Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Race Of Angels, Bound With One Another; A Dish Of Dollars Laid Out For All To See

"City Trees"

The trees along this city street,
Save for the traffic and the trains,
Would make a sound as thin and sweet
As trees in country lanes.

And people standing in their shade
Out of a shower, undoubtedly
Would hear such music as is made
Upon a country tree.

Oh, little leaves that are so dumb
Against the shrieking city air,
I watch you when the wind has come,--
I know what sound is there.

-Edna St. Vincent Millay

Monday, May 30, 2011

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate,
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan's poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public men, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

William Butler Yeats

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Pretty Girls Can Run Their Mouths And Get Away With It

The "Flower Duet" from Lakmé, by Clément Philibert Léo Delibes

Under the dense canopy
Where the white jasmine
Blends with the rose
On the flowering bank
Laughing at the morning
Come, let us drift down together
Let us gently glide along
With the enchanting flow
Of the fleeing current
On the rippling surface
With a lazy hand
Let us reach the shore
Where the source sleeps
And the bird sings
Under the dense canopy
Under the white jasmine
Let us drift down together

If it sounds familiar, it should; Hollywood, video games, Madison Avenue, and every fruit stand and conglomerate alike have been raping it for thirty years now.

According to Wikipedia's list of uses of the melody in pop culture, you listened to it in sorrow as you shoveled Godiva chocolates in your gob with one hand while smearing Ghirardelli chocolate all over the rest of your face with the other. You were bereft; your lover left you when you demanded he stop playing video games like Fallout: New Vegas instead of watching Kirstie Alley waddle around the Dancing With The Stars stage leaving footprints in the hardwood floor, while dead Leo's old warhorse purred in the background of both. You'd already had a tiff over whether David Usher's sample of the song or LL Cool J's sample of the song was superior; then the cad said he liked the cello-based rock band Rasputina's gloss on the song best, which they called "Mr. Romberg" for some reason, and you knew it was over. What a barbarian.

So he split town on British Airways, kited high into the stratosphere by its dulcet tones, and you went to your Netflix queue and erased True Romance, Private Parts, The American President, The Oh in Ohio, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Meet the Parents, Superman Returns, Five Corners, Someone to Watch Over Me, The Hunger, Carlito's Way, I've Heard the Mermaids Singing, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, because you knew they'd use some version of the thing -- one that sounded like a chicken pecking it out on a toy piano if they couldn't afford the rights to a talented live person singing it -- and it would remind you of that beast. You tried cable for a while, but CSI: Miami, The Animal Planet, Nip and Tuck, Alias, and pretty much everyone outside R. Lee Ermey had it on a continuous loop -- and even Ermey looked like he might go wobbly on you -- so you decided to end it all, and took a bottle of pills.

As you drifted off, you knew in your heart they'd play it at your funeral .

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Friday, May 27, 2011

Is This The Most Popular Thing Ever Painted?

How would you measure such a thing? I imagine you could shove a copy of La Gioconda under the whole world's nose, and 99 out of 100 might recognize the old girl. But everyone knows who Hitler is, too. (This is the Intertunnel. Eventually everyone mentions Hitler) Recognizable is not the same as popular.Would you plunk down money for a print of Mona Lisa? I wouldn't. I live in a 1901 Free Classic Victorian, and I'd hang a Parrish print in any room in it. If the walls could take the weight, that is. Bang a hook around here, and you might end up outside. Still, the urge is there.

It is estimated that 25 percent of all the houses in the United States had a print of "Daybreak" by Maxfield Parrish hanging in them in the 1920s. That's popular. Leonardo could only sell the smirky woman once. Parrish made a pile on his nymphs.

The actual painting changed hands in 2006 for $7.6 million. 7.6 mil will get you into the Louvre, it's true, but you won't be unscrewing much of anything recognizable from the walls for that sum, never mind the Mona Lisa. But that's a lot of money for an American painting. I think it means something.

When I was younger, that painting was considered about par with Dogs Playing Poker by the intellectual set. I find lots of stuff like it having a bit of a renaissance recently. I'm not sure if the Intertunnel has anything to do with it. Say what you want about it, but the Internet does lend at least a veneer of democracy of interest to cultural things, even though it has huge blind spots. By Intertunnel standards, George Lucas painted the Sistine Chapel on a break from writing Shakespeare's plays, but it's still a useful way to see what people are interested in. Guys on the artistic "outs" like Parrish and Mucha and other contemporaries are comparatively everywhere on the Intertunnel. People are interested in them. That has not always been the case. Hell, Google even gave Mucha a Google Doodle salute on his birthday.
Parrish paintings and illustrations were immensely popular in their time, and when the great, glum, decade of the thirties followed the ebullient twenties, I think people associated it with a burp from a sumptuous meal they'd already eaten, but they couldn't afford to buy a second time. It reminded them of plenty, and sackcloth and ashes doesn't do plenty.

Parrish seems downright Byronic compared to the rest of the art world, living out in the woods in New Hampshire and tossing brilliant lightning bolts down on the world. The approach sounds familiar. Like all Romantics, he didn't want to settle for the world as it was, and so made one of his own.

Or maybe the world really is like that, and all he did was transcribe it, and we're too glum to see it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Voice That Would Scarcely Reach The Second Story Of A Dollhouse

My MP3 player freaked out at some digital outrage, probably visited on my Fronkenshteen pixelbox by my inquisitive son, and I had to press the big button that goes all Carthage on its ass. I lazily swept the dustbin of songs on my desktop back into it, and the juxtapositions are jarring, to say the least. My wife says if she hears "Freddie's Dead" one more time, Freddie's going to have company.

I don't need a lot of entertainment while I'm working because I never hear much of it. The machines and the earmuffs drown it out, so I can listen to the same old stuff over and over.

Blossom Dearie appeared during a ceasefire, and I actually stopped for a moment and listened to it. It's like applause, except she's dead and I just glued something instead of clapping. But the sentiment was there for a fleeting moment. Hope it carries her another furlong through the hearafter... er, hereafter.

I like the mistake better.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Curse

A toymaker grown old

Moiled away, day by day.

Kept a self up on a shelf

Because he was perfection.

People came to give him sums

Then went away with a prize he devised

None as splendid as the one.

One day the manikin spat out his dust

And spoke: Unjust!

There will never be one fine as me

I've seen you labor every hour

Since birth, unplanned, made by your hand

You kept me for show, a quid pro quo

But you could do it only once.

Thousands pay and go away

With my form, deformed.

Lanky; squat; beautiful or full of knots.

But not me. Never me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Seems To Me I've Seen The Most Popular Act In Great Britain Before

Just sayin'



"To Sir With Love" is a much more sophisticated song, but then again, it was written by two pros.

"Music to eat ice cream right out of the tub by, while weeping" never goes out of style, I guess.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Most Popular Song I Ever Played

The Heir is already a better guitar player than I ever was. No one has to tell him to practice. You have to tell him to stop, mostly.

Once, about four or five years ago, I sat The Spare down on my lap at the drum set, and held his hands while he held the sticks and played a few drumbeats. Little kids are stubborn and he tried it himself. His feet didn't reach the floor, and he'd get down from the drum throne, step on the bass drum pedal, clamber back up on the seat, and hit the snare. It led to a ... languid tempo. That was it. I thought that was the end of his interest in it, but you never know with these things. We think it's better to offer encouragement than micromanage our children's interests. 

Last week, out of nowhere he announced he wanted to play the drums with his brother. He sat down at the drum set and played a perfect backbeat. 1 and 3 on the bass drum, 2 and 4 on the snare, eighth notes on the ride symbol. He tells his brother, "Play Jenny, Jenny," and sings 867-5309 on the refrain while he's playing. Amazing.

My wife teaches him at  home, and suggested I start giving him a drum lesson after I eat my lunch. Okey Dokey.

First day, he sits down behind the drums and asks, "How do you spin the sticks?"

You'll go far, my son.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Double Trouble: The End Of The World. The Birth Of Bumpits

A person who doubts himself is like a man who would enlist in the ranks of his enemies and bear arms against himself. He makes his failure certain by himself being the first person to be convinced of it.

-Ambrose Bierce

... a man that goes around with a prophecy-gun ought never to get discouraged; if he will keep up his heart and fire at everything he sees, he is bound to hit something by and by.

-Mark Twain

Thursday, May 19, 2011

We're All Auger Handles Now

If you have a half-hour to spend, the movie returns a dividend on your investment.

A logging river is in sight from my kitchen window. They haven't allowed the logs to float down the Androscoggin for half a century, so the trucks rattle by day and night on Route 2 instead, hard by the river. Some call this progress.

A long time ago, a  man with vision and verve tramped into the wilderness here, and decided to build a whole city out in the wilderness based on nothing but logs and the river. There is a big, granite shrine at the foot of the big falls -- the falls that caught his eye in the first place.

The shrine is to a politician famous for crying, not the founder of the town.

Partway through the film, they show the hobnailed boots used by the river drivers. I've been in the factory they refer to that made them. The factory itself is converted into shabby cubes filled with holistic healing mountebanks and tax accountants. Next door there's a moth-eaten museum dedicated to the work that used to happen there. You have to have a museum dedicated to work now so people won't confuse it with dinosaurs or pharoahs or cuneiform writing. We were the only people interested in the museum that day, and I know all about work.

There's a mordant tidbit of humor at 12:45

The green men -- which we sometimes call "auger handles" -- will work on the shore, while experts like the man with the vest on, Mr. Everett Scott of Bering, will work on the outside next to the stream.

"Auger handles." Oh, how Twain or Bierce would have loved that. Some auger handles at a university compiled this video from the original 1930 film, and read a script that was written to accompany it. Another bunch of auger handles watch it in some other shabby museum dedicated to work, I expect.

It occurs to me that we're pretty much all auger handles now. Standing on the shore, clueless and timid, waiting for someone --someone else, mind you -- to risk his hide out in the torrent while we stand on the shore and pretend to work, wait for lunch, and tell them they're doing it wrong once they're done and we've picked them clean.

The pretending to work isn't working so well anymore, is it? I'll pretend to work and you pretend to pay me never does. The Mr. Everett Scotts of the world are thin on the ground right now. They seem to have grown weary of dragging along dozens behind them like some undeserved Marley's chains; of being depended upon and excoriated and cheated at the same time; of being milked and kicked like a barnyard animal with a cruel master; and so have given up even trying to cadge anything useful from the mob of hands full of gimme and mouths full of much obliged lolling on the shore.

So we're all standing on the shore looking at the logs (a little) and each other (a lot) and wondering if maybe we should pass another law, or cadge another exaction from Mr. Scott -- dig up his corpse and go through his pockets one last time if we have to -- or just pass a law forbidding logs from public assembly to break up the log jams.

The meek didn't inherit the earth. The cowardly did.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Before Rap Rattled Your Windowpanes

It's astonishing how many people are playing, and how quiet the whole thing is. Aretha is still fairly young here, the seventies running out of gas, this whole big-band orchestra extravaganza circling the drain already; but damn -- she is entirely in control of herself, singing the way she wants to, not forcing it in any way, the material (Stevie Wonder wrote it) worthy of her effort.

Singing is athletic. I never want to see old singers perform much. They are shells of their former selves, usually, and it makes me sad to see them.

In her introduction, Aretha seemed to be laboring under the impression that the Canadian audience was going to sing along or get up and groove or form a wild, impromptu rave or something.

Man, was she lost.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cut Off Your Arms. Cut Off Your Legs. Let's Dance!

Kids these days.

Wait a minute; kids these days are exactly what you made them. They are saying what you taught them. They are doing what was demanded of them.

If they spend all their time looking for the wart on the Mona Lisa, who do I call to register my complaint? Not them. Who told them it's the only activity worth a fart?

If they grub around the periphery of everything, desperately avoiding the calumny that comes from honest work that produces tangible things, looking for some gimmick, some pixel they can rent or some misspelled Intertunnel script they can concatenate a life from, who do I ring up? They're texting -- their phones don't ring anyway -- maybe I'll call you.

They got a whiff of the greasy diesel smoke puffing from the locomotive of congenital obligation you've got planned for them, their knuckles still smarting from the rough justice they got for even putting pennies on the rails, and maybe they don't like it. They'll be big adults some day, and maybe think for themselves if you didn't smother it out of them entirely, and it'll be a wonder if they don't stake us all out for the crows instead of paying our Medicare.

Kids these days; sheesh. I'm going to sit right down and write myself a letter, if I were you.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Batman Unprepared For Arch-Villain Wearing Spants

He would have totally kicked the ass of a guy in jorts, though.

Ah, Las Vegas is so glamorous. It's like a 24/7 social whirl of James Bonds and Grace Kellys.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Red, Right, Return

Gracie Gardner's Vimeo Channel

The average contemporary human does not consider the sublime much. Life is not seen as linear --with an end -- or even circular, with an eastern repetition. In many people's mind they were never a baby and will never be old. It's a botoxed cougar world, facing off against forty year old men still dressing up like Star Wars characters.

I don't want to be sixty years old at a Coldplay concert with a girlfriend on my shoulders, thanks. I don't think it will be fun to eventually look at eternity and only have fifteen minutes of real adult behavior in your CV. And I don't want to act as if children are just short adults. I'm six-foot-two, there's plenty of short adults around already.  It's common for people to remark that they don't want to see children out in public, and old people should find an ice floe before we have to find one for you. Out of sight, out of mind. Me? I like children that act childish and babies that coo and old people if they don't say tsk too often.

Hey, there's an aphorism: Out of sight, out of mind.  "Get out of our sight, and we're out of our minds," might be more to the point nowadays. Time for  new aphorisms, I guess.

My wife and I have children. We're married to one another and stay that way. We raise the little shavers as best we can, and treat them like children, and try to prepare them to be adults so we can treat them like adults later. Maybe if we do it right they won't start picking out an ice floe for us before we're sixty.

Part of raising an adult is having respect for their opinions, at least eventually. Asking your four-year-old to pick out a color to paint their room is foolish. When you're four-years-old, decisions should be made with an appropriate amount of serendipity, and not written in stone, or at least not eggshell paint. Children need help, and eventually you're going to need help from your children in return, if for no other reason than to figure out what the hell you've been put on this earth for when your time's up.

You have to protect your children from touching the stove, it's true; but sooner or later they're going to get older, and they'll find themselves in a room with a hot stove, and they're going to have to cook if they want to eat. How do you prepare your kids properly for modern life? Beats me. Maybe the simple fact that you try is where the success is hidden. It's all quality time, if you ask me. Hey, that would make a nifty newage aphorism.  I often tell my wife, I'm a bad father, but I am a father, and take pride in not receiving an incomplete, never mind an "F". Minus.

You can give your kids rules of thumb to navigate the world by. Aesop's Fables. Red, Right, Return. Aphorisms. Eventually, they'll grow up and make their own, and if you do your job right, maybe they'll surprise and charm the hell out of you, considering what a world full of hot stoves we just handed them.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Cornell Dupree, RIP

The Zelig of Soul Music
(That's Cornell Dupree with Hendrix and Wilson Pickett. Think of that show. Nowadays people pay 150 bucks to go and see Charlie Sheen explain why he got fired from a sitcom)

Oh, dear. Cornell Dupree passed away. It's OK if you have to search for the name. He's one of those fellows that makes the world go 'round, but you rarely catch with their feet on the pedals. By his own estimate, he played on 2500 albums. Seems low to me.He had emphysema, and perished waiting for a lung transplant. The last video of him on YouTube shows him still onstage last year with an oxygen tank.

He started, more or less, here: King Curtis.

I'd be hard-pressed to name a better rhythm section than Jerry Jemmott, Bernard Purdie, and Cornell Dupree.

I like Atlantic Records stuff from the late sixties and the seventies, so Cornell Dupree is a daily staple at our house. He probably shows up at your house, too, whether you know it or not. Have you heard of any of these people?
  • Aretha Franklin
  • King Curtis
  • Donny Hathaway
  • Joe Cocker
  • Brook Benton
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • Paul Simon
  • Sam Cooke
  • Wilson Pickett
  • Sam and Dave
  • Hendrix
  • Fats Domino
  • Miles Davis
  • Mariah Carey
  • Bill Withers
He opened up for the Beatles, and was in the first Saturday Night Live band. He worked.

He died three days ago at his home in Forth Worth, the city of his birth, still married after 53 years to his wife Erma, with two sons and a daughter and nine grandchildren, none farther away than Dallas. To be able to achieve so "ordinary" a family life in that business might be the most extraordinary thing about him of all. Rock steady, and missed.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'd Like My Own Personal Blimp, Please

Ah, great to see the Boston Globe has decided to quit the newspaper business and attempt the "Garrison Keillor-on-Seconals-and-bourbon-NPR-style-mumbling-over-grainy-video" method of disseminating information. It's the wave of the future, I hear.

Anyway, the makers of the object of my desire, Skyacht, who seem about as organized, efficient, and businesslike as rodeo clowns, say they'd be nifty for "such things as eco-tourism and forest canopy research".

I was thinking more of looming over my adversaries and tormentors and mercilessly raining fire and death and destruction down on them from the heavens like some crazed Jupiter, accompanied by a cadre of leggy henchwomen in leather Mrs. Peel jumpsuits.

Did I just say that out loud? I meant I want one for eco-tourism. No, really.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Moveable Feast

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 puddle 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.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Another Nail For My Heart

My Pop Singer Is Superior To Your Pop Singer

Glenn Tilbrook makes me happy and breaks my heart.

He wrote 154 pop songs better than anything that came out of the radio for the last thirty years. He plays better than anyone that just plays, sings better than anyone that just sings, and then does both at the same time. And he's amusing; an entertainer. It's a rare thing, and getting scarcer all the time.

I never go to pop music shows. It had to do with performing music for money. You just don't know how to behave in an audience anymore after you do it for work; you forget how to enjoy yourself. My good friend Steve dragged me to the last show I saw, quite a while ago, maybe a decade, which was the first one I'd seen in ten years, too. It said Squeeze on the tickets, but it was just Tilbrook and the little croaking fellow, Chris Difford, playing like buskers in a tent. It was amazing, and a little wistful. Tilbrook was, as near as I can remember, the most entertaining person I've ever seen perform, and that's saying something.

I'm not privy to any inside information, but they appear to have lost all their money late in their lives, as so many in the music business do, and now they have to sing for their supper like anyone else does. They re-recorded all their hits, note for note, a while back, which points to ownership by others, and an attempt to gain a little money by selling stuff they own the rights to again. I know how the music business works, and they were probably trying to hide their money from the taxman, and their accountant hid it so well that only he could find it. Something like that.

Now Tilbrook is out and about, here and there, on his own, or with a little combo he calls, amusingly, The Fluffers.

He can still write a pop song, can't he? I used to play the bass and sing the Squeeze song Pulling Mussels From A Shell, and it was the most difficult thing I ever had to play and sing at the same time, and that includes Motown songs. Pop songs are more sophisticated than they appear sometimes, and rock anthems a whole lot shallower.

After I poked around YouTube awhile, and saw videos of Tilbrook wasting away in glorified General Business gigs. (I'm not sure if that term is still in use. It meant "Wedding Band" hired for non-wedding gigs back when I worked) I said to my wife: I feel sorry for Tilbrook a little. He has all this talent, and it looks like he's lost everything, and he has to work harder than he did when he was young; why doesn't anyone help him? How can the world waste all that ability?

"And you feel sorry for him?"

Glenn Tilbrook stuff at Amazon

Friday, May 06, 2011

Paris, Texas, The Movie. Sorta

My son and I watched a movie last night. I hardly ever watch movies, so I thought I'd multi-task and review this one. Flyboys.

A guy that looks vaguely like that other guy that was The Joker in the Batman movie --no, not that Batman movie, the other one. No, not that "the other one." The other, other one. Anyway, he died --no, not this guy, he didn't die, the other, Joker guy, died -- at any rate, our hero was a jolly rancher for a while in Texas, but for some reason the Depression showed up early, like twenty years early, and he lost the farm and took to hanging around in a movie theater like Lee Harvey Oswald, and the sheriff comes in and tells him to join the French air force or go to jail for punching Mr. Potter at the bank.

So he goes to France to smoke Newports and fly Nieuports, and I suppose World War One isn't interesting enough, so his new best friend, who he doesn't like much, has a pet lion instead of a dog, and they are, like, pilots and guys and depressed together about stuff. Then someone decided the movie needed Jack Johnson, the boxer, in it, only his name is different, I think -- I don't know; I was still wondering if guys like the guy that looks vaguely like the Joker actor would have highlights dyed into his hair in 1917 in the Lafayette Escadrille -- so I didn't get to wonder why they needed a poor man's Jack Johnson in the Lafayette Escadrille. I guess French people and guys that keep lions aren't exotic enough.

Anyway, the Jack Johnson-ish dude shoots a German dude right straight down in the top of his head using only an airplane and CGI, and that's hard, and thereby saves a rich, overweight dude with Daddy Warbucks issues who previously didn't care for the black dude because he's black and all, but now he does you betcha. So the fat guy buys the black guy a drink, only he doesn't buy it, he stole the booze from his father like Ferris Bueller would, and the fat guy says my father is rich, how about yours?  And even though the black guy is noble enough already for five movies if you ask me,  they double down and make his father a slave even though it's 1917 and slavery was outlawed in 1865 and that seems like a long time between jobs, but who's counting in this movie.

Then the Hindenburg was bombing the Eiffel Tower and the guy with the lion gets all shot up and whatnot defending it, and decides to become a kamikaze pilot and blows up the Hindenburg, and instead of bombing Paris I guess it sets Paris on fire when it crashes full of flaming bombs instead of just dropping them, but that happens out of the frame so he's still a hero if you ask me.

Then yet another guy who is a brave guy acts like a coward a lot, because we all know brave guys are all cowardly in real life, and that guy hangs out a bit with another guy that reads the Bible all the time so you know he's a weirdo and not a regular person in 1917 in America -- everyone was reading Chomsky back then no matter what Ted Nugent says.

Then yet another guy, who is wanted in Wisconsin for armed robbery with a toy pistol (to pay the bookie in The Sting, I think) lands his plane in No-Mans Land between the trenches, which is hard to do indeed, but his hand is caught and he can't run away, which normally would seem easier than landing a plane in No-Man's Land. Just his hand is caught, mind you, and he looks like OJ trying on a glove when he's trying to pull his hand out, not like a normal person would under shelling and machine gun fire; so the brave guy -- not the guy with the lion, he's dead; and not the brave guy that's a coward all over the place -- the brave guy with the highlights and the ranch near Dealey Plaza who doesn't have it anymore. Anyhow, he lands his plane in No-Man's Land between the trenches and parks it next to the guy trying on OJ's glove and chops the guy's hand off with a shovel he borrows from a dead French dude who was lying around handy, even though the airplane wing is just made of canvas and a little pine. I guess it's just easier to chop the guy's hand off; don't ask me. So now that guy can only be a one-armed armed robber, not a regular armed robber with a toy gun, and he gets a hook instead, like in Peter Pan, and that improves his flying because he sucked before.

Later the guy with the hook and the cowardly brave guy save the regular brave guy, for a while, anyway; at least until he can find the German guy who sneers and waves a lot and kills guys and leaves orphan lions all over the landscape willy-nilly like a really bad guy would. This happens when the brave guy's machine guns don't work because a bullet hit them and they busted open like a pinata and spilled the wrong kind of bullets for that kind of gun all over the place like Jolly Ranchers, and then the brave guy...

No, not the brave guy with the lion; he's dead, I told you! The guy with the highlights who's now stepdad to a fatherless lion; the one that's been stealing planes to go see a French woman all the time, and at first thinks the French woman is a prostitute -- which I gather is normal for Americans sizing up French women for the first time -- but she's just the cleaning lady or something at the cathouse (which strikes me as a much less desirable job than being a prostitute, but maybe that's just me) where the first guy that had the lion liked to hang around and act like Vince Vaughn would at a French cathouse, but he's not even in this movie which is a shame because he couldn't have done any worse, really.

Anyway, the brave guy that steals airplanes goes to save the one French girl that isn't a prostitute because she's hiding from the Germans in her attic quietly like Helen Keller...

... now they've got me doing it. Like Anne Frank, not Helen Keller. Anyway, at first he flies the stolen plane at night for a while, and then he flies it at night with the motor turned off for a good long while, and then lands it like a ninja next door to Anne Frank's house and the Germans don't notice, even though they're in her living room drinkin' wine spo-dee-o-dee; but after a while they decide to notice and shoot Anne Frank in the shoulder. But just so you know, I'm swapping back to calling her Helen Keller right now because she gets a Mauser bullet through the chest and says nothing, I shit you not.

Anyway, he saves her and gets a medal, not a hook or anything, for stealing the plane; and later he steals a motorcycle instead of the plane for once, and goes to another place all bombed out and full of Germans and finds her again and they decide to meet in Paris later -- or at least the part of Paris that survived having a flaming Hindenburg dropped on it --  because she's going to England with some kids that aren't his, or even hers, now that I think about it, and he's got a lion to take care of.

So the brave guy with the highlights and the second-hand lion is saved for a while by the cowardly lion and Captain Hook...

(Dammit, I mean the cowardly brave guy, not the cowardly lion; the lion seems legit, if strung out on barbiturates a little bit; and I don't think Captain Hook is a captain, really, prolly just a corporal or a lieutenant or something, or whatever the French word for lieutenant is, I don't know)

.. but he gets all shot up by the Red Baron, who inexplicably seems to be the only German not flying a red Fokker triplane in this movie, but that's got to be him, he's so evil; but anywho, this German guy shoots more bullets into our hero than a carnival attraction with ducks for some reason, and then stops shooting him for some other reason, shits and giggles I expect, and then Rolf or Heinz or Manfred or whatever his name is just pulls up next to our beauty parlor hero like a guy at a red light in American Graffiti, just to wave and smirk. Then the shot-up  brave guy -- the guy with the used lion and the only French girl that's more interested in housecleaning than prostitution --  why, he pulls out a revolver of all things and shoots that German Snidely Whiplash right through the eye, which is pretty good shooting indeed, considering he's all shot to pieces and flying a biplane that's all shot to pieces that was made by French people in the first place.

Then they ran out of money or interest or film or something, and explained over the credits that the Jack Johnson guy gets a job at the Post Office, and the rancher with the highlights never meets the girl in Paris, but he gets his ranch in Texas back, only it's another ranch, not that one, but it's way better so never fear.

I guess it's not his fault the stupid French chick, the one that's not a prostitute, didn't know he meant Paris, Texas.

The End.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Cheap Trick Got The Finkelstein Wedding. Happy Cinco de Mayo. I Guess. Whatever.

Old rock bands depress me. "Hope I die before I get old" is not a gauntlet one can fling down at the world's feet, and then pick up later to put back in your fanny pack with your Carmex, Metamucil, and Viagra. When I got to be forty-ish, I began to feel odd even playing covers of this sort of thing out in public.

It's not adult music in the first place, so you get to be just another old man at a teen kegger pretty quick. I'd rather see young nobodies take a crack at it than old fogies depositing checks from the seventies along with their Social Security. Hell, Cheap Trick's original schtick was two old guys and two young guys playing in a band together. Now the two young guys are old, the old guy is ancient, and Bun E. Carlos has too much sense to even show up.

It's a testament to the mercenary nature of the "counterculture" that a flat-out ad is more entertaining and charming and less avaricious than an actual music video:

Happy Cinco de Mayo. I'm Irish a bit, so I know what's it's like to have a holiday in honor of your heritage that consists of nothing but an excuse to get loaded for the general population.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Tech Tock With Sippican Cottage

How To: Excabulate Your Pondrefact

Regular readers of Sippican Cottage know it's all about the cutting edge here. Tech, tech, tech. So today we turn our attention to the thorny procedure for properly excabulating your pondrefact. Let's dive in, right after I write "form factor" a couple times. I'm not sure why I just wrote "form factor," because "form factor" just means "size," but I'm in the Tech Union of Reporters and Drudges, (TURD) and I'm required to write "form factor" instead of "size" all over the place. Which begs the question; why doesn't anyone know what "begs the question" means anymore, or how to spell "its"? And what's with all the "quotation marks"?

Of course if you have an iHassle, your pondrefact is bound to be based on a SnowWeasel entabulating fissile, and you're going to need more than a firm grip to get at it; you're going to need an iDriver.Unsure if you're using an iYapple product? There's two ways of identifying the product without an owner's manual. First, look in your wallet. If there's any folding money left in there, you've probably got a MicroSauce. If you don't have a wallet, or if you have a wallet with velcro on it and keep it in your front pocket, you have a Linus. Another way to determine what kind of rig you've got is to check the power supply:

If you see something that looks like this, you have an oak baseboard, and ungrounded wiring even though there's a three prong outlet. Also, your painter has delirium tremens and no dropcloth, and the crazy lady that used to live there put a piece of wallpaper over the hole the drunk electrician made in 1957 when he first tried to chop a hole in the baseboard and then realized there was a steam pipe in there. Never mind all that; the power supply's white, and Steve Jobster loves that shite. It's an iHassle

Luckily Steve Jobster has already thought of everything, at least as far as billing goes, and there's a iWebsty you can access on the Intertunnel. (or if you're older than 40, you can just turn it on and look at it instead of "accessing" it) If you're using one of MicroSauce's old viewers to look for the iDriver, because the lithium/paxil battery in your iHassle is dead and you can't even spot a seam, never mind a screw, goddamnit, don't despair. Just "M"power your CuRT and transNavigate to the caramel button on the iDriver at the iWebsty.

OK, now press the caramel button that looks like a Sesame Street manhole cover. Everything you've ever done, seen, or mumbled to yourself will immediately be uploaded to an NSA computer in a bunker in Montana, and if you have a credit card on file at iYapple, it's going to get more exercise than a crack-addled triathlete. Never fear though; bin Laden's dead, and they've already kicked in the door of that guy that uploaded The King's Speech to the Pirate Bay, so the entire NSA's  hanging around doing nothing right about now. Just call them up and ask them what iTeration of the iHassle you're running. If you're using a MicroSauced product, you can skip the call to the NSA and just look for a big, metal plate riveted to the back of the box near the fan that sucks up all the dust bunnies and hurls them at your fatherboard. The fatherboard can be identified by the scorchmarks around the processor from trying to play videogames with all the shaders enabled, and the four cracks in it from the big metal plate's rivets sticking through the case.

Alrighty then, now that we know what we're running, lets look around the back and locate the pixel reservoir. Just follow the silver wire until you smell pixels. If you're new to Tech Tock, we've discussed pixel odor at some length; but if you want to jump right in, they smell vaguely like radons, carbon credits, or the fellow in the last cubicle with the ponytail and the blotchy skin that wears sandals and doesn't trim his toenails much.

Great. Now on to the exasoperating system you're running. Look for the place the cable company still owns somewhere in your house. You'll find one of three transmogrifiers, depending on your exasoperating system. It'll be one of these three types:

On the left is the MicroSauce compatible innerface. The lights flash on the front to attract the attention of Walmart shoppers, but they don't mean anything, so forget them. On the right is a rare black iInterface, but it's all swoopy and curvy and falls off the table top a lot from lack of friction, so you know it's a iYapple. The middle one is a Linus. It's all about the command line, baby! OK, now let's get to the meat of the process -- the pondrefact:

That's a pondrefact in the classic configuration. The pixels are routed by political affiliation. All the blogposts accusing the current president of being a secret Moslem Kenyan smoker are emitted through the red pixelpipes, the Twitter streams of pictures of the last president with a Hitler mustache are blasted through the blue tubes. It's all about the tubes, people.

Alrighty, now reach in past the fan motor or the iSink and dust off the bolts on the pondrefact:

Now, replace the crystals with carbon-neutral lodestones or one of those black toenail things with all the memory in it.

Voila! Your pondrefact is now excabulated. Now you can get back to writing your sparkly vampire fanfiction and writing mock reviews of three wolf t-shirts on Amazon without fear of a breakdown.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

I'm Going To Say Something Rude Now

[Editor's Note: Written two years ago. In the interest of verifying "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is," one cannot help but notice the author and his family moved into a somewhat larger version of this shed one year ago. Reposted with comments intact, as they are so trenchant.]

[Author's Note: There is no editor, and there are a lot more squirrels and bees in my house than in that shed.]

Here it comes: I would rather live in this shed than in your house.

Click on the picture. It's a very high resolution shot. Look at it. It's beautiful.

I'm generalizing, of course. It's possible that I'm not referring to you. But there are so few of you that are exceptions to my impertinence that I simply say it matter-of-fact-like: Your house has no soul. It's got no anima. It's a misshapen plastic lump dedicated to the exaltation of your car and your television. It is the bastid love child of a realtor with the taste of a vegas hooker and a contractor with a prominent eyebrow ridge.

It makes you unhappy. You don't know that, because many of the ways it does that are subtle. Paying for the damn thing, though it brings you little pleasure, is not so subtle.

I do listen to people a little in these matters. I watch them a lot. And what they do about their house cancels out what they say about their house every time.

You tell me that absolute neatness is paramount. Then I see you camping out in one little corner of your house in a midden of messy but prized possessions.

You tell me you want to luxuriate in a whirlpool while reading poetry with candles next to an open window. Then I see you showering in a hurry in a room with all the shades drawn. The spiders like your jacuzzi, so it's not going to waste, exactly.

You tell me that you like your television over the mantel in the living room. I see you turning one room after another into a "den", then eventually building additional rooms, trying to make a comfortable place to look at a screen. I call your living room the "Furniture Mausoleum" when you're not around. Sorry.

You tell me how much money and effort you've spent to make your home perfect. Then I watch you leave it, gladly, on any provocation. You can't wait to escape your homemade Colditz.

You've explained to me in some detail that under no circumstances should you be expected to pay any attention to the maintenance of your house. If a material can deteriorate in any way, and so require the touch of a hand, it's verboten. So you flee your vinyl house for a vacation in Tuscany and wish your house had soul like the one with grime from the 17th century still visible in its stucco.

You spent $35,000 on windows, and then boarded them up with blinds and drapes because they don't look at anything.

No stranger can ever find anything in your kitchen without asking, or find a bathroom.

The sun doesn't shine in your windows, except in your eye when you're trying to sleep.

It's impossible for guests to sleep comfortably at your house, though it covers 3500 square feet and is two stories high.

You can't prepare actual meals from raw materials in your kitchen.

You feel isolated but have no privacy.

You exit and enter your house every day by bumping into a trash can in an unlit warehouse for your car. Your dog wouldn't.

There are birds in your yard and you've never seen them.

You tell me all the live-long day you adore your house, but when your mortgage is ten cents more than your Zillow estimate you mail the keys back to the bank.

It may just be that my idea of what a house should be is dead. I have to respect other people's opinions, after all, especially about their own affairs. I might tell people they shouldn't do things, but I'm not interesting in telling people they can't do things. I mostly try to dwell on the positive in these matters, but if my opinions about housing were unleashed, I'd make Gordon Ramsey look circumspect in comparison. In a way, my cottage furniture business is a rearguard attack in this regard. I'm trying to save the entire stock of housing in America one end table at a time. Big job. It would be unwise to bet on me. But it's always unwise to bet against me, too. I sense that many are dissatisfied with their abodes now but are confused about the genesis of the feeling.

I've watched the "Let's Wander the Earth with a Floozy Realtor and Choose Between Three Tawdry Split-Level Houses" show with my wife, and my advice to all the prospective homebuyers is the same. I yell at the screen: nuke all of them from orbit, and maybe you can make something pleasant out of the hole.