Supporting Friends Friday: The Music of John Pickett

The local music scene in the Pee Region of South Carolina is surprisingly robust, with some truly stellar musicians.  The creative heart of this scene rests in several open mic nights at local coffee shops.  Currently, the two big open mics to have resumed are at The Purple Fish Coffee Company in Darlington, South Carolina, and at Crema Coffee Bar in Hartsville, South Carolina.  The Fish hosts its open mic on Friday evenings, and Crema hosts its on Tuesday nights.

The other major open mic—probably the most enduring of the current Big Three—was at Lula’s Coffee Company in Florence, South Carolina.  Lula’s, however, has not resumed its legendary Thursday night open mic night—an open mic so artistically fervent, it inspired an entire book of poetry—much to the chagrin and bafflement of its most devoted performers, yours portly included.

But before there were any of these establishments, there was Bean Groovy, a now-defunct coffee shop that used to occupy a magical little bit of strip mall in Florence.  I know the former owner of Bean Groovy—himself a studio engineer in the distant past—and despite some attempts to reopen the establishment at other locations, it’s never made a return.

Nevertheless, Bean Groovy was where I got my start in local music in the Pee Dee, way back in the hazy, halcyon days of circa 2012-2013.  It, along with The Midnight Rooster in Hartsville (still in business, but it’s shifted from being a quirky coffee house into a frou-frou upscale dining establishment) were my old stomping grounds as I broke my way into the region’s open mic scene.

It was at Bean Groovy sometime in probably 2012 or 2013 that I met one of my best friends, John Pickett.  John is an excellent guitarist and singer, and he possesses one of the best ears for music I’ve ever encountered.

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Modern Art and Influence

Most readers of this blog will likely agree with the following sentiment:  “modern art is terrible.”  In my more intellectually generous moments, I’d add “most” as a qualifier to start that phrase, but with age comes orneriness, and orneriness does not lend itself to intellectual generosity.

Perhaps the best treatment of this sentiment in a scholarly—dare I say “intellectually generous”—way is Roger Kimball‘s The Rape of the Masters: How Political Correctness Sabotages Art.  The book is a quick read, but even in 200 pages, it’s depressing seeing the increasingly bizarre, flat-out wrong interpretations politically-motivated Leftists bring to classic works of art.  The unfortunate trend of comparing everything that ever happened to Harry Potter is no-doubt the watered-down, pop cultural version of this academic shoehorning of the ideology du jour into artistic interpretation.

Of course, there is a corollary to the maxim that “modern art is terrible.”  It’s that “modern art is only successful because wealthy dupes want to look cool.”  That’s a bit of a mouthful, we all know it’s true.

So it is that two close relatives to the current Pretender’s regime—scandal-ridden, sister-in-law-loving drug addict Hunter Biden, and not-pretty-enough-to-be-a-model model Ella Emhoff (Vice President Kamala Harris‘s stepdaughter) have made good money peddling “art.”

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Minecraft Camp 2021 Begins!

Yesterday marked the first day of my school’s annual Minecraft Camp, which I host every June.  Minecraft Camp is a great deal of fun, and it’s probably the single most lucrative event for yours portly all year.

Last year I was very sick, so I had to hand Minecraft off to another colleague.  I hated to miss it, not only because of the nice little paycheck it brings, but because it’s so fun seeing what the kids come up with in-game.  I’ve been working Minecraft Camp since 2014, and have been running it since probably 2017, and I’m always impressed (and amused) by what the kids come up with.

As such, I’m thrilled to be back.  As best as I can tell, this year’s camp is the biggest attendance in the history of camp, with the possible exception of the inaugural 2014 camp (based on a photograph from that camp, I count fifteen campers, but I know of at least one student not pictured—he’s working as a counselor with me this year!).  We have sixteen kids signed up, and I have three young men working as counselors with me, two of whom were in Minecraft Camp when they were younger.  With yours portly tossed into the mix, that twenty very old desktop PCs up and running in the lab.

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Dorfromantik

Now that I’m enjoying the unending freedom of summer vacation, I’ve finally taken some time to play video games.  I splurged a bit last week and picked up a casual little indie game called Dorfromantik, from the four-man German development team Toukana Interactive.  I caught the game on a 20% off sale, but full freight is $10, so it’s an easy lift.  The game is still in early access, meaning that it’s technically not finished, but from my time playing it, it seems very solid, stable, and complete.

It’s also incredibly fun.

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Supporting Friends Friday: Jeremy Miles’s New Book is Out Now

One of the joys of blogging and creating is the opportunity to support my buddies’ work.  I’ve been blessed to be associated with quite a few prolific and ingenious individuals, and while I have spent many a Bandcamp Friday hawking my digital wares, I’m excited to take this Friday to showcase a friend’s work.

My real-life buddy Jeremy Miles (who also maintains a blog) has released his latest book of poetryHindsight: Poetry in 2020.  It’s available in paperback, hardcover, and Kindle editions, at (as of 8 June 2021) $15, $25, and $2.99, respectively.  I’ve ordered the paperback version and eagerly await its arrival.

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TBT: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony

I’ve been on a major classical and Romantic music kick lately, dedicating the last three Fridays specifically to the music of the Romantic Period (here, here, and here).

As such, I thought it would be apropos to look back at a piece I wrote last January about Beethoven and his masterful Sixth Symphony.  The occasion for that piece was the South Carolina Philharmonic‘s Sunday matinee performance of their popular Beethoven and Blue Jeans concert—back in The Before Times when we still had live music.  The program, as I wrote at the time, was “‘Beethoven’s Greatest Hits,'” featuring Beethy’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor and Symphony No. 6 in F Major.

The Sixth, often called the “Pastoral,” is one of my favorites.  I’m a sucker for programmatic music, and there are programmatic elements embedded in the titles of each of the symphony’s movements, but the music sounds like the countryside.

But I covered all of this a year ago, so why repeat myself (except that I’m doing that below… hmm…)?  Here is January 2020’s “Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony“:

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Lazy Sunday XCVI: More Movies: Movie Reviews, Part I

Way back in “Lazy Sunday LVI: Movies” I looked back on some movie reviews and posts analyzing movies.  That was long before I began Monday Morning Movie Reviews as a semi-regular feature on the blog.

Since then, I’ve dedicated more of the blog to discussing culture, especially music.  I’ve also written more about films and the cinema.  Even with large theater chains still closed and film-viewing shifting increasingly to streaming services, movies are still a powerful way to convey ideas and to shape cultural attitudes.  Indeed, I think the importance of film has only increased in The Age of The Virus, as we’re able to consume more and more of it in quarantine.  That our political elites have essentially recommended we just sit around watching television as some heroic form of self-sacrifice is suggestive—of what, I’m not sure, but it can’t be good!

Regardless, during this quieter, slower season, I thought it’d be fun to look back at some Monday Movie Reviews (to be be fare, not all of these were published on Mondays or in the morning, but they’re still movie review!—one out of three ain’t bad, to very loosely paraphrase Meat Loaf).

Here are three for your enjoyment:

  • Monday Movie Review: The Empire Strikes Back” – Seeing The Empire Strikes Back (1980) on the big screen reminded me powerfully just how great Star Wars used to be before the new trilogy ruined it with SJW nonsense and incompetent direction.  Empire is widely regarded as the best entry in the history of Star Wars films for a reason.
  • Morning Movie Review: Brazil (1985)” – This one had been on my RedBox wish list for some time, and I finally rented it on-demand back in October.  It’s a great, dreamlike flick about an excessively bureaucratic dystopia.  Brazil captures the thousand tiny tyrannies of bureaucratization beautifully—and scarily.  That we’re heading down a road towards mandatory vaccination passports and ever-growing globalist conglomerates suggests we haven’t learned the lessons of Brazil.
  • Movie Review: The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976)” – I stumbled upon this flick on Hulu, and it was one of those rare gems among the garbage that streaming service typically serves up (and yet, I continue to pay my $2.15 every month for the pleasure of streaming terrible horror movies and Bob’s Burgers).  It stars a very young Jodie Foster as a young teenager living completely on her own in a hostile New England town, attempting to avoid Martin Sheen’s inappropriate advances.  The film is a bit of a thriller, but also an endearing coming-of-age story in which the young Rynn—Foster’s character—learns that life isn’t meant to be lived alone.  As I wrote in the review, “It’s a lost gem, one worth unearthing.”

That’s it for this weekend.  Happy Sunday—and Happy Viewing!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

food snack popcorn movie theater

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Doodles for Christmas

Seeing as it’s Christmastime, I’m taking a more light-hearted approach to posts this week, focusing on Christmas and the fun and music surrounding it.  To celebrate Christmas (and Festivus, which is today), I decided to share some of my favorite Sunday Doodles with you.

Normally Sunday Doodles are exclusive for $5 a month and higher SubscribeStar subscribers (and $3/month subs get doodles the first Sunday of the month), so think of this retrospective as a small Christmas present to you, my loyal readers.  If you want the full commentary on each doodle, though, you’ll have to subscribe.

The Very First Sunday Doodles – “Rose-Tinted Glasses” & “Cheeks”

These two doodles were from the first Sunday Doodles, dated 11 November 2019 (Veterans’ Day!).  “Rose-Tinted Glasses” has appeared as the “featured image” on posts before, but the Peter Griffin-esque “Cheeks” is new to the free site.

Sunday Doodles II – “Disco Dracula” and “The Hardcore Monsignor”

You can tell early on I was still going strong with my doodling A-game, as this second Sunday Doodles—from 18 November 2019—suggests..  “Disco Dracula”—who looks like a character from a 70s Blaxploitation film—and “The Hardcore Monsignor”—derivative of Monsignor Martinez from King of the Hill—are both awesome looking dudes.  “The Hardcore Monsignor” has been on the free site before, though I can’t remember the context.  “Disco Dracula” looks particularly spooky—and funky!

Sunday Doodles V – “Sophisticated Baby” & “The Toxic Drooler”

These doodles from the fifth Sunday Doodles (8 December 2019) feature two chunky babies of wildly different backgrounds.  “Sophisticated Baby” cracks me up every time I see it, especially the martini and the cigar.  “The Toxic Drooler” is what happens when I find a green pen on the ground and have time in a faculty meeting.

The Latest Sunday Doodles – #58!

As you can see, dear reader, you’ve missed out on a lot of Sunday DoodlesThe most recent edition, from this past Sunday, 20 December 2020, features some Christmas cheer, so I figured closing out on “Snowman” and “Christmas Tree” would be a fitting end to this post:

There you go—a small taste of the fun you’re missing.  I love a good doodle, and I’d love for you to get more of them every Sunday.

Subscribing is a great Christmas gift to yourself—and to yours portly!  ‘Tis the season, after all.  *Ding!*

Merry Christmas!

—TPP

Sunday Doodles LVIII, 20 December 2020 - Snowman

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The Virus and Live Music: The Story of The Roasting Room Lounge

Christmastime always puts me in a musical mood, as blog posts this week suggest.  Christmas is the perfect season to illustrate the power of music, as so much wonderful music has been written about Christ’s Birth.

In The Before Times, in the Long, Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus, it was also a lucrative season for musicians.  Other than wedding gigs (a market I haven’t managed to crack into yet), nothing pays better than a Christmas party.  They’re fun, full of free food, and they pay well.  The spirit of free-flowing generosity (and the generosity of free-flowing spirits) results in some warm winter paydays.

Of course, this year has been particularly tough for musicians, as I’ve detailed many, many times before.  Revenues from private lessons and gigs seem to be bouncing back (at least for me), and the struggles of The Virus brought forth a burst of generosity.  Bandcamp Fridays really helped inject some much-needed cash into the coffers of independent musicians (myself included).

Musicians have also had to get creative.  That’s why I hosted my annual Spooktacular from my front porch.  Venues are constrained by various local and State laws (and sometimes dictatorial edicts) limiting their capacities, and many eateries have been slow to resume live shows.  That’s created real limitations on venues and artists, but it’s also opened up opportunities.  My Spooktacular was mildly profitable, but it also brought people together for desperately-needed fun and camaraderie (and put a few bucks into the pockets of the musicians involved).  I don’t know if that model will endure once The Virus is defeated, but it’s something for musicians to consider in this strange new world.

But for all I’ve written about the damage The Virus has caused to musicians’ finances, I haven’t looked at the impact on venues at all.  That’s an unfortunate oversight on my part, because a venues’ success or failure can directly impact that of an artist.  Many musically-inclined venues are coffee shops or small restaurants, so they largely cut live music as they went to take-out-only and delivery formats.

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