Deadheads and Suckers

harmonica

The following song is the last thing I recorded before the harmonica went bad. All it takes is for one note to go flat or sharp and the damn thing’s useless. This makes an even ten in my collection of dead harmonicas.


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A few housekeeping notes: I’ve chosen what I consider my best photos of 2006 and included the link in the “Best of Via Negativa” section of the sidebar. Note that you can also view these as a slideshow.

Along the same lines, I found a dandy widget that lets me place a Flickr slideshow right on the bottom of the sidebar (homepage only). Dial-up folks, please let me know if this makes the download time too long, and I’ll take it off.

Another change I just made was to restrict the sidebar display of Smorgasblog to the home page. For the curious, this involved simply copying the PHP code used to restrict the links (“Other Places”) to the main page, and using it to bracket the Smorgasblog entries — which I still code by hand.

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Dave Bonta (bio) crowd-sources his problems by following his gut, which he shares with 100 trillion of his closest microbial friends — a close-knit, symbiotic community comprising several thousand species of bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In a similarly collaborative fashion, all of Dave's writing is available for reuse and creative remix under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. For attribution in printed material, his name (Dave Bonta) will suffice, but for web use, please link back to the original. Contact him for permission to waive the "share alike" provision (e.g. for use in a conventionally copyrighted work).

19 Comments


  1. I had no idea that harmonicas went bad. This might explain, in part, why I could never play my brother’s old one. May not have only been my own lack of talent.

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  2. Yep. Each note is produced by a tongue of metal that is part of a plate inside the instrument. (I don’t know if this is the correct terminology or not, but you can probably picture what I’m talking about). If rust or a small fracture or something else happens to mess up the pitch of one tongue, the whole plate has to be replaced. The Hohner company doesn’t even bother to provide replacement plates for its Marine Band models, since most people would rather just buy a new harmonica than go to the trouble and expense of replacing a plate.

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  3. Ah, the Marine Band! The harp player in my blues band of the ’80s/’90s had several in each key & he kept them in a 12-gauge shotgun belt, slung over one shoulder, bandolier-fashion. Because blues playing requires the bending of notes, & because of the general energy & attack consistent with ‘maximum R&B’ (to borrow The Who’s early tag-line), he got through scores of Marine Bands annually. He had them all lined up along his mantlepiece.

    I hope you’ll post some more Americana when you buy your next Marine Band, Dave!

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  4. a 12-gauge shotgun belt, slung over one shoulder, bandolier-fashion

    That must’ve been quite a sight!

    Yeah, I’ll try and pick up another one the next time I go into town. Maybe one in G this time. I have a couple of other, larger harmonicas, but neither allow note-bending even of the rather rudimentary sort that I like to do. (Blues harp is beyond me, I’m afraid.)

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  5. “Dial-up folks, please let me know if this makes the download time too long, and I’ll take it off.” Oh, that’s why it’s takin’ so long – ‘course, livin’ out in the boonies doesn’t help.

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  6. Did you notice if it slowed significantly when I added the “Add Feed” button a week and a half ago? That uses javascript too, and sometimes it holds up the sidebar load time even for me, with cable access. I’m not sure how truly useful it is.

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  7. Dave, you’ve got a great deep singing voice and your intonation is well suited for this genre. However, I never thought I’d say this about any music at all, let along right now about your blowin’ and hollerin’, but I think you should slow down a bit.

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  8. O.K., I’ll think about it.

    I could release two versions of each song, one for speed freaks (a.k.a. suckers) and one for stoners (deadheads).

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  9. seems like that was about the same time – I accused my hubs of downloading something that slowed our machine down – so I did a clean up – but a couple of sites – this one especially – just really seemed to chug. Our county commissioners have been investigating the ability to provide high speed service throughout, I just hope it doesn’t take as long as finishing Route 219! LOL.

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  10. Oh lord, you’re in Route 219 country! I’m so sorry you’ns lost out to 220/I-99. Really! You could have all our traffic as far as I’m concerned.

    The video and audio files I’ve been linking to might be slowing it, too. Three YouTube videos in one post was probably a bad idea! Beyond that, I think I have webhost server issues.

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  11. Sounds kind of cliché to say it, but I love the rawness of your voice singing this. No frills, no fuss. Anyone hearing it separated from your blog would be very surprised to know it came from the same person who can dish out highly polished, sophisticated musings. That’s the interesting juxtaposition.

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  12. My musings may be “highly polished and sophisticated,” by I myself most definitely am not, as any of my meat-world friends and acquaintances will tell you. Glad you like the no-frills singing. It’s not for everybody, I realize.

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  13. I liked it very much.

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  14. I like your music.

    Your site is loading as fast as ever here.

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  15. Y’all are entirely too kind.

    Your site is loading as fast as ever here.
    That’s good to hear.

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  16. Late to the party; I had, still have somewhere a two sided Echo harp bequeathed me by my uncle, the only musical member of my family ever. One side was G, the other C but I had to play everything in G because of a bum note on the c side. I liked G better anyway. Nice of you to even think of making any concessions to dialer-ups, it is a bit slow, but we’ll soon be extinct. I hope to be by about March, currently still in the last 3% of France not ADSL covered. Love Via Negativa, don’t get here often enough.

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  17. Last one was me. I’m not really anonymous, just half asleep (most of the time).

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  18. Lucy – Thanks for the comment. I’ve never heard of a harmonica like that! Reminds me of one of those old pulp fiction books that had two novels bound together, each upside-down in relation to the other so that the book had two front covers and no back. I do have a chromatic harmonic where you push a button to get sharps and flats, but unfortunately it’s in the key of C — as is the other working harmonica I have right now. I don’t play them very often because, like you, I don’t particularly care for that key.

    I’m surprised to hear that any part of Western Europe is still on dial-up. Well, I did take out the javascript from feedbutton.com — which sometimes held me up for as long as five seonds, which I figured might translate to half a minute at 58k/sec — and replaced it with a simple link to their page. (After checking out two competitors, I decided that feedbutton does offer the most options.)

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