Monday, November 30, 2009

To Work Alone (But I Repeat Myself)


[Editor's Note: Something like three years old, this one is.]
{Author's Note: Something like Yoda, that comment was. An editor there is not}

I work alone.

Not always, of course, but generally. This was not always the case.

I've worked in about every kind of work setting. Mill building. Clean room. School. Office. Concrete block building. Ditch. Shed. Barroom. Boat. Hospital. Home. Above ground. Below. Hot. Cold. Dry. Damp. Boring. Terrifying.

The vagary that makes any setting go is the other people. And now there aren't any.

I've been responsible for hundreds of employees at one time, and just a few at others. Hundreds of employees is much easier. When you only have two, and one is named "Rob," and you find out that "rob" is a verb, not a noun, you've got a fifty percent failure rate. I had a guy constantly found sleeping at his workstation "working" for me once. He was just one in a hundred. No big deal.

But to work alone is to be your own annoyance. You're the laziest, stupidest person present. There is always a person to encourage sloth -- you; but there is never anyone to shame you into holding up your end. You've got both ends. And the end in the middle.

Sometimes, the light is good. The tools are sharp. The wood is flat. The mosquitoes are on vacation. Your shoes fit. There are no splinters. Whatever you look for is on the shelf. The dimensions add up. Vivaldi comes on the radio. The money comes. The floor is swept. Nothing is late. The phone does not ring unwonted. The blade does not wander.

And when all that happens...

How the hell would I know? I'd settle for two of those things at the same time. I'm all alone.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Have A Pleasant Thanksgiving (Yer Mother!)

[Editor's Note: From 2006. I was Thankful I could run it again instead of being original]
{Author's Note: Happy Thanksgiving. And there is no editor}

There are lots of news stories available --the majority of them, I think-- expounding on the horrors of Thanksgiving. "Send us your dysfunctional family Thanksgiving disaster stories" is the lede on every radio program I can find that hasn't jumped the gun entirely and started with "Tell us your Christmas horror stories."

I'm not having it. Thanksgiving is lovely. Or it should be.

Thanksgiving doesn't beat around the bush; right in the name it tells you it's a day to be grateful. Complaining about it seems to me to be like going to the art museum and complaining that the paintings are obscuring your view of the walls.

Hmm. Perhaps that's a bad simile. I've been to many museums where the dropcloth daubs they hang on the walls aren't as interesting as the off-white paint, now that I consider it. So please insert "Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy" in the preceding paragraph where "art museum" appears. Thanks.

Anyway, it's not about you. For one day, at least, I don't want to hear about your crabby attitude towards your assembled family and your overcooked turkey. I don't want to hear about the lousy TV you've got to watch the football game on. I don't care if you don't like the floats that drift by Macy's like garish barrage balloons. Put a sock in it. It's not about you.

It's not about any one of us. It's about remembering that everything all of us have is a gift, and we could lose it, and we should take time out from our lives for one day a year and acknowledge that.

Have you ever been in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving? I hate the preening socialites and politicians that visit there on Thanksgiving to get face time on TV. I think much more kindly about the people that feed those poor souls on November 25th and November 27th, when the cameras aren't interested.

There's a look on a person's face, when someone gives them something they need that they might not have otherwise. It's the look on the face of the man in line at the soup kitchen. It's gratitude.

I'm going to give it a try today, that look. It looks like Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Monday, November 23, 2009

Can You Love People?

Real, live people. I'm afraid I do. It makes me lonely to love people.

Not people as an abstraction. I'm talking about persons. When people start talking about their ideas for "the people," I know some "persons" are going in the proverbial oven. Can you love your fellow man? Not the ones just like you. All sorts of other people. Everyone seems interested in fixing all the other people in the world. It's not a new idea, but everyone thinks they've just invented the wheel or fire or something every time they try it. Persons always suffer when ideas about perfecting people get going. It's an iron law, like gravity or the 1040 form.





People are raucous and noisy and they jostle and fight. They smell. Occasionally they smell good. They have ambition where you wish they'd lie still. They are somnolent when you'd prefer they push your cart. They are rotund and jolly and easygoing whether you think everyone should be a humorless ectomorph scold or not.

An ideal human's behavior is being laid out with plumb bob and ruler right now, by people for whom I have no regard. The persons they are trying to make from the magnificent clay of humanity would be contemptible, if it was possible to produce them, which it isn't. They wear the authenticity of real people like a cannibal wears the skin of his victim.

Above all, they hate the sight of children. They're all still potential persons. Can't have that, can we? Me? That's why I love them.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Why Don't You Write A Folksong?

It's Sunday. You've nothing else to do. Go on. It's just a few chords and a little singsong melody over the top. It must be easy.



Good luck. We're all counting on you.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

We're All Jules Vernatics On This Bus



Honorary Borderline Sociopathic Boy of the Day goes to Greg Brotherton, who like any self-respecting hero or villain has an alter ego: Brotron



Not particularly Steampunk, now that you mention it. No brass. More Art Decomposition or Fritz Langostura, really.

All artists make things with what others throw away. Brotron is just a more obvious example of the phenomenon. More here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

It's Not A Shame About The Creedence



When a guy dresses like a farmer, only with leather pants and a figure skater's haircut, and he wants to serenade you through a guitar that sounds like it should be dogfighting in a SPAD, and it's plugged into Herman Munster's couch with a telephone cord, you best sit up and take notice, son.


Attention: Disregard the rhythm guitar player's left foot or you'll have a seizure.

Feel free to observe all of Hammurabi's limbs as he operates the drums, however.



Thank you,
THE MANAGEMENT

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Some Enchanted Place -- Chapter Eight, Part Three


To read Some Enchanted Place from the beginning, click here and start at the bottom

I turned back from the lack of Immaculada and gave my nemesis a good, hard stare. He'd delivered his line, but there was no mirth in it. His expression never changed. You could have put him in a window to sell a suit. He was a snake with a conspicuous bulge in the middle -- not hungry right now. Still a snake. Always a snake.

I crossed a line just there. Angel was right; this place was some sort of mundane house of horrors. Not quite right. They tore the tags from mattresses, or were cannibals -- or something in between, most likely. You could smell it on the breeze in the dooryard, a whiff of padlocked orphanage ablaze over the horizon somewhere. But Pecksniff had gone beyond the beyonds. He'd gotten familiar.

Pecksniff was a toady, no different than me. He had trotted out the one-way camaraderie to shame me a bit. He was wearing another man's boots, but it was still on my neck. If we were any other place, I would have had to throw hands with him. Face.

My father told me he'd met Roosevelt once. Father was an old school Tammany Hall Democrat. He was slaving away at some defense plant and Roosevelt breezed through. Roosevelt clapped him on the back and called him by a singsong nickname, and told him what a swell job he was doing, asked him a question, turned his back on him without hearing the answer, and then disappeared in a cloud of flunkies.

Mom would always tell the story and the neighbors would ooh and aah and pop would glower. Once his friend pressed him on it, and I thought he'd explode. "No man has the right to treat me like a horse in a stable. I'll not be given a joke for a name and patted like a beast by a stranger. No man. Why in the hell did we drag our sorry asses halfway around the globe? Not for this. Not for this."

I knew the one-way familiarity when I saw it. Condescension masquerading as bonhomie. If my father had slapped Roosevelt on the back and called him Frankie in return, he'd have had his taxes reviewed twice yearly by J.Edgar Hoover, forevermore, while he was tied to a chair in Hoover's office, probably. I learned a long time ago to beware any authority acting like your pal. It rarely is. Pecksniff was poking me through the bars. I was the fly and he was pulling off my wings. It was no less than that, and I knew it, and he knew I knew it. We came from the same place, he and I. So it was fight or flee -- or grumble and take it, which is the most malignant kind of fleeing. Pecksniff knew there could be no fighting. I couldn't even raise my voice or I'd never work another job within driving distance of this pile of bricks again.

It was a contest now. Angel was smarter because he wouldn't play from the get-go, but I was in for a penny, so I had to go in for a Pound now. You'll not chase me out of here, you creepy drudge. I'll outlast you, you bastard, even if you call every person in every portrait on every wall in here back from the dead, and they climb down from the picture rail to pull at my sleeves while I work, and fill my dreams with dread.

I'll pull up to the front door, Pecksniff. The front door. And I'll take Immaculada out of here. I'll spray you with peastone and we'll wave to you like Roosevelt from a car. And someday, when you're dead, we'll come to your funeral, and Immaculada will wear a red dress, and I'll throw rice in the hole you're fitted for.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Some Enchanted Place -- Chapter Eight, Part Two


To read Some Enchanted Place from the beginning, click here and start at the bottom


I don't know who the Secretary of the Interior is. I don't know how to hit a curve ball. I don't know how to do differential equations. I'm not sure exactly where Sri Lanka is, or why they didn't want to be called Ceylon anymore, either. So maybe in the vast scheme of things, I don't know very much -- but I'm dead certain that if Pecksniff The Amazing Human Cattle Prod sends one more dose of his electricity through me, by turning up behind me unannounced, they'll be able to bury him in a sponge.

I turned to face him and noticed my mistake right away. Never waste your time out in the prison yard by turning your face from the little blue tent of the sky. Pecksniff was the dripping stone walls, and the keeper, too; the moon, the stars and the sun were behind me now.

Pecksniff knew how it worked. I was powerless. If offered a chance to wrestle a rabid tiger to get a lottery ticket with a one in a hundred shot at winning a picture of Immaculada Doyle wearing a burlap sack, I'd have jumped at it. But no one was offering anything. The customer's representative was speaking. I was unable to look away from him.

The Montessori kids would never understand this. They're born and bred to go after everything in this life the way piglets go after the teats. Me first, second, and third. The rest of us go to Catholic School and line up and learn which cog in life's machinery we might be, if we stand quietly in line long enough. It was a dark thing, and ancient. You might talk all sorts of treason in a pub, but you tipped your hat when the patrician passed by. It was involuntary, really; a rubber hammer to some kneecap in your head.

People would point to some preening Fitzgerald, and say: See? The Irish are just like the WASPS now. But they weren't the same breed as us, really. Put us in charge and we just end up stealing the spoons from our own house. We were all born to be James Michael Curley, running for alderman from a jail cell. We won't deny our crimes -- if caught dead to rights -- so we say "I did it for a friend," instead. We can't ever claim any privilege, just wallow in a kind of magnificent stubbornness. Refuse to be bloodless and your blood will never turn blue.

So Pecksniff knew he was no better than me, but that as long as he embodied the voice of who's who, I was going to stand there listening to what's what. Manners are a dreadful thing.

"The bannister leading down from the butler's pantry shall want an additional screw in all of its brackets..."

Stop talking stop talking stop talking...

"...the previous mechanic sent by your patron neglected to fasten it properly..."

...Oh God stop talking like that and stop talking stop talking stop talking...

"... and although the master of the house has no truck with these stairs they are a constant necessary for we who labor here..."

... if you don't stop talking right now I'm going to kill you with my hands I swear it ...

"... and Miss Doyle has often remarked to me of her concern..."

Bingo! Rumpelstiltskin had uttered Rapunzel's name for a change, the iron grip of decorum was lifted, and I turned back to see -- the dining room door swinging back and forth in the frame.

Just then, Pecksniff did the unthinkable. He said something funny.

"Oh; you seem to have dropped your spear, Sir Lancelot."

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sippican's Snappy Elastic Pricing Synopsis (Electric Boogaloo)


[Editor's Note: First offered a year-and-a-half ago. Timely, years in advance. There's a word for that, isn't there?]
{Author's Note: Yeah: Broke-ass loser. And there is no editor.}

You don't understand economics very well.

No offense. I don't know who you are, but I'm willing to defame you like that. Why do you suppose that is? It's because nobody understands economics very well, in my experience. When I see the poll question: "Which candidate for President do you trust more to run the economy?" it's the question itself which bugs me, not the percentages assigned to the candidates. If you'd ask or answer that question, you have a pre-civilized view of economics in my opinion.

I'm not educated in economics, so I know a little about it. If I was educated, I'd know about an economics education. Not the same thing. I learned what I know about economics by getting the treatment a baby gives a diaper every day out in the economic landscape. You're not allowed to indulge in fantasy very long out here. You can do it for a lifetime in a college. And beyond, if you can get published.

I want to talk about price elasticity, because it interests me. It refers to the relationship between the supply and demand for things as you tinker with price, or supply, or a host of other factors.

In general, people who work with their hands seek price inelasticity. That means that demand falls more slowly than an increase in price. Since the amount of work a person can do is finite you want to raise your price to perform the work without decreasing demand too much by doing so. You work less, for more money.

If demand is elastic, this means if you raise your price, the demand falls, and doesn't make up for the increased price. You raise your prices but you make less money.

If it's unit elastic, there's a direct correlation between price and demand. Raise the price, demand goes down exactly the amount necessary so that revenue stays the same. An accountant is the only person to have ever seen this creature.

Now let's go out on the economic map where navigators used to see "Here Be Monsters."

Perfectly elastic pricing is where if you raise the price one iota, the demand drops to zero.

And finally, if we talk of demand being perfectly inelastic, no matter what you charge, the demand stays the same. You've got a crack stand in Marion Barry's living room.

Now I want you to come out to the edge of the map where I live, and have lived for the vast majority of my life. Forget inelastic price, elastic price, and the unicorn of economists, unit elastic demand. Those are just things that determine whether you'll buy a flatscreen TV or an end table or not. I want to get existential on you.

If you have a sinecure, you will never understand what it is to be in a walk of life where demand for your production risks perfect elasticity. You simply talk about the churn in the economy. No sympathy for those buggy-whip manufacturers. They should have been smart and got a job collecting tolls on the highway and then they wouldn't have found themselves in that pickle. People with whales on their pants who refer to their significant other as "Lovie" like this line of reasoning a lot, too.

People often tell me that my furniture is very inexpensive for what you get. Raise your prices, they counsel. Maybe. But more likely, they don't understand that the market often doesn't make such fine distinctions about your pricing structure. Sometimes it's pass/fail. I have to be careful never to hit the fail point because there's no readjustment period. You're just dead. People with straightforward jobs can picture this best by imagining that if you went into you boss's office and demanded a raise, the only two answers are: "Sure!" and "You're fired!". You'd be less extravagant in your demands then, wouldn't you?

What about the political angle I mentioned earlier? Oh, that's where perfect inelasticity comes in. See, you don't understand it, because if you answered the poll question above, you think the government is the producer in this scenario. You think they produce prosperity, and through some jiggery-pokery with inelastic set-asides, or elastic statutes, or unit elastic Smoot-Hawley tarriffs or raging carpet-bombing wars, they're going to arrange for the shelves in the US Store to be stocked with goodies for you. But you've got it exactly backwards.

The example often used for perfect inelasticity is the human heart transplant. If heart transplants were ten dollars, you wouldn't want one just because it was cheap, and if it cost eleventy-billion dollars, but you needed one, you wouldn't care what it costs. You'd beg, borrow, or steal the dough to get it.

So in the real world with the government in the picture, I am the good or service. But the United States Government is not a supermarket. It is a pawn shop. And I am born pawned, and I wake up every morning pawned. And if I want to get myself out of there, to work all day and try to make a few bucks so I can worry about something other than my very existence, I'm going to do whatever I'm told, and pay whatever is demanded of me. My interest in continuing to be me is 100%, and my demand to continue being me will not diminish no matter how abusive the situation you plunge me into.

My demand for me is perfectly inelastic, and the government knows it. Pay up, sucka.

The Mafia always understood perfect inelasticity, too. They'd come in, tell you how much protection money was required, and mentioned that your kneecaps were perfectly inelastic if you bent them backwards.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Start Your Messin' Around

Specials. Cooler than 1979 deserved.



Jeeves, fetch my white shoes and skinny tie. I'm going skanking.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

An Apollo C. Vermouth Production

I may or may not be able to explain the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band. I've never tried so I don't know. I've never attempted to explain gravity, either. I just fall down and get it over with.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shake Ya Boogie



SPANNERS
by: Sippican Cottage

Sun's beaming in the window,
There's rumbling from the floor,
We're swinging and we're swaying
Boxes dancing out the door.

Oh how our muscles ripple,
We're making twenty knots,
We're alternating; current --
We're glowing with the watts.

Pounding down the corridors,
With Bill of Lading piles;
Our output's put the boss on ice
We're blowing out the dials.

They count the beans but can't keep up,
We're cooking with the gas;
Our arms are made from tempered steel,
Our heart is made of brass.

That brass is rolled to make a tube,
The tube is bent just so;
And if we blow that trumpet, Jack,
The girls get all aglow.

The whistle blows at five o'clock,
It's twenty-three skidoo;
The guys and gals that made that stuff,
Go out for dancing too.

They box the compass of the steps
Then swing from chandeliers;
They leave the clerks there in the lurch
Then kick it up a gear.

They pound the floor into the ground,
They swing and then they sway;
They'd drink to all their troubles,
But they've long since gone away.

They close the places late at night,
And walk home 'neath the stars;
Arm in arm, exchanging charms
One's Venus, one is Mars.

Mighty children spring from them,
To keep the flame alight;
They nurse them with acetylene,
And ultra-violet light.

They grow some whiskers when they're old,
And sit down for a spell;
Their Ercoles will take their place,
And raise a little hell.



Thursday, November 12, 2009

You Don't Need Any Help. You're Already Fine

If Ya Wanna Be A Raelette, Ya Gotta Let Ray



A diplomat from a faraway land. Wars raged between the Art Tatum faction and the Nat Cole army. Jimmy Reed and Don Gibson splinter groups desolated the landscape. Ray brought peace.

There should be a blinking neon sign over his head: Transubstantiation and alchemy, while you wait.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

I Have No Idea Why These Are Wonderful


Chris Gilmour's cardboard creations, I mean. Guido Barterelli took a run at it on Gilmour's About page:
The work of Chris Gilmour provokes surprise and amazement beyond what could appear to be a mere process of reproduction. In returning to the value of making and strongly emphasising it, these works reveal a process of understanding that lets us see everyday reality with new awareness and appreciation. This practice avoids a withdrawal into the limbo of craft, and implies an intimate and profound quest towards the reason of things.


Hey, I'm in the limbo of craft. It's not that dreadful in here, Guido. And I've repaired Fiats before. Gilmour's cardboard version is a very close approximation of the original, materials included:
They're just marvelous, like women are. Let's not ruin them by understanding them.

Chris Gilmour

It Is Impossible To Understand Women Unless You Speak Their Language

Who am I kidding? I'm clueless, just like the rest of my brethren. But I have finally discovered the typeface to be wrong about them in.



Nice work, Zummi

Saturday, November 07, 2009

好むペーパーかプラスチックをか。



I'm ashamed of myself. No; really.

I kept waiting for some kind of commotion. Wild stunts to break out. The grocery bags would be placed and filled in some Lucy-workin'-at-the-chocolate-factory-at- warp-speed gymnastic exercise.

I thought the contestants would be insane. Mannerless monomaniac weirdos who had dedicated their lives to acting the fool to cadge attention at any cost. Face painters. Balloon boys.

At the end, I figured there'd be some battle royale with everyone going like Kalis on crack, smashing strange items into paper sacks and hurling every third one at each other. Then a congregation of nitpicking semi-celebrities, culled from a kind of gutter filled with the vomit of barely-know-their-name fame, would choose a winner based on which one was least likely to take their jobs.

I apologize unreservedly. I forgot there are places still left in the world where honest effort and manners is neither sneered at when displayed nor held back as a pointless posture of rebellion.

We should consider going back to humiliating entertainers for our amusement and exalting productive citizens for our edification. The approach built our world, and everything in it, once.

Before There Was Shocks; Pegs; Lucky


Fantasmic fotos of youth well-spent linked over on our Borderline Sociopathic Blog for Boys. Don't miss it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The Angel Investors Have Horns


Interesting discussion about making money over at 37 signals.

People alternate between revulsion for and adoration of people who make money. There is currently an enormous reliance on style points in choosing between execration and exaltation. A large swath of the public believes that only money that you appear to get by accident, like gambling winnings; salaries for activities others do for free -- like sports; passive income like many Internet websites provide without really doing anything; and the wages of idiot celebrity, including, of course, selling autobiographies even though you've never done anything, are the only approved methods of getting rich. No matter what, you have to seem like you're not interested in making money. Persons think that Steve Jobs is less avaricious than Bill Gates, for instance. Sure he is.

The exploitation of quirks in a system in which you do not fully or willingly participate in is another fave. Enough illegality to seem exciting but not exactly criminal is considered THE piquant style point, of course. See Office Space or Trading Places for amusing examples of the genre.

Our weird ideas about whether or not you're doing it in the approved hipster fashion mask an underlying problem. Making money as an entrepreneur is hard. But somewhat counterintuitively, the hardest way to make money might be to have it handed to you.

This is one of the reasons I encourage entrepreneurs to bootstrap instead of taking outside money. On day one, a bootstrapped company sets out to make money. They have no choice, really. On day one a funded company sets out to spend money. They hire, they buy, they invest, they spend. Making money isn’t important yet. They practice spending, not making.

Bootstrapping puts you in the right mindset as an entrepreneur. You think of money more as something you make than something you spend. That’s the right lesson, that’s the right habit, the right imprint on your business brain. You’re better off as an entrepreneur if you have more practice making money than spending money. Bootstrapping gives you a head start.


The world is rather a harsh place for true entrepreneurs just now, much more so than for people that are gaming some system for money, which has become the Holy Grail of angel investors. I've learned everything in this life the hard way, and the hardest lesson to learn is to only borrow money -- which includes accepting capital for a piece of the action -- to expand on something that already makes money.

Don't get me wrong; if your business plan is to fleece investors, by all means, take the money. Billy Ray Valentine would.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I'm Singin' In The Millenium Falcon

A Thousand And One (From 2007)

Granpa told me all about the genie in the lamp.

It's the oldest story ever and came from the land of the sand and the women with only eyes. It's in there, the genie of everything, but you have to find him and let him out. Then he's out and you have to figure what to do with him. Granpa says he's wonderful but as dumb as a stump, just like all of us. He can do anything but doesn't know what to do. He needs guidin'.

The lamp is always hidden in plain sight he says. Men go prospectin' all over the landscape for the easy riches but they're generally layin' right there on the ground but you step over them in your hurry and scurry to look for them. Granpa points to the men through the door of the grog shop and they're playin' cards and Granpa says what good does it do for them to find the riches anyway.

Granpa would take the books down from the high shelves that the kids weren't supposed to get because the treasure in them was too dear to waste on such as us. He told me to run my hands over the cloth on the cover to see if it was the real deal inside there. They don't waste the nubbly cloth on the fakers.

The lady wouldn't like it but Granpa would shush her and we'd go home and open that book but only so far. A book is like a man, Granpa would say. You can only bend him so far back until he can't take it no more and then his back breaks. People always put the book back on the shelf but you can always tell because neither the man nor the book can stand up straight any more after that.

Scheherezade told that Sultan all those stories and it kept her alive and me too.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Test Your Internet Meme Recognition

If you get fewer than five, you're required by law to do nothing but open email attachments from your elderly aunts and co-workers until you pass.

Many Heavy Posts Are Turned From Mast Remnants In Seaside Towns


Click to embiggerate.

It is a very curious thing to live among the shades as I do. I am not elderly, and I am not a reactionary. I have always lived among them. The granite graveyards of words; the workhouses of sixteen on center.

The lapidary lines; the tangle of tangents and whorls; even the typeface is instantly recognizable to me. It is supposed to be utilitarian, and dry as a dissection, but they cannot help themselves. It is beautiful, and invested with souls -- blasted into them from the structures they represent and leaking out of their mechanical pencils onto the paper.

Many heavy posts are turned from mast remnants in seaside towns. For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

I smash the three dimensions into two, and back again, all day, every day. Wood or words; makes no nevermind. There's no right click on real life.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Rockpile!

Eleventy One!!!!11!!11!!1

Got Grackle?

(I have, over the years, been instructed by several well-meaning persons to put a bell on our housecat, lest he wipe out the bird population in my yard and thereby send the Eastern Seaboard into an ecological tailspin. People who have never been out of doors in the daytime have some interesting ideas about the natural world. I took this picture out my den window a couple of years back)

If you get all your impressions of nature from the TV, you generally suffer from two delusions. Since the minute you turn on the tube the programs have the animals available, you might think wild animals are handy and doing something worthy of a closeup at all times. Conversely, you're informed that the entire earth has been paved over, and the only animals left on it are rarer than congressional wisdom.

Wrong on both counts, usually. If you live out in the sticks, you find the animals are all around, but they don't do much that's interesting most of the time. And just like people that live in Manhattan, the animals don't seem to mind living next door to a dumpster full of fish guts. They just don't bother calling it sashimi in Alaska.