Thoughts From Dear Old Dad: Magnum Fever

More wisdom from the best man I know.
-Patrick

I used to shoot a lot. My two favorite guns were a custom Pennsylvania flintlock rifle and a Colt .45 auto Combat Commander that I carried cocked and locked. I chose the rifle because flintlocks are difficult critters to master. I chose the Colt because it is the best handgun in terms of power, reliability and accuracy. I got real good with both of these firearms because I practiced a lot and I enjoyed shooting. The rifle was used for hunting and target shooting. The Colt was strictly for business. I was licensed to carry and I took that responsibility very seriously. The basic skills needed to master each of these weapons were completely interchangeable. Once you got past the two hundred year technology gap it all came down to sight alignment, sight picture, trigger squeeze and follow through.

I belonged to a gun club in rural Chester County, Pennsylvania. We had regular events that featured various tests of marksmanship. The club had a lot of members so it was inevitable that some of the competitions got really interesting. Like the day the guys with the scoped magnum rifles looked at our flintlocks and just had to mouth off about how we should get some real guns. The same sort of things happened on the pistol range. There was always a Dirty Harry clone toting a fire-belching magnum chiding me about my obsolete .45 Colt.

We let them talk their way into challenging us to a shooting match. Since they made the challenge we got to set the rules. Rifles were at one hundred yards offhand with no slings. Pistols were at twenty five yards standing only.

Guess what?

We never lost. Not once, not ever. The guys with the magnums could not even come close to equaling our marksmanship. The reason is very simple. We could shoot and they could not. They really believed that their choice of ordinance gave them an edge. It was a pleasure to take them to school. Their super powerful firearms were of no use to them in these matches because they could only shoot accurately from a sandbagged shooting bench. Real life seldom furnishes such comforts. They bought those expensive and overpowered guns because the “experts” writing for shooting magazines promised them that the magnum of the month would solve all their problems and make them the envy of the scene. All the focus was on muzzle velocity, trajectory and comparisons to “pre-64” or “pre-war” models of various makers. No one bothered to tell them that none of this matters if you cannot hit what you aim at.

The same sort of mindset is prevalent today in music. Go to any Internet banjo forum and you will see weak musicians touting their latest acquisition. Some even use buying more and more instruments as part of their shtick. They hope to mask lack of ability by redirecting your attention to their buying power. Nonsense phrases such as “authentic old time sound”, “real pre-war tone” or “exotic woods” are often combined with subtle assurances that you can substitute hardware for hard work.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against high-end stuff. There are many fine examples of handcrafted, beautifully decorated instruments out there. I have always advised people to buy the very best they can reasonably afford.

The real problem is a lack of basic skills. The guys at the gun club wanted to be hip and look cool so they bought lots of firearms that they did not understand and could not control. The idea of applying basic shooting principals never entered their minds so they were made to look foolish by real marksmen. The folks who hope to impress us with their “banjo or guitar of the month” choice of instruments often make the same mistake. All we can do is look at them and shake our heads. They are completely lost around real musicians. These folks believe that their magnum instrument and the ability to stumble through a few tunes is all they need.

Remember, you cannot skip over the hard stuff. The basic skills must be mastered and applied. Thousands of silly posts on a forum will not make you a musician. You cannot buy your chops. You will not learn to play by trying to memorize fiddle tunes from tablature. Get grounded in rhythm and timing. Work on playing and singing. Know your chord inversions and the scales that are always within a finger’s reach. Make your favorite instrument your best friend and it will never let you down. Play everywhere and with everyone you can. Don’t become a victim of magnum fever. Pick up that expensive instrument and learn with it. Have fun, ask questions and make mistakes. Just don’t expect anyone who knows oatmeal from mashed potatoes to be impressed until you can do something other than pose with it.

Peace to all,
Pat Costello (Dear Old Dad)

Chapter 8!

Chapter 8 of my book in progress is ready for patrons to download!

https://www.patreon.com/posts/20629798

As you probably know by now, I am writing this book entirely by hand.

I am writing in pencil on legal pads because a neurological problem has made it difficult for me to type.

This download is a first draft with a quick edit. Dear Old Dad will edit it two more times before transcribing it all into Word.

We are numbering the chapters as they are written. They will probably appear in a different order in the finished book.

Once the book is finished we will make the ebook edition available to all our Patreon sponsors.

Chapter 8 tells of my early attempts to learn guitar and how I got my Dobro 33-H

Chapter 7!

Chapter seven of my book-in-progress is available for patrons to download and enjoy.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/20559673

As you probably know by now, I am writing this book entirely by hand.

I am writing in pencil on legal pads because a neurological problem has made it difficult for me to type.

This download is a first draft with a quick edit. Dear Old Dad will edit it two more times before transcribing it all into Word.

We are numbering the chapters as they are written. They will probably appear in a different order in the finished book.

Once the book is finished we will make the ebook edition available to all our Patreon sponsors.

Chapter Seven is about Tiny. Some of you may remember Tiny from The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo.

The Down Neck Gazette: Stan Jay

Back in the early 2000’s Pat and Patrick Costello drove the highways in a classic car filming interviews with folk musicians.

In this episode we visit Stan Jay at Mandolin Brothers!

We normally reserve episodes of The Down Neck Gazette to the Patreon sponsors who are adding support to our new projects. We are making this video available to all so that people can get a glimpse of Stan Jay and his wonderful music shop. We miss you Stan!

https://www.patreon.com/Dobro33H

Note:
This video was compressed back in 2001 in Real Player format, so the quality is less than stellar. We still have all of the tapes from this and the dozens of other interviews we filmed when we were running The Down Neck Gazette. Someday we will have to dive into those archives and save interviews like this for future pickers.

Chapter Six!

The sixth chapter of my book-in-progress is available for the perusal of our Patreon sponsors.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/20371103

As you probably know by now, I am writing this book entirely by hand.

I am writing in pencil on legal pads because a neurological problem has made it difficult for me to type.

This download is a first draft with a quick edit. Dear Old Dad will edit it two more times before transcribing it all into Word.

I write, Dear Old Dad edits and my mom also helps with editing. Pooka sits on my lap while I write and Precious the Chihuahua sits with Dear Old Dad while he is editing. The whole Costello family is involved in the creation of this book!

We are numbering the chapters as they are written. They will probably appear in a different order in the finished book.

Once the book is finished we will make the ebook edition available to all our Patreon sponsors.

Chapter Six is about my adventure with a man named Harmonica Joe.

Pencil and Paper

I am working on a book about my adventures learning how to play the banjo, guitar and other folk instruments.

My circumstances as a young music student were unique. I was dealing with massive hearing loss and epilepsy. I had been exposed to Eastern philosophy as a young martial arts student. My mother taught me to use the tools the good Lord gave me, so I applied concepts from Kenpo karate and Taoism into my explorations into old-time banjo and country blues guitar.

Much has changed over the ensuing years and much is still the same. I am still learning new things every day, but now I am also a teacher. I have BAHA implants to help me hear, but new problems have sprung up to make my path more interesting. Neurological issues are making it difficult for me to type, so I am writing this new book entirely by hand in pencil.

I am writing at a desk that once belonged to my grandfather. He delivered it to me tied to the roof of his Dodge Dart on my eighth birthday. My great-grandmother helped my grandfather run his electrical contractor business from this desk. I feel them both with me as I work.

I write on Amazonbasics legal pads in pencil. I start out with a large quantity of sharpened pencils point-up in mugs and jars. As they go dull I drop them point-down in an empty container.

I am mainly using Blackwing pencils now and I can’t say enough nice things about them. Some of the nicest pencils I have ever used. The Blackwing long-point sharpener actually makes a difference. It is not fast, but the slow pace adds to my Steinbeck-style morning ritual of sharpening enough pencils to get through the day.

I use a shitajiki writing board under the page as I write to keep the pencil point from making an impression on the pages below it.

MUJI erasers work really well for someone who writes with a heavy hand like I do.

Field Notes and Write notepads help me keep my thoughts in order when I have to step away from my desk.

pencils

When I finish a chapter I pass it over to Dear Old Dad. He gives it a quick edit and passes it back to me for scanning.

I scan the chapter to post for our Patreon sponsors. They get the raw unprocessed data that will eventually be organized into a complete work.

After I post the chapter I give the pages back to Dear Old Dad for transcribing to Word, editing and recording for the audio book edition.Dear Old Dad's work station
Scanned Sample Pages:

To give you a taste of what our Patreon sponsors get, here are single-page scans taken from the first page of the first three chapters.

My father takes my handwritten draft and transcribes it into Word. Here us a sample of how that turns out.

I looked up and a middle-aged man was gawking at me like I was a geek in a sideshow. He started laughing and turned to Lefty.“Why is Pillsbury gnawing on a guitar?”

They both started laughing. He made fun of my Converse high tops. He made fun of my Miami Vice tee-shirt. He made fun of my guitar. I started to get mad.

“What’s your problem? Never heard somebody play the blues before?”

He didn’t just laugh at that. He screamed. I thought he was going to go into hysterics. He opened the shop door, leaned out and hollered to somebody, “get in here and take a look at Pillsbury. He says he can play the blues!”

The next thing I know these guys come marching in and all of them think I am the funniest thing they have ever seen. I knew that I had a lot to learn on the guitar, but this was serious ball-busting. I was being mocked and it didn’t feel good, so I mustered up my courage and said, “if you guys are so great, why don’t you teach me something?”

The guy who had started the let’s laugh at Patrick party looked at one the others. They had a silent conversation, with one pointing to his watch and signaling that they had some time. Laughing guy pulled up a stool and sat in front of me. He reached for my guitar, and while it was hard to trust him I handed it over. “Damn, this is a heavy guitar. Okay, Pillsbury, do you know any bass lines like Elmore James played?”

“Who’s Elmore James?”

“Who’s Elmore James! You want to play guitar and you’ve never heard of Elmore James?” The rest of the group voiced their disapproval. “Well, Pillsbury, this is what I’m going to show you.” He took my guitar and made the bass strings ring out in a boogie-woogie rhythm. He started simple and driving and changed the pattern each time through until he had this amazing walking bass happening.

“I want to play like that!” I said.

Several people have encouraged me to move away from my current analog approach to writing and switch to voice to text or write on a tablet computer. I appreciate the input, but I like the simplicity of working with pencil and paper – and I get to have another adventure with my father.

When I do have to type – and the keyboard is inescapable in 2018 – I just take things in very small doses. It took three days with help from Dear Old Dad to put this post together. I move a little slower, but things still get done. Life is good.

Let’s wrap this up with a complete list of my books and essays released under Creative Commons licenses.

Books:


Essays:

 

Chapter Five!

Chapter five of my book in progress is ready to download.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/20215458

As you probably know by now, I am writing this book entirely by hand.

I am writing in pencil on legal pads because a neurological problem has made it difficult for me to type.

This download is a first draft with a quick edit. Dear Old Dad will edit it two more times before transcribing it all into Word.

We are numbering the chapters as they are written. They will probably appear in a different order in the finished book.

Once the book is finished we will make the ebook edition available to all our Patreon sponsors.

In chapter five I write about a jam session in the mountains. Every word of it is true . . . and to this day I still feel bad about the guy I clobbered at the driving range.

Writing The Great American Banjo Novel

Neurological issues have made typing difficult, so I am writing my next book by hand. In this video Dear Old Dad and I share how we are getting the words out of my head onto the page with the tools available.

I write in pencil on legal pads and Dear Old Dad transcribes my Phoenician hen scratches onto the computer.

We are posting edited handwritten chapters on Patreon for our sponsors.
https://www.patreon.com/Dobro33H

New Book News!

Patrick just handed me the next chapter of his new book. This one is a doozy. I will have the first edit back to him tomorrow to scan and upload in longhand for our Patreon subscribers. Then back to me for transcribing and more editing. I am having a ball working with him on this project. As God is my witness it is all true and no names have been changed to protect the guilty.

To watch this book come to life go here
https://www.patreon.com/Dobro33H

Two tests at our local hospital last week with one more (MRI) next week. Them back to the neurologist. Prayers welcome.

Peace to all,
Pat Costello (Dear Old Dad)