Tuesday, February 26, 2008

What the Heck Have I been doing with myself?

Those of you who know me, (and I think that very few people are reading this who don't know me personally), understand that I have a number of hobbies that I dabble in, and that I tend to fall into one or two for a time, then burn out a bit and turn to something else, then fall out of that and back to the other, or to something new for a time, eventually getting a little bored or antsy and on and on... It's something I kind of both like and dislike about myself, sometimes fighting against it, sometimes just letting myself drift with my fancies. I like exploring many different interests, but I also regret not accomplishing more by really devoting myself to one (or even just two or three!). I'm in the midst of a somewhat successful campaign to rectify this with some consistent efforts at writing fiction over the last three years, but even there I've had long down periods, uninspired, unmotivated, or just occupied with other things. Birding, cooking, music are other wide-ranging hobbies that I spend time jumping around in.

Currently, I'm absorbed in music-making. I just bought a new guitar, and have been trying to put together a set of favorite songs, sort of, with the chords and words memorized and an enjoyable performance worked out so that I can have fun with it, by myself or with singalongs, etc. A few choice Beatles numbers, of course, with Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, Lucinda Williams, Roy Orbison, Beach Boys, The Band, etc in there as well. I'm also trying to learn some fingerstyle guitar, a hard boat to row for me. The ring finger on my right hand is incredibly weak and uncoordinated, but I'm trying to stick with it for now, as I see it slowly coming along (practice really does work, if you stick with it). If I could someday just work myself up to a few of the gentler John Fahey pieces (like Sligo River Blues) I would be ecstatic, though a smooth performance of Freight Train would make me happy right now.

I'm also falling again into a semi-obsessive exploration of Irish music, after not paying too much attention to it since the summer. There is really a lot of exciting music out there. Some favorites: The early Chieftains, for their gentle vibe and eerie echoes of ancient Ireland; Planxty, for their diverse, creative arrangements and virtuosic playing; Liz Carroll for the utterly infectious joy of her playing; Tommy Peoples, for his rustic, dense and uniquely percussive style; Paul Brady, for his spine-tingling voice... I've been learning a few new tunes as well, and have finally started to get the feel of jigs, I think. My favorite tune at the moment is a jig called Old Hag You Have Killed Me, which I've learned off of the Bothy Band's second album (titled Old Hag You Have Killed Me). I think I like the names of the tunes as much as the tunes themselves - The Banshee, the Rakes of Kildare, the Monahan Twig, Jennie's Welcome to Charlie, The Maid Behind the Bar, Junior Crehan's Favorite, Merrily Kissed the Quaker - so humorous, absurd or prosaic, simple, evocative, a symbolic little slice of life. I'm trying to motivate myself to start going to a few sessions here and there, which I know I would enjoy, but I'm just such a homebody.

I've also been going through some tutorials for GarageBand with my new MacBook, and hope to do some recording again soon, after not doing any for five or six years. Maybe even do some writing again (music, that is), though I'll probably start by just exploring a few favorite tunes (and maybe a song or two). I have a hankering to record Roy Orbison's Blue Bayou, for some reason, as if I could ever hope to even be a distant shadow of his voice (or Linda Ronstadt's, whose version of that song for the Muppet Show is an all-time favorite for me).

Writing-wise, I'm working on a short-story, a ghost-story of sorts, about a boy who encounters a barn owl in an old abandoned house, and is followed by it and begins to suspect... well it's a work in progress I guess.

Back to school, now...sorry for the rambling, self-involved post. What else are blogs for?


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