Category Archives: those that from a long way off look like flies

Feliz Meriton

New video footage, courtesy of my sister Kristin Jerving-Bernard, who filmed me leading the audience through a round of “Feliz Meriton” at my performance during a Christmas luncheon of the American Association of Retired Persons, Sheboygan (Chapter 338), on December 21, 2010.

“Feliz Meriton” is an orginal composition by my daughter, Irene (as you can read about here), who will be turning 7 in a week. Many, many meritons to her.

Full set list below. “Feliz Meriton,” “The Yodeler’s Christmas,” and “Make a World Brand New” were all new songs premiered at this show, much to the delight and/or dismay of the AARP:

Nino’s Steak & Seafood, December 21, 2010

  • Winter Wonderland
  • Mele Kalikimaka
  • Winnebago Bay
  • The Yodeler’s Christmas
  • Christmas Time Is Here
  • Stopper in My Hand
  • Feliz Meriton
  • My Seafaring Lassie
  • You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch
  • White Christmas
  • Blue Christmas
  • Make a World Brand New

Unions Are a Grad’s Best Friend

In honor of the UW-Madison Teaching Assistants’ Association event that The Viper and His Famous Orchestra will be playing this Friday evening, September 3, I’m posting here a recording of one of the Viper earliest performances for the Graduate Employees Organization of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

right click here to download mp3

“I’ve heard of Big 10 schools with representation…”

The exigent occasion for such poetry was — if I’m remembering this right — an attempt by the university’s administration to abolish part of the tuition & fee waiver for graduate assistants not working in their home departments (this would have had a big effect on English, for example, who drew teachers for their professional writing and other classes from places like the Law school) but to soften the blow with the announcement of a new, but kind of rinky-dink, dental benefit.

DETAILS: It sounds like I’m playing a guitar — my singing cowboy one? — rather than ukulele. Carrie Rentschler was a GEO member in the audience. GSAC was the company shop.

Lean with it, rock with it

Here’s a scratch recording that I made for Edward Burch to practice along with, to get the Run-DMC-style vocal interpolations I want to do with him on the first verse of “Drunk Bus”
(click here to download the mp3)

“Drunk Bus” is a song by Macomb, Illinois-based rapper Tre-P, and it falls into my favorite category of songs: namely, songs about the details of local public transportation, particularly buses.* In this case, that bus is the eponymous free shuttle that would take Western Illinois Universities from the clubs back to their dorm late at night. Here’s Tre-P, in full flash animation:

Watch for the secret interpolated shot at 1:46.

* Cf. The Viper and His Famous Orchestra, “Ich Bin Berlin” (on the Champaign, Illinois MTD bus route up North Prospect to the Meijer grocery store, “where parking’s the only sound”) and “Ukulele Rhythm” (about riding on the Blue bus–the 4W bus–that went from my place on Hill St. in Champaign to the International Cafe on Wright St. in Urbana where the orchestra and I would sometimes play of a Friday afternoon in the late 1990s).

The Other Hanlon Girl

Here’s a little piece I wrote a couple days ago that I’m calling “The Other Hanlon Girl.”

to download scratch track

Like most things I write, this came about as a consequence of trying to learn how to play something else. That something else in this case was “Ham Beats All Meat,” an old time song concerned with class warfare and how to eat it. Nothing should be read into the thought process that brought me from the existing song to this newly composed tribute to my lovely wife, Ann, and her sisters Katie and Mary.

Play along!


D / | / / | G / | / / |
D / | / / | A7 / | / / |
D / | / / | G / | / / |
D / | A7 / | D / | / / |

D / | / / | C / | G / |
D / | / / | G / | A7 / |
D / | / / | C / | G / |
D / A7 / | D / | / / |

Hanukkah with the Viper pt. 8

And finally, after 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 nights of Viper-style gelt, let’s close out the 8th night of Hanukkah with the freshest of all the latkes I have to offer. This is a recording of just the vocal section of “Heyse Latke Kalte Latke” so you can really sing along with the lyrics (and see the posting from December 22 for those).

download mp3

What you’re hearing is me with my five-dollar nylon string guitar, bought at the same estate sale in Riverdale, Maryland at which my wife and I found a Lyndon B. Johnson dart board (well pock-marked with use) and a oil-painted self-portrait of someone named Bertha Myrna in a jester’s outfit who we assume was at one time the owner of both the aforementioned items.

I’m recording this on a single mic through the Line 6 TonePort UX2, with the Gear Box on one of the guitar amp settings (I like the effect of that, as you can also hear here).

And thus ends 8 pre-programmed nights of Hanukkah. As it turns out, I wrote all of these posts on the weekend of December 20-21 right before I left Maryland. In fact, packing up this computer will be the last thing I do after I get back from closing out our bank accounts and dropping some clothing off at Value Village. I like the thought of these posts lining up and jumping out at their pre-arranged time as I’m driving through or by Frederick, Breezewood, Akron, Toledo, South Bend, Hammond, Waukegan, and Kenosha before I finally get to Milwaukee where I’ll give my wife and daughter a big hug and kiss and unpack the car for good after this ridiculous semester of living 792 miles away from them. So happy Hanukkah, and wherever this may find you, give someone you love a smooch from me.