The Belated Father’s Day Post

Not belated because I forgot, or anything stupid like that. Belated because I don’t normally post on Sundays. Okay, so maybe it is a stupid reason. But sticking to a schedule helps me avoid slacking off. For the same reason, I work on novels in the afternoon–so I can start at the same time every day, even when I’m working on blog posts in the morning.

Bad night’s sleep? Doesn’t matter. Gotta write a blog post. Distracted by something shiny (or ragged and cat-eating)? Tough. Go write some words of fiction.

Dad was mildly amused by my schedule adherence, but he understood. “Do what works for you,” is a bit of writing advice that made perfect sense to him. Much as he loved word processing, he absolutely couldn’t edit on a computer. He printed every draft, edited it with a pencil, and then typed his changes in. Which mildly amused me, but again, it worked for him.

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Last week, I linked a story in the Sedalia Democrat about the Smith-Cotton High School String Orchestra appearing at the Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival, and promised more words about their appearance. These are those words.

The short version, for anyone who finds the Democrat’s website annoyingly hard to use, is that the high school orchestra’s appearance was supported by the Larry Karp Memorial Fund. See, when Dad died, we asked that contributions in his name to be made to the Scott Joplin Ragtime Foundation. We–and the foundation–were amazed and pleased at the number of donations, and we all agreed there was an opportunity to do more than simply add the funds to the foundation’s general budget.

I often say that Dad was a storyteller. It’s no accident that he gravitated to baseball and ragtime: both are fields with enough stories to fill every library in the world. Dad liked teaching in the classic sense, but he outright loved teaching by telling stories. He could, and frequently did, talk ragtime for hours*. One of the reasons he enjoyed research was for the stream of new stories it brought him. When he started looking into Brun Campbell–a storyteller himself–the stream turned into something more like the Columbia River.

* Baseball, too, but there are more storytellers working that beat than spinning ragtime yarns.

Any community needs new blood to live. And Dad worried there might not be enough new ragtimers coming in to keep the music alive. When a new “Ragtime Kid”–a young talent consumed by the need to play ragtime–came along, he was delighted. Using the money donated in his name, not for immediate needs, but to teach the next generation of ragtimers was an easy call.

What that’s going to look like is still up in the air. We’ve got some immediate plans, and some ideas for the medium- and long-term, all aimed at getting a new generation interested in ragtime and its stories. But no project succeeds if it never gets started. We threw a whole lot of ideas around for where to start. Bringing the Smith-Cotton students to the festival this year was where we wound up. We got a couple of dozen students and their families to the festival. That’s a win no matter how you look at it. If only one of those dozens sticks with ragtime, whether as a performer, researcher, or listener, then it’s a major victory.

Now that we’ve started, we need to keep going. And that means we need to keep the fund healthy. (You knew there was a commercial message coming, right?)

I mentioned last week that the festival was somewhat smaller this year than in the past. Money’s tight all over, but especially so for art programs. We’d love some help.

If you’re willing to lend a hand, please drop a note to sjfsedalia@gmail.com.

Thanks from Dad, from the whole family, and from the entire ragtime community.

Getting Back to Normal

Let’s start this assortment of short items with another vacation-followup bit.

Yes, I did come home with some CDs.

An aside here: it’s true that musicians get paid for performances. But it’s not a living wage for anyone but the most popular superstars–and it’s open to question whether they make a profit on their appearances. So if you want to support your favorite musicians, don’t just go to their shows. Buy merchandise. CDs, t-shirts, bumper stickers, whatever appeals to you.

Did I get CDs from everyone I liked at the festival? Nope. Even if I could have afforded to buy that many CDs, I would have had to buy another suitcase just to bring them home. That seemed a trifle excessive. On the other hand, it would have given me enough new music to keep me occupied for months. Hmm.

But I did get a few discs, and it seems like a friendly gesture to point you all at some of the performers who made the biggest impressions on me.

Brian Holland and Danny Coots are an awesome duo* (and Brian is pretty darn good on his own, for that matter.) Their discs cover a wide range–ragtime, swing, blues, and more etceteras than my fingers are willing to type–and not always in separate pieces. One particular highlight of the Two Man Job CD is “Solace in the Blue Bayou,” which successfully mixes Scott Joplin circa 1909 and Roy Orbison from half a century later.

* Brian was also the artistic director of this year’s festival. Remember those comments about it being the best ever? Much of the credit for that should go to Brian.

Then there’s Tom Brier. He’s made a minor splash on the Web for his sight-reading ability and flying fingers, but his original compositions are, IMNSHO, where he shines. Check out “Peril in Pantomime” on his 2008 CD Blue Sahara. Unfortunately, Tom doesn’t have a website to showcase his music and sell CDs, so you’ll have to hunt the discs down. Try the usual venues for starters.

Finally–at least for today–we come to Sébastien Troendlé, a French performer whose first American appearance was this year’s festival. His roots are firmly in boogie-woogie, but none of the ragtimers at the festival seemed to hold that against him. Check out the teaser video for his “Rag’n Boogie” CD and a live performance at the Festival international de Boogie-Woogie de Laroquebrou. Then go pick up copy of the disc.


Moving on to something music-related, but with absolutely no connection to ragtime. It is, however, silly.

According to Gizmodo, Mattel is releasing a set of Hot Wheels vehicles commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.

The submarine…uh…car is unquestionably the best of the seven, although there’s much to be said for the four vehicles emblazoned with the faces of the Fab Four. On the other hand, the less said about the weird yellow tractor-like thing with the pink bumpers the better.

I have to question Mattel’s decision to put Blue Meanies on the VW Microbus. Sure, VW brought its current woes on itself, but I’m inclined to think that associating them with the villains of the movie smacks more than a bit of a gratuitous kick to sensitive tissue. After all, nobody ever expected a Microbus to be either fuel-efficient or non-polluting.

Even so, as a long-time Beatles fan, and an even-longer Hot Wheels fan*, I suspect I’ll be picking up a couple of the cars (or should that be “cars”?) when they’re released later this month.

* I’m sure my parents could tell many a story of the way my room was festooned with orange plastic race track in my tween years…


Moving on again, this time to something that has no relationship to music, but which is silly.

How about a cat brush. A very special cat brush.

It’s designed to let you lick your cat. After all, why should the felines be the only ones doing the licking in your relationship?

Relax, your actual tongue never makes contact with fur, nor does the group behind this Kickstarter expect you to get your cat’s attention by sticking your nose up his or her rear end.

I’m dubious about the psychological benefits both parties will supposedly receive by using this brush. I’ll admit that we’ve got a few, more conventional, brushes made of similar materials and that our cats seem to enjoy being brushed with them.

But all of our cats start shifting around nervously when our faces get close to their bodies. And the cats shown on the Kickstarter project seem to range from martyred acceptance to befuddled discomfort.

The project is fully funded, and there doesn’t seem to be any technical barrier to the construction of the LICKI Brush, so I expect them to show up in buyers’ hands early next year. Really, though, I hope most of the backers are considering them novelty items, rather than something they’ll use regularly.