Monday, February 28, 2011

Banishing A Constant Source Of Annoyance

I work alone 99 percent of the time.

I am not a solitary man by nature. There is an adjective made from my name that means sociable, after all. But the world does not make the best use of much of anything anymore.

I rarely wear safety glasses while working. They are superfluous most of the time. But the noise; oh, how I'm tired of noise. Everything makes noise. Unpleasant, loud noises. There is a hook next to the saw with big ear muffs on it and I reach for them constantly. I would not willingly insert more noise into the admixture. But I wouldn't mind some music. That's not so easy.

A woodworking shop will eat most any electronic device alive. Table radios sturdy and disposable enough to last can't cadge anything out of the ether worth listening to. I refuse to listen to most radio stations anyway. I ask you (to no one in particular):does anyone really ever have to hear Margaritaville, or Wonderful Tonight, or Old Time Rock n' Roll, or any one of a million other organized noises that grew tiresome when they were halfway over the first time, ever again? I know I don't. And to have it mixed in with the truckling of radio hosts and importuning of car salesman every ten minutes pushes the effect over into hurling heavy objects territory.

I can't pay attention to it, either. If it requires reloading or any other attention, it's no good. And injecting noise directly into your ears is insane if you're sitting on a hard plastic seat on a subway. Having an apparatus on your belt with a dangling wire with corks banged into your ears where real work is done is way, way past insane.

There was a blessed interregnum with the last tabletop POS, when I played CDs in it for an hour or so at a time, until the shellac and sawdust in the ether did its slow work on its guts. My wife couldn't understand how I could leave the same disc in there for a month at a time. I'd press the button and if it worked, I didn't dare change it, and kept pressing the button to pass a happy hour in peace. Changing the disc might consign you again to the prison of the machine noise alone. I never got tired of the disc, at any rate, because I'd never hear more than five minutes out of five hundred with all the other things drowning it out. Who gets tired of Mozart, anyway?

It died utterly a while back, and I worked alone in the silence and the noise and the cold  for a spell. It got me to thinking, which is never desirable.

I blew forty bucks on a solid state hard drive with a little screen on it. It has not fruit on it. The fruit is for people with more money than sense. I took a cable left over from who knows what and stuck it in the stereo jack where a lunatic plugs in their earbuds, and put the other end into a set of computer speakers of the type you accrete by buying desktops every decade and wondering what you'll do with another set. They are worthless, and so are precious to me because I don't have to worry about them.

And I will have my goddamn Mascagni today while I hit my thumb, and that's that.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wealth, And How To Get It

Brad Hargreaves has made a nifty little chart of what sort of wealth a person could hope to accumulate in a lifetime, with helpful examples for all the rungs on his ladder.

I'm not astonished by the rate of creative destruction in the economy, even though my way of earning a living has been  completely wiped out at least six times in my lifetime. It's the non-creative destruction I'm amazed at. Not Adam Smith, or even Karl Marx destruction. Ghengis Khan destruction. Vercingetorix destruction. William the Conqueror destruction. Carthaginian destruction, with nothing to replace it. The economy is less sophisticated than twenty-five years ago. It's a hard money, feudal world again in many respects. The Duchy of Chicago was just awarded to a loyal Cromwell. 

I could simplify the chart to just three tiers:
1. Make money while you're awake.
2. Make money while you're asleep, too.
3. Make money even after you're dead.

And bite all the coins. There's a lot of tin in there.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Pawn Stars -- Hound Dog Taylor And The Houserockers

Theodore Roosevelt Taylor, a couple of friends, and twenty dollars' worth of equipment. Let's see you do more with more, never mind less.

"When I die, they’ll say ‘he couldn’t play shit, but he sure made it sound good!"

By the way; he had six fingers on each hand.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ancient Airs And Dances

A Far Cry, a self-conducting string orchestra from Boston, Mass, plays "Ancient Airs and Dances" by Ottorino Resphigi, and beautifully at that.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pardon Me While I Subreference Sub-Subculture Again

I don't consider myself a controversialist. I'm not trolling for a fight for page views. Many people have written me to tell me they like visiting my page because it's not as angry as the Intertunnel often is. Glad to hear it.

People send me things all the time, for this blog and my other blogs, or simply because they want to share something with their Intertunnel friends. It makes my life more interesting.

You learn about all sorts of subcultures and memes and movements and pockets of resistance and shrines and cachement areas if you browse the Intertunnel as I do, but all people, me included of course, have a tendency to drift into: This is how I go when I go like this. I like getting stuff from all over from all kinds of people because it gets me out of my stale OODA loop and into an Immelman turn.

If it wasn't for reader Charles Schneider, how would I know that there's a little cottage industry on YouTube of pasting oddly chosen musical selections over a clip of Laurel and Hardy dancing? There's dozens of them, all charming in their own way.

Kids today make their own fun out of the crap they find lying around, same as it always was. The crap changes a bit, that's all.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Real Jersey Shore

1960 Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

"Poverty" has become a meaningless term in the United States. My family is living in poverty, bigtime, if you go by the numbers, but what we're not living in is squalor. America suffers from a surfeit of squalor now, not an epidemic of poverty. Fifty years ago, America had a multi-tiered middle class, including a tier both sides of my family emerged from that would give your average favela a run for its money, but there wasn't a true caste system. Now I see an iron-clad two-caste system being assembled for the wreckage of the middle class by the government and their handmaidens in big business, especially the big media business: High-budget squalor, or low-budget squalor.

Low-budget squalor is financed, generally, by signing up for all the help the government provides, which requires you to forswear any attempt at a dignified and meaningful life, as this approach makes you ineligible for all the "goodies." High-budget squalor is attained by being a hero to the low-budget squalor contingent. That's about it. It's exceedingly difficult to avoid rubbing elbows with the squalid culture, because it is literally everywhere, and is reinforced and sometimes made mandatory by the force of the government. If the guy at around one minute in the video lit that cigarette most anywhere now, he'd have a hundred scolds in his face, but if he popped an oxycontin and a Paxil and washed it down with four Red Bulls no one would bat an eye.

If you appear on a reality show, you can afford high-budget squalor; if you watch it you can emulate what you see and assemble a low-budget squalid lifestyle for yourself. If you play in the Stones, you can afford high-budget squalor, or you can use the Stones as a soundtrack for your low-budget squalor. Same sort of thing.

In 1960, you could move up or down the middle class ladder, depending on lots of details within your control; you weren't born into a static society. If you desired it, lack of money was not a bar to dignity. No one in this video is wealthy, but they don't lack the dignity of even your average Charlie Sheen. The children and grandchildren of the people in the video are in a casino in Atlantic City now, covered with orange spray-on tans and misspelled tattoos, hoping to get a glimpse of the latest Snooki at the tables, while their illegitimate babies slumber in the back seat of their soon to be repossessed Escalades in the parking lots.

Poverty is no fun, trust me; but it's miles better than even high-budget squalor.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I'd Give You Everything I've Got For A Little Peace Of Mind

The Blind Boys of Alabama

Satisfied Mind

How many times have you heard someone say
"If I had his money, I could do things my way?"
Little they know that it's so hard to find
One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind.

Once I was winning in fortune and fame
Everything that I dreamed for to get a start in life's game
Suddenly it happened, I lost every dime
But I'm richer by far with a satisfied mind

Money can't buy back your youth when you're old
Or a friend when you're lonely, or a love that's grown cold
The wealthiest person is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind

When my life is ended, my time has run out
My trials and my loved ones, I'll leave them no doubt
But one thing's for certain, when it comes my time
I'll leave this old world with a satisfied mind
I'll leave this old world with a satisfied mind

My older brother used to say: "Happy won't make you money."

(Thanks to realder Al Johnson for sending that one along)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Leonardo da Vinci's Resume

Marc Cenedella, founder of professional jobs website, has tracked down Leonardo da Vinci's resume, sent to the Duke of Milan in 1482 when Leonardo was 30. 

Because I'm a half-assed polymath, or maybe more like a low-budget and shabby Competent Man (I'm bad at all sorts of things, and proud not to limit my substandard efforts to one mess at a time), I always find people like Leonardo and Ben Franklin, or especially fictional characters like P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves, to be fascinating archetypes.

It's instructive that they tend to be remoras to the big fish in this world. There's a certain amount of gravitas that bigshots have that escapes the polymath. The Renaissance man flits from one preoccupation to the next, while the Napoleons and the Washingtons of the world concentrate on their one big idea.

The dissipation of interest into tributaries doesn't help your resume much. One awkward sentence at the end that blurts out that you're married and managed to procreate and like to ride bikes or golf or something is about it with regular people. What the hell would Leonardo put down on his? I'm a terrific ballroom dancer and I'm kind to dogs. Saying you're better at everything than everybody about covers it, doesn't it?

Not really. The Duke of Milan thought --knew-- that he was the big deal, not some siege engine tinkerer that liked to paint broads that didn't quite smile, and needed a ducal paycheck to keep him in red wine and rose madder. A resume isn't about you; it's about the needs of the employer, and how you might meet those needs, and the CV monomaniac at TheLadders sees it right off: Leonardo was a hell of a resume writer, too.

What a fantastic piece of personal marketing! There’s none of his famous backwards-mirror writing here — this letter was intended to be read and to persuade.
I’m a hopeless pedantic, so of course I’m going to take this opportunity to let you know what you can learn from Leonardo’s resume…
You’ll notice he doesn’t recite past achievements. He doesn’t mention the painting of the altarpiece for the Chapel of St Bernard; he doesn’t provide a laundry list of past bombs he’s built; he doesn’t cite his prior employment in artist Andrea di Cione’s studio.
No, he does none of these things, because those are about his achievements, and not about the Duke’s needs.
Instead, he sells his prospective employer on what he can do for him.

Hmm. Not to be a hopeless pedantic --er, pedant, but the word he's looking for is pedant, he should lose the exclamation point after the first sentence, and stop using an ellipsis where a colon belongs, and stop bolding text that should be italicized. Harrumph. I'd roundfile that guy's resume.

Leonardo's resume worked, though; Ludovico Sforza hired Leonardo, and paid him to paint The Last Supper, among other things.

There's a translation of the whole thing at the site, and it makes for interesting reading. Leonardo ladles out the required ration of obsequiousness at the get-go, then gets down to brass tacks and cannons in a big way. Duke, I can make you bigger than the Beatles; gimme the gig.

Leonardo's Mona Lisa might be the most recognizable painting ever painted. Ludovico Sforza died in a dungeon. Do the (poly)math.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Come On In My Kitchen - Before And After. Play It Backwards And She Comes Home

Robert Johnson:

Crooked Still:

Never pays to take the last nickel out of a woman's nation sack.

(Thanks to Charles Schneider for sending me out for a snort off the crooked still)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Baby, Knock Me A Kiss

Happy Saint Valentine's Day!

      I bring you with reverent hands
      The books of my numberless dreams,
      White woman that passion has worn
      As the tide wears the dove-grey sands,
      And with heart more old than the horn
      That is brimmed from the pale fire of time:
      White woman with numberless dreams,
      I bring you my passionate rhyme. 
                                                      William Butler Yeats - A Poet To His Beloved

You Gotta Make Your Own Fun In This World

My new favorite band: The Legion of Rock Stars

I cannot explain it better than they do on their website, and they can't explain it much, either:

Beyond Music.

LEGION OF ROCK STARS has freed themselves from the shackles of practicing, instead perfecting a performance technique known as the Pure Pleasure Process.

Pure Pleasure.

While listening to songs on headphones equipped with 30dB sound blockers to blot out the outside world, the band plays and sing their hearts out, all while unable to hear themselves.

The thing that the general public thinks Lady Gaga is, the LRS actually is. A subversive, amusing gag, a skewer of the existing leftover decroded culture whipped into a new, somewhat amusing recipe. The joke will get old pretty fast, and that just adds to the piquancy. Lady Gaga's demented-Mary Kay-consultant-without-portfolio act is about as rebellious, provocative, and interesting as the TV in a nursing home rec room.

I always applaud young people casting around in the flotsam and jetsam of pop culture, trying to make something interesting out of it. I'd cross the street to avoid hearing "Mr. Blue Sky." I'd cross the street to hear The Legion of Rock Stars play it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The New Churchill (The Song Remains The Same)

(Editor's Note: From 2008.)
[Author's Note: Nothing got better in the intervening years, did it? There is no editor. ]

Oh yeah. Just.

Accommodated. Beautifully put. The place is full of men never cracked a spine except in a fight, and the proprietor says: accommodated. How about: put up -- and put up with? Farmed? Stacked like junks of cordwood? Buried like a Pharoah's undertakers -- still alive but not going anywheres?

I climb the steps like the Aztec fellows must have on the way to the top to have the heart ripped out. It's the same. The world is more of a theoretical place now; that just means you can have it tugged out every day and it grows back for the next. Like Sisyphus in the school book. No, that's the guy with the stone. No matter; it's the same, anyhow.

There's no stone to push and the hill goes straight down anyways, not up. The stone rolled away, and a person gets winded real fast chasing it and thinks he might stop to rest a spell, then try again later. By the time he's picked himself up, it's rolled all the way out of sight. Even a man prone to fooling himself can't help but notice that the place he chose to stop and rest has a row of bottles behind the counter.

The house is like a woman gotten old, maybe missing a few teeth, gone thick and manly. But you can tell the ruin used to be something. The old frame shows something of the heretofores. I heard tell a captain of industry built it to prove to others -- he said, but to himself, I bet-- that he had made it in this old world. The bank took it from him and showed him that the world has no opinion. Find somewhere else that'll accommodate yourself. We're accommodating the men who heard about the fishing or the potatoes or the blueberry farms or the logging. Trouble is, they heard about two decades ago.

The inside shows nothing of the past except the ghostly outlines on the plaster where things were removed. If it was worth a damn, they pulled it out and reassembled it in a big house in Washington, D.C., they said. Fitting.

The bank stuck a guy behind the counter they put in the front hall who don't care if you pull a razor or a roscoe or a long face or whatever. He collects the money if you got it, our your scalp if you don't. I like him, though, because he treats me the same as the rest. We do our business and he pushes the key across the pockmarked counter and there's no accusation in it. No kindness. Nothing.

It's the nothing you crave.

Friday, February 11, 2011

There's Only Three Things For Sure

I come up hard, baby
But now I'm cool
I didn't make it, sugar
Playin' by the rules

I come up hard, baby
But now I'm fine
I'm checkin' trouble, sugar
Movin' down the line

I come up hard, baby
But that's okay, cause
Trouble Man
Don't get in the way

I come up hard, baby
I'm in for real, baby
Gonna keep movin'
Gonna go to town

I come up hard
I come up, gettin' down
There's only three things
That's for sho'
Taxes, death and trouble

This I know
This I know
Girl, ain't gonna let it sweat me, baby

Got me singin'
Yeah! Yeah!

Come up hard, baby
I had to fight
Took care of my bidness
With all my might

I come up hard, awful hard
I had to win
Then start all over
And win again

I come up hard
But that's okay, 'cause
Trouble Man
Don't get in my way
Hey, hey!

I know some places
And I see some faces
I've got the connections
I dig my directions
What people say, that's okay
They don't bother me

I'm ready to make it
Don't care what the weather
Don't care 'bout no trouble
Got myself together
I feel the kind of protection
That's all around me

I come up hard, baby
I've been for real, baby
With a trouble minds
Movin', goin' to town

I come up hard
I come up, gettin' down
There's only three things fo' sho'
Taxes, death and trouble

Ooh, this I've known, baby, ooo!
This I've known, baby
Ain't gone let it sweat me, baby

Woo, I come up hard
But now I'm cool
I didn't make it, baby
Playin' by the rules

Come up hard, baby
Now, I'm fine, I've
Checkin' trouble, sugar
Hey, movin' down the line

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

How Do You Get To Carnegie Hall? Make Pianos

The heir was pawing through the Neflix streaming catalog, which consists mostly of movies that no one wants to see. Going where others do not often go can sometimes yield gems, found among the tailings -- while everybody else ranges all over the Big Rock Candy Mountain of entertainment and gets a bellyful, and a bellyache. And a headache, if it's in 3D. He found Note By Note, a little movie about the Steinway factory in Queens. It's terrific.

The movie is aimed at the urban intellectual. It is not a craft show, though lots of craft is shown. There's a hint of noble savage-worship from the filmmakers as they observe the people that make the things. I'm sure a lot of intellectual dots are connected wondering why every factory can't be like that. Maybe we can pass a law.

The dirty secret is that there can be only one factory like that. All the rest must be run out of business so that Steinway can charge a hundred large and get it. It reminds me of 95-year-old Yankees wondering why everyone doesn't eat only rhubarb, pork fat, and canned wax beans, take cold salt water baths and live in an unheated house -- which they paint every five years with good old lead paint, and wash the brushes out with gasoline. It killed everyone else that tried it, but the last person to tell the tale always says it made them what they were.

This observation shouldn't diminish the value of the work done in the factory, or the work that must be done to get the dough to buy one of the things, either. I get my economics right from the tap, so the word "factory" holds no terrors and few secrets. I like it in the original iteration: manufactory. It's the manu that matters. Always will. I have a teeny tiny embryonic version of what I watched on the screen. I'm still alive in an industry that's mostly dead, which is no small feat,  but I know to end up a Steinway in any business is very, very, unlikely. Someone's going to outlast me and get the only ring, as I've outlasted many others.

Steinway isn't kidding when it says it pretty much does everything the same way it always has. Check out this video from 1929, when some of my immigrant relatives were working in a piano factory in Boston, waiting for Steinway to put them out of business.

I've been a professional musician, likewise in a very small way, so Note By Note (note: website autoplays noise and music) doesn't leave me in the dust when the talent shows up. Like the Steinway factory guys, I don't presume to be just like them, but I know enough about the business to know what's going on with them. And let me tell you, the jerk that plays the Charles Ives cacophony at the end after torturing the Steinway people through the whole thing is being snickered at, deservedly, behind his back at the factory.What a fraud.

The tears in the eyes of the mother and father and grandparents when a teenager gets his Steinway and plays it beautifully for them in their living room is very, very real though, and worth the price of admission.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Four Years To Go

And it came to pass at the end of two full years, that Pharaoh dreamed: and, behold, he stood by the river.
And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, well-favoured and fat-fleshed; and they fed in the reed-grass.
And, behold, seven other kine came up after them out of the river, ill favoured and lean-fleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the brink of the river.
And the ill-favoured and lean-fleshed kine did eat up the seven well-favoured and fat kine. So Pharaoh awoke.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Hammond Sandwich Number 48 - Jimmy Smith And Kenny Burrell

Thanks to Misterarthur for sending this along to brighten our Sunday

What It Was, Was Football (And The Writing On The Wall)

[Editor's Note: This was written in 2006. Everything portended here has come to pass, in spades. Must be mildly depressing to be able to see these things so clearly]

(Author's Note: I'm not depressed. I'm depressing. That's different. And there is no editor)

When we went out to vote on November 7th, my wife and I had to drive by our son's elementary school. We were mildly amused to spy him, out for recess, playing football in the schoolyard with his classmates.

We parked across the street and watched for a few precious minutes. Since we were not a butterfly, or a jet contrail, or a candy wrapper, or a penny, he didn't notice us there, so we got to see him in that rarest of settings: "somewhere else," without his parents or guardians present.

The football activity was hilarious. It alternatingly resembled an algae bloom and an ayatollah's funeral-- first a kind of milling around in an amorphous blob, then a kind of wild melee over a leathery old totem. We watched them drift back and forth for a pleasant minute, with the odd missile launch of the forward pass rocketing rudderless out of the scrum and landing any old place but that most rarified of targets: a teammate.

It was wry to consider that playing tag is verboten at his school. I'm not joking.

The school is getting comical in this regard. They were terrified of the food the little ones were eating, so they tinkered endlessly with the school lunch menu to make it so healthy that no one purchased it anymore. Now everybody eats fluffernutters they bring themselves.

They built an elaborate and very expensive handicapped playground. That's a kind and thoughtful gesture. But it is merely a gesture, as there are no handicapped children to enjoy it. There just aren't that many children of any kind in a little town like ours.

And no tag. Someone could get hurt. Someone could be left out. Someone could sue is the real reason, and the powers that be always point that out right up front.

Tag isn't allowed, so one of the kids brings a football, and they play that. And football isn't banned, because no one thought of it yet. And the absurdity of allowing mobs of pre-teens to chase one another if one is holding a ball, but not if their hands are empty, seems to be lost on the school administration. At least for now. And I, for one, am glad of it.

I'm not as worried about my son being injured playing football as I am in contemplating the little straitjacket world he's being fitted for. Those children decided on the rules, supplied their equipment --a ball-- and played their game without any adult supervision; and I saw a lot less kvetching among them than at any organized sporting event they participate in. I'm leery of them being told that someone will always tell them exactly what to do, and simultaneously unerringly protect them from not only from harm, but hurt feelings. One aspect of that tandem of supervision is repugnant, and the other unlikely.

I'm living in a strange world where people for whom I have no regard draw finely calculated and ultimately meaningless distinctions about everything down to the scope of activities allowed for pedophiles to roam the earth, at the same time they ban children playing tag in the schoolyard. Such distinctions are meaningless because anyone who is prepared to commit a great offense is not concerned about the rules governing small ones.

I dread the day, which is on the horizon now, not over it, when I'm forced to tell my children that the only sensible course of action is to ignore the rules, as there are so many of them that they become gibberish. And what the hell, the rules only seem to apply to those who wish to live worthwhile lives anyway --who never needed them in the first place.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

I Don't Like The Sound Of These 'ere Boncentration Bamps

I'm not sure which is more tiresome on the Intertunnel. "Flying cars" or "high-speed rail." I've decided to up the ante and demand funding for High-speed flying railcars.

My bad. We already have that. They're called "airports."

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Massachusetts. Still Plenty Of Kennedys Driving Around, I See

With two snowstorms whacking Southern New Hampshire in less than 24 hours, virtually the entire area is shut down today. (Eagle Tribune)

World's Greatest About Page

Lateral is a company that, um, er, well, you can't tell what they do by listening to them. They explain it thusly:

Primarily our technology solutions are Technology and Marketing Value-Added:
  • optimising the use of innovative technology and marketing consultancy to increase your online efficiency;
  • drive down costs;
  • maximise existing investments and help you scale.

Got that? Me neither. Man, anyone that works on the back end of anything to do with the web loves gibberish. Anyway, they have the greatest About Page in the known universe. Right up there with MailChimp.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

All This Moisture Coming Up Out Of The South Will Probably Push On East Of Us. At High Altitudes It Will Crystallize And Give Us What We Call Snow.

Weekly blizzards? Check. Feckless federal government? Check. Three dollar gasoline? Check. Millions rioting in Middle Eastern streets? Check. Roman Polanski dodging prosecution? Check. American cities like Cleveland going into default? Check...

So put your little hand in mine, there ain't no hill or mountain we can't climb