Nothing Beats A Failure But A Try

So, my sourdough bread attempts turned out to be excellent birdseed.

Give me some dry yeast, and I can make a loaf of bread as good or better than any you ever tasted.

Give me only sourdough to work with and things go sour. Real sour.

The first loaf looked reminiscent of the monster from It Conquered The World. The second loaf looked like my honey wheat bread, but it smelled and tasted like sauerkraut.

Neither loaf went to waste. I threw them out back and the birds devoured every crumb.

Every day I work with music students. It always surprises me how apologetic we can be when we make a mistake on our first attempt. We expect ourselves to pick up a banjo or bake a loaf of bread without ever going through a learning process.

When I made the first loaf, I forgot to subtract the liquid and flour content of the starter from the recipe. I’ll figure out what went wrong with the second loaf before I start the third. Oh, don’t kid yourself. There will be a third.

Folks, there is no shame is failure or mistakes. It is how we learn. I started messing with Linux back with a boxed copy of Mandrake from the Walmart in Pokomoke City, MD. I would wreak havoc on my computer as I tried to understand how it all worked. When I got it running, I would tear it down and start over again.

You can’t be afraid of the system you are trying to learn.

When my father and I started out on radio, the owner of WKHI 106.5 FM said, “Do whatever you want. Nobody is going to listen, anyway.”

We jumped in without thinking about the repercussions. Nobody ever bothered to show us how anything worked! I taught myself how to produce, co-host and engineer a live radio show while we were broadcasting. A year later we were the top-rated Sunday night show in our broadcast area. People out of range started trading tapes of old shows and bolting radio antennas to the roof. It got so crazy that commercials started interfering with the programming.

Opry Sunday Night was by no means a perfect show. We had no target audience other than ourselves. We played the music we liked, Everything from metal to polka. Classic country, bluegrass and old 78 records. When we got a terrible record, we played a bit of it, shot that turkey out of the sky and gave the CD to an unlucky caller. We had live music, interviews with legendary musicians and the two of us savaging each other. The police showed up twice, the station parking lot became a sort of tailgate party and we gave banjo lessons live on the air. It worked because we were willing to try anything.

The station owner took all the credit and the ratings dropped like a rock after we moved on.

At 7:00 PM Eastern Time this Wednesday, we will be firing up Zoom to launch the first meeting of The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society. We have done a crazy amount of work to get things to this point, but there is no way to know exactly what is going to happen when the camera goes live.

You cannot die from embarrassment. I know this to be a fact. When Amy and I were dating, I wanted to make our first Valentine’s Day together nice for her. I reserved a table at a nice restaurant, got her flowers…

I realized on my way to the date that I was not dressed for the occasion. I stopped at Target, found a pair of slacks that were close to my size and ducked into a fitting room to try them on. As I was trying to get the pants on, I tripped and fell backwards, tearing the door off its hinges and landing flat on my back, feet in the air and pants wrapped around my ankles.

So, no. You can’t die from embarrassment.

Sometime tomorrow I will be posting information on how you can take part in The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society. Don’t expect us to know exactly what will happen, and at the same time don’t be afraid to join in on the fun. One lesson I have learned well in my fifty years around the sun is that life is short. Don’t miss out. Come and play with us.

Get Ready For The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society!

Updates on the first meeting. Scheduled for Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society meets on Zoom every Wednesday evening starting at 7:00 PM Eastern Time. For time conversion help go to timeanddate.com

Pat and Patrick Costello are the primary hosts of the meetings.
Patrick will be posting instructions on how to sign in over the next couple of days.

The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society is a combination jam session, workshop, bull session, and general celebration of music.

The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society began in Wayne, Pa at Kitt Foster’s house. Patrick met Paul the Beatnik at the Radnor Library and convinced him to give his father a frailing banjo lesson in exchange for lunch at the family’s hoagie shop. The initial meeting led to a weekly session. That led to a rag-tag group slowly forming and becoming an extended family over the years.

Paul was a Washington Square beatnik with ties to musicians like Dave Van Ronk, Bob Dylan, and Rambin’ Jack Elliott. Paul wanted us all to learn not only to play but also to teach and lead a jam.

We will be continuing that tradition as we revive The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society. We want an open exchange of ideas that ignores the nonsense surrounding genres and instruments.

You must be a musician to join The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society. Meetings are not open to an audience. We do not record meetings. These rules are in place to ensure that musicians of every level can share music, tips, and stories in a safe, non-judgmental, non-confrontational, and non-commercial space.

Any musician can join and take part in meetings of The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society. Music is a universal language. There are only twelve notes.

We go round-robin in each meeting. Every musician can call a song, ask a question, or offer a pointer.

Guidelines:

  1. Patrick is not tech support!
  2. Be in tune before you log in!
  3. Be nice. We are streaming video feeds into the homes of other musicians, so mind your manners. If Patrick can make it through a meeting without swearing or saying something rude, so can you.
  4. Respect your fellow musicians by being yourself. Do not misrepresent playing ability or experience.
  5. Go by your first name and where you are e.g. Patrick in Crisfield, MD. No handles.
  6. All Songs are welcome but be aware of content. We all know where the line is. Do not cross it!
  7. If you call a song you sing it. Use raised foot to end the song, or just say “raising my foot!”
  8. Stick to one tuning (your choice) through the session. Switching around distracts and wastes time.
  9. Please respect our member’s privacy both on and offline.
  10. Be courteous. Do not talk over each other.

Bread and the Whine of a Linux DVD Installing

Yesterday we ran out of yeast. I can’t find any in stores here on the Eastern Shore. Thankfully, I am prepared! “Here, fido!”

Fido is the name I gave to my tub of sourdough starter. It’s alive and I take care of it, so it’s like a pet. A pet that poops delicious bread.

I named it Fido as shorthand for infinite dough. Well, I thought it was clever…

It’s kind of cool. When I was little after seeing The Blob for the first time I wanted a pet blob of my own. Now I have one!

Anyway, a sourdough starter is just a culture of wild yeast fungus found naturally in the air we breathe. You just take some flour, add water and let the wild yeast in the air move in and start farting the place up.

Quick breads use a chemical leavening agent like baking powder, baking soda or bakers ammonia to create air bubbles in the dough to create a light and airy texture.

Yeast breads allow yeast to consume the carbohydrates in the flour. The yeast then happily farts carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide fills the dough with air bubbles while the fermentation adds nutrition and flavor to the bread.

Most modern bread recepies use a dried yeast that must be proofed and sometimes contain ingredients that speed up the leavening process and maybe add in some vitamin C to make the dough less springy.

Sourdough starter is the same yeast, but it works much slower. This means you have to be patient with it, but it also means the slow fermentation is going to make the bread taste better.

Up until now, I have been supplementing my starter by tossing a bit of proofed dry yeast into the dough to get the sourdough taste without the long rise time.

Well, last night I made a loaf of my soft honey wheat with only sourdough starter. After hearing horror stories about the difficulties of pure sourdough bread I was hesitant, but it turns out that bad advice is not limited to banjo forums. After letting the dough rise overnight it is fluffy and beautiful. After breakfast, I’ll get it in the oven.

Tonight I’ll make some pizza dough and let it ferment in the refrigerator until Sunday night. Maybe get a few loaves of white bread rising.

In other news, since we are gearing up for the inaugural meeting of The Banjo and Donut Marching Society, I am also switching back from Windows 10 to Linux. I’ll keep one Win box in the house for running stuff that needs that platform, but my main work computers are loading my favorite distro as we speak.

Writing this it hit me that I am at this moment setting up a bunch of Linux boxes, I have an iPad plugged into a Zoom U-24 audio interface, a book in progress being written longhand, my camera is dusted off and I have homemade bread made with sourdough starter ready to toss in the oven. I guess turning 50 has done nothing to diminish curiosity, creativity, or artistic instincts!

The Wednesday Night Banjo & Donut Marching Society

The first meeting of The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society since the 80s will be taking place soon.

The Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society is not a show, performance or workshop. It is a live web meeting where up to 100 musicians of all levels (we will be upping the capacity as we roll along) can share ideas and learn things that tend to get overlooked in the cults of personality that surround a lot of online music today.

We will be posting information on how to join the Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society soon along with what to expect during the first meeting.

We have also set up a Facebook group where you can get information and do the social media thing: https://www.facebook.com/groups/662984850936825

Stay tuned for more updates!

Distance

On Sunday, Dear Old Dad drove me out to the medical marijuana dispensary in Ocean City. We were early, so I ran into the grocery store to pick up a few things. I need flour and it seems there is none to be found anywhere on the Eastern Shore.

As I was going through the produce department (I was wearing a mask) and the young lady tending the shelves started apologizing right away because they were out of oranges.

I assured her that I did not need oranges and thanked her for the work she was doing.

It must have been something she needed to hear because she started to sob. “People come in and they get so angry and there is nothing I can do! I can only stock what they ship me.”

She said more, but she was wearing a mask and I don’t have hearing aids anymore. I got enough of her story to understand and sympathize. I held my arms open.

She looked confused.

“I’m giving you a hug. I figure this is the best we can do with social distancing.”

She stepped forward saying, “Oh, you are giving me that hug.”

I am not ashamed to admit that Covid-19 scares the hell out of me. That did not stop me from hugging her close and telling her it was going to be okay.

I just thought with the isolation, protests, hoarding, profiteering, misinformation, sickness, and death going around it might be nice to read that people are still capable of being kind to each other.

Two Important Announcements

1.) Pop-Tarts Pretzel-Chocolate is the most disgusting thing on the face of the earth.

It’s like drinking pancake syrup, eating stale Chex-mix and then throwing up into a stiff breeze.

The texture is bad. The smell is bad. The taste is bad. The aftertaste gave me flashbacks of the train station in Camden, NJ.

If I were reviewing this like a wine snob I would say “It is a lackluster blend with overtones of oak, leather, urinal cake, stale candy from the bottom of grandma’s purse and wombat dung.

2.) The Wednesday Night Banjo and Doughnut Marching Society is reconvening.

If you don’t know why this is important, go read Just This Banjo.

The original Wednesday Night Banjo and Doughnut Marching Society was like a beatnik version of The School of Athens. We were all students and we were all teachers. There were moments of instruction, moments of jamming and a lot of talk about everything imaginable in the moments in between.

If there ever was a time when folk musicians could get together to share songs, licks and stories in a noncommercial and noncompetitive environment it is now. Stay tuned for information on how to take part in this free interactive online celebration of the spirit of folk music.