Sunday, September 30, 2007

Say It Say It Say It Say It

I never cared for the whole Diana Ross thang. She married the boss; threw her friends over the side; I never thought she was all that pretty -- though many people always have and still do -- just sorta brittle looking.

When we'd drive to family gatherings in my Dad's broken down old cars with the crackly AM radio fading in and out, it was the Four Tops or The Temptations I'd hope would fill the Motown slots on the endlessly repeating one hour playlist, not the Supremes. Let's put all that aside, and wonder at the perfection of this:

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Dog From Ipanema

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Government Got Big. The People Got Small

These are the same building. Let me explain.

The first is the old Boston City Hall. It's still standing, on School Street in Boston. It's in a pleasant little courtyard, across from the venerable Parker House Hotel. It doesn't have any civic function any more. It's filled with restaurants and offices now. It's a handsome building.

The second picture is what's called by real locals as the "New City Hall." It's almost forty years old, but Boston is a provincial place. They'll call it that forever. I'm from Boston. Let me assure you all: The New City Hall and environs is the ugliest place in our solar system. They should read Vogon poetry from a balcony there every day, all day.

I've been in the New City Hall. I've talked to lots of people that have been in it, and plenty more that have worked in it. And it's been unanimous. It's the most hateful, anti-human, drafty, cold, forbidding dungeon in the world.

They should demolish it. But that's not enough. They should exhume the corpses of the architects, and the politicians that hired them, and shoot them into the sun. If they're not dead, all the better. They constructed the worst place on earth. Expiation of that kind of guilt requires a substantial gesture. Not the sun though, now that I think of it. It's too warm there. The sun never shines in that building. Pluto.

Let's say you'd never seen that building before. The monstrosity, not the pleasant one. I could tell you it was a prison, and you'd not only believe me, you'd write your congressman to complain about how poorly treated prison inmates must be to be housed in such a place. If I told you secret police in East Germany tortured people in there, what visual clue could you glean from the photo that would give away the misattribution? No one would enter an upside-down abattoir looking place like that unless they were handcuffed and screaming, would they? If it said Arbeit Macht Frei over the door, would it surprise you?

The first one is a Second Empire dustcatcher. In America, they called Second Empire style General Grant style. It's visually very dense and interesting to look at. It's elegant inside too. And the sober, serious nature of the place still reflects a profound respect for civic government. It just doesn't visually scream: Submit or Die... and pay your Water Bill Here like the second one does.
People elsewhere call Boston Beantown. Locals never do. Some call it The Hub. But when this building was built, Boston was called "The Athens of America." Boston's rich tradition of civic virtue, education, culture made it an accurate description. But the basis of all culture and sophistication is an appreciation for mankind.

When you are designing and building a building, the human being is the template. All that stuff applied, and the forms of the spaces themselves, trace their proportions and rhythms and coloring back to the human form, and the world he inhabits. It's the reason why the Parthenon doesn't look goofy to anybody. It's based on all humanity.

What is that miserable pile of brick and brutal concrete in the second picture representing? The worst instincts of men; no less. You are made to submit your humanity at the door -- my mistake, the curb... hell two blocks away this thing sucks the life out of a passerby. At any rate, it's the perfect example of the late sixties intellectual and architectural zeitgeist, that buildings are a machine that answers only to themselves and the crabby fools that design them, and their users are just fodder to be fed into the front door- if you can find it.

The current Mayor of Boston might be the least attractive example of a public official I can imagine. If he didn't exude a sort of lumpen aura of venality and corruption, like a dim plumber who cheats on his bills, he'd have no interesting attributes at all. Even he's got enough sense to want to tear the place down and start over. But the same sort of insane fans of Brutalist anti-human architecture that built the thing are trying to declare the building a Boston Landmark, so no one will ever be able to touch it. They understand that it would be a repudiation of their worldview, not just the building itself, and they're going to be wrong, wrong, wrong right to the grave. They'll fight tooth and nail for the Brezhnevian thing to the bitter end.

They built the new city hall because the old one was too small. The population of Boston is about 600,000 now. When they built the new one, it was about 600,000. When they built the old one, it was about 500,000. The government got big. It was the people that got small.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Who's Looking At Who?

You have to understand everything to be in business.

Please note I said "understand," not "be good at." But if you're going to turn over part of your efforts to others, for money, and you don't have a grasp of what they're doing --or supposed to be doing -- you're in for a lot of trouble. See: 1999 CEO investments in web-based business models if you need a refresher.

What is that allegory about the blind men feeling the elephant? Something about each man describing the animal differently because they can't see the whole thing. Each fellow is feeling a different part of the beast. I'm sure it's very Zen and Tony Robbins and Rah Rah Let's Go Out There and Sell People! if you tell it right in a multi-level marketing motivational speech. But I can't be bothered to remember it, and believe me, in real life, it's the elephant that's blind -- and angry, too -- and if you're lucky he just steps on your toes and doesn't sit on you. And by the way, everybody always is positioned in the same spot under the elephant of commerce: under its tail.

Anyway, I was put on notice that there would be no mercy shown to such as I a long time before I heard : "I can't save every undercapitalized business in America." That wasn't even the first time such a person mentioned they weren't going to be interested in throwing me a flotation device, even though I didn't really need one until they had just hurled me into the ocean. The only thing you can ever pray for in business is to be left alone. I must pray in the wrong church.

I make things because it is in my bones to do so. Every once in a while --fairly often, thank God -- someone sends me a letter or an e-mail, telling me that the thing I made for them made them happy to look at it, or helped their children to reach the sink to brush their teeth, or some other detail that made their life a little more pleasant. And I have to trust that many more feel that way but are anonymous. You have to put your efforts out into the ether, and doggedly trust sometimes that they are worthwhile. You can't always tell right away. The penalty for trusting the wrong things is... I can't save every undercapitalized bu...

The customers feed my children, and my soul. And like the fools we all are, they thank me for it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


My wife and I don't grow anything to eat.

There's be no point to it, anyway, as a deer is like a bunny rabbit around here. They eat at the prickly barberry bushes and nibble the spiny leaves off the hollies now. It would be a 24 hour counterassault to try to safeguard actual food from them. Neither one of us comes by it naturally anyway.

My beloved Uncle Raphael grows things to eat. He has a soft spot for enormous gaudy flowers, too. In the early summer he'll attend any fete with a huge bucket of blooms for the hosts. But this time of year, it's all food he brings.

I can't remember the latin term, exactly. Glebae ascriptii, I think. Google is no help. It might be forty years since I read the term, but it stuck. It meant tied to the land, I believe. It referred to people who were serfs, who literally came with the property.

I can't imagine our ancestors were very wealthy before they crossed the ocean in big rusting freighters to scratch out a life here in America. When I think of paisan, I think of peasant. That is its literal derivation, though that is obscure now. You are my friend, my countryman, my compatriot, because like me, you scratch your living out of the same earth.

I wonder if we were glebae ascriptii. I'm sure we were paisans. I wonder if it is in our bones, somewhere, the wonderful magic of bringing forth life from the land. If it's in my bones, it is hiding well. Maybe Uncle Ray got mine. He certainly got more than his share. I can't think of another man that has conjured more things out of this earth and sea than he. It has to be enough, perhaps that he is my zio Raphael, and thinks to give the fruits of his labor to his nipote.

It was common in the working trades to labor next to those that were older, and learn from them. That was the compact. The grail for the younger man was always the grudging respect you could earn with your effort from the older and wiser man. His nephews all took a run at it. Uncle Ray wore us all out. We brought in reinforcements and they flagged. He's retired now, long after he should have been. Now he wears us out with his tomatoes. Someday he'll wear out the other archangels with his smile.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Copley Is Not Square

[Originally posted in April 2006, so no, you're not going senile or having deja vu all over again, again, if this looks familiar.]
I'm hanging around the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston again, at least in the Internet sense. Here's a picture that's... ahem... hanging around the museum too. It's called Boy With A Squirrel, or, alternately: Portrait of Henry Pelham, and it was painted by John Singleton Copley, and it's a wonder.

Copley is a fairly well known artist, at least in America, because he had the presence of mind to paint well, and paint famous and influential people, and people who would become so.

Copley was born in 1738 to Irish immigrants in what would become the most Irish of American cities, Boston, Massachusetts. Something untoward must have happened, because ten years later, Copley had a step-father, Peter Pelham, a British born engraver. Pelham taught young Copley about engraving, including a method called mezzotint, an extremely demanding technique that allowed engravers to achieve great subtlety in light and shadow, but that few could master well enough to use. His step-father also exposed Copley to a few painters who influenced him some, but he appears to be almost entirely self taught in oil painting, which as you can see, is a marvel.

He painted this portrait of his half brother, Henry Pelham, in 1765. It uses a method of depicting persons along with items from their daily life, called portrait d'apparat, which was very unusual for its time, especially in America. Portrait painting always had lots of symbolism in the items, dress, and setting of their patrons, but they generally weren't quotidian things from a regular person's life.

Copley painted all sorts of famous and interesting Americans, like John Adams, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Sam Adams, and all sorts of lesser colonial lights whose names ring a bell to anyone who's lived in Boston: Codman; Quincy; Warren; Boylston; Pepperell.

Go back and look at the painting. There's a kind of exactness of likeness that has long fallen out of favor in art. Even the greatest American artist ever, John Singer Sargent, eschewed exactitude and captured his likenesses with brushwork that up close looks like it was done with a housepainting brush. If you look at the studies Copley would do of his portrait subjects, they look almost mechanical, as if he were drawing up plans for the human in question, not painting their portraits.

But go back and look at the painting. The delicacy of effect, the absolute shimmering depth of the minutest detail of the composition, the obvious love of the artist for his medium and his manifest ability to see and convey to the viewer exactly what he sees, and more -- what is important about the subject -- is like a form of necromancy. It's no wonder that some cultures think portraits steal one's soul. Henry Pelham's soul is in that portrait, and Copley's to boot.

Before telegraph, and radio, and television, and all the other methods of telling a stranger what you think and about what you think it, the portrait artist did it. You don't look at that portrait, you live in it for a moment. I've made a thousand tables, and looked at ten thousand more, and I can tell you that's exactly the way the light catches the corner of one. I could look at the picture all day and not run out of things to look at, and marvel over.

There was a problem of course. Copley got married, and his father-in-law was a merchant. A tea merchant. And one of his portrait subjects, Sam Adams, and some of his compatriots, got dressed up in an unconvincing fashion as American Indians, and dumped Copley's father-in-law's tea into Boston Harbor. And like many concerned about their famlily's safety if revolution came, he went to England where he remained for the rest of his life, well regarded, patronized by the rich and the regal, but never again reaching the sublime heights of his American paintings.

No one wants to look at his portrait of George the Fourth when he was the Prince of Wales, after all; not when you can see the young man with the pet squirrel, and know that the marrow of an entire country was in the brush that painted it.

England got him, but they can't have him.

It's Actually Called: "Soil"

The always interesting Pajamas Media is just a little more interesting today than most days, as they are running an article written by yours truly:

Monday, September 24, 2007


Mom never understood the bread.

I could see a little bit of disappointment, a little at a time. It was like a ship appearing on the horizon. It's just a speck at first. You can't know how big it is until it gets close to shore. Mom was proud of me when I was young, because my friends were all hanging out doing nothing on the corner --or worse-- and I was working like a man. But as the months turned to years, the ship of her disappointment hove into view. The tonnage of it up close was formidable.

Disappointment is not shame, nor anything like it. She thought I could do more with myself, is all. Lawyer. Doctor. General. Something where there would be a newspaper clipping or two she could show to the neighbors. That's my boy. That's all she wanted. An affirmation.

But the baguettes came out of that hot hole in the wall the first time, and I was hooked. I was never allowed to do much except sweep the floor at first, and carry the sacks of meal. But I knew right away. I knew I could never get away from the smell of it, the wondrous feeling of the flour on my hands, the heat like the sun on a rock at the beach all day long.

I loved it; and so the fellows that did it with a grunt and a sneer for money could never compete with me. They'd go home five minutes early and grumble while I'd go by on my day off and help out and smile. I am their lord and master now. By acclamation. Let him do it; he'll do it anyway. And the owner's son, dissipated and snarling, didn't last a month. I'm the real son. I'll save my little all and buy it when the old man goes; or he'll give it to me, because he wants his idea to keep going, and his own boy has other ideas.

I bring it home and lay it on the table, and Mom murmurs her grudging assent. A man decides for himself. At least he's a man, she thinks. And the bread is the food of angels; but still.

Mom will have to go without, because many will never ask why they raised a statue to me; it has to be enough that a few will ask why they didn't, when we are all gone.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Friday, September 21, 2007

In A Barroom

My beloved brother sent me this one. He plays the electric bass as well as this fellow plays the guitar. I... make end tables better than this guy. At least I hope I do.

I used to meet guys like this out in gin-joints every once in a while. If you were in Nashville, or Los Angeles, or New York, or Boston because Berklee College of Music is there, they'd be playing for short money in crummy nightspots. Wedding bands. Things like that. Danny Gatton in front of the dartboard reminded me of ten guys right off. Every once in a while I'd be playing in some pick-up band cobbled together at the last minute for some execrable function, and some guy would just start blazing away like that. You'd sheepishly wonder what the hell he was doing playing with you.

Then some drunk would walk up to you in the middle of whatever song you were playing, and demand that you stop, and play: "Green Grass and High Tides Forever," or maybe "Radar Love," because that was his wedding song, and you knew exactly what you were all doing in there: Making a living.
[Updated: Reader and commenter Bissage points out that Danny Gatton committed suicide a decade ago. A damn shame. Who knows what's in another man's heart?]

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Gun Sight

He'd tramp alone.

When he was young, his father would take him. His father never taught him anything. No use in talking to a man unless you were his jailer. Father showed him. It's all a man can do.

His father was long done with the business of this world. He'd got all that was his due, and surrendered without a fight. He didn't owe the world anything, and the world had given him all it had to offer a contemplative man. Now it was his turn.

The other fellows took it as an opportunity for cameraderie, and drinking and laughing and so forth. Civilization is for that. He wanted the wilderness.

As soon as the brambles gave up their passive fight, and he got in where the sun couldn't beat its way past the canopy of the trees, he could stand for a long minute and change himself. Back, back, back.

The animals do not trouble themselves about the future. It's all now with them. They feel pain and fear, but don't ever expect them. He must put himself in that place. He has to do that alone.

He's seen them like no other sees them; warm and dead in his arms. He sees the ticks dug in their hides, and the abscesses and scars of the world dragged along their flanks without caring. He sees the world reflected in their dull eyes. It's a harsh world, maybe; but it never troubled such as they, who lived right in it -- right to the end.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Newsflash: Be On The Lookout For Justin Gotta

Who’s Justin Gotta, you ask? Why he’s your consultant for house design, decorating, work, home, play, finances, politics, childrearing…

Let me explain.

I’ve discovered a rule of thumb that has carried me through my life without disappointment for many years. I came to these two realizations, this two pronged observation, observing customers’ as well as employees’ behavior. I realized only later that it applied to almost any stripe of life as well. Here it is:

Part 1: When the customer uses the word “just” in a sentence, you’re going to hear something dumb.

Example: “Why don’t you just build the second floor first, we have the lumber for that, and slip the first floor under it later? Why can’t we just do that?”

Or: “Why can’t we just make the house two thousand square feet bigger for no money?

Part2: When an employee uses the words “I gotta” in a sentence, it’s going to be followed by something stupid, or a lie, or a toxic admixture of mendacity and foolishness.

Example: "I can’t work today because I gotta…"

I’m not going to bother finishing that sentence, because it doesn’t matter what follows; it’ll be really dumb, or a fib, likely both, I assure you.

On one hand, I’ve had employees come to me and ask me if they could please leave work fifteen minutes early on Friday afternoon, because they had to go to chemotherapy. They scheduled their treatments on Fridays in the afternoon so they could recover in time for Monday.

People like that never use the words “I gotta.”

The “I gotta” is a sort of a vestigal verbal tail, left over from the teen years, used for trying to weasel out of your obligations or get treatment you don’t deserve by appealing to a deus ex machina, an overriding imaginary obligation that makes further discussion or disputation impossible:

“But I said I gotta have Wednesday off! Didn’t you hear me? I gotta! It’s not like I have a choice in the matter, I gotta pick up my brother and go to the casino and get loaded and then I gotta get another day off in a couple weeks to go to court for missing my child support payments that I blew at the racetrack on the way home from the casino and the barroom.”

“I just gotta.”

Keeping a watchful eye out for those two terms has served me in good stead lo these many years. And I always give as good as I get, so I’m careful to beware of them lest they appear in my own sentences.

Customers, beware the just and gottas on your own end, as well. Like an accusing index finger, the just and gottas generally have a malefactor on both ends of them.

If you hear: “We were going to work at your house this week but we gotta…”

Oh no. We gotta. The “we gotta” is an especially virulent form of the virus, and has been known to wipe out entire work weeks. Beware.

“Can’t you just pay us in advance? Because we gotta…”

This is the equivalent of the plague sweeping a medieval town. If you spot the dreaded we gotta, in the same sentence, or egads, the same prepositional phrase as can’t you just?, abandon all hope. There is nothing left for you but prayer.

I began to notice that the rule applied to everything in life, not just work. It’s as close to the Golden Rule as I’ve ever gotten, and I’m no philosopher. Think about it.

It’s charming to remember a time when that jug-eared martian from Texas, Ross Perot, was a legitimate presidential candidate, and whose whole party platform consisted of saying “Why can’t we just…?” about everything. Why can’t we just tell those Palestinians and Jews to knock it off? Why can’t we just raise the gas tax fifty cents? Why can’t we just run the federal government out of a Motel 6 in Austin?

And so forth. It’s a testament to the attraction of the “just” and “gotta” that he got as far as he did, and likewise a testament to the good sense of the electorate that finally realized he just a cross between your boss saying: “Why can’t you just work on Christmas eve for free?” and your plumber telling you he couldn’t come for two days because “I gotta wax my boat”

And so dear reader, remember, when someone says: Why don’t you “Just do it?” tell them you don’t “just” become a two hundred and seventy pound mass of muscle who runs as fast as a sprinter by buying shoes. When you hear: “Why don’t we just get five gay men to decorate our shabby apartment on television, or: “I gotta talk to the president again and dictate American foreign policy from a ditch by the side of the road, why can’t we just ..,” caution is called for.

Beware Justin Gotta.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Got Darts?

In my yute, I spent a lot of time in bars.

Of course I was occasionally drunk in them, that's true; but not all that often. I worked in them, mostly. It's a different animal, working in bars. People imagine that show business is the same, only better, if you're on a stage. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Anyway, you had to find a way to pass the time in a bar, without getting loaded, if you were working in there but idle for a time. I learned to play darts. I got pretty good at it. It never hurt that I was six-two with long arms; to the short fellows I appeared to just be leaning over and inserting them in the bulls-eye. I was so very much built to do it that the tip of my nose is exactly the height of the bulls-eye from the floor. When I worked constructing nightclubs, we used to hang dartboards using me for a ruler. Darts were a fun way to pass the time.

My son found my darts, in a little velcro pouch, and was fascinated by them. They have the appearance of weapons to a grade schooler, which they always find compelling. Dad, what do you do with these?

It's been 15 years since I played at all. I used to like to play a game called Cricket, which has lots of strategery possibilities because you can rack up penalty points that your opponent has to overcome. Any game that allows you to simply win, or crush your opponent to taste, is the game for me. There's almost always hope in such a game, as there is always a way to change tactics to suit the situation.

The real players don't play that, they play 501. In 501, you have to simply throw the darts into the little slivers of the board marked with the numbers 1 through 20, with the thin outer ring counting double, the thin ring toward the center triple, and the bulls-eye rings counting 25 or 50 for the very center. You subtract the total of your throws from 501. To finish, you have to end on a double; so for instance, you could subtract the sum of your throws down to 40, then hit the double 20 at the very top of the board to win. It seems counterintuitive to most onlookers, but the center bullseye is worth less than a triple 20. In 501 you essentially ignore it.

I was good at this game, but I found it boring. It's the reason you see a list of arithmetic posted next to dart boards, outlining various combinations of throws that will lead to an "out" based on your remaining score. It's too much like work.

My son wanted to see what playing darts was like. YouTube to the rescue. Here's a World Championship in 1974. Look at the size of the crowd.

Well before my time, of course. But I tell you, with God as my witness, I would have murdered either one of these guys. I was shocked at how bad they were, even taking into account their rather old-school darts. How could they be competing at such a level?

Like many things, as soon as there's enough interest -- and some money-- that which is casual becomes very, very serious. And so, thirty years later, look at how good you have to be to win:

I'm out.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Oh. My. God! The Overchoice Is Coming!

You know, I'd love to just snicker behind the back of people like this. Riding in a limousine, reading a crummy script he's considering to make a few hundred lousy grand that'll keep him in cigars, booze, and hookers for another month or two --or at least until his beluga caviar and suet diet makes him pop like a zit-- but I can't. That's a luxury, like most luxuries, that I can't afford. I can't because I'm the sort of guy that these old grandmothers want to trap in amber, or plunge back into poverty, because they're desperate to avoid "overchoice" in our lives. And by "our lives" he means "your lives," of course, not his. Remember, being a big deal is a zero-sum game.

But what if you buy the wrong stuff? What if you spend your money on braces for your ugly kids or renting a jet-ski for your two-week vacation, instead of plane fare to Davos or a PAC contribution? You boors. You untermenschen. You proles. Get back on the tram to your concrete dovecote and wait for the crummy teleplay I'm reading in the first scene of this bedwetting fearfest to to come on your black and white TV and ennoble your miserable existence.

Look, you cutting edge monomaniac scaremongers: it doesn't make a dime's bit of difference to me that you're the obverse of a crabby old senile grandma now: Take off your sweater, dear, because I'm hot! I'm pushing fifty and I've heard your apocalyptic paralytic mewling half a dozen times, already, no matter what flavor you're peddling -- this cataclysm is too cold... this millenarian vision is too hot... this bovine flatulence threat to the arctic circle is just right! --and I'm sick to death of all of them. And I'm sick to death of you, and your mouthbreathing messianic messengers, too.

Listen, all you Throckmorton Arnold Devonshire-Smythe IVs: please join the country club like decent people used to and complain about the little people through clenched teeth. Wear pants with whales on them, just like everybody that flies on a private jet should, and leave the people with more spine than trust fund to navigate the foaming seas of "over-choice." We promise not to let the real world intrude on yours, and we'll keep those greens looking sharp, if you'll just shut the hell up.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Summer Re-Runs: Motorheads

You guys don't understand Rock music.

That's OK. You don't know how you'd fare in prison because you watch Oz, either. You're a "consumer." That's fine.

Well, I was a "producer" of rock music for a while, in a little way, and I worked with lots of other varied "producers" of your rock and roll entertainment, and I'd like to sing the praises of a certain type of guitar hero: The motorhead.

No, not MotorHead. That's a band. They have an inexplicable umlaut in their name I can't be bothered to add.

No, I mean motorheads. Watch the Grand Funk Railroad video. Those are motorheads.

You see, rock music wasn't all sissies like David Bowie and Peter Frampton and so forth. And it wasn't all pseudointellectuals like Yes and Sting. And it wasn't all escapees from Broadway or the music hall like the Beatles or Elton John or Queen. It wasn't all three chord cowboys- all hat no cattle --like the Eagles. It was guys from shop class. It was the motorheads.

They were good at sports but wouldn't play on teams because they didn't give a fig. The liked two stroke engines and took apart LED watches and had jobs when they were sixteen bending sheetmetal or doing body work in a garage while you were watching TV. They had mini-bikes and guns for toys when they were little kids while you were playing Clue. They were shaving, or needed shaving was more likely, when you had your mother's face still. And they had a sunny, easygoing disposition, got Ds in everything in high school, and got all the girls the football players didn't vacuum up. And a lot of the ones they did, eventually.

Because they were good at math and music, and they were masculine, and they could play rock music.

And their music, whether copied from others or home-made, was raucous and lively and manly and fun and brash and direct and unaffected. And they weren't sexual as a pose. They weren't pretending to like pretty girls by the armload.

I'm not paying attention closely any longer. I don't know if there are people like this around anymore. I can't think of any. They never whined, so no grunge, thanks. They never committed suicide, because they were happy all the damn time, so no Cobainiacs need apply. They'd never dress up, so that leaves out the Ozzie wannabes.

Oh well. I'm Rock and Roll Darwin, and I'm here to assure you: These dinosaurs once roamed the earth. And they were a blast.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Saturday Morning Musical Funnies Kinda

*Mick Jagger voice* Me bruvver sent me this one, then. It's bleedin' Etienne Mbappe, what plays the soddin' bass, he does. *end Mick Jagger voice*

Friday, September 14, 2007

Will You Stand With Me A Moment, In The Garden?

Seigneur, faites de moi un instrument de votre paix.
Là où il y a de la haine, que je mette l’amour.
Là où il y a l’offense, que je mette le pardon.
Là où il y a la discorde, que je mette l’union.
Là où il y a l’erreur, que je mette la vérité.
Là où il y a le doute, que je mette la foi.
Là où il y a le désespoir, que je mette l’espérance.
Là où il y a les ténèbres, que je mette votre lumière.
Là où il y a la tristesse, que je mette la joie.
Ô Maître, que je ne cherche pas tant à être consolé qu’à consoler,
À être compris qu’à comprendre,
À être aimé qu’à aimer,
Car c’est en donnant qu’on reçoit,
C’est en s’oubliant qu’on trouve,
C’est en pardonnant qu’on est pardonné,
C’est en mourant qu’on ressuscite à l’éternelle vie.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You've Never Even Met A Man. Stop Writing About Them

I'm getting a lot of people visiting my site because they're searching on the topic of "things men should be able to do." They end up here, mostly: 10 Things You Should Be Able To Do If You're A Handy Homeowner. That one was written in response to Popular Mechanic's list of indispensable hand skills.

Well, Popular Mechanics has gone back to that well for another drink: 25 Skills Every Man Should Know. Hence people showing up at my doorstep looking for someone dirty. The online pubishing world has figured out that a list of any kind is the way to draw eyeballs. They've also figured out that very few living persons has ever even met an actual Man person, the breed having been hunted nearly to extinction, so they can write down any old thing in a bulleted way and sell advertising for Sharper Image in the margins.

Here's the list. I stole it. How manly:

1. Patch a radiator hose
2. Protect your computer
3. Rescue a boater who as capsized
4. Frame a wall
5. Retouch digital photos
6. Back up a trailer
7. Build a campfire
8. Fix a dead outlet
9. Navigate with a map and compass
10. Use a torque wrench
11. Sharpen a knife
12. Perform CPR
13. Fillet a fish
14. Maneuver a car out of a skid
15. Get a car unstuck
16. Back up data
17. Paint a room
18. Mix concrete
19. Clean a bolt-action rifle
20. Change oil and filter
21. Hook up an HDTV
22. Bleed brakes
23. Paddle a canoe
24. Fix a bike flat
25. Extend your wireless network

Geez. There's a whiff of delirium tremens about the list, a kind of random weirdness; it's as if a female martian was describing what she figured a human male would be like, but never having visited our orb, she was just taking a stab at it.

I suppose I'm obligated to tell you I've done everything on the list, whether I have or not, because that seems to be the "manly" thing to do. But me? I'm probably not lying. Let's take any one from the list... let's see... paint a room?

House Painter

Heterosexual Eye For The Married Guy

First, Get 200 Gallons Of Paint

Get Busy

I Tire Of This Sport

Never mind all that. I'm sick of cubicle dwellers waxing philosophical about people like me. The difference between me and the cubicle dwellers is I can do everything on your lists, but I know how to write. Go get a pedicure or something while I post my list:

Sippican's List Of Everything A Man Should Know:

1. Know how to do whatever the hell you feel like doing
2. Learn how to take your lumps for doing #1

Class dismissed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Some Hope In The Debris

Our presence was required last evening at Junior High School.

I live in a town that many others covet for the school system. I don't get that bit.

The school buildings are mostly new and not in disrepair that I could see. The administration seems fairly organized. Everyone was most pleasant.

But I can't help noticing things. And I noticed that the school is set up to amuse the faculty.

We parents were shuffled all over the place, and were lectured at by a series of teachers about what they were doing. There was no idea that the wishes and ideals of the parents of the children had any place in this setting. There was an undercurrent of like it or lump it in all of it. I fall mostly into the lump it category. Always have.

Like most all modern school buildings, the fabric of the place itself is grim and desolate. Concrete block, vinyl composition tile on the floors below, drop ceiling above. Anywhere the ceiling was exposed, it displayed all the guts of the services in the building in the postmodern way. I hate it.

The rooms are fussy without being neat. There are elaborate, almost kabuki-like rules for the behavior of everybody, but there is nothing like decorum. I went to every classroom my boy goes to, mostly ignored the teachers perorations about nothing, and instead used the time to look at my child's schoolbooks; and I marveled not only at what drivel was in them, but how little drivel they manage to fit on a page in a textbook these days.

I'm not young anymore. Since the amount of time between my experience in this setting and my re-acquaintance with it through my children has been so long, it was possible to get a kind of shock from it. It all came back to me in a moment.

I wanted to run screaming from that building. I wanted to stand up and tell them all I wasn't going to sit in this desolate rubbery landscape anymore and listen to people who had never been outdoors in the daytime drone on and on. I wanted to yell that I wanted information doled out with a ladle, not an eyedropper. I wanted to see fewer concrete blocks painted gray than your average deathrow inmate.

One teacher -- English teacher --who appeared about 14 years old and who is two inches shorter than my seventh grader already, messed up my reverie of discomfiture. She talked to us like we were short bus candidates, of course, but never mind that. She got all jazzed talking about how much fun it would be --for her, of course; made no bones about it--to teach out of a book called What is "Normal" Anyway?, with the word normal in scare quotes, of course. Let's not dwell on that, as I doubt she could have any idea just how normal and just how really scary people like me could be; real menace never touches such as her.

Then she ruined it all for me. She held up Tom Sawyer. The very edition I'm telling people to read over at the Borderline Sociopathic Blog for Boys. She said it was kind of a drag for the kids to read because it was so difficult, (she said about herself without knowing it) but they were going to slog through it.

On the car ride home, my wife asked me what I thought of my son's school.

"It'll be fine."

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Same River (Summer Re-Run)

I've walked up this street so many times now. I can't really remember how many times.

You can never put your foot in the same river twice.

Heh. High School. What do they know?

I can tick my finger through the slats on Atkin's fence, and feel the rhythm of it in my bones. I can remember which are out of alignment enough to break the pulse of it. I know it. I painted it once for summer money.

I know when to shrug past the light pole and dodge around the mailboxes and the amount I've got to raise my foot to clear the curb without looking. The neighbor's dogs don't bark at me. They know me like I know them. I'm not the same as when I left, but I smell the same, I guess.

I like the way the rocker at 27 goes back and forth in the breeze. I could always look out the window and see how much breeze there was before I went out. There's never a person in the chair, so it's more useful. Funny, that.

The lawn's gone to seed. Mom never could push that fiendish little mixer with the curling blades going swish swish and the finely shorn blades of grass cascading onto your shoes. It always made her peevish, to be so close to danger and to be expected to be disinterested in it. I could tell her a bit about that now.

Dad had to go and die on her. His back was too strong for his heart, she said. She says I got all his heart. She got the mower.

She's alone, but not lonely, she wrote to me, because she has him and me in her heart always. She says death and the grave is nothing. Nothing but your troubles ends at the edge of the hole in the ground, she'd said while we each threw in a handful of gravel, eight summers ago. Mom cries when she reads novels but not in a boneyard.

I always put my right foot on the first step.It's the spot already worn from dad's boot. I wear away at the spot in his place now. Someday I'll wear it clean through and I won't know what to do, because the hole will be dearer to me than a religion, but how do you keep a hole? Dad will be gone in another hole.

The door has that heavy oval glass in it. I used to run my finger around the bevel, to feel the clean edge and marvel at the perfection of the curve of it. Dad said I'd be a man when I could reach all the way around without tiptoes. I showed him I could. He let me mow the lawn.

The paint's peeling on the jamb -- except around the doorbell, where it's worn all away. There's a lesson in that, but I don't care what it is. I can see straight through the house from the stoop, the rooms opening one into another in a line. Mom's in the kitchen, at the end of the parade. Her hair hangs in her face like it always did when she was working. A wisp on either side of her eyes. She brushes it back with the side of her hand, and her head turns, and she sees me there in the glass.

She stares at me a good long while. She leans on her hand on the tabletop, like I've seen her do a thousand times a thousand times when the kitchen gets too hot.

Maybe I should have wrote. Maybe I shouldn't have worn the uniform. Maybe she don't know me right away. Maybe I'm different now.

Monday, September 10, 2007

They Run And Hide Their Heads

I remember the way it used to sizzle on the corrugated roof.

Rain in the city is nothing. I love the sound of it still, but the whole place, from the scuppers in the parapet walls above, down to the pipes below the street, are only there to make it go away. It scours the street and washes away the children's chalk on the sidewalks and makes its way to the sea. It doesn't feed anything here.

I remember my father. He'd stand in that field, lean on the ash handle -- bought rough and made smooth with his uncountable exertions-- take off his hat, wipe his brow, and scan the skies for a long moment. I'd watch him and wonder what might rumble through a head such as his. If he spoke ten thousand words in his lifetime, I'd be surprised to hear it. I never heard them.

He was watching for rain, of course. A man with the fingers of green just coming out of the rows keeps his eye on the horizon. It's not a matter of forgetting an umbrella and having to hustle from the trolley to the vestibule. It's life and death.

"Be careful what you wish for." was one of the few things my father did say. He'd say it whenever anybody said something stupid at the Grange Hall. "There's no free lunch." would usually follow. Father knew about a sword with two edges. Everything has two edges on a farm.

And so he would scan the skies with that squint of his, born of countless days under that forbidding sun, and pray for sweet, precious rain. He knew that if it did not come, we were done for, and those tender shoots would stand like the headstones they were in his field. But he knew also, in his quiet way, that the thing he prayed for might wash us all away in a maelstrom. It is an odd thing, to earnestly pray for the thing that might save you, that could just as easily crush you like the bugs we all are.

Father and the farm are all gone now. I reach out from under the porch eave, and let the drops hit my hand before the city throws them all away.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

What Church Do You Pray In?

In a very real way, this is the church for me:

It takes a great deal of practice and talent and the contemplation of sublime and mundane things alike to stand before others in that fashion, and testify. The words are no more complicated than a ransom note. What is being held? What will it take to free it? All I can do is tell you about it, imperfectly.

Applause is not just an odd noise at the end of that silky skein of notes.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Saturday Morning Funnees

Ah, it's Saturday. I'm self-employed. That means that means nothing.

I loved typing that last sentence. I knew you'd have to read it twice. We all have to get our fun any way we can.

I'm not sure of anything much, but I'm sure my four-year-old will watch this fourteen straight times.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Willie Horton's Brother From Another Mother

[Update! Hey, they caught him this morning. According to a friend at town hall, he was caught in my yard, more or less. We slept through it. He's going to pray for the death penalty, what with the poison ivy out there.]

Hey! A fugitive murderer let out on parole is running around my neighborhood. Ah, it's just like old times here in Massachusetts. Is Mike Dukakis running for President again?

I'm sure all the people reading this in Detroit or Cleveland or New York are asking "Only one? Pikers." Yep. Mass pikers, at that.

Well, you're right, fugitive paroled murderers aren't all that common around here. Any kind of people aren't all that common around here. There's only 4500 people in the town I live in. That's only like .002% murderers by volume. He's 6 foot 2, 230 pounds, so by weight the ratio might be higher. If New York City had .002% murderers, there'd be about 18,000 murderers there. Actually, that sounds about right.

He actually escaped from the police in the next town over, Mattapoisett, about a half-mile from my mom's house. He was driving a delivery truck to an industrial park I go to fairly often, and bolted into the woods and left the truck in the parking lot. The police arrived shortly after. They wanted to talk to him, over what is being termed a "domestic dispute". Someone must have warned him they were coming after him. Someone's always looking out for murderers in Massachusetts. If he keeps walking straight through those woods, the first thing he comes to will be... hmm... let's try Google Earth. Hey, that's funny! That's my house. Not funny haha. Funny like saying: President Dukakis.

We found out about all this because we received automated messages by telephone, first from our son's school, and then from the police. I leave it to you to imagine what your first reaction might be upon hearing a school administrator's voice telling you that a very dangerous man is on the loose in town. Why is the school telling me this? They wanted to suggest that for today, perhaps it might be better if our grade schoolers didn't go home to an empty house. Just today?

For a while they wouldn't say what he had done to end up in jail. Eight hours after he escaped, the news babe said he was a second degree murderer out on parole. The messages told us right along he was to be considered armed and dangerous.

Really? Silly me. Why would I figure someone considered dangerous, who is likely to arm themselves, wouldn't be out on parole? I forgot where I live.

He's not the first murderer I've encountered here. I bought the plot of land to build my mom's house through a realtor a decade ago. I made an offer. He said: "I'll go put it in the drawer, and see what he says."

"The drawer?"

"Yeah, in the maximum security prison it's got to go in a drawer in a bullet-proof wall, I can't hand him the paper."

"Whah... what are you talking about?"

"Oh, the owner's in jail for killing his wife a while back. Never did find the body."

I remember laying out the foundation hole and trenches for the drainage, and instructing the excavating contractor:

"No matter what you hit, man, just keep on digging."

When that guy got out of prison (he got life, which I believe is fifteen years here; I think he only did eight, somehow) I was told he moved in more or less next door to me. You have to understand that next door around here means one town over about a quarter mile away. His family owned a campground on a local lake. That campground was -- a more wretched hive of scum and villainy... People don't camp at campgrounds any more. Lowlifes live there.

Our local area police blotter has no crime on it, more or less, but they were always going to the campground. Fights, drugs, the usual. A developer wanted to buy it and put houses there. People protested at the town meetings that the developer would be ruining the town by turning out the campground freakshow and building single family houses there. I actually saw the word "evil" used. About the developer, not any murderer. The developer prevailed, and I've never seen another police cruiser.

Until today. They've got roadblocks and helicopters. They've announced that they're calling off the search at dusk, though.

You see, that's why I love Massachusetts. You've got your murderers out on parole, and when they try to arrest them, they run away into the woods, and the police stop looking for them when the sun goes down. In our magic state, he'll no doubt turn into a toadstool at sunset, and they can just pick him up tomorrow at dawn.

I'll be right back. Someone's at the door.

An Astonishing Thing

I follow the news. Do you?

No, not that news. I don't care if Ron Paul is polling 0.005% in Iowa, and 104.7% in all the online polls. I don't care if Angelina Jolie steals another baby. I'm trying to find out things. You're not going to find out much by listening to the Dan Rathers of the world or reading the New York Times.

Actually, that's not true. You will learn all about the various psychoses suffered by Dan Rather and the New York Times staff if you listen or read what they're reporting. But I'm not interested in them. I want to know stuff.

I don't really care what Larry Craig is doing in the bathroom. There are 100 Senators treating the United States like Larry Craig treats that bathroom. That's not news to me. The fact that bizarre and untrustworthy people want, and are able, to become Senators doesn't surprise me. The fact that the vast majority of my fellow citizens are willing and enthusiastic about giving the Larry Craigs of the world dominion over our affairs is the problem. I'm not.

Very little of what's reported as news is very interesting. Almost none of it is important. But I read something yesterday that was earthshaking. Really. And as usual, I read about it in an obscure place, and they were only apprised of it by reading the New York Times, ignoring 99% of what was written, and paying attention to something the Times reported almost by accident; certainly without gauging its import.
I've read, and agree, that there have only been a few important milestones in human existence.
  1. People stopped wandering around, and started to farm.
  2. Many thousands of years later, people began to lend money at interest, the birth of the death of the barter economy.
  3. The electric light banished having half your life wasted by sunset.
  4. The internal combustion engine made us mobile.
That's it. No really, the rest is either details, or applesauce.

I wasn't alive for any of those things. But I was alive on the day that, worldwide, farming was no longer the largest occupation of human beings. The service economy superseded it. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Number 5:

The report noted that world unemployment edged downward again in 2006, to 6.3 percent from 6.4 percent, and that farming was no longer the dominant source of global employment, even if it was still the main one in the least developed countries.

Service industries accounted for 42 percent of the world’s employment in 2006 and agriculture 36.1 percent, the report said.

You and I were alive for one of the most important milestones in human existence. The human race is getting beyond having the vast majority of us grubbing around in the dirt for enough food for us all to eat. Did you know it? It was the last, throwaway line in a mundane "everything sucks" article in the Times.

And now that you know that, are you going to listen to those who would tell you that this, like pretty much all of those milestones I mentioned, is bad for the planet, and the human race? That is if they were paying attention, which they're not. The "news" is full of, and written by people like them.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Partial Explanation For Sippican

[Editor's Note: The beauty of writing your own content on a blog instead of pointing out news stories is that you can run it again after a few years. You people can't remember what you had for breakfast yesterday, can you? I thought not. Me, I can't remember what I had for breakfast today; hmmm...I hope I didn't re-run this earlier this month already]
{Author's note: You know the drill; there is no editor}

When I was a lad, and Johnson was president, most middle class basements were identical. The concrete was left exposed, the washer and dryer stood guard, one bare bulb illuminated the whole affair. Most men had a workshop of some sort down there. A venerable cast iron Craftsman table saw. Peg board, of course; pegboard was the ne plus ultra of the handy set. Kids, you're officially old when you remember when pegboard was state of the art. A few dull hand planes, perhaps a drill press, a circular saw with the original blade, a jig saw about as sturdy looking as an electric carving knife. Screwdrivers, lots and lots of screwdrivers. And baby food jars filled with wood screws, all still there unused, because the drywall screw came like a horde out of the east and swept the landscape bare of flat headed screws.

And what was that basement shop for? Why, to build a boat of course.

The plans were everywhere in the fifties and sixties. Popular Mechanics, Outdoor Life, National Fisherman, Green Stamp Catalogs. You do remember Green Stamps, don't you? You bought stuff, they gave you little stamps, you pasted them in their book, and redeemed them for worthless household stuff. It was the voluntary American version of the chit system that had its compulsory version in the USSR, with Russians standing in line for days to get a block of suet to eat.

The stories of the boat made in the basement, too big to get it out through the bulkhead, probably became cliche because because they were so true and so numerous. And many people succumbed to the siren song of the boatbuilding urge, only to founder on the Scylla of the lack of spare time and the Charybdis of lack of talent.

And why should I be any different? When I went to college for Architecture, on the first day of our design class, our teachers demanded: design your dream house. Right now. Before the end of the class. Now I thought I was there to learn how to design my dream house, with the help of these gentlemen, and then perhaps try my hand at it. But these fellows had other ideas. They seemed to have the same approach to teaching that modern singers have singing the National Anthem- I don't know the words, the song is about me, and I'm starting on the last note and going up in volume and histrionics from there.

Anyway, I sketched what is essentially an accurate representation of the home I live in now, with a little handmade boat in the yard. The ocean in the drawing was a little closer then than it is in reality now, because each eighth of a mile towards the water adds another zero to the vapor trail of zeros houses cost anyway. But in all major respects, it was spot on, two decades in advance. And they said:


Only they weren't that pleasant about it. My little dream was too, well, normal for the two men in clogs, and they told me so. With force.

As my classmates, who were wiser than me, scribbled furiously, designing concrete and steel and chain link and glass and stone monstrosities with hot and cold running potato chips, I pondered my dilemma. What would make these guys happy? And then I hit upon it.

Thirty minutes later, I showed them my new castle. It was half a geodesic sphere, plopped down bizarrely in the mountains. It was the human equivalent of a fishbowl. There were no interior partitions. Anyone inside would be roasted like an ant with magnifying glass held over them.

They loved it. They showed it to everybody else in the class. How forward looking. How brave.

On the way out of the class, the light began to dawn on one of the teachers. He asked me, where's the bathroom? It seemed to be the first time he had considered the second most fundamental human need.

I had my "A" in hand already. I could, and did, tell him: "There's a hole in the floor in the middle" and left.

Anyway, like the Philistine I am, I wanted that little handmade boat I drew in next to the cottage, back when Carter was President.

So I bought some plans. 15 years ago or so. I unrolled them and discovered: There are no straight lines on these plans. Yikes.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Time Marches On

Click on that bad boy right there.

If I changed the text on that map to read: 2005 Schoolyard Shootings With Death Toll Over 10; or perhaps: Cities with at least 400 Starbucks, or maybe 1995 Alien Abduction Sites, you probably wouldn't bat an eye. You'd e-mail it to your friends, or not, and maybe hope the aliens clean the probe after every, well, probing.

But if you're like me, you read the caption that says that this is a map of all the cities -- just 160-- that had a population of at least 25,000 in the year 1900, and your jaw dropped. Really?

The map is from the Library of Congress. While it's true that Congress has no idea what's it's doing, at least when it's not engaged in actual perfidy, the library has always been pretty good. I bet this is legit.

I live out in the sticks, and I bet I can throw rocks and hit more than 25,000 people. That map would look like you shot it 25 times with buckshot if you used the same criteria now. So what's it all mean?

To me, it means that people have lost all perspective. People forget what it was like when Jimmy Carter was president; (shudder) how are they going to have any sort of judgment about the changes wrought over a century? Great big things have been happening. They are not directed, really. No one "decided" how we were going to fill in that map. We all did it on our own without any guidance, thank you. Check that; we did it despite your guidance, you busybody know-nothings. Things are always happening, and on a grand scale. Things that don't seem to be directed by anybody in particular make people nervous now. And one of the funny side effects of people losing their faith in god, or God, or whatever, is that they don't replace the idea that we all bump along in the grand scheme of things as best we can with: the invisible hand of Adam Smith. No, they replace it with: Comrade Stalin will be along with his five year plan soon. People get nervous about "things" happening, and elect persons willing to prey on people's fears of those "things" happening by promising to stop those "things" from happening. Or start them. But they can't just happen.

There are, as usual, numerous politicians claiming that they are willing and capable of directing vast sectors of human existence better than we can all do it ourselves. I ask you: would these new voluntary directors of even the minutiae of our lives be able to identify what's already happened? I doubt it. Let's put this map in front of them, and ask them what it represents. If they know what it is, if they even know what's already happened, then maybe I'll listen to them when they tell me they know what's going to happen, and what we should do about it. I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

-Are those are all the places where I've solicited sex in a public bathroom?

-All the places I've got haircuts that cost more than 400 dollars?

-All the places I might have buried Chandra Levy?

-All the places I've solicited campaign contributions from a boy named Hsu?

-All the places I've crashed my car into things while wacked out on Ambien and Chivas?

-All the places I've shot people in the face...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Disregard The Man Behind The Curtain

First, my bona fides:

Unions are not an abstraction to me. I was a member of the second largest union in the United States. My brother is a Teamster. My next door neighbor, who is not a bad sort of guy, is a retired union delegate for the Teamsters. I guess I should mention my brother is not a bad sort of guy, too.

When I was a manager, part of the company I worked for was unionized. Part was not. I hired many companies as construction subcontractors over a large part of the United States that were unionized. I hired many more that were not.

I am not wealthy. I was not born wealthy, and will likely not die wealthy. I have worked at hard, physical labor for a great portion of my life. My parents and grandparents almost all worked at least for a portion of their lives in those mills you see in grainy photos, where an untimely lapse in concentration could cost you a finger, or worse. Before them, it was all Europe and lord only knows how bad it was to send us all here.

While it's true that I've been treated pretty badly by many employers -- and imagined I was being treated badly by some employers who weren't treating me very badly at all -- I have also been threatened with the destruction of the only valuable thing I owned at the time -- my car--and serious bodily harm if that didn't convince me never again to exceed the quota of work deemed appropriate by my "brothers" in the union. In a parking lot at midnight. I know what I did, but I'm not sayin'. Tell me; what would you do?

When I worked for others, I've negotiated such things as trash hauling contracts in New York supplied by perfect gentlemen who are very much in a union. Conversely, I've been shown a chrome plated .45 as a means of collecting Accounts Payable by a decidedly non-union fellow. Life is not as simple as they portray it in the movies. In the movies, any evil fellow in a suit always has a picture of a Republican president prominently displayed in their office, usually where any normal person has a picture of their family. In my life, the only really crooked executives I ever met all had pictures of JFK in their offices. I don't know what any of that represents, really.

I have always had a predilection for reading, especially history, so I know all about the Ludlow Massacre and I know what a Wobblie is. I've read Ida Tarbell articles from McClure's. I've got a picture of Mother Jones with Calvin Coolidge around here somewhere. I know what a Pinkerton man was for. I've read Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States and John D. Rockefeller's biography alike. When I read Studs Terkel's Working, I didn't run around yelling "Something must be done!" ; I played a sort of game to compare how many of my own jobs had been worse. I'm old enough to recall a rather thrilling union tableau in a shipyard in Gdansk. And I know all about Sacco and Vanzetti.

That's a long list of things to explain one thing: People enter into all sorts of organized things-- corporations and unions; rock bands and time-share condo deals; bowling leagues and the Cosa Nostra. I wish you all well. But me? I never wanted to be equivalent of the child in that picture, who doesn't even know what the sign says; and as long as there's breath in my body I'll never again put myself in the thrall of that hand you see, if you look closely, reaching in from the top right corner of the picture.

Happy Labor Day everybody.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

This Old Cave

Cave broke. Must fix cave. Broke cave get in way of hunting and gathering. Make caveman that lives there broke, if broke house get in way of not being broke. Caveman fix cave.

Cavewoman complain when cave is broke. Does not like when cavecubs go into sky off end of cave stoop. She afraid cavecubs will become cavestoops from many blows to head. Prominent eyebrow ridge not enough, she say. Chance to produce more cavecubs withheld from poor caveman.

Caveman fix cave stoop right now.

Caveman multimedia star now. Will document cave repair.

Cavecub, go get hammer.

No, that hammer I use to marble paper. Get real hammer.

No, that hammer I use to make pictureframes and scratch doorframes when I walk by wearing belt. Cavedad said bring hammer.

Cavecub getting warm now. Waffle face of framing hammer is like Reiki massage for thumbnails. Very refreshing. But cavecub still not get it.

Ah, cavecub is mine after all. Good cavecub.

Cavecub helps:

Caveman put cave cubs to bed early tonight.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Saturday Morning Funnies

My little son cannot stop watching this. It's almost 13 minutes long, and when it's done, he hits "play again" over and over. He calls it: The machines. It's a series of what we call Rube Goldberg devices, and what the Japanese TV show, PythagoraSwitch, that features them, calls Pythagorean Switches. Enjoy. Enjoy them over and over. Keep right on enjoyin' those bad boys. Forget about getting near your desk and the computer and enjoy. Enjoy the hell out of 'em.

Py * Thag * Gor * A * Sue * Eech * Ee !