Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Plectrum (thanks for the title AJ)

While in Kentucky several weeks ago, my oldest son showed my youngest son a very strange lookin guitar pick. I'm sure you can pick which one I'm referring to in the above photo. I was intrigued and decided to contact the maker of these oddball picks to see if I might be allowed to sample a few and compare them to the more traditional picks I use.

I've been almost completely oblivious to any other shape over the 40 or more years that I've been playin and pickin acoustic guitar. I've fashioned a quick pick from various objects when the need arose: some plastic lids can be carved into nice pointy picks; one of the thicker pointy tines from a plastic comb will do in a pinch; old style pull tabs from aluminum cans were used as emergency plectrums (losing a pick in grass during a new moon at midnight constitutes an emergency to some pickers); remember paper matches? I've used the empty packet, folded a few times; wooden match sticks, gently plucked, will pick; a flat, smooth, ultra thin rock, and many other forgotten picks made from whatever was on hand have all been picks to this picker.

But I've never used a fully rounded pick, 360 degrees of round, until about a week ago when I received a sampling from the folks at Pointless Picks/Completely Oblivious. Doug and Beverly Larson and John Pallister - thanks for the samples.

My sampling included three different guages of thickness. I don't know the exact measurements so I'll use thick, medium, and thin. I use mostly medium guage picks for acoustic guitar, and thin for electric, which I rarely play. The heavier guage thick picks were never to my liking, although I've heard they were one of Stevie Ray Vaughan's most used guages (I think he also used heavy guage guitar strings as well).

As a bluegrass guitar picker, the round, pointless picks didn't give me the same "feel" or sound I was used to getting from the pointier picks, especially when doing what is called flatpickin. Tony Rice can show you what I mean by that, so can Doc Watson (Doc played a large role in popularizing the flatpickin guitar style used by many top name bluegrass guitar pickers). I make no claims as being anywhere near as good as the two pickers I just mentioned, but I've been at it long enough to know when I'm using an appropriate pick for my style.

Unfortunately for the folks at Pointless Picks, I didn't find their discoid plectrum a suitable match for my method of pickin. Which isn't to say Pointless Picks are pointless. If you're a picker who mostly strums, using a pointless pick might be to your liking. I found it somewhat likelier that I would use such a pick for strumming or playin rhythm guitar. I think it has something to do with the dynamics of sound made from a pointy object plucking a string, as compared to a curved, or mostly rounded object. There's a certain distinction of clarity I felt and heard when doing my comparison picking.

However, you should note that many musicians and gobs of gardeners tend to give subjective reviews when blogging about any particular plants or picks they might be considering for their gardens or pockets. And since Pointless Picks was voted "Best in Show" at last summer's NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) trade show, it's obvious objectivism still exists.


Two Pickers

Monday, April 27, 2009

Perhaps another poem

Weedless Hook

Senseless order
invented by Dionysus
and Apollo
became the weeds
in my garden.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Monday, April 20, 2009

Writer's Block

I've never been afflicted with the condition myself. Thank the good Lord! It seems I'm getting more opportunities to write now than in times past, and "That's a good thing" (one of my favorite Martha Stewart quotes). I think compensation for my words blocks writer's block. I used to hear "we can't offer pay right now, but it's a good way to get your name out there" a lot! Please know this: I don't want my name out there if it's not helping pay a few bills around the old homestead. And lately I've had truck maintenance that's racked up a rather hefty debt. So if any of the folks I've sent resumes to are reading this, if you want me to write something for you for free, well, I just can't afford to.

Now that you know I'll be busy "working" for the next several days, you'll understand why I can't write about our trip to Kentucky right now. But isn't it very considerate of me to provide you with an explanation, and a few more pictures from my hometown down along the banks of the Green River? I guess I should also tell you that my wife planted peas, onions, lettuce, radishes, spinach, parsly, cilantro (tastes like soap!), larkspur, and dill this past weekend. What was I doing while she was laboring in the garden? Pickin and grinnin with The Doghouse Three at practice. (We're on the stage again this Saturday night.)

Here's those pictures:

Japanese quince must be great for underpasses. This was along I-65 South in Kentucky and we passed numerous large clumps like this one on both sides of underpasses. Why do you suppose it's utilized in this way?

No trip to Kentucky would be complete without a stop at one of my favorite greasy spoons! What's great about it (if you can call eating "belly bombers" great) is that my Yankee family loves them too!

Too loud??

Do any of y'all recognize this yard game? We had a blast playing it the day before we left Kentucky.

Peace babies!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Long traffic jams, I'm talkin seven miles, are not conducive to enjoyable drives.

I-71, lookin north

I-71 lookin south

By the time we got to the point of cause, traffic was speeding up and I wasn't able to take a photo of the obstruction. I think if I had slowed down to take a photo, I might have been attacked. I'm not sure what the object was but it was situated on two long trailers that spanned the width of almost both lanes. Half of the trailers were on the shoulder and the other halves were in the right hand lane, blocking that lane of traffic. It was a short 50 yards or so that caused a 7 mile jam of traffic! (Click on each picture for a larger, more defined view.)

I have a 512 MB flash card full of pictures that I've yet to download.

(I used my cell phone to take the above photos, it's my excuse for the lack of quality. We were on the return trip back to PA from KY.)

Saturday, April 11, 2009


How to Read a Poem: Beginner's Manual
by Pamela Spiro Wagner

First, forget everything you have learned,
that poetry is difficult,
that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,
with your high school equivalency diploma,
your steel-tipped boots,
or your white-collar misunderstandings.

Do not assume meanings hidden from you:
the best poems mean what they say and say it.

To read poetry requires only courage
enough to leap from the edge
and trust.

Treat a poem like dirt,
humus rich and heavy from the garden.
Later it will become the fat tomatoes
and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.

Poetry demands surrender,
language saying what is true,
doing holy things to the ordinary.

Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun.

When you can name five poets
without including Bob Dylan,
when you exceed your quota
and don't even notice,
close this manual.

Monday, April 6, 2009


The four of us will be taking a short vacation to Kentucky over the Easter weekend.

I'm not sure if I'll be posting again before we leave. If I don't, I'll probably give a short update sometime after we arrive at our final destination in The Bluegrass State.

April's weather is not to my liking most of the time. So, I think it's appropriate to try and run away from it. We've ran from April before with hopes of finding true spring south of here. It's always there much sooner than it is here. Even after 21 years, I've still not adjusted to zone 5 gardening. I never will.

I always look forward to these treks south - not only do I get to reconnect with my family, I also get to re-energize and strengthen my south-central Kentucky accent.

On April 6, 1991 I married the lady who: has helped me endure 18 zone 5 winters, given me two beautiful children, cooks and cleans after working 8 hours a day, buys the food, does the finances and laundry, takes the kids shopping for new clothes, tells me when I need new jeans, goes to bluegrass concerts with me, ignores me when I'm being unruly and ambivalent, weeds, tends, and plants the herb garden, puts up with my master gardening attitude, and lastly, is the only woman I would die for.

Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April, Spring, and Poetry

"Had to read that crap in school. Didn't like it then and don't like it now."
(A neighbor.)

Many folks don't like poetry, for whatever reason. I, on the other hand, do. And if you've been a reader here for any length of time, you might recollect one or two poems I've posted. I'm not a reader of poetry myself, but I don't need to read it in order to write it. At least that's what I think. And if you think different, and would like to offer a critical analysis of any of my poems throughout the next several days (April is National Poetry Month) please feel free to comment as much or as little as you like.

Words can say whatever you want, or need, them to say. I feel the need, usually in April, in spring, to express myself in poetry. Whether it be one of mine, yours, or from any number of poets, writers, bloggers, school students, politicians (a poet politician??), or whomever.

With the above disclaimer out of the way, I'd like to share with you, during the month of April, an occasional poem that I think is relevant to life, in and out of the garden. We'll start it off with an original.

Self Sown

Another season,
another seed,
another flower,
another bee,
another gardener
on hands and knees,
another lesson,
in humility.