at me from the audience, something like "can I be your girlfriend??" I said, well, let's see what my wife says about that. The lady says back: "I don't see no ring!" I show her my ring. "I don't see no wife!" I point at the drummer. The lady compromises by jumping onstage and go-go dancing next to Mary through the rest of our set. She was awe-inspiring. Ahh, my sweet. Where are you now?

Oh, one thing: it looks as if we're going to be slimming back down to a 2-to-3-piece for the immediate future. Several Big Band Monolators have had to bow out recently for various reasons, and 8-Bit is out on tour, so we're going to be returning to duo status--at least for the Mr. T's show coming up on the 6th. For our video premiere the plan is to play as a foursome, with Andy back on bass and Wendy from The Sweet Hurt on keyboards! But even so--I want to take a moment to thank all of our friends who gave their time, sweat, and cowbell-banging expertise to us over the past few months. You're all wonderful people and we wish you godspeed!

Monday, September 11, 2006

April's last show, and some balloon bass

I should have posted this a week ago...except that I was busy working on my cupcake baking skills (how could I have gotten so far in life without ever having made cupcakes solo?) and was spending time with this amazing book. I made "The Classic Cupcake," with pink vanilla butter cream frosting. It went well except that the frosting turned out too soupy (too much milk) and so we had to add about two full extra cups of powdered sugar before it would 'set' right. And now they are done...mmmmm...so much sugar that it burns going down!

Anyhow--last Friday, the first, was our monthly Mr. T's show, and it was April's last night with the big band--she's moving to Merced. Thanks April, we're going to miss you and George! Oh and it was also Allie's birthday! No Raymond this time, sadly. Apart from that it wasn't too eventful, except that there was a nice big crowd, bigger than we're used to, for sure.

But what I really wanted to tell you about was the band I saw on Sunday night at Mr. T's, Unpoppable. Now this band is a duo, guitar and bass--except that the bass is made out of a balloon. Really. This is a little hard to describe, so take a look at this picture that I stole off of their website:

The bassist in question is named Addi, and that blue balloon is his bass. See, the inflated balloon is kind of the bass's body, the resonator, and the long skinny string-looking thing is a second (deflated) balloon that is somehow attached to the inflated one. It's not tied on, it actually goes straight into the big balloon's body. How? I don't really know. Divine providence? Anyway, the stringy balloon can be stretched and loosened by pulling on it, and that's what Addi plucks to make the bass notes--kind of the same idea as a washtub bass. And, in fact, here he is explaining how it works:

Addi is pretty much a master at knowing exactly how much to stretch the string balloon to get certain notes, and it's hooked up via contact mic to an amplifier. The thing is that this contraption sounds scarily like an upright bass. If you get a chance to see these guys, you must do it for sure. Unpoppable is a spare, kind of jazzy/bluesy, mostly instrumental kind of band, and is a pleasure to watch. When I saw them they performed with an accordianist/cornetist, which added a lot, and Addi brought out a second balloon instrument: a huge balloon attached somehow to one of those big springs that go on the wheels of a car. This was also contact-mic'd, and when he tapped the spring with a mallet it made incredible booming gong sounds through the amp. This reminds me of when I had a contact microphone back in college and would play things like my floor lamp through my amplifier. Awesome, now I have to do that kind of thing again!

Incidentally, Addi is probably best known as a professional balloon hat artist. He travels the world making hats out of balloons for people. Genius? Why yes, I'm fairly certain that this qualifies!

One thing really became clear to me at the Unpoppable show...which is how unqiue Mr. T's is. There really aren't too many places in Los Angeles that would host an all-experimental-instrumental-band night, and have the place pretty much packed. I'm sure Arlo has a lot to do with this. It's amazing, I walk in and Arlo says hi, I see Elizabeth from Smells Like Flan and Andrew from Cat Hair Ensemble hanging out, everybody's having a good time...it feels like home in a way that I've never felt anywhere else. I heart Mr. T's.