Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Trajectory Of Rock

Oldie but...

Well, it's an oldie!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ad Hoc? I Invented It. Six Homemade Tools


I make furniture all day, but I still gots no money; that doesn't explain my ad hoc infection, exactly. In construction and related disciplines, you're always making props and jigs and what-have-yous for the situation at hand, and you adopt it for a way of life after a while. People from the delicate arts (that don't want to admit they are) talk endlessly about duct tape because they think it makes them sound manly, but duct tape is more a symptom that you have no idea what to do than an indication you do, and are all manly and so forth. This stuff isn't a patch.

Woodworking catalogs rely on people that don't ultimately make much buying expensive things with which to not make those things more easily. Parse that sentence, college boy. Anyway, here's a half-dozen examples of things I made that are better than things you can buy.

1. Clamping Jig - Clamps are really expensive. I'm awful if I ever see Norm making anything on that commendable show he had. Just ask my wife. "He's making a four-dollar tabletop with four thousand dollars-worth of clamps!"  She just nods and smiles. This is why we don't have cable. Here's how I make glue-ups. Iron pipe with pony clamps and pads, with the whole shebang hung on the wall to save space and my back. The galvanized pipes on the right don't leave marks on anything delicate like the black iron pipes on the left do. They should all be galvanized, but I'm cheap. BTW, that benchtop blank in the clamps will be on sale by Friday.

2. Stickers  - Stickers is an actual woodworking term, not an ad hoc one. The little bits of wood you place between boards to allow air to circulate all around them, and helps to keep wood from warping from having only one side exposed to the air, are called stickers. I make my own, hundreds of them, from little bits and pieces of off-cut wood. I use them for all sorts of things; Keeping things up off a surface when painting, props, jigs, etc. I have to test my branding iron on something before I use it on your furniture, so they all end up with one or forty SIPPICANs burned into them. The really old ones are all mellow with shellac overspray and smooth from a million hands.They're all eleven inches long. I only measured the first one. (See item 6)
3. Featherboards - Here's one of eleventy-jillion I've made. A piece of wood will go forward through a featherboard's little wooden fingers, but will not back up. A safe way to hold wood against a fence and not have it thrown at you by the blade. I make them often, in different sizes for different setups. I suppose I could put the sacrificial wooden fence you see on the table saw on this list, too, but I'm lazy. One of the main bad ideas of most pre-made jigs you buy is too much metal near the blades, and for some reason, too much plastic everywhere else. I don't want metal things hitting metal things. Then hitting me.This is woodworking, not the artillery.
4. The Push Stick - All woodworkers on TV are liars. They say: the blade guard is removed so the camera can see the work. Lies. All lies. They're in the trash. Guard or no, never, NEVER put your hand between the blade and the fence. Did I mention NEVER? I push everything through the blade with a push stick. It's got a little hook in it to hold things down as well as shove them. Stuff gets thrown at you more than any other danger you'll encounter on a tablesaw. This push stick is about eight years old, I think. It's a testament to the veracity of my NEVER claim that I still have this one after all this time, despite living in two different states. It is ALWAYS on my fence, so I can NEVER.
5. Tapering Jig - They sell adjustable ones that are made from steel for a lot of money. You must have been dropped on your head as a baby to push a steel anything through a table saw right next to the blade. Upon reflection, you were probably dropped on your head as an adult, too. I have dozens of these jigs, each made special for a particular tapered leg. They're very safe, and made from garbage. Like bacon!
6. Stop Block - It's just a leftover from a table apron or something. You clamp it to a fence and cut the same thing over and over. Measure twice, cut once! says the TV. Measure once, set the stop block, and cut 145 times, I say. Measuring twice is for dilettantes.
So, there you go. I make all sorts of things with near nothing. You have near nothing, too, I suspect, or can lay your hands on it. Make something!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

We had seven wild turkeys in our back yard this week. We have one we caught at the supermarket in the refrigerator, too. It ain't Xanadu, but it ain't quite Dickens, neither.

We are grateful  every day for everything we have.
 
For Mrs. Cottage:


HAD I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

-Yeats

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How 'bout A Little Mississippi Disco?

Seasick Steve



He's an overnight sensation. It just took fifty years.

He's bummed around the US and Europe forever. Odd jobs, busking on the street, working on the front end of recordings -- with some notable artists, mostly otherwise. Now he's on everything in the UK.

What he appears to be is real. People find "real" electrifying if it's presented the right way. I imagine lots of people heaping adulation on him crab-walked past him and averted their eyes when they saw him on the street before. Real is electrifying, and real is scary. He may be from Oakland, but he sounds like he was born at the foot of Mount Belzoni, and never moved to Chicago. That real.


"Hobos are people who move around looking for work, tramps are people who move around but don't look for work, and bums are people who don't move and don't work. I've been all three."

The secret is to get yourself a haunted guitar:


In an interview with an Australian magazine, Seasick Steve attributes much of his unlikely success to his cheap and weather-beaten guitar, 'The Trance Wonder' and reveals the guitar’s mojo might come from supernatural sources. “I got it from Sherman, who is a friend of mine down in Mississippi, who had bought it down at a goodwill store. When we were down there last time he says to me, ‘I didn’t tell you when you bought it off me, but that guitar used to be haunted’. I say, ‘What are you talking about, Sherman?’. He says, ‘There’s 50 solid citizens here in Como who’ll tell you this guitar is haunted. It’s the darnedest thing – we’d leave it over in the potato barn and we’d come back in and it would be moved. You’d put it down somewhere and the next morning you’d come back and it would have moved. When you took that guitar the ghost in the barn left’. He told me this not very long ago and I said to him, ‘Sherman! Why didn’t you tell me this before?’ and he said, ‘Well the ghost was gone – I didn’t want it around here no more!’”


There's a secret to getting a haunted guitar: You have to haunt it yourself. Steve do.

If you're itching for more, Seasick Steve does Chiggers on The Black Cab Sessions.

(Thanks to Misterarthur for sending that one along)

Monday, November 22, 2010

He Coulda Been Somebody


(Note: A little foul language in there)

I think Marlon Brando is better than you do.

It's because I didn't pay attention to the last thirty years or so of his life. More or less, The Godfather is the last movie I saw him in, and I didn't see that when it came out; too young. So no, Jor-El didn't affect my opinion much. Neither did Apocalypse Now, which isn't really a movie, and he's not really in it-- it's just a big self-indulgent mess of misplaced anger and sentiment, with Marlon doing the only sensible thing in it: cashing a check and going home.

All those bad movies were Marlon's version of an old ballplayer sitting at a card table signing autographs for a few bucks apiece. But in Brando's case, the little kids waiting to touch the hem of his shabby muu-muu were film directors clutching a few hundred grand, and the card table was a film set.  He got too big for the milieu he was in, which is very big indeed, and became Elvis or Santa Claus or something. That's not his fault. Hell, whoever made this mashup pasted it over a Beatles song that tested the outer limits of the public's appetite to adore anything, and there's Brando on the album's cover.

People should be aware of things that happened before they were born. They should pay some attention to things that matter to those younger than themselves, too. How else will you raise children properly? People should put things in context.

You can see it, if you look closely. There's this dotted line between standing on wooden floorboards yelling whispers to a house, and having a lens an inch from your nose in an artificial world with only a theoretical audience to pitch your wares to. Marlon Brando erased this line.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Time To Be Great Again, My Lord



SPANNERS
by: Sippican Cottage

Sun's beaming in the window,
There's rumbling from the floor,
We're swinging while we're swaging
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 18, 2010

A Heads Up For My Readers. That Was It. Heads Up, I Mean. When I Say 'It", That Was The It.


In order to make my readers feel special without the inconvenience of riding on a short bus, and as collateral damage, maybe get my hands on some money and get enough food to forgo a little seven-year-old's  bite marks on my wrists when I reach for the bowl of gruel, consider this one of my infrequent heads up that there are eight new, very highly discounted items on my "Ready To Ship" page over at Sippican Cottage Furniture. Last time I had seven items, and five sold in about five minutes because people are very nice to me indeed; so if you want something you see over there, don't wait around. Now you've all got a seven-hour head start on the people that signed up for email marketing. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Before I Am Old I Shall Have Written Him One Poem Maybe As Cold And Passionate As The Dawn

ALTHOUGH I can see him still,
The freckled man who goes
To a grey place on a hill
In grey Connemara clothes
At dawn to cast his flies,         5
It’s long since I began
To call up to the eyes
This wise and simple man.
All day I’d looked in the face
What I had hoped ’twould be  10
To write for my own race
And the reality;
The living men that I hate,
The dead man that I loved,
The craven man in his seat,  15
The insolent unreproved,
And no knave brought to book
Who has won a drunken cheer,
The witty man and his joke
Aimed at the commonest ear,  20
The clever man who cries
The catch-cries of the clown,
The beating down of the wise
And great Art beaten down.
  
Maybe a twelvemonth since  25
Suddenly I began,
In scorn of this audience,
Imagining a man
And his sun-freckled face,
And grey Connemara cloth,  30
Climbing up to a place
Where stone is dark under froth,
And the down turn of his wrist
When the flies drop in the stream:
A man who does not exist,  35
A man who is but a dream;
And cried, ‘Before I am old
I shall have written him one
Poem maybe as cold
And passionate as the dawn.’  40

-William Butler Yeats

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Regular

I'm here regular.

I'm not no drunk. Drunks don't make it to work on Monday. I never misses. The young dudes they come and go, but we old fellers stick to it. They think they know everything, but we was young guys, too. They've not been old yet. And when we was young, we were younger than them -- I know it's true even if it doesn't sound like it makes no sense.  They never been to Okinawa. They think a headache is a cancer.

It's familiar here, and familiar is good. Dink knows I want Cutty and that's that. No waving the bills and waiting and looking silly and friendless at the rail. There's always somebody to buy you a drink and you buy them a drink and Dink does his arithmetic funny and it's less than it ought to be, and we all knows it. We all get enough, until enough is enough.

We've worn a rut in the saddle and there's a dent like me in the seat, and there's a cobweb behind the teevee that an architect couldna made. Time goes by here, like traffic passing by you can hear but not see. Let it go. The door shifts back to its place and the dark settles on you like a blanket. It's always Christmas and New Years and Easter. Let's have a little party.

I been alone all these years now, but not so lonely anymore. The boy went wild after his mother, God bless her soul, was gone. He didn't remember her in the bed calling for one more glass of water over and over. He was little. When you're little there's just a hole with nothing to fill it. I fills it here.


[Inspired by The Regulars, at the always fun Square America]

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I Told You Before. NO STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN



This band needs a nom de plume. Hmm, the eighties.

Frank Zappelin. Orchestral Maneouvres In The Ditch. A Flock of Goateegulls. The Alien Persons Project. Bob Sagan & The Salver Billet-Doux Bund. Bruce Stingspleen. The Commode Ores. Cyndi Leper. David Lee Wroth. Depest Mode. Any Money. Fine Young Cannonballs.

I know.

Frankie Goes to Houses of the Holyweird.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

My Most Recent Business Plan, Except I'm Louis Prima, And I Keep Showing Up


It's exceedingly hard to run a business.

I really don't care what kind of business it is, either. They vary widely, of course, but they'll all kick your ass. Digging ditches or personal shopper, makes no never-mind. If you've ever made out a Schedule C you know exactly what I'm talking about.

It's hard to tell a story properly, too. Most entertainments are only modestly entertaining, -- if that -- and ephemeral. It's a rare thing that endures for a good long time in the world of movies and music and art. The producers generally just throw everything at the wall to see what sticks. Most of what they throw at the wall actually should be hitting a fan, if you'll pardon the mixed metaphor.

People are making their own fun with entertainment at this point. The reason people yell at the screen now instead of sitting in rapt attention are manifold, but the number one reason is the stuff on the screen isn't very good; and like a buffet of tidbits, the audience is trying to fashion a plate of fun for themselves. The cook can't seem to do it, so you do it yourself.

I watched a movie I've owned for a long time: Big Night. It's on VHS, so I know I've had it a while. It's a story about two Italian immigrant brothers trying to make a go of it in a restaurant in New Jersey in the 1950s. They are failing, and try to pull their business up from oblivion by hosting a celebrity for one "big night." It's both good entertainment and a good look at business. I don't talk while it's playing. It's doing all the work for me.

Like the best kinds of distillations of the human condition, Big Night uses the plot device of splitting one person's personality between two people, and having them rub up against one another. It's a useful dichotomy for the examination of the business ethic. One brother, Segundo, is running a restaurant and concerned with the mercenary aspects of running a business; his older brother Primo is the brilliant cook, concerned with being an artist with his food. Neither is a complete person without the other. The back and forth between them, as they search for the balance between being true to themselves and earning a living is as fascinating a portrayal of what it means to be creative and make it pay as I've ever seen.

The movie works on many other levels, and I wonder if the authors of the play -- as this movie is surely just a play with a camera pointed at it-- would even acknowledge my appraisal of the one person split into two plot device. I think artists always have this rolling around in their minds without admitting it. They wish to deny their self promotion, as it seems to smack of commerce. But watch the credits roll by sometime. Even a little movie is a serious business. Let the artists indulge themselves with their imaginary aversion to filthy lucre. Like good manners, I don't care why they say the right thing.

If you want to know what it is to be a brother, and an Italian, and an artist, and a businessman, and an immigrant, watch this movie. If you want to see why I never recovered from meeting my wife the very first time, look for the woman in the red dress at the final meal. Don't get me wrong; that's not her. My wife is prettier. Whether I am Primo or Segundo has yet to be determined.

Sometimes, when the Schedule C looks up at me from the desk, I wonder if I might try being Pascal, the brothers' venal but engaging and successful competitor from down the street: "I am a businessman. I am whatever I have to be at any given time. Tell me what, exactly, are you?"

Watch it.



Monday, November 08, 2010

Spinning Alone In Space

It's a strange world I inhabit.

In my head, I mean. My mind does not seem to function as it did before. It may be just that, seeming, but it may be a shift. I don't know. I don't care.

I used to be a little filing cabinet. Annoying or delighting adults to taste. I imagine my mother way back when, with her back pressed firmly on the bathroom door, eyes closed for a long moment, while my little chrysalis paced the tiny hall of our equally tiny house and waited to launch into it again. Everything I knew, all at once, in a row.

Things are different now. I don't see things. My head is full, or empty, I'm not sure which. I am passing into a world of metaphor and ghosts and stories, and nothing else.

I took my little boy to the Farmington Fair. It was as close to fun as we could muster, for him and for us. There is no fun for me, but his. I stood there, slackjawed like the stranger I am. The locals perhaps mistook me for a stranger because I am not yet, and will likely never be, from here. I'm not sure I'm from anywhere. That wasn't what made me a stranger there. I was a stranger to them, and all mankind. There was nothing factual and real there for me. Only metaphor.

If there was a purpose to the steady disassembling of this world, with nothing to replace it, I do not see it. And the vision of the last child spinning alone on a shabby carnival ride haunts me still. A creature that does not wish to replicate itself doesn't deserve to live.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Down To The Disco. That's Where The Happy People Go



Call ahead and find out if the brass rail two for one ladies night well drinks half off sound of Philadelphia quadrophonic SalSoul four on the floor raise the roof Chevy van thumb and slap bass Eurotrash Qiana shirt leisure suit wonderland fern bar is open.

Friday, November 05, 2010

An Aged Man Is But A Paltry Thing, A Tattered Coat Upon A Stick, Unless...

My friend Bird Dog is waxing about poetry.

He is the rarest of things in this world to me. He rouses my mind from its torpor. I do not know what the possibilities available to me might have been, based on the space between my ringing ears, and will never know, because life is short and you have to be in a hurry.We're all Popeye after a while and must act it. But it's nice to have something new to chew on. New is hard for me to come by.

I can't watch the news on television. It's like a mildly retarded car salesman, or the woman that sprays smells on you unwonted at the department store, reading a bad newspaper to you very slowly. A printed newspaper has many uses. We covet them here. The heavy paper bags you used to get at the grocery store were superior of course, because you could cover a textbook with them as well as start fires in the fireplace, but a newspaper is pretty good. Neither of them can hold a candle to corrugated for warmth, but they recycle that stuff now. But read them? They're like being forced to read a fourth-grader's homework; the child of a neighbor you don't like very much.

The Intertunnel, my beloved Intertunnel, is 99 44/100% written by people with negligible intellects telling me they can read a newspaper harder than I can. Then the apostrophe faerie comes and sprinkles their screeds with goodness everywhere.

But my Intertunnel is so large, it doesn't matter. It's given me the world, and everything in it. I only require the half percent that's not twaddle. It's too much for any man.

As I said, Bird Dog is the rarest of things, and the most valuable to me. A stranger that tells me what his life is like. He does it inferentially, mostly. A lot of words offered mean obfuscation. There was a reason Eisenhower required all major proposals to be presented to him on one foolscap page. It wasn't because he was dumb and couldn't read. He knew the authors would use any more than that to obfuscate, and dissemble, and cover their ass. So Bird Dog says read this, and offers a mordant word or two, and occasionally says: this is where I go, and this is what I do, and this is what I like, and this is what I think. Other than young ladies that disrobe and are ambivalent about the presence of a camera in the room, what is best in Intertunnel life besides that?

He reads T.S. Eliot. Did, and does. I did not, and don't, so him telling me he does means I might.

"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is very good, of course, but it's a WASPy thing, and so, stranieri.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

I'm with the broads on this one.

A man is what he is, sometimes. I don't know if I ever had it in me to be a souper, but old men just eat what's put in front of them and don't worry so much.

But the urge for words does comes to me from some place now; from an inaccessible but visible stone that disgorges its faeries nightly. The land of the nervously fingered beads, and Cuchulain, too.

WHAT shall I do with this absurdity -
O heart, O troubled heart - this caricature,
Decrepit age that has been tied to me
As to a dog's tail?
Never had I more
Excited, passionate, fantastical
Imagination, nor an ear and eye
That more expected the impossible -
No, not in boyhood when with rod and fly,
Or the humbler worm, I climbed Ben Bulben's back
And had the livelong summer day to spend.
It seems that I must bid the Muse go pack,
Choose Plato and Plotinus for a friend
Until imagination, ear and eye,
Can be content with argument and deal
In abstract things; or be derided by
A sort of battered kettle at the heel.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Extry, Extry, Read All About It


My latest installment of The Maine Family Robinson is up over at Rightnetwork, risking being totally ignored on election day. Save the pixels! Read Top Ten The Hell With It, I’m Outta Here Movies over there, and put your own choice in the comments there. After you go to town hall and vote against everyone, of course. Bonus Classics Illustrated cover illustration. ***sniff*** I had that comic book.