Saturday, August 30, 2014

Google Is Very Wise Indeed

Google is very wise indeed.

In the right-hand column of YouTube where I found this video, it suggested that I'd be interested in viewing Marilyn Manson debating Bill O'Reilly.

This is what I'm talkin' 'bout. That there. That's genius. It's inspired. Google knows me better than I know myself. See, I thought I wanted to hear about the process of the creation  of a song I admire. It was just a bonus to see Lyle Lovett bang it out naked on a weird minor league TED Talk stage.

But Google knows things. Astonishing things. Ask the people that run it. They know everything about everything important, and that's just the people that work there. They make the Genius Bar look like the short bus. Their thingie that searches the Intertunnel knows even more. It knows everything. It looks right into your soul every time you go lookin' for something. It knows why you mistyped that gerund, even if you don't. It knows that you're just being oblique. So it's a Slavic Bride you're in the market for. Slavonic Dances is just a ruse to fool the fellow sitting next to you at the grimy public library computer terminal, isn't it? Google knows.

I had no idea I wanted to see Marilyn Manson debate Bill O'Reilly. I still don't, but I must. Google said so.

Friday, August 29, 2014

I Built A Birdhouse

I built a birdhouse. They said the birds would not come.

They said it was all wrong. They said that I was all wrong. They said they were experts. They said the birds would not come.

That is not what birds like, they said. Birds don't like that. Birds aren't like that. Birds don't want that. The birds will not come.

Everyone knows the birds will not come but you. Everyone knows that everyone but you knows that the birds won't come. We laugh at you because we know the birds won't come but you don't. Everyone does.

You put the birdhouse on a post that no one wants. It was out for the trash and you took it. No one will want that post. Everyone knows that no one will want that post. We replaced that post with a really good pressure treated post that everyone but you knows is good and better. Why don't you know what everyone knows? We know that you know and still don't know and that makes it much worse. You stubbornly refuse to know that the post is no good and the birdhouse won't work and the birds won't come. If you'd only cooperate and know what everyone knows you wouldn't be in such trouble all the time. You wouldn't waste all your time making a birdhouse that the birds won't like and put it on top of a post no one wants.
Dear God; reading this reassures those of us that
remember the goodness of our past is not gone.
It lives in a corner of western Maine...reading this
brings to mind "Granger" speaking in the closing
pages of Fahrenheit 451: "...we'll turn around and
walk upstream. They'll be needing us up that way."

Any other words I could write would fail me; I
hold tight to your writing when thoughts of
mine, joyful or dark, rule the paths of inner
contemplation. Hold tight the wonders of your
spouse and heirs.  -Delaware Dave

But the birds came anyway.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Good Chemistry

I see the dead hand of dad on that young fellow's video. Not a signature. Brush strokes or something.

My little son is importunate. He starts his pleasant little harangue the minute his eyes pop open. I heard him, bang on seven this morning, begin the little burble of narration he keeps for his life. It's Sunday and the sun is out and the world is his oyster again today.

I'd been awake for a couple hours. I'd left the windows open in my office last night and so I was outdoors instantly. The sun rose gently over my textual exertions. There cannot be a sweeter place to be than western Maine staring down a sunny day knocking on June's door.

I went up to his world, filled with talking sponges and grinning dinosaurs and the Google Earth carpet of a cartoon town.

Dad, I want you to help me make a video with Bionicles and muzzle flashes and space ships and galactic battles and dancing robots and talking animals and it won't be hard because we can do it in 4 fps so the camera won't die of no battery and the moviemaker won't crash and mom says you have to work all day today and tomorrow and the day after and even more days so I'll wait until you don't have to make furniture one day but don't make me wait too long because I'm impatient.

There is no quality time. There is no such thing as quality time. There is only time. Time is teflon and adjectives and adverbs just slide right off it. It cannot be condensed, or frozen, or hoarded, or distilled, or saved for later, or borrowed and paid back.

You don't have any story that anyone wants to see, son.

What is a good story?

It doesn't matter what it's about. It just needs to make people want to keep reading it, or hearing it, or seeing it. People need to feel differently when they're done. That's all.

I don't know any stories like that.

You are a story like that. Everybody is a story like that. You're a little boy. What happens to a little boy?

I don't know.

Of course you know. It's whatever you want. What's in the bowl there in the kitchen?


You eat the banana. What do you become?

A monkey!

That's a story. There's an apple. What do you become?

I don't know!

You have to think of something. That's all.

(A hint of tears) I don't know!

Of course you do. Don't be sad or you'll spoil your story.

Johnny Appleseed!

Mom puts honey on your waffle.

A grizzly bear! Then there's cheese and I'm a mouse! Another mouse comes and I'm a cat! Another cat comes and I'm a dog!

And when you're all done, you're a boy again. That's a story. It's slightly better than every book you've gotten from the library for a year.

And then he went out back and rode his bike in a circle because his father lied, and his time has adjectives all over it, and under it, and all around it. The adjectives are stacked like cordwood outside the door.

And so Dad has his story too.

[First offered in 2012, rerun with comments intact]

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Spahn And Sain And Pray For Rain

When I was still in the gas station renovation business, I got a call from a project manager for a petro company. He wanted to meet at a defunct station they'd taken over from some independent gone tits up.

I met him there. He was younger than I -- though I was still quite young -- and more earnest about his job than I was, which is saying something. The place was gone to seed, the bowsprit of the triangular canopy rusting overhead, the blockhouse building looking a more like Paul Bunyan's buttsprung ottoman than a concrete block bunker. The glass in the overhead doors was painted white --the winding sheet of commerce --and the concrete and pavement was spidered to bits.

The fellow asked me if I'd ever been there before. I told him I'd been there on the day it opened in 1967 but never since. He laughed and thought I was joking, but I wasn't. I lived about five miles from there for sixteen years, and remembered the day it was opened quite clearly. I kept the remembrance to myself.

My father liked the baseball game. He was a  Braves fan, when they were still in Boston, and then a Sox fan. I think he actually loved the Braves, but considered the Red Sox a kind of mail-order bride he couldn't afford to return. I think it's because his father took him to Braves games.
First we'll use Spahn
then we'll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
And followed
we hope
by two days of rain.
My father worked at a bank, and they lent money to all the ballplayers --well, all the profligate and deadbeat ones, anyway -- and he was often tasked with trying to collect it. We used to go to Fenway Park from time to time, though it was pretty far away, and we'd sit directly behind the catcher, maybe ten rows back. The tickets were always free. Nobody went to Red Sox games back then. They'd stunk for decades.

The park was dirty and run down, and so were the players. I've never understood people that say Fenway Park is beautiful. It looks like Joe Stalin designed it and inebriated people that didn't like Boston very much built it. Some people have a problem with all the advertising all over it now, but believe me, back in the day it was unremittingly green and it was much, much uglier, because you could really see it. The advertising is like planting vines on an ugly overpass. It helps a little.

The overhead doors at the gas station were open that warm day we went to the opening. There were strings of triangle flags snapping smartly in the breeze, the place was a new penny, and there were a half-dozen or so Red Sox players sitting at card tables in the open doorways. They dutifully autographed 8-1/2 by 11 black and white photos of themselves and smiled, at least until my dad and I showed up and then they smiled at me and then got kind of straight-lipped for my dad, and haltingly offered, without being asked, that the restaurant wasn't doing so good right now Buddy but they'd catch up on their loan pretty quick, you betcha. He was off duty and didn't care but such is life.

I think I remember Jerry Adair, maybe, Rico Petrocelli and George Scott, and forget who else. Lord knows what happened to the promo pictures. I had ten billion dollars-worth of baseball cards back then, and they're gone, too. No one kept such things. Pro athletes were able to earn a living without working so they were exotic, but that's about it. In my youth only little children and the odd addled adult would plaster their lives with the memorabilia of an athletic team. Baseball cards and autographs were fun, and so, worthless. You can't be both.

But my Dad -- he loved the baseball game. My mind drifts back to the game wafting out of the crummy AM transistor radio on a lazy summer afternoon while my father mowed the nasty brown patch of grass he kept in front of our house. We'd sit together occasionally for a short moment in the shade of the big pine on cheap lawnchairs made from aluminum tubing and nasty fibrous strapping that cut into your legs.

Ken Coleman's voice would wash over us, the polyglot names of the batters would come in their turn, and Dad would wordlessly give me a sip of his beer right from the cold, steel can.

I wonder if my own sons will ever remember anything so fondly about me as that.

[Note: First offered in 2012]

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Bad Workman Quarrels With His Tools

This video is something on the order of five years old at this point. That's a century in Intertunnel years. Seemed topical today, after yesterday's extravaganza. It has the production values of a porno made by the  Department of Agriculture, but we're not curing cancer here; it'll do.

I've never ascribed to the old saw: A bad workman quarrels with his tools. I've always thought Bierce had it right: A bad workman quarrels with the man who calls him that.

Left to my own devices when writing, I'd make James Joyce look like Erma Bombeck. I feel an obligation to the reader on these here Intertunnels to tone it down a skosh, and not be so obscure about everything I'm talking about. I could stop writing using expressions that are meant to be spoken aloud in the head, for instance. I could stop making references to Wodehouse in blogposts about roofing. I could explain myself to the last jot and tittle. Hell, I could explain why I'm writing this paragraph right now.

I can use words like hammers, and be paid for it. I do. But I won't do it here. If you don't know what it says I can't help you. Well, I won't help you.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I Don't Know Who Umphrey's McGee Is...

...but I'd rather listen to them play Hey Nineteen than listen to Steely Dan play it now. It's painful to hear Donald Fagen croak out these songs. He never could sing, but it really didn't matter back in the day. He and Becker wrote these wonderful things, and you understood why he couldn't entrust them to anyone else to perform properly. Sorry, but now you can't trust yourself.

Sooner or later it's not your turn anymore. People take your place. You may not like it, but it's the way of the world. You could be like Ray Kurzweil, self-absorbed and dreaming of paying bemused men in lab coats to Ted Williams your noggin after you shuffle off this mortal coil, but you're wasting your time. Believe me, Ray, no matter how much money you pay those guys to Birds Eye your head, they'll get high after lunch and accidentally kick out the plug while they're playing hacky sack, plug it back in when they sober up and realize what they've done, and when they finally defrost you and sew your head on a used Japanese sex doll with a Pentium chip where your heart used to go, you'll be about as useful as a Kardashian. Young people take your place in the lineup eventually, and you can go with it, or just turn into an old guy telling anyone that's willing to listen that you really used to be sumfin'. And Ray, you have no idea how to hit a curve ball, so your frozen head will be completely useless anyway.

Elderly people should command respect for what they've accomplished. That's different than trying to play T Ball when you're forty. Young people are a barrel of beer, and old people are a fine liqueur -- if they're smart enough to keep distilling their whole life. The world needs mugs of beer and vitality, the same as it needs a digestif after a moveable feast. Serving them at the wrong time ruins the effect.

In a weird sort of a way, performing Hey Nineteen is low-level work. It should be left to the young grunts. Donald Fagen should be running a record company or writing or something, instead of dragging his elderly ass all over the landscape making gargling sounds about feeling old when he was thirty years younger than he is now.

If you're old and reading this, if it makes you feel any better, I'd be willing to get up a lynch mob of geriatrics to beat some sense into the cameraman, just so we can keep our hand in. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Like Watching Alphonse Mucha Do An Underpainting: Tim Pierce

The Intertunnel can be wonderful if you let it. It's full of drivel and orthographically-challenged cats, of course; but 1/10 of one percent of it is amazing, and 1/10 of one percent of the Interwebs is more than any human can make use of anyway.

This genial fellow is named Tim Pierce. He has a dedicated website in addition to his YouTube page where I found this video. His webpage will be a big hit, I'm sure of it. I don't know Tim, but he did me a favor once without trying to, and maybe someday I'll get to return it.

You've never met Tim Pierce either, but you can know exactly who he is without knowing him. He's played on so many records that have come out of every speaker on earth at one time or another that you couldn't have avoided him if you tried. I don't know why you would try. He plays pretty good, don't you think?

Someone sets up a camera and you get to watch records being made. It's possible to simply find this interesting for its own sake, or plain entertaining, but if you were trying to find out about the music industry in a serious way, this is like a graduate school lecture. What one man can do, another man can do, as they say, but first you have to know what the other man did.

I've always liked people who have one foot planted in art and the other in commerce. All my favorite visual artists from the last century or so are illustrators. I'd rather look at Leyendecker ads all day than Picasso for five minutes.

Snobs believe participating in commerce as an artist dilutes your art. I might point out that Leyendecker devoted only half his time to commerce, and half to art. His customers showed up at his door with a briefcase full of commerce because they knew he had the art they coveted but couldn't produce if they had a million years to try. A "pure" artist like Picasso devoted one hundred percent of his time to commerce, if you ask me. Self-promotion is not art. It's an art, but it's not art.

People that should know better tell me that John Singer Sargent wasn't a real painter because he painted portraits for money. Filthy lucre. Me, I just stood in front of Lady Agnew of Lochnaw once, and I swear that dead broad was looking right out of the painting at me.

I'm a barbarian, and I refer to her as "Spiro Agnew with Lockjaw," but even a barbarian knew that the Roman Empire was better than the village of huts he lived in. That's why he wanted to sack Rome. Duh.

Tim Pierce straddles the line between art and commerce. He'll play on your record for money. Unlike so many of his brethren, he at least supplies some real art if you supply the commerce. Everyone else just cashes the checks.