Sunday, October 31, 2010

One Can't Help But Notice That The Supposed Vast Cultural Wastelands Like The Twenties And The Fifties Produced Most Everything Sublime In American Culture

Saturday, October 30, 2010

It's Just Barbershop Quartet With An Extra Guy. And A Saturn V Is Just A Bottle Rocket

The Detroit Spinners. Written by Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright, and it shows.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Amplitude Modification (2007)

The naugahyde was cool against your cheek. I remember that.

Driving back from Roxbury. Rambling along the Charles on Storrow. The car pitched and yawed on its butt-sprung suspension and the spidered pavement . You could reach down and lift the floor mat and see the asphalt roll by through the rusty pinholes in the floor, where the road salt had done its work, and worked overtime, too.

Pop was operatin'. He was like a sub commander. Steering through shoals with vision obscured. Our moist breath clouded the windshield. The defroster exhaled on the windshield like the dying animal it was. Pop wiped the fog away with his hanky, and pressed on.

Little brother was already asleep on the seat next to you. Mom packed the blankets and pillow around him to hold him on the seat. I bivouacked on the rest, and tried to align my face on the part where the cushion wasn't split from a thousand butts. The edge of the rip would cut your face and the foam would tickle you.

The scene was framed, imperfectly, through the lens of the side window. Left to right, the world ran past. The drops of condensation coalesced on the fogged window's screen, ran down, and revealed the Cambridge shore through the mist. Low-watt Christmas everywhere. The enormous billboards shrunk by distance and time and poverty to faraway smears of luminous color with winking neon and the stink of death on their topics. FULLER OLDS. NECCO. KASANOF'S. The window made them into a kaleidoscope.

The useless wipers went scrreee-BAP, scrreee-BAP over and over, and Pop would fiddle with everything to no effect and keep going. Mom would look out the window and over her shoulder and her thoughts were her own. The Christmas presents from doting Aunts who asked you over and over "Which one are you?" would shift and tumble over in the trunk an inch behind my head when we got to the huge sign that said REVERSE CURVE -- the one that caught Pop by surprise every time even though he was born a brisk walk from it.

There was sometimes a hand free to twist the huge, mostly useless dial on the radio. Snap, Crackle, Pop, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, came out of that thing. At night the big stations like BeeZee would bleed all over the place, and bizarre incursions of French from Canada would appear, unwonted, fight for primacy like radio chimeras, then disappear as Pop searched again for whatever you could catch and hold.

Papa Was A Rollin' Stone...

We rolled on into the night.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Politics (From 2008)

My venerable hard drive has breathed its last. It was eight years old. I rely on the Internet for all my wages, and all I have is a low-end Dell from 2002 with the hard drive 99% percent full and XP patched to hell and gone, and now I don't even have that. So you get cut and paste from 2008, sent from my son's computer. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.)

Let me tell you about safety.

If you live in the educated, white collar world, you know nothing of safety. That is to say: you know nothing of danger; you're insulated almost totally from real peril.

As you move up the intellectual food chain, and your experience with the world inhabited by those faced with real, daunting challenges is practically non-existent, your attenuated worldview becomes almost worthless to people who are faced with real danger.

If you are entirely insulated from the consequences of your actions, it would be decent to recuse yourself from offering advice to others, no less so than a man who stands to profit from the outcome. When a man is facing a spinning blade, the cardinal sin is to distract him. Yelling: "Look out!" is akin to shoving him into the blade. The time to identify danger is before, not after. It is predictability and stability and a certain kind of respect that is helpful. Nothing else.

Let me tell you about the blade. You think you can handle it because you fancy yourself intelligent. You're wrong. Because the danger it presents, the real danger, is hidden from you.

I watch people who have no business offering advice to anyone telling amateurs and professionals alike how to do what they're trying to do. I see the safety fetishist's clown shoes -- safety glasses worn to hang a picture -- and the matching squeak-nose of warnings over the toxicity of stuff you could eat, never mind touch, juxtaposed with behavior that reminds me of sheep sniffing around the shambles.

You think that you're smart. You think that you can put your hand near the blade, as long as you don't push your hand right in it. It doesn't work that way.

You have to avoid putting yourself in the position where your hand will be drawn into the blade and there's nothing you can do to stop it. There was no danger, really; you were maimed without danger announcing itself first. It was there all along in a way you'll never "get" until it's too late.

The wood lays there on the table. Perhaps it's some mundane species. Straight, plain grain. Maybe it's exotic or unusual. You like the look and feel of it. The smell of it. It gives you a little thrill to think what could be made from it. It's full of a kind of promise of a fantastic future.

But it grew from a little sapling. Buffeted by winds, warped and enfeebled by its greedy reaching to get up to the sun before the others that would wither in the shadow of its canopy, there are stresses built up in the wood. Maybe the tree grew straight up, but the ground where it was born and raised was tilted, and the constant stress was locked in the grain. Maybe the sawyer saw that it was growing at a crazy angle, and put it on the logging truck anyway, out in the landscape where no one would know that no straight timber could ever come out of it. He'd have his money and someone else closer to the blade would find out what was in there the hard way.

Besides the stresses in the wood, there is a phenomenon associated with how it is seasoned. Most wood must be seasoned out in the air -- or in an oven to do it quicker -- to allow it to become useful by acclimating it to its future use. Leaving the lumber out to dry is time consuming and has its risk: bugs and weather and fires and so forth. But there is a real danger in drying out the lumber too quickly in a kiln, too. It's referred to as case hardening. Sounds like metallurgy, but it's not. It means when you try to pass the blade through the baulk of wood, the tensions locked into the wood are released --or better put: are revealed-- by its travel through the blade. The outside of the wood seems OK. But the inside is different.

You are holding on to that piece of wood, if you trust yourself not to put your hand too near, and trust others never to fool you, or be fools themselves. You've been told that others have made you safe, and so you trust it a bit more than you should, maybe. On the table saw, the case hardened wood might pinch the saw kerf closed, and it will grab the back of the spinning blade and be hurled at you. Or conversely, perhaps you will hang on to it tightly enough, and it will buck and rocket away in some unexpected direction, and draw your hand into the abyss.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Buy, Mortimer, Buy!

The Maine Family Robinson rolls on at the Rightnetwork: Buy, Mortimer, Buy!

And leave a comment or two or fourteen over there, too. Lets the management know I'm more popular than a gynecologist with warm hands. 

The house in the picture is still for sale, if you want to be my neighbor. Won't you be mine?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Back When I Was In High School, We Tied Onions To Our Wide Leather Belts That Held Up Our Plaid Flared Pants, Which Was The Style At The Time, And Elton John Played Piano And We Had A Baritone Sax On Our Rock Records, And That's The Way It Was, And We Liked It

You couldn't get white onions, because of the hostage crisis. The only thing you could get was those big yellow ones...

I remember those girls. They wouldn't give me the time of day. Eventually, once in a while, their younger, prettier sisters waited in line to get my autograph.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Our Continuing Series: Paul Robeson Playing Softball

Hello, and welcome from the management. Please remember to tip our bartenders and waitresses, and remember we are not responsible for lost articles, or adjectives for that matter.

If you're new to the Cottage, we have a longstanding tradition. We feature pictures of Paul Robeson playing softball each Wednesday at exactly 9:38 in the AM.

The management regrets that we are a little short of pictures of Paul Robeson playing softball this week, and our fallback offerings of Videos Of Marlon Brando Playing The Bongos In A Grotto Fashioned After A Drunkard's Nightmare Videos are offline right now, so we offer you, the discerning listener, er, reader, er, viewer, er, connoisseur, yes, that's it, our Videos of Marlon Brando Playing the Ukelele On French Television Videos. Look for it in labels under VMBPUOFTV in the future. Enjoy, and drive safely.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hey, I Think I Found A Drummer For My Badfinger Tribute Band

We’d like to know a little bit about you for our files...

There are several applicants, of course, but it's going to be hard to beat this guy:

Dude's loaded with charisma, or just plain loaded, I'm not sure which.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Psst. Hey Buddy. Wanna Buy Some Furniture?

In order to offer a special perquisite to my readers, and as collateral damage maybe get my hands on enough money to purchase enough heat to make it warmer inside than out, consider this a heads up that there are seven new, very highly discounted items on my "Ready To Ship" page over at Sippican Cottage Furniture. Last time I had about twenty items, and they all sold in about ten 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 two-hour head start on the people that signed up for email marketing. 

Cento anni di salute e felicità !

Will you thumb through the pictures when I am gone?

Will my face, made careworn and tired, be restored in your mind's eye? I cannot know what it was you ever saw in me. I cannot understand how you could know that when I said those things all people say to one another, almost without thinking, that I would really mean them. I said it and only half believed it myself, uttering such extravagant pledges of dubious value. Not for want of them being true. But I am unreliable.

There is nothing in this world but to love, and be loved in return. In a hundred years the most important man you ever met is anonymous. In a thousand everyone is. We cobbled together a life around the table where we break the bread, and for a few thousand times we were as one. I saw your face in our children's faces. You said you saw mine. The universe passed the plate, and we put in our offering. We are poor, but it's enough for anyone to give. No man could do more. No man could ask for more.

I remember when I was lying on the bed like a dead thing, and you came into the room and thought I was asleep. I wasn't asleep; I was gone from sight, and sound, and lost in a fever. I lay there in a pool of sweat and more; my very life coming out of every pore, leaving nothing but a husk where a man used to be.

And you kissed me. I remember.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Our World's More Full Of Weeping Than You Can Understand

 Morning Star -Alphonse Mucha

WHERE dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than he can understand.

-William Butler Yeats

Monday, October 11, 2010

Godspeed, Solomon Burke

Cottage favorite Solomon Burke passed away this weekend at the age of 70. 

From our 2009 hit of Solomon:

Oh, you average pop star. You think you're a big deal. You're not a big deal. Solomon Burke is a big deal.

It's true you've got minimum wage flunkies to sort your M&Ms by color. But until you get a throne, a harpist, and Jools Holland, you're JAG, baby.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Battle Of The Bands!

In this corner, my new favorite band that doesn't exist anymore, Jellyfish!

And in this corner, the re-assembled wreckage of a band that actually made me some money, along with the public debut of the heir spanking the plank.

The heir is so very much better than that now. A year is a long time. For a young man.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

I'm Mr. Blandings --Only Without The Book Contract, A Maid, Or Two Girls; And Mr. Tissander Won't Return My Calls(For Ruth Anne)

[Editor's Note: Written in 2005. ]
{Author's Note: I guess I hadn't figgered out the Intertunnel doesn't pay by the word yet. There is no editor.}Let's be positive today. Nary a discouraging word, as they say.

O.K. I'm positive that Hollywood hasn't made ten movies as good and entertaining as "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" in the intervening 57 years since it was made. Yup, I'm positive.

Hollywood is in a slump, according to Variety. People don't plunk it down reflexively at the box office any more. Lots of head scratching up and down the Sunset Strip. Well, let me give you some hints, over there on the west coast, about why we're not buying as much of this piffle as previously: It's because it's crap.

It always was crap, I know. When I was a kid, TV was in black and white, and had three or four channels. You watched whatever was on it. Period. And if you were home sick from school, propped up with pillows in the bed, fortified with those wonder drugs, aspirin and ginger ale, the one treat you got was the 11 inch black and white TV at the foot of your bed, and bad movies all day long.

TV, with only those three or four channels, still didn't know how they could possibly fill all those hours. They'd show any drivel: Candlepin bowling for a couple of bucks, or maybe just a gift certificate. Community Auditions. Anyone who's ever seen Community Auditions can't watch American Idol. Once you've seen the spectacle of an overfed adolescent in a tutu twirling a baton to a lounge combo version of a Sousa march, nothing else will do.

But of all the dreck, Dialing for Dollars was king. Dialing for Dollars was a local show, where a bad radio announcer would host an interminable movie in the afternoon, and occasionally pause to pick bits of a shredded phonebook out of a rotating basket, and call the phone number on the scrap. At first, the available technology didn't even allow you to hear the person being called, making the tableau seem even stranger than it was. If the person was home, and watching the movie, and could identify the movie, and knew the exact amount of cash they were giving away, they won a few bucks. Think of those odds. The unintentional comedy factor was pretty high; picture watching, watching mind you, a bad emcee count on his fingers and intone: One ring. Two rings. Three rings. Four Rings...

People would actually answer their phones back then, and talk to whoever was on the line. No call screening. No unlisted numbers. No cold call salesman. No answering machines yet. Hell, the host would still reach party lines occasionally back then. For you youngsters, a party line was a phone circuit that served several homes, because phone lines used to be precious, and expensive. The phone would ring slightly differently for each user, and your neighbors could pick up their phones and listen to your conversations if they felt like it. And so occasionally the host would be talking to three shut-ins at the same time, none of whom were watching his movie.

The host would mostly get elderly ladies, who didn't know what day it was, never mind what the movie was, and started talking to the guy as if they were restarting a conversation they had started in 1936, and he'd sit there, politely trying to get an interjection in edgewise, always failing, and looking at the camera like it was an oncoming freight train. Finally, he'd get the question out, and the women would say:

"What did you say your name was, again?"

And he'd always say: "Buh Bye" sweetly, and they'd add ten bucks to the till, and he'd PUT THE PHONE NUMBER BACK IN THE BIN. Try, try again, indeed.

The more upscale local station tried a bit of class by showing the same dreadful movies at midnight on the weekends, but with a host in a tuxedo. He'd stand on a set reminiscent of a Busby Berkley musical, in bow tie and tails, and try to find something interesting to say about the movie. There was a problem. The fellow hosting the show used to be Bozo the Clown on Saturday mornings, and we all knew it. And try as he might to be urbane, many of us would always look at him and smirk. That poor fellow spent his whole rest of his life trying to be suave and sophisticated, but the greasepaint and fright wig always showed somehow, like a tattoo you got when you were young and drunk, and regretted for every waking moment for the rest of your life.

Off topic perhaps, but I met his son once. I attended a party at the local junior college, the summer between high school and college. The college had always had the reputation as a place where wealthy people send their ne'er-do-well children to dry out and be babysat by the faculty, until they could ram them back into the real college that had expelled them for partying too much. My friends and I were just the poor local schlubs, very out of place, and must have looked like the dead end kids to these little inebriant fauntleroys. We were the guests of a lovely young lady who was dating a friend of mine. The movie host's son was there, drunk as a lord, and began hitting unmercifully on my friend's girlfriend, right in front of him. My friend could have disassembled the little blighter into his component limbs, and stacked them like cordwood if he'd had the mind to, but he was a gentle sort, and slow to anger. The little cretin eventually brought out what I'm sure he thought were his big guns: Do you know who my father is?

I butted in: "I sure do. He's Bozo!"

This was not the answer he was looking for. He withdrew.

Anyway, eventually you saw every movie ever made- good, bad or indifferent. Occasionally they'd show a good movie like "Blandings," by mistake perhaps. And you got a perspective on how hard it is to make a really good movie. It must be difficult, there's so many of them, but so few worth watching.

What I suspect, however, is that recently they're not really trying to entertain us anymore. They really don't seem to care that a vast majority of potential viewers, me included, don't need to see another movie about a hit man with a heart of gold. Forty five of them a year for the last ten years has fulfilled my need for comic murderers, thank you. I'd rather see stories about interesting and attractive people, like the Blandings.

"Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House" was made in 1948. It was essentially remade in the 1980s, with uneven effect, but still with enough of the original's luster to shine on through, as "The Money Pit." Tom Hanks and Diane from "Cheers" made a good comic team, and we own that one too and wqtch it occasionally. But Blandings is king.

Cary Grant is da bomb. Cary Grant is a movie star. Picture Tom Cruise sitting on a couch across from Jay Leno. That's a very small picture, even if you have widescreen television. Now picture Cary Grant sitting across from Johnny Carson. They're both too big for the screen, no matter how big it is.

Everybody in Hollywood is a homunculus compared to Cary Grant. He's dead, and in black and white, and my wife still reminds me: "You know, Cary Grant is a babe."
Grrr. Yeah, I know.

And unlike modern actors, he can act. Not Olivier acting. I mean, "Hamlet" isn't in danger of breaking out in the middle of one of his movies. But you only need so much Hamlet in your life; somebody tell a joke, will ya? Cary Grant knew how to.

And Myrna Loy was a babe. She had the looks of the woman you would marry, and stay that way. She started her career as a vamp, but morphed into a matron eventually. The vamp always showed, though, like a glimpse of garter, and I still remind my wife: "Myrna was a babe, you know."

Grrr. Yeah, I know, she says.

And Myrna knew how to deliver her lines for their full comic effect. Most actresses today sound like they're reading that shredded phonebook I mentioned earlier, aloud. Without their glasses.
The story is and interesting cultural artifact about city folks building their house out in the countryside. It's funny to hear them talk about Western Connecticut like it's out on the prairie, and bucolic as Vermont. Mr. Blanding's house would fetch tens of millions of dollars today. But the story is universal, for anybody that builds a house, and raises children, and works at a job. The humor is the sort that's a lost art these days. It's quiet, and self effacing, and subtle. Mark Twain used to rail against people that "told jokes." He knew how to be funny, which is to tell a story in a humorous way, and avoided punchline fodder. And a movie, a comic movie, is just telling a story in a humorous way, isn't it? It should be. This one is.

And it's interesting to look through the actors who have small parts in the movie. They all know what they're doing, and push the story along nicely. Only a a fetishist would recognize more than a few of them by name, but they all look familiar. Then you look up their resumes, and are amazed:

Louise Beavers, who plays their maid, and comes up with the advertising slogan that pays for that house, was in 163 movies!

Harry Shannon, the well driller, who has the best scenes in the movie, appeared in 149 movies. I vaguely remember him shooting at John Wayne, or shooting at the someone else with John Wayne, a few times.

Nestor Paiva, who plays an appraiser for 30 seconds in the movie, was in 186 movies.
And Jason Robards (Senior) knew how to work. He appeared in no fewer than 206 movies, and then had a son to be in a few hundred more.

And you know why they worked like that. They were professional, and people that knew how to write and produce movies knew enough to use accomplished and dependable actors, and tried mightily to entertain us. They still do entertain us, though they're all dead now.

It's the live people in Hollywood that have forgotten how, or never knew.

Friday, October 08, 2010

My Other Thing. No, Not That One. The Other One. No, Not That Other One; The Other, Other One.

The latest installment of the Maine Family Robinson is now up over at Rightnetwork, called  Who Caused The Housing Bubble?

It's a trick question, of course. There was no housing bubble. Regular Sippican Cottage readers get bonus inside information: I took the picture of the magnificent house gone to seed appended to the essay, and that house isn't inexpensive -- it's free, if you'll just move it. But that's a story for another time.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Just How Cool Can You Get?

If Elizabeth Montgomery is your girlfriend, you're pretty cool. Hanging with Mort Sahl and Sammy Davis? You're cool. Partyin' with Kojak? Oh, You're cool. Home-made depth charges. That's pretty cool. The world is L7, man. You're cool.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Oh, Baby - We Gotta Go

I heard the original version of Louie Louie the other day. It's the best.

The Kingsmen are associated with the song, but they were just carpetbaggers. Richard Berry was the progenitor. I like the relaxed, vaguely Caribbean sound of the first version.

I never understood why almost everybody couldn't decipher the lyrics to the song, and made up all sorts of wild tales about what was being said, as I'd heard the words coming completely intelligibly out of Richard Berry's mouth in the first place.

I'm trying to remember, but I think the Richard Berry version is in the soundtrack of Animal House somewhere. I played party music for money for a bunch of years, and there was a progression of cultural totems for the milieu. I always had the most fun in the "Otis Day and the Knights" kinda thing. I see the boneless MADD-supervised PC fun college-aged kids are allowed to have now, and I weep for them a bit. They need to rediscover their inner Elvis; a kind of rude, harmless infantilism. 1960 beats 1968, every time, if you hipsters are looking for a cool vibe to mine.

One of the most disconcerting moments of my entire life involved Louie Louie. I may have performed that song more than the Kingsmen ever did. Thousands of times. It was just another day at work to hear it or play it. All songs like that become a sort of aural wallpaper that you don't notice much any more because you've been in that room so many times. I woke up late in the morning after playing some job that lasted until 2 AM. I worked all day in construction and all night in music trying to get by, and it lent an air of befuddlement to my life. A sleepy automaton vibe. The clock radio started beating me about the head, cajoling me to get back at it. I'm laying there in a half stupor, trying to remember what the hell day it was, and all I can think of is: That version of Louie Louie coming out of the radio is the worst version ever; who the hell is that? They should be horsewhipped.

As I fumbled for the off button, I realized it was a demo tape that someone had sent to the radio station, and I was playing on it.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Maine Family Robinson

Hi everybody. Many thanks to everyone that reads, and comments, and links, and buys furniture, and uses the Amazon button here at Sippican Cottage, and of course at The Borderline Sociopathic Blog For Boys. This medium - tapping on the Intertunnel wall like the hull of a stranded submarine, waiting for any old ship to pass over and know I'm down here - has, in many ways, been my salvation. I can't count how many bug bites I'd have if I was still standing on the highway overpass yelling at cars instead of blogging. And you get a very uneven tan that way, too.

I've made lots of friends on the Intertunnel. It's odd and marvelous that some of my best friends are sorta imaginary - I only know them through pixels. I don't want to point any particular people out, as there are so many that I'd forget one or two and that would diminish the effect of simply saying: Thanks for reading and...

Oops, I already did that in the first paragraph.

One Intertunnel friend I made that I've actually met in person a couple times is Gerard Vanderleun. He's a bucket of brains and a barrel of monkeys. He's the editor in chief over at the fledgling Rightnetwork, now, which is why it looks like something right away. He's hired me to write about moving to this godforsaken, benighted, frigid, lonesome...

I meant to say: this marvelous place I call home now. Do drop by. Maine Family Robinson

Friday, October 01, 2010

My Wife Smuggled A Kazakh Into Mexico The Other Night

He's on my son's soccer team. It was raining and he needed a ride home after practice.

"Where do you live?"

***long pause***

[ Borat voice ]  "I don't know. You must take a great many turns."  [ / Borat voice ]