Monday, January 31, 2011

There Is A Place Where The Sidewalk Ends

Journalists have entirely abdicated their responsibilities. No one gathers information with any desire to edify the public anymore. They wish to put forth an opinion, usually a very crabby and ill-informed one, and only look out the window for accomplices.

The ease of recording and disseminating video, sound, and pictures by the general public, to the general public, has blown up their crabby fiefdoms, and they don't like it. If they did their jobs, it would be superfluous.

There is nothing as useful to sensible people as a dedicated person that goes places, interesting and mundane alike, and painstakingly records what they see. Sometimes, it takes some nerve. These people have nerve. In 2008, They got on a train in Vienna, and rode it all the way to the capital of North Korea, and then walked around. If you've got a half-hour or so, you can learn more from it than four hundred pounds of New York Times.

The Forbidden Railway

Mi Dispiace Per Tutto

Men used to wear loafers to the beach. Now they wear sandals to board meetings. Time marches on, I guess.

I don't get around much anymore, myself. Two children and three jobs and no money might explain it -- but it doesn't. Picture the Intertunnel. All the stuff that's in it. It's grown too small for me, no matter how gargantuan it gets. It's becoming two mirrors pointed at each another. Small and infinite.

I love it so, anyway, the Intertunnel. I saw it as a kind of meritocracy. Say what you like, and see if anyone pays attention. Credentials for sitting still didn't apply. It's more roped and branded now. Still light years ahead of newspapers, TV, and magazines, though. It's gone from anarchy to a sort of Schedule C organization. At least it doesn't have an HR office and mandatory golf outings yet.

I said I was sorry up at the header. I should get back to that. Lots (lots) of people email me, and mention me on their websites, and say kind things about me (or at least notice me), and I often don't see them right away, and the formal informal Intertunnel protocol escapes me a lot. Hell, regular manners are often beyond me.

I often get a little tickle when I'm directed one Interplace or another, and discover bits of me there. Someday, I'm hoping I'll walk into an second-hand store and find one of my pieces of furniture for sale in it. It will be sort of the same thing.

I'm grateful for my readers, because no man writes for no one. I have no idea who's using my Amazon box to buy things, but people do, and I'm grateful for that, too. People that visit my website buy my furniture, too, and that's how my children get fed, so I'm grateful for that, too. I'm grateful for a lot of things right now. And I appreciate that people link to what I write, and wish I had time to reciprocate properly, and knew what the hell "properly" is in the first place.

I have no idea if Pundit and Pundette are the General Motors of opinion or are an Internet lemonade stand. Mi dispiace --again-- because I didn't know they existed. Like I said, I don't get around much anymore. But they seem pleasant. Of course they seem pleasant to me; they talk about me. I put them in my pathetic blogroll, so they can rub shoulders with people that haven't written anything in four years but I haven't the heart to erase, or I just haven't noticed they're dead yet. Sorry. I apologize for saying I'm sorry again. Forgive me. Oops, I regret that last act of contrition.

I've grown weary of the Two Minutes Hate available over wide bands of the Internet. It was easier to avoid when only one side was doing it. Having the Two Minutes Hate rebuttal is just Four Minutes Hate. A lot of people could use a good, sound ignoring. Nothing else will work on them, anyway.

Someone tell a joke, or post pictures of Grace Kelly instead of Helen Thomas.

Thanks in advance,

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thursday, January 27, 2011

It's Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart's Birthday, Bitches

The Bobby Orr of music was born in Salzburg on January 27th, 1756. I see all you haters going on about Beethoven, the Wayne Gretzky of G clef, calling him the shizzle over Wolfie, but sheezy, a deaf piano player? Mozey had all the sick beats, and could bust rhymes to get all the fine dime brizzles.

Pure ballin. Admit it. If Schroeder had put a bust of Brahms on his piano you'd all be headsprung over Brahms Third Racket, not Beetlebrow. Gettin your beats from Peanuts? What's next, learnin geopolitics from Family Circus? It's Mozart, dawgs! And don't gimme any of those musical Mahovlich brothers, you know, the Bach bunch. Ringo Starr married the only Bach worth mentioning.

I'm hooking you up with Lacrimosa -- Old Skool.

That's what I'm talkin about. Shit's deck, is what I mean.

Wolfie was all about the beats. Let's pour out a 40 for the playa that could pour out Symphony Number 40. Let's drop it like it's hot.

So pants at half mast for Chrysostomus' sake today. Drink ten Red Bulls and try to keep up with Amadeus, like Heifetz done.

Off the hook, nomesayin?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sippican Cottage. Hammond It Up Again

Sippican Cottage has become the Intertunnel's appendix, mostly useless, flaring up occasionally, but dammit, someone has to be your go-to catchment area for Hammond organ music.

We would be remiss if we didn't include the song that's "the most played song in the last 75 years in public places in the UK," as well as the "most-played record by British broadcasting of the past 70 years."

Let's neck under the bleachers!

Wishin' and Hopin' and Thinkin' and Prayin' Won't Help-- In 92 Percent Of Major American Cities, It's Already As Cheap To Buy As It Is To Rent

Trulia is a real estate listing search site. It has lots interesting data on it. You can find or perform lots of analysis with the information they offer -- besides just plain poking around, which is plenty fun. Homely Real Estate agent thumbnail photos! Collect 'em, trade 'em with your friends!

Trulia calculates a  Rent vs. Buy scenario for the fifty largest cities in America by population. They take into account the usual costs of homeownership, too, like property taxes and HOA fees and the like. They offset those costs with the tax advantages available to homeowners. Their most recent conclusion? In 72 percent of the fifty largest cities in America, it's more affordable to buy than rent. And in another 20 percent, it's so close that you might want to buy anyway.

They've got another interactive chart where you can see why everyone that writes for the New York Times thinks buying a house is stupid and prices have to fall eleventy thousand percent before you'd have to even think of dirtying your hands doing things a doorman does. If you never go where the subway doesn't, you get some interesting ideas of how the world works.

Me? I'm not interesting in living in any of those places. And if I lived in Los Angeles or San Francisco, I wouldn't buy green bananas, never mind a house, but Trulia doesn't measure insane governance. But the dirty little secret is you have to live somewhere, and you can't live with mom forever. The ultimate denouement of the destruction of the housing industry and the degradation of mortgage financing is not going to be supercheap housing if you just hold off buying long enough. It's going to be no house, high rent, or eventually mom's going to have to spring for a bigger mailbox to hold all those AARP newsletters when you're both receiving them.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mr. Smith Might Go To Washington, But Mr. Patel Goes To London

Some inquisitive bloke has mapped the city of London by the frequency of surnames, and produced a nifty interactive web doogizmo to see who's who, where. If you move the slider at the top left, you can see the map with the first to fifteenth most common name for the areas displayed.

I know a lawyer that does nothing but get permits and arrange financing for motels, gas stations, and convenience stores in New England. He has a big, rubber stamp that reads Patel, too, to save time filling out forms.

London Surnames

Junior Walker, Perpetrating Some Percolation, Circumnavigating Your Lobes With Riffs Like Spliffs, Dealing Out Dancecards From The Bottom Of The Deck, Delivering A Lecture At Funk Polytech, Pulling Souls Across The Heavens Like Phaeton Done, Banging All Our Bongos Like Kingdom Come

Who wants more Hammond ahrgan? You do! Do That Shing A Ling!

Whatchoo Lookin' At, You Flatlanders You

I got up early yesterday, well before the dawn. It was amazingly cold outside. The Weather Channel had predicted 19 degrees below zero when I went to bed (with all my clothes on). There was ice riming the inside of my living room windows.

If I drove west for a little more than an hour, I'd be at Mount Washington, in New Hampshire. You don't have to drive too far past it, continuing west, to be in Vermont. Mount Washington is famous for bad weather, and people squat on top of it pretending to be scientists or something, but are really just human beings, and so find extreme things interesting and want to look at them when they should be working.

We drove past Mount Washington almost a year ago, delivering a truck freighted with the ghosts of our belongings to a charming town in New Hampshire called Littleton. We saw a big, brown head poking out of the puckerbrush by the side of the road, lumpenly watching us go by, and knew we were in a wild place. I would have gotten a picture, but the poor beast was frightened by the squeal my wife made --even  a car buttoned up for sub-arctic weather cannot contain such a thing --and lumbered off to look for quieter neighbors. I doubt he found them on Mount Washington. They're always squealing up there, I imagine.

The Mount Washington Observatory

Monday, January 24, 2011

You May Already Be A Loser

I have the same odds of winning the lottery as people that buy lottery tickets do. But I'm thinking of getting a landline phone again, just to get all that sweet, sweet, schwag everyone's handing out, ABSOLUTELY FREE*

*No purchase necessary. Some assembly required. Tax, title,license and dealer fees extra. Do not exceed 4 doses in a 24-hour period. You will get wet on this ride. One size fits most. Batteries not included. The white zone is for the immediate loading and unloading of passengers only. There is no parking in the red zone. Dramatization. Proof of mailing does not constitute proof of delivery. Shake well before opening. Contains eggs. Also available left-handed. Before posting, please take a minute to review our posting rules and our legal/privacy policy. All lyrics by Hammerstein, not Rodgers. Hours may vary by location. No smoking or open flames. Professional driver. Closed course. Any similarities between the characters, locations or events depicted herein and actual persons, living or dead, locations or events is purely coincidental and unintentional. Use as directed. Must be 18 to enter. Positive identification required. Handle with care. Do not pass on right. Not responsible for lost or stolen articles. User assumes all risks. No right turn on red. If you can read this, you're too close. Ass, grass, or cash; no one rides for free. Occupancy by more than 135 persons is dangerous and unlawful but kinda fun. Interior is genuine rich, Corinthian leather. Viewer discretion is advised but not anticipated. Not available in stores. Do not feed the animals. Available for Windows, Mac, and the seven people running Linux. 70% cotton, 30% nylon. Nos falamos Portugues. Please allow 6-8 weeks for delivery. The cake is a lie. Limit one per customer per visit. No trespassing. No loitering. No soliciting. Please don't eat the daisies. Objects in mirror are closer than they appear. Ensure equipment is properly grounded prior to operation. Registration required. Not recommended for women who are nursing, pregnant or may become pregnant. Ladies drink free. Apply directly to forehead. Closed Sundays and holidays. Filmed before a live studio audience. Available only for a limited time. Follow the yellow brick road. Lights on for safety. Made in China. Do not use as a flotation device. Stay off the grass. Offer void where prohibited. Installation extra. The rain in Spain should be expected to fall mainly on the plain. All sales final. Two-Year service agreement required. Non-toxic. HTML enabled. Don't try this at home. Your ad here. Tamper-resistant packaging. Expect delays. Refrigerate after opening. Restrictions apply. See store for details. No shirt, no shoes, no service. Have a nice day.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Muscles Didn't Make Jack LaLanne Mighty

Well, one muscle did. It was his big heart that carried him for 96 years. RIP, Jack. I think I'll tow a freighter with my teeth while swimming handcuffed tomorrow in your honor. After I chip the ice off the river, of course.

Fitness guru Jack LaLanne, 96, dies at California home.

The Hammond B3 Wasn't Always Relegated To The Roller Rink

Happy Sunday.

I got my breastplate on in the army of the Lord
Got my breastplate on in the army
I got my breastplate on in the army of the Lord
I got my breastplate on in the army

Skate to the right.

Hey, It's Django's Birthday!

Born this day in 1910. 1910? My house is older than Django. He should still be touring. My house is still moving. I hear it late at night.

But Don't Despair; Your Sign That Reads "Our New Credit Manager Is Helen Waite. If You Want Credit, Go To Helen Waite" Is Still Cutting Edge

Things Real People Don't Say About Advertising is my new favorite site.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Sit On My Facebook, And Tell Me That You Love Me

I love when people who would think I'm an old fuddie duddie join the Order Of The Old Man That Yells At Cloud. The interesting and influential John Scalzi has seen Facebook, and he's not happy.

Facebook has made substandard versions of everything on the Web, bundled it together and somehow found itself being lauded for it, as if AOL, Friendster and MySpace had never managed the same slightly embarrassing trick. Facebook had the advantage of not being saddled with AOL’s last-gen baggage, Friendster’s too-early-for-its-moment-ness, or MySpace’s aggressive ugliness, and it had the largely accidental advantage of being upmarket first — it was originally limited to college students and gaining some cachet therein — before it let in the rabble. But the idea that it’s doing something better, new or innovative is largely PR and faffery. Zuckerberg is in fact not a genius; he’s an ambitious nerd who was in the right place at the right time, and was apparently willing to be a ruthless dick when he had to be. Now he has billions because of it. Good for him. It doesn’t make me like his monstrosity any better.
Preach it, brother. I'm constantly bombarded with advice -- and just plain demands--to get a Facebook page and Twitter presence going, and LinkedIn requests, and lots of other utilities with problems with spaces between words and capitalization, but I just can't bring myself to slice my onion any thinner. I recently read an article about an NFL player from a small town in the midwest, and ESPN needed a thumbnail sketch to illustrate how backward the place was, so they pointed out that most of the denizens of this particular benighted place in their mysterious flyover state still had phones that, get this, fold in the middle. They may be pooping indoors now, but they're not Twittering about it realtime. The horror!

[Update: A møøse once bit my sister --and then accumulated 1000 Facebook friends and lots of lungworms and died.]

Hey, Did You Hear The One About The Italian Scientists That Invented Cold Fusion?

I'm sorry, but I can't hear the term "Italian scientists" without thinking of a rabbi and a priest going into a bar, or a blonde woman asking for directions, or any number of trite joke openings. It comes from growing up in a town full of Italians, who only told Italian jokes. People used to have a sense of humor about themselves. Now everyone is Woody Allen: If I stub my toe, it's a tragedy. If you fall down an open manhole and die, it's a comedy.

Anyway, Italian scientists have discovered cold fusion. Cold Fusion I say! Bully! Huzzah!

Despite the intense skepticism, a small community of scientists is still investigating near-room-temperature fusion reactions. The latest news occurred last week, when Italian scientists Andrea Rossi and Sergio Focardi of the University of Bologna announced that they developed a cold fusion device capable of producing 12,400 W of heat power with an input of just 400 W. Last Friday, the scientists held a private invitation press conference in Bologna, attended by about 50 people, where they demonstrated what they claim is a nickel-hydrogen fusion reactor. Further, the scientists say that the reactor is well beyond the research phase; they plan to start shipping commercial devices within the next three months and start mass production by the end of 2011. (

My favorite part is when they explain they can't get their wonder "peer reviewed" because they don't know why it works. "Peer reviewed" is my favorite blog comment term now, useful for spotting windowlickers on the Intertunnel. Among people who think this, this is what they think. 

I love, love, love the video they have appended to the Physorg article. Their rig looks like a welder and a TV repairman set up shop in the back room of a deli. The scientists should have lied and said it was a Globalistical Warmening experiment, and they could have driven to the press conference in Ferraris, and sat on thrones instead of folding chairs at a card table.

Need cheap energy? Enrico Fermi has a funerary monument in a church in Florence, right next to Galileo and Marconi. Just hook up electrodes to his corpse, and tell him you invented cold fusion but don't know how it works. It won't be perpetual motion, but he'll spin for a good, long time.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tough Crowd

Ah, the music business. Son, you can play at the ski area, but stay out of Guadalajara. And if they ask for Pájaro libre after last call, for pity's sake, play it.

The norteño band La Excelencia had just finished their performance at the Vida Divina club in the wee hours of Monday when four intoxicated men carrying weapons demanded that the musicians continue playing. After the group agreed to play two more songs, the club owner called a halt, informing La Excelencia and the remaining patrons that it was closing time.Minutes later, the four gunmen detonated a grenade inside the bar and opened fire on the band. (From FoxNews Latino)

Nothing is obscure on the Intertunnel! Here's la banda. Perhaps the reporter got it wrong, and the grenade was thrown because they wouldn't stop, or turn off the strobes.

Hey, wait a minute. Isn't that a song about a murder? This story is like a Mobius strip.

And "FoxNews Latino"? Really? I'm holding out for FoxNews Italian-Irish. Me and Henry Hill need news, too.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

There's A Term For "Students Who Studied Alone, Read And Wrote More," But They Dare Not Utter It

CBS News is, as usual, staggering around the landscape discovering their butt with a dim flashlight. Or, more precisely, they've discovered the south end of a couple of northbound academics,  who can't ignore the fact that the largest thing ever attempted by man -- the American public school system, joined at the hip to its defective cousin, the Kegger/Science of Harry Potter/Six-figure University Extravaganza -- is turning out illiterate dullards. College students not learning much.  The heck you say!

  • A study of more than 2,300 undergraduates found 45 percent of students show no significant improvement in the key measures of critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing by the end of their sophomore years.
    Not much is asked of students, either. Half did not take a single course requiring 20 pages of writing during their prior semester, and one-third did not take a single course requiring even 40 pages of reading per week.
    The findings are in a new book, "Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses," by sociologists Richard Arum of New York University and Josipa Roksa of the University of Virginia. An accompanying report argues against federal mandates holding schools accountable, a prospect long feared in American higher education.

I always love persons academic turning into Sargent Shultz when anyone points out that most children enter college with no measurable intellectual skills, and exit with nothing added but debt. Why is our children dum? Beats me. They certainly get very matter-of-fact if anyone suggests teaching children important objective things in a serious setting and testing them to see if their teachers suck pond water. Accountability smells like the great unwashed to them. Can't have the peasants demanding results for their quarter mil. Devotees of the modern approach to learning don't like it when you point out that critical thinking requires knowing things, hard factual things, so you can tell if someone's pulling your leg or not. They'd rather that critical thinking consist of half-remembering the prejudices of your teacher on cue. But they can't even get the kids to remember those. Taking that word out of Huckleberry Finn and another hundred billion in school loans oughta do it.

What exactly does the study observe before ruling out the Conclusion That Dare Not Speak Its Name? Here's a couple things:

  • -Students who studied alone, read and wrote more, attended more selective schools and majored in traditional arts and sciences majors posted greater learning gains.
    -Social engagement generally does not help student performance. Students who spent more time studying with peers showed diminishing growth and students who spent more time in the Greek system had decreased rates of learning, while activities such as working off campus, participating in campus clubs and volunteering did not impact learning.

I know some kids who study alone, read and write more than other students, have more rigorous and traditional course material, and restrict socializing to social engagements instead of robbing it from educational time. They work inside and outside the home and help their neighbors, too, but it doesn't interfere with their education.

But remember, don't mention the homeschooling approach to education. Maybe we should call it KinderCollege or something, and avoid some of the sneering. We're already mailing in the money for the school system and not sending the kids. Not much more we can do on our end.

The Deadliest Survivor Of America's Got Dancing With The Mythbusting Shore Bachelor Home Videos Dirty Eye For The Pimp My Ride Guy. Plus 8

2011: There's no bread, and your circus sucks.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Thank You For The Party. But I Could Never Stay

Don Kirshner passed away yesterday at the age of 76. The 1970s needed an Ed Sullivan, too, and he was it. Here's a Don Kirshner's Rock Concert show I remember from 1973, with Sly Stone doing Thank You Fahlettinme Be Mice Elf Again (I hope I misspelled that properly)

Let's not beat around the bush. Don was a hardnosed guy. People like to pretend that the music business is all unicorn farts and rose petals, with a few Machiavellis thrown in to supply the cocaine and enforce the contracts; but truth be told, with the exception of a few blithe spirits like the obviously Stoned Sly right here, the music business is Kirshners all the way down.I'm sure every person composing music in the Brill building resented the fact that they did all the work and Kirshner got all the money. I bet every one of them would call Kirshner if the toilet outside their office didn't flush. Someone's got to figure out how to pay the rent -- first, last, and always.

That's why Kirshners are around. People would never pay money to see or hear anything that came out of Kirshner's mouth, but without guys like him, guys like Sly Stone would never show up. He figured out what melange of money and drugs and threats and more money would work to make even the most reliably unreliable people in the world appear and -- get this -- perform live with no lip-synching and precious little audio spackle to paper over the cracks. There is an edge to live performances that is more or less lost to popular music today. This is the ragged edge in all its glory.

Don Kirshner was a wooden emcee with a stone heart. Thank god for it.

Hollywood Will Never Run Out Of Gangsters They Admire, But Eventually We're Bound To Run Out Of Old Caddies To Blow Up, Aren't We?

Kill the Irishman?  Last time I heard that, I was in an all-Italian Catholic grammar school, and my name was Sullivan.  

Monday, January 17, 2011

Diknu Schneeberger. Gesundheit

Bonus Mission Impossible theme amidst all the Djangojinglejangle.

Half the audience should be maimed.

Diknu Schneeberger

(Reader Dan Difino thought I'd like Diknu. He was right. It worries me that all my clothes are older than Diknu)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Welcome To The Buckets Of Blood, Son

The Heir had a happening at our house yesterday. He called, or texted, or Facebooked, or Skyped -- or some damn thing -- three of his friends, and invited them over to our hovel to take advantage of the eight inches of packed powder on our twelve-pitch unshoveled driveway. They assembled all sorts of slippery things and bombed down to the rocky three-foot drop into the back yard, over and over, and wouldn't rest until they fell over it into the thistles. Then they sat in the snowbank out front like off-duty Cardinals or mobsters and decided things. The Spare tagged along in glorious me-too fashion.

We bankrupted ourselves to feed them all pizza after they got too cold to tire themselves out anymore, or got too tired to freeze themselves anymore, or most likely got too bored to be tired and frozen anymore and came inside.  They bivouacked like bedouins in the living room, and killed each other mercilessly on the screen for a while. The little one circled them like a sparrow in a McDonald's parking lot, and seemed to think it was funny to look at each of his brother's friends in turn and say, "Take a bath, hippie!" It was all meet.

The heir later approached me in a manner I can identify at ten paces. He's going to ask me a question he expects to hear No after. A little hangdog. Peaches' dad plays country music in the lodge at the ski area, and lets Peaches play along with him. He says I can play too. Can I go.

When I was just a couple years older than my son, I began playing for money in roadhouses, or, as my father used to call them, "buckets of blood". I supplied the soundtrack to the Sack of Rome With A Two-Dollar Cover three nights a week for a good, long time. I had to support myself and needed the money. I eventually ended up in about as well-paying and benign an appendix of the non-original music business as you can name, but it's not a wholesome industry, even there. It's hard for me to hand the kid over to it. I said yes.

It's as salubrious a situation as he's going to get. The operative words were "Country Music." The persons arranging for entertainment to be presented to bunny-slope refugees near the fireplace have to have a rule of thumb to use to avoid having the Anal Lesions Of Fiery Megadeath Massacre Of The Innocents playing at flight deck volume and driving people out into the parking lot. No matter what any rock band they hire to "entertain" says when they're trying to get the gig, they don't care what the audience or management wants to hear, and don't care if 110 decibels is a lot of decibels. "Country" is a code word for quiet and inoffensive.

There was an amusing list of The 50 Greatest Guitar Riffs In Rock and Roll making the rounds of the aggregators last week. It's gargantuanly misnamed. With very few exceptions, it's really 50 Random Ringtones A Plumber's Heavily Tattooed Helper Might Like, Gleaned From Songs Nobody Female Will Sit Through If Played By A Cover Band. My son is being trained to know better.

He does have music lessons, but they're almost entirely on an autodidactic basis. He's taught himself most everything he knows, and has bought his own instruments with money he earned himself. I did give him some advice, though, I'll admit it. No; not advice exactly. It was too gruffly delivered to be advice. I told him to learn songs, all the way through, and learn the words and sing them as best he can. I told him no matter what happens, to keep going. I told him to entirely ignore what anyone male says they want to hear, or to play. Otherwise you'll forever only be able to play The 50 Greatest Guitar Riffs In Rock And Roll, wrong, while the clerk in the music store rolls his eyes -- because the music store and your friend's garage and other assorted sausage fests are the only place you're ever going to play. He took that advice to heart.

They stuck him out front after about five minutes and played along with him, and after a while he played some songs alone because they can't keep up. The snow bunnies crowded around him after while he sipped his root beer.

We're almost all done with him. You can have him for good, soon. Our loss.

[Related: Money Changes Everything]

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Teh Funnay

(A little swearing)

What I wouldn't give to sit next to my old man, in the velveteen seats in the darkened movie theater, and see the credits for The Man Who Would Be King roll one more time.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Slower Fixer-Upper

Latest installment of Maine Family Robinson is up over at Rightnetwork. A Foreclosed House Is Not A House -- Yet.

Mildly amusing picture of our bathroom in all its glory included! How can you go wrong?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Law Didn't Do This

Reader and commenter Bob Johnson asked an interesting question yesterday:
  • Are you obliged to clear your sidewalks? Last place I lived with a sidewalk we would get a ticket if we didn't clear the snow fast enough.

I know the sort of ordinance Bob's talking about. Every city has one. What they're trying to accomplish is legislating civility. It's not possible. When I scoff at publications like Forbes endlessly talking about how swell urban hellholes are, it's mostly because they reiterate a laundry list of legislated civility that supposedly makes crummy places swell. Last time I checked, it is illegal to kidnap, rape, murder, and eat your neighbors. Didn't stop Jeff Dahmer from costing Milwaukee a few slots on Money Magazine's Glorious Places To Live, Unless They Don't Have A Subway So #$%@ Them.

People do the right thing around here, without being asked. The sidewalks are plowed, just like the street is, by the town. The town doesn't worry about how much salt I'm putting on my puttanesca, it puts it on the street after it plows it. It minds its own business. Its business is the safety and comfort of its citizens, not massaging the neuroses of martinets and the fools that elect them. The local government is not corrupt, and by extension, is not incompetent. It doesn't try to do too much, but what it does try, it succeeds at.

Here's an object lesson in how it works here. That's our neighbor, Gayle, who walked her snowblower up the hill from her house and blew all the snow out of our driveway early this morning, without being asked. She knows we can't afford a snowblower, and we had a long morning of shoveling ahead of us. My older son is blazing a flying saucer down the side yard with his little brother instead of shoveling right now. The law of unforeseen circumstances works both ways. Good things happen downstream when people are pleasant. Gayle, like so many of my  new neighbors, is a peach.

It's not as if there's nothing to govern snow removal in Rumford. You're supposed to remove snow from the access (driveway, for instance) to your house so that an emergency vehicle could get to it. That doesn't come up much. It's mostly to keep absentee landlords of abandoned properties from ignoring the need for a fire engine to be able to get to a burning building whether someone's living in it or not. When my wife and I drove around looking for a house in Maine a year ago, we didn't look at any occupied houses, but every house had the driveway plowed out.
That's another of my neighbor's houses. It looks nice in the snow. Rich is another fellow, like Gayle, who puts his genial nature out into the world, like messages in a bottle, not knowing exactly who, if anybody, might read them, but knowing it's worthwhile to try anyway. He cannot number the kids he's taught and coached, and hired to mow his lawn for more than their efforts merit, I'm sure. Decent people don't keep score like that anyway.

So no, no one tells the people who live here to remove the snow. But then again, anywhere that actually requires a sign telling people it's required by law that they wash their hands after crapping is sure to have feces in the food.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Quality Of Life

I feel fairly disconnected from the daily hurly-burly in the US. Today I noticed I'm glad of it.

The snow is falling gently outside the window this morning. My wife and I sat for a quiet moment in the crepuscular light and watched it slowly silt the walk. In a former iteration of our lives, we would have had to get up before dawn and hurriedly tried to figure out if the lamebrains running our kids' schools preferred a day off (for themselves) today or in the summer more and had decided to close school. The safety, never mind the comfort and convenience of the children and their parents never enters into it. We don't bother with any of that anymore. My wife teaches our kids at home. Our kids aren't rousted every morning like vagrants sleeping in a park for the convenience of people we have no regard for, aren't sick all the time, and can read and write.

We're supposed to shovel in the dark, then drive among the maniacs applying lipstick in the rearview or reading the newspaper propped on the steering wheel. When they're not giving you the finger while they pass you going seventy in the breakdown lane, I mean. The drivetime radio this morning will be particularly, but not unusually, insane -- like the farthest reaches of the Internet being screamed through a sewer. No thanks. I'll walk down the stairs in a minute to work, and hear the footsteps of my little boy skipping through the house all day overhead, instead of the Mantovani version of The Immigrant Song piped through a cardboard speaker in the drop ceiling over my cubicle.

There was the usual drivel on Forbes this morning: America's Most Affordable Cities. It's the monthly installment of  You can move to Detroit! The quality of life is so high there! 

The quality of life. What in heaven's name do they know about quality of life?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hell Is Other People

To every man is given the key to the gates of heaven; the same key opens the gates of hell. - Buddhist Proverb.

In case you haven't gathered as much, I'm not the mystical sort. I've got no use for the waxworks inhabiting the pontificals of my youth, really; but save your three bong hit dissertations on rationalist ethics too. If Darwin is your pope, you've still got a pope.

The Golden Rule. Sermon on the Mount. The Ten Commandments. I'd bet 99% of the people who have ever trod the earth would agree to live under that framework. Then they'd kill each other for ten millenia over punctuation or something. Things are only useful in practice. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

I "invent" things all the time. They are of the most modest and unpretending sorts of accomplishments, and not very interesting to anyone not intimately involved in what I'm doing. I'll take a scrap of plywood, and screw some blocks on it just so, and a table leg will fit between some of the blocks, which likewise register the position of a tool that cuts a mortise in the leg in a precise and repeatable pattern. Thus I am more efficient, and eat more often.

The utility of such a thing is apparent to me. It is obscure to my best friend. To a stranger, it is literally unknowable. You can never know everything. You can't even know very much about very little any more. We are not agrarian subsistence farmers in a Newtonian Universe any longer. You're reading this, aren't you?

Is the Internet Good, or Evil? How about a gun? A chainsaw? Petroleum? A jig to mortise table legs?

The question is silly. But I can assure you, that when you see someone ask such questions, with the intention of allowing them to regulate you on the basis of an assessment of inanimate things being "Good" or "Evil," you are looking at: Evil.

Friday, January 07, 2011

I May Not Be Interesting, But My House Always Is

Latest bucket of bilge from the ol' Sippicanster is up over at Rightnetwork: Time To Be Interested In Houses Again.  There's a picture of my roof appended to the article. Perhaps I should have a contest, guessing whether that's the before or after picture.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

A Place In The Sun, By The Pan-Galactic Everly Brothers.

They should have quit after that first song, canceled the rest of the show, then retired. There's nothing left to do here.

Like a long lonely stream
I keep runnin' towards a dream
Movin' on, movin' on
Like a branch on a tree
I keep reachin' to be free
Movin' on, movin' on.

There's a place in the sun
Where there's hope for everyone
Where my poor restless heart's gotta run.
There's a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun

Like an old dusty road
I get weary from the load
Movin' on, movin' on
Like this tired troubled earth
I've been rollin' since my birth
Movin' on, movin' on

There's a place in the sun
Where there's hope for everyone
Where my poor restless heart's gotta run
There's a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun

(Thanks to Charles Schneider for sending that along, it brightened my day. How about yours?)

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before

To lie in a fever is to replay your life over and over. Not ending. Suspended animation, with a random slideshow and soundtrack. The world seems to have a fever.

I love the lie and lie the love
A-Hangin' on, with push and shove
Possession is the motivation
that is hangin' up the God-damn nation
Looks like we always end up in a rut (everybody now!)
Tryin' to make it real — compared to what? C'mon baby!

Slaughterhouse is killin' hogs
Twisted children killin' frogs
Poor dumb rednecks rollin' logs
Tired old lady kissin' dogs
I hate the human love of that stinking mutt (I can't use it!)
Try to make it real — compared to what? C'mon baby now!

The President, he's got his war
Folks don't know just what it's for
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason
Have one doubt, they call it treason
We're chicken-feathers, all without one nut. God damn it!
Tryin' to make it real — compared to what? (Sock it to me)

Church on Sunday, sleep and nod
Tryin' to duck the wrath of God
Preacher's fillin' us with fright
They all tryin' to teach us what they think is right
They really got to be some kind of nut (I can't use it!)
Tryin' to make it real — compared to what?

Where's that bee and where's that honey?
Where's my God and where's my money?
Unreal values, crass distortion
Unwed mothers need abortion
Kind of brings to mind ol' young King Tut (He did it now)
Tried to make it real — compared to what?!

Les McCann