Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Royal Standard Ten

[Editor's Note: First offered two years ago]
[Author's Note: I didn't notice before, but I'm in this picture. And there is no editor]

Dad, How Do You Spell Upponna? 

It was just a tent by the side of the road.

The road meanders from noplace special to nowhere anyone wants to go. The semis rattle by going both directions filled with the boles of trees, showing their butt ends to the only place they've ever known, going somewhere else to be useful. Like all the children born here do, as soon as they're big enough.

The car's a bit worn now, and a muddy chuckhole reaches out for the tire as we bound into the hardpan lot, pitching and yawing like astronauts on the way home. His grandfather would have called it a chuckhole, anyway. His grandfather, the man with the twinkle in his eye and a laugh on his lips and the same name on his certificate of birth. He winked out like a star in a distant galaxy last year, but the light from it is still reaching us here. It's in the back seat, bright; and driving, too -- a little faded.

The words aren't up to the task anymore. People grope for the name to call it. Antiques? A flea market? Junk or junque. It's stuff for sale that no one wants so it costs a little money. If anyone would want it, it would be by the side of the road with a "Free" sign on it. But then, commerce is not arithmetic.

I know too many things and examine everything like a doctor looking at the third person in a row with a cold in the last ten minutes of office hours. He knows nothing so everything is wonderful.

You can never tell with him. He never uttered a sound until he was four. Just looked at you with eyes like saucers half-filled with motor oil and you wondered if he was sent to make you nervous forevermore. Then he never stopped talking until his eyes banged shut each evening in a bed laden with bears and talking sponges. To bring him anywhere is to bring Ken Coleman along to murmur about the mundane in a continuous stream, and pass the time contented.

What would it be this time, you wonder. A broken Happy Meal toy or a dented sousaphone or a three-and-a-half legged-table covered with lead paint? He ranged around the tent like a bedouin holding up a caravan mid-desert and  pawing around for some honorable plunder. Then he disappeared.

We found him there, sitting alone and tapping away. No paper. A Royal Standard Ten with beveled glass windows on the sides. He wouldn't go anywhere else. He wouldn't look at anything else. Tap tap tap ding.

"I'm going to find the man and make him a bargain."

It was twenty bucks we didn't have. It was twenty bucks that wouldn't show up on our plates. It was twenty bucks I would have sold a quart of blood to get for that boy. All the way home, he sat in the back and craned his neck to look at it on the floor behind the seat. Some things are worth more than money.

"This is the machine you write books with, dad."

Yes, my boy. The machine comes with the stories in it. You just have to let them out. They put in windows so you can get a look at them first.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin

Look, there's no good way for me to say this, so I'll just say it. I'm poor.

Not "Internet" poor. Every blogger has a tipjar. They make six figures and have a sinecure and still beg for money. It's unseemly. I'm poorer than people on welfare.

My wife and I often say that we are the only people in the United States that have only one problem: We have no money. Everyone else thinks that if they had more money they'd be happy. They're wrong. There is only one problem money solves, and that is a lack of money. If you have lots of problems and then get lots of money, you just end up with a bigger budget to fund your problems.

I read a comment at another site that had linked to one of my essays, and someone remarked that I was a great writer and should "bite the bullet" and write full time. They meant it as a compliment, and that's the way I took it. But I can't help but notice that it would never occur to people that I have a mouth full of bullets already. I poop bullets. People just can't imagine that you could work hard and be intelligent at the same time and still have no money. It's very strange sometimes for my wife and I to be told that we do not -- we could not -- exist.

Everyone is poor where we live. You could walk up to any address in town with a suitcase with $75 grand or so  and tell the occupants to scram and they'd leave the dinner on the table. We are only conspicuous here because we do not live in squalor. We're married to each other,  my wife takes care of our kids, and I work. That makes us a freakshow. We do not take methadone and have four children with three last names and we don't call 911 every other day to sort out our arguments and we don't crash into trees and die while texting on bath salts. That puts us in Bigfoot and Nessie territory.

It hurts me to admit all this because there's a fetish for the obverse of Thorstein Veblen's conspicuous consumption abroad in the land. Everyone's all Four Yorkshiremen now. We have it rough. I do not wish to be conspicuously poor. I am trying to make our current state of affairs nothing more than an amusing anecdote for my memoirs. But I have to provide context, or no one's going to understand what I'm about to say.

My wife and I walk together most every day. Just a turn around the neighborhood, maybe a mile or so. We talk about things then. Well, we were counting our last pesos aloud during one of our walks last week. Things seemed peculiarly pecuniarily pungent. We were at a loss as to what to do, as we sometimes are. When we returned from our walk, there was an extra fifty bucks in my Amazon account. Fifty bucks is like five thousand bucks to us.

I have an Amazon box on the sidebar, and feature Amazon links on the page here and there. If you enter Amazon through any of those links, and then you buy anything, I get a small referral fee. It doesn't cost the buyer anything. There is no way for me to know who is buying things through my Amazon box. In a way, it's more pleasant that I don't know, so that I can imagine it might be anyone and everyone that visits here. It's always welcome when it turns up, but right there, it was like a sign. It was a sign that the universe wasn't malignant. It was a sign that someone was trying to help us.

I have to admit I'm poor, so that everyone that buys a copy of my book, or a piece of furniture, or buys something on Amazon through my links understands how very profoundly grateful I am for every last penny of it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I Never Met Mister Lee But His Sister Sara Is A Peach

I received an exciting offer in the email hopper yesterday:

Hello Owner,
My name is David Wolf and I will like to know if you can get me furniture?? If yes kindly let me know and I will get back to you with what I need and will also want to know if you accept credit cards as form of payment. ??
Regards Chris Lee.

Dear Mister Lee,

I am at a loss as to how I could get you furniture. I work all day, every day, in the furniture business, it's true. I design furniture; make furniture; photograph furniture; package and ship furniture; I dig little bits of furniture from under my nails at nightfall; I discover modest piles of sawdust in my navel on Saturdays at bath time; but as you seem to have intuited, the method whereby a decent and honorable person, the kind of stalwart and inquisitive person that would email info@sippicancottagefurniture at two AM on Memorial Day, could acquire furniture is a dark and bloody mystery.

I applaud your open-minded nature about the type of furniture you might require. A person like myself rarely encounters prospective customers that are willing to wait to determine what they might do with the fruits of my labors until after they find out what they might purchase. Perhaps if I make humidors, you'll use them as chamber pots if that's what you need. Or, say, if you learn that I make dining room tables, but you are building a bowling alley, you'll find a way to saw the legs off and stitch the tabletops together to effect a solution to the dilemma posed by my intransigence. You really strike me, if you'll excuse the pun, as the most reasonable man on the Intertunnel at two AM on Memorial Day.

I tread lightly here, and I hope no offense is taken, for it is not my intention, but I can't help but notice that you seem to have a different name at the beginning of your entreaty than you do at the close of it. A person -- an intelligent and worldly person, I mean, as I trust you will allow I represent -- can only come to the conclusion that I am being contacted by Siamese twins about a lucrative order of furniture. How exciting for me.

I regret to be a bother, but I will require further information before I bog down your inbox by sending you all sorts of sensitive information about my bank accounts. I need to know exactly how Divine Providence has seen fit to cleft your nether regions, for instance, so as to outfit a bench I might produce for you with the correct amount of latitude. I'll need to know if you can pull out three or four drawers at a time on a dresser, which could precipitate a toppling effect that would leave you in a pile of broken and tangled limbs that would make a can full of frozen angleworms cut sideways seem a trifle. Your surgeon will thank me later.

And lastly, I need assurances that I'll still be paid, if halfway through the production of your furniture treasures, one of your heads get bored, and the two of you decide to move to England to allow the other one to drive for a while.

Best regards,
Sippican Cottage
Sippican Cottage Furniture

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Do Flowers Grow On Pork Chop Hill?

He gazes out of the photo, mute, enigmatic, not quite smiling, and speaks to me across the decades.

When I was a little boy, amusements were few and far between. Television was still in black and white for us, and after the reruns of Gilligan's Island and The Three Stooges, not much was on the idiot box, as my father called it.

I remember my father and me trying to watch a hockey game broadcast from the west coast featuring the California Golden Seals, who were setting a new low in sports sumptuary and getting pasted by our mighty Boston Bruins -- Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito and Pie McKenzie and... well, I can still recite all their names down to the most obscure, even Garnet (Ace to his friends) Bailey. On a thirteen inch black and white TV with rabbit ears. We might as well have used the Etch-a-Sketch. Eisenhower's X-Box, the Etch-a-Sketch was.

So it always seemed a real treat when we could wheedle our mother to drag out the elegant but battered silverware box, left from some set our family never owned, filled with the family photographs. The pictures were mostly black and white too, the then-current cutting edge of photography being Polaroid's prehistoric b&w instant photos. They'd come out of the camera, you'd count to a now forgotten tempo, and pray, and pull off the cover paper to expose the image and stop the developer, smear your clothes, and hope the picture was vaguely done.

We'd see the usual babies on the shag carpet, buns up; confirmation and communion suits that fit like either a tent or a rubber glove, never any degree in between; little girls in their Easter jumpers and patent leather shoes, their mothers wearing a hat, a real hat, ready for church. Father, grim, unsmiling in his workday suit, a little shiny at the elbows and knees.

Those photos were only the littlest bit interesting after a while, because they were for the most part, well -- us. The exotic ones were always deeper in the pile, instantly recognizable as special by that magnificent sepia tone that photos used to have, and spalling and cracking like a fresco in damp cathedral.

There they'd be, the southern Italian or Irish immigrant faces, looking stoically at the camera, surrounded by extended family on a stoop in Cambridge or Dorchester or Roxbury, Massachusetts, or perhaps Antigonish, Nova Scotia. They had their hard lives written all over their faces, but always calm looking. Serene, really; not introspective or egoist. They looked into the lens in a way that we never do. Not at it, but right through it.

Our parents would strain to remember all the names, and who did what and from where, and why and when.  I figure, with the small wisdom that I've accumulated with age, that when we pestered them too much about someone obscure, they made stuff up.

Then his face would turn up. Handsome, mysterious, forever young. Forte.

Who's that?

That's my brother Bobby, my mother would answer. And that was that.

I was young, and still in the thrall of my parents, and sensed it. Here is a place you do not go.

The years passed, and the TV was in color, and my wrists and ankles began to show from my hand-me-down cousins' clothes. The box came out less often. But when it did, the tantalizing face, handsomer than all the others, undiminished by time or care, resplendent in a uniform, always caught your eye. He died before I was born, I learned, by osmosis I think, I don't remember ever having the nerve to ask, and I'm sure it wasn't offered. In Korea.

The earth spun, and the seasons changed, and then I was a man.

One day, my mother came to me. She had a picture. it had lain stored and untouched for fifty years, coiled, and she couldn't unroll it without destroying it. We slowly, ever so carefully unrolled it, the flecks of black and white popping off, as I stared at the faces. Hundreds and hundreds of faces. Five rows, stretching right off the page, four feet long, all in identical infantry uniforms, except the six cooks dressed all in white. C Company 506- Infantry, 101st Airborne Division. Camp Breckinridge, KY. December 27, 1952.

There was only four ways to stand out in that mob of faces. The cooks, of course. One man in the hundreds wears an officer's hat, and looks ten minutes older than the rest. One man is holding drumsticks over a military style snare drum. And in the very center, in the very front, one man holds the company colors on a lance. Two crossed muskets, a Capital "C" and a "506."

He has the face that speaks to me.

Now, when I was in college, on a lark, my friends and I went skydiving. We trained all day in a sweltering hangar in upstate New York amongst the farms. They strapped army surplus gear on us, hung us on straps depending from the hangar roof, and shook us around violently by our heels until we demonstrated that we could unbuckle our main chute from the straps on our shoulders, then pull the cord on our belly chute. Fun.

We climbed resolutely into a DeHavilland Beaver, which now seems to me an odd name for a plane, and knelt in rows in the fuselage. A few long minutes later we launched ourselves, some with difficulty, out the open hole in the side and into a whirlwind far over the patchwork quilt of the fields. A tether pulled our chute for us, and we drifted down and found a place with a liquor license.

I called my father, and told him what I had done. Expecting praise, I guess, or some such. And he called me, gently, the fool I was. I protested: but you were in a bomber plane. They must have made you jump. And he told me, son, if that plane was on fire, filled to the brim with rabid rats, and piloted by a dead man, I'd still take my chances in the plane. And to jump from a perfectly good one, he said, is foolish. Click.

My father was in the Army Air Force. Ball gunner, hanging in a plastic bubble under a B-24J, Les Miserables, over the Pacific. Air Medal. Distinguished Flying Cross. After I pestered him enough, he once told me a sort of a story about the war. He reeled off the names, Tarawa. Pelelau, Kwajalein, Tinian. He mentioned, in an offhand way, that after some island had been bombed flat, they later landed on it. It looked like the island had been picked up ten feet, he said, then dropped. His CO told them that some planes were coming. On these planes were some people. They were coming from somewhere. They were going somewhere else. When the planes landed, my father and his compatriots were instructed not to talk to these men, or even about them; and if he said so much as hello to one of them, or said "boo" about them to anyone else, he would spend the remainder of the war in a military prison, incommunicado. My father lost his desire, if he had had any, to speak about those men. He surmised some of them later flew a plane named the Enola Gay.

My father seldom talked much about being in the military. And my mother never talked about the brother in the photographs.

Now the picture, the coiled picture, was ruined. But then, we don't watch black and white TV any more, do we? My mother took that picture, and a bankroll, and had a necromancer or an alchemist or something at a digital photography studio restore it, perfectly, and make copies for all of Bobby's nephews. Mine hangs today over my kitchen table.

He watches over me.

I was forty years old. My mother told me, Uncle Bobby hated his real name.

His real name?

Francis, she said.

My middle name is Francis. I never knew.

[Update: My uncle's picture in the 101st is his training picture. He fought in Korea in Company E, 2nd Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Division. He died on Pork Chop Hill on July 8th, 1953. His remains were never recovered. Three weeks later the war was over.]

Saturday, May 26, 2012

My Brother Bought A New Bass. I Think He's Saving Up To Buy The Rest Of It

He's sinister, my brother is. That's a U-Bass he's playing.

Live ambient music worth listening to in a pleasant outdoor space. That's rarer than it should be. Not many know how to play instruments and sing well enough to perform in front of others. A lot of music is intentionally exclusionary; it is designed to appeal to a narrow slice of audience, and its appeal is based almost solely on an explicit assault on everyone else. Deliberately annoying. And there's the "go big or go home" aspect to pop music. An enormous production or nothing. The musical equivalent of a food cart should be resurrected. I won't hold my breath.

Friday, May 25, 2012


My son continued my "Generation Text" edumacation today. If you just came in, he explained earlier this week that his contemporaries think he's a weirdo because his phone folds in the middle and he talks into it.

-A fellow in my blog comments says he just turns his iPhone on with a simple swipe. Easy peasy.
-Yeah, just don't get it wrong or your phone puts you in Time Out.
-What does that mean?
- If your phone doesn't like the way you swipe your fingers, or if you've forgotten what you're supposed to do exactly, the phone refuses to talk to you.
-You're making that up. That sounds like kindergarten.
- No, dad. Really. The phone locks you out with a big sign that tells you when you'll be allowed to use it again.
- There is no way that's true.
- Google it, dad.
- Hmmm. "iPhone is disabled." Thirty-three million, five-hundred thousand results. Dear God.
- That's not the good part.
- There's a "good" part?
- Depending on how mad you make the phone by stabbing your fingers at it in some way it doesn't like, the longer it locks you out. It tells you in big letters on the screen how bad you've been.
-There is no way this can be true. What adult would ever consent to that?
- My friends are not adults, dad.
- My bad.
-Go ahead, Google it.
-Hmm. Image search this time. Oh, dear savior. "iPhone is disabled. Try again in 520410 minutes."Holy merde! That's ... (lots of arithmetic later) ... like a year. A year!
-Dad, you left out a zero. It's 5200410 minutes.
-Ten ****ing years?
- My ears are not a toilet, dad.
- Sorry, Moss. You must be able to reset the thing.
- You can, but it erases everything in the phone.
- How... therapeutic. But your friends must do something insane to the phones to do that.
- The phones do what they want, dad.
- Yeah, sure.
- No, really. They do all sorts of things by themselves.
- Honestly. The dog ate my homework isn't good enough anymore? The phone did it! Please.
- Dad, we were in McDonald's and one of my friend's phones started vibrating in his pocket so he put it on the table and said, "Watch this," and the screen slowly filled up with: pppppppppppppppp, then added some smiley faces, then went back to all pppppppp with tongue faces mixed in, then texted it all to the kid's dad. He thinks he got a drop of water or something on the phone once.
- If I was his dad and got two of those in a row, I imagine I'd smash your friend's phone with a hammer a bit. Nothing serious, just with all my might.
- It only sent one text. After the pppppppp-smiley face thing, the phone went to Wikipedia by itself and looked up "Fairy Tales," and then "Fairy Tales, disambiguation..."
- And it did all this with no one touching it?
- Yeah, it was lying in the middle of the table while we all watched it, laughing like hyenas. Although he turned it off when it started in on "Germanic Fairy Tales."
- Too --ahem --Grimm?
- You're funny dad. Not funny haha, though.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Kitchen Stories

Three Years Ago I Invented Blogging And Wrote This

[Author's Note: Four seven years ago all I had was dial-up Internet access, but started an Internet cottage furniture business anyway. Like with everything else, I was a cranky autodidact, and painfully taught myself HTML by fooling around with FrontPage, toggling back and forth in the WYSIWYG window to compare the code to the appearance of the page. I had no idea there was anything like a community of blogs, and just started writing essays on my What's New page. Here's one from 2005 I'm not ashamed of.]

[Author's Note: There is no editor}

Now, I'm going to forgo maundering on about the good old days, because this is thirty years before I was in the game, so to speak, and I don't have a dog in that fight.

But look at that room. It's glorious. You'd kill for a kitchen that pleasant to be in, and we'd get you to sign the closing papers before you noticed there isn't a dishwasher, unless you count the girls in the chairs. Please keep in mind, this is not the rich folk's house, or it wouldn't be here. They were just regular people, like you and me, or maybe just me; you might be an Admiral or Rock Star or somesuch; I don't know.

Let's go over what they knew about a kitchen then, that they don't know now.

First of all, look at the light. I'm referring to the light emanating from the yellow orb in the sky, which rarely gets into houses these days. The big girl on the right is reading, and that looks like a great place to do it. Two things bring in that light. First, the ceiling is high enough, but not vaulted. Designers vault rooms willy-nilly now, and make gloomy, echoey, medieval caverns out of rooms that should be close and homey. Kitchens get it a lot these days. You generally need four or five hundred thousand million watts of lighting in a vaulted ceiling kitchen to approach what they've got here, streaming right in. ( I might be a little off with my calculations on footcandles there, but I stand by the gist of it.)

That ceiling looks nine feet high. You can get a fairly airy ceiling by simply specifying full eight foot studs for the first floor wall framing of your house, and gain 4 inches for a few bucks. You'll save people like me from getting cracked in the head by your inexplicable ceiling fans on a 7'-8" ceiling that way.

The ceiling would undoubtedly have been white calcimined plaster, to reflect the light. Calcimine was a form of paste used in lieu of paint on ceilings, that you had to wash off before recoating. Everyone forgot that eventually, and painted over it, and it peeled forever. Your recollection of endlessly peeling Victorian and WWI vintage house ceilings generally traces back to calcimine. In the fifties, peopled stapled asbestos and cardboard tiles over the flaking paint, in the sixties they tried acoustic drop ceilings, the seventies tried swirled sand textured paint over the mess, and the eighties tried the judicious use of the wrecking ball.

But everyone's forgotten to make the ceiling high enough to make the room proportionate to its length and width, allow the windows to be tall and stately, and let in extra air and light. Your present kitchen is almost undoubtedly larger than this, and I ask you, could you fit those four children into yours while you worked at the sink? (Count the shoes, there's four, trust me) The designer knew enough to put windows on two walls in the room, and not just one. It's possible to get natural light into a room with the windows ganged on one wall, but its hard to do, and unlikely you'll manage it. Lighting your face from one side alone makes for interesting Beatles album covers, but it's no way to live.

Look at the pantry cabinet on the facing wall. it's in a niche, to allow you to get around the room, with a nice flat counter to display what is obviously a prized possession, with room to spare for day to day use as a work surface. Lovely. Even expensive kitchen cabinets are really crummy these days. They're more often than not made from particle board covered with plastic woodgrain paper with a design imprint that looks like someone who liked Lawrence Welk a lot drew it originally. The only real wood on cabinets now is the doors, and they always are overlaid on the face, not inset like the picture. They are overlaid to save the manufacturer trouble, not give you a better looking thing; these cabinets have the doors inset into the frame, which is fussy, and looks terrific, and is not like most modern cabinets. The modern version looks more like the box a cabinet comes in than a cabinet itself.

The cabinets here are painted, probably glossy white, looked spiffy, reflected the glorious light some more, cleaned easily, and could be refurbished when they got to worn by a conscientious homeowner. Nowadays, since you've ponied up all that money for your cabinets, they're probably solid hardwood faces, with uninteresting grain, dark enough to soak too much of the light up, and make you add still more lightbulbs to try to see in there. They're sprayed with a thin couple of coats of nitrocellulose lacquer, which is tough as nails, at least until it isn't, which is fairly soon, and can't be rejuvenated by hand, and end up in the trash every ten years, no matter what you paid for them.

That fridge is really small, but the homeowners probably had spent their childhood with an icebox, or some without even that, and thought it was a marvel, no doubt. And it has the supple streamlined corners and clean white metal baked enamel glaze that says "clean" to me. You wouldn't feel the need to put wood panels on the front of your refrigerator if it looked that, well, cool.

The simple checked floor is terrific. Really underrated, that kind of simple decoration. The photographer is probably standing in the door that leads to a dining room, or a hallway or parlor if the house is small. The homeowner has hung a pretty little mirror on the wall, canted just so, so she can see behind her when she's at the sink, or alternately look out the window. People still make the mistake of making the sink a sad, lonely place to be, and occasionally make it even worse than bad, by running the cabinets right across with no window, and doom the user to hours of staring at nothing, their back to everyone, whether you have a dishwasher or not. For shame!

You all know me by now, and know full well that I'm going to steal the design for that gate leg table in the middle of the room. Oh yes. It's the perfect work island for food prep, and presto, open it up and you're eating the finest meal in the world, which is placed on the table direct from the oven or stove, by Mother's hand, surrounded by your loved ones, the clink of glass and china and cutlery a domestic symphony, the beaming faces of the children arrayed around the round table, with the late afternoon sun beaming in and the family beaming out.

Get some of that lost kitchen, as much as you can find, fit, or afford, and I'll bless it for you, right here and now.

Monday, May 21, 2012

They Call Me Captain Kirk

I had a fascinating and edifying conversation with my teenage son recently. He's homeschooled. None of his friends are.

He had been tentatively hired to play and sing at a public function. I would ask him, from time to time, about the particulars of the job. He'd shrug and say he was waiting for information. When there was less than a day left before the scheduled date, I got a little peeved when I got the same answer -- waiting to be told what to do; who to see; when to go. I received a little education while sorting it out with him.

The person in charge was ostensibly an adult but is more like a teenager running in place on the calendar. I asked him how he was communicating with her.

-I left a lot of messages on her Facebook wall.
-Facebook! Facebook? Why don't you email her?
-No one has an email address, dad.
-Well, they might, but they wouldn't look in their inbox and answer you. There's a part of Facebook that takes the place of email, though.
-Well, why don't you leave one there for her?
-I left a half-dozen there. There's no way to tell if anyone is looking at that.
-Why don't you call her on the phone?
-She's like my friends. She doesn't know how to answer a phone.
-What do you mean? They all have $500 phones.
-They don't know how to answer them.
-How can that be?
-They all are iPhone type slabs and they have to lock them so they don't butt-dial 911 and their mother twenty-five times a day. They can't unlock them fast enough to answer them.
-Well, why don't you leave them a voicemail and tell them to call you back?
-Dad, they have no idea how to use voicemail. All their mailboxes are full and have never been listened to.
-You're making that up.
-I'm not.
-Let's find the phone number for the, woman that you need to talk to and call it.
    ...the voice mailbox you're trying to reach is full. Disconnecting.
-No one answers the phone?
-Dad, they text everything.
-But you've left "text" messages everywhere for your contact person.
-Texting isn't for information, really.
-What does that mean?
-Dad, no one says much of anything when they text. It's like a really elaborate handshake that goes on for a while.
-How so?
-A friend texts "hi." You're supposed to say "hi" back, but it's bad manners to say more than hi, so that they can ask you how you are in little words without vowels in the next text, and keep the thing going for as long as possible. That's why they don't answer the phone, too, you can't break the string of texting. Nothing really ever gets said.
-Well if all they do is text, why do they need iPhones? What can they do with them?
-Well, you could Google something, I guess, or watch a video, but they don't.
-Why not?
-Watching even half a 240p video will put them over their data limit, so they won't do it.
-Well they must do something with the screen.
-The girls all use it to look at Facebook, where they leave little text messages and ducklips phone photos for each other to look at while they text each other directly. 
-Someone must be using the phone to talk on the phone.
-No, if you want to talk on the phone you use Skype.
-Now we're getting somewhere.
-My friends all get laptops given to them at school, and use them to Skype one another.
-They Skype in school?
-No, the boys play flash video games during class in school, and the girls...
-No, don't tell me -- they look at Facebook all day.
-Now you're getting it dad.
-They must use them for something to do with school.
-Well, they're Apples, dad. They're pretty much useless.
-Well, don't they use them to read books or Wikipedia or something?
-No one in school reads the books, dad.
-Come on.
-Well, a couple of kids read all the books that get assigned. The kid that was homeschooled until last year does, I think.
-You'd flunk if you didn't read any books.
-There's a website they use their laptops for that tells you what a book says without reading it. I don't know the name of it.
-Cliff Notes?
-I think that's it.
-The teachers would catch them.
-I think the teachers know but don't care because it's no skin off their nose.
-So the kids just plagiarize Wikipedia for their work?
-I think the teachers have a thing about Wikipedia so they've found some other place to copy and paste from.
-Doesn't the school block that sort of thing?
-Are you serious, dad?
-Yes, I guess.
- I guess they try that sort of thing here and there but it's a joke. They tried blocking something at YouTube once, and the kids just erased the backslash on the URL and it went right through. The technical ability of the school is strictly Wayne Newton-fan level.
-What do your friends think about you?
-They call me Captain Kirk because my phone folds in the middle and I talk into it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Old Ruminations People Should Be Reading For Some Reason, But Aren't

5/19/2012: I read Woodweb from time to time. I learn very little of a factual nature there, and offer no advice there, either. Like many places on the Intertunnel, I read it like I'm looking into a petri dish or I'm visiting a zoo. I don't stick my fingers through the bars or into the dish. I don't mean that in a disparaging way. It's useful to me because you can get an imperfect feel for a portion of the zeitgeist there. Putting your finger in the dish affects it.

They've front-paged a man blegging for advice about his one-man shop. Most such questions are simply a plea for sympathy or praise, sometimes both. People look for accomplices, not advice, generally. Almost all the advice he got was worse than bad. A man can learn about perfectly elastic demand only once.

I'm fascinated that so many persons that have absolutely no interest in running a business start businesses. Hell, I may be one of those people. But people on the stage deserve a kind of respect that people in the audience do not, no matter how bad the show is. I'll give that respect, instead of advice. But I'm reminded of Twain:  If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.

[Editor's Note: First offered four years ago. Timely, years in advance. There's a word for that, isn't there?]
[Author's Note: Yeah: Broke-ass loser. And there is no editor.]

You don't understand economics very well.

No offense. I don't know who you are, but I'm willing to defame you like that. Why do you suppose that is? It's because nobody understands economics very well, in my experience. When I see the poll question: "Which candidate for President do you trust more to run the economy?" it's the question itself which bugs me, not the percentages assigned to the candidates. If you'd ask or answer that question, you have a pre-civilized view of economics in my opinion.

I'm not educated in economics, so I know a little about it. If I was educated, I'd know about an economics education. Not the same thing. I learned what I know about economics by getting the treatment a baby gives a diaper every day out in the economic landscape. You're not allowed to indulge in fantasy very long out here. You can do it for a lifetime in a college. And beyond, if you can get published.

I want to talk about price elasticity, because it interests me. It refers to the relationship between the supply and demand for things as you tinker with price, or supply, or a host of other factors.

In general, people who work with their hands seek price inelasticity. That means that demand falls more slowly than an increase in price. Since the amount of work a person can do is finite you want to raise your price to perform the work without decreasing demand too much by doing so. You work less, for more money.

If demand is elastic, this means if you raise your price, the demand falls, and doesn't make up for the increased price. You raise your prices but you make less money.

If it's unit elastic, there's a direct correlation between price and demand. Raise the price, demand goes down exactly the amount necessary so that revenue stays the same. An accountant is the only person to have ever seen this creature.

Now let's go out on the economic map where navigators used to see "Here Be Monsters."

Perfectly elastic pricing is where if you raise the price one iota, the demand drops to zero.

And finally, if we talk of demand being perfectly inelastic, no matter what you charge, the demand stays the same. You've got a crack stand in Marion Barry's living room.

Now I want you to come out to the edge of the map where I live, and have lived for the vast majority of my life. Forget inelastic price, elastic price, and the unicorn of economists, unit elastic demand. Those are just things that determine whether you'll buy a flatscreen TV or an end table or not. I want to get existential on you.

If you have a sinecure, you will never understand what it is to be in a walk of life where demand for your production risks perfect elasticity. You simply talk about the churn in the economy. No sympathy for those buggy-whip manufacturers. They should have been smart and got a job collecting tolls on the highway and then they wouldn't have found themselves in that pickle. People with whales on their pants who refer to their significant other as "Lovie" like this line of reasoning a lot, too.

People often tell me that my cottage furniture is very inexpensive for what you get. Raise your prices, they counsel. Maybe. But more likely, they don't understand that the market often doesn't make such fine distinctions about your pricing structure. Sometimes it's pass/fail. I have to be careful never to hit the fail point because there's no readjustment period. You're just dead. People with straightforward jobs can picture this best by imagining that if you went into you boss's office and demanded a raise, the only two answers are: "Sure!" and "You're fired!". You'd be less extravagant in your demands then, wouldn't you?

What about the political angle I mentioned earlier? Oh, that's where perfect inelasticity comes in. See, you don't understand it, because if you answered the poll question above, you think the government is the producer in this scenario. You think they produce prosperity, and through some jiggery-pokery with inelastic set-asides, or elastic statutes, or unit elastic Smoot-Hawley tarriffs or raging carpet-bombing wars, they're going to arrange for the shelves in the US Store to be stocked with goodies for you. But you've got it exactly backwards.

The example often used for perfect inelasticity is the human heart transplant. If heart transplants were ten dollars, you wouldn't want one just because it was cheap, and if it cost eleventy-billion dollars, but you needed one, you wouldn't care what it costs. You'd beg, borrow, or steal the dough to get it.

So in the real world with the government in the picture, I am the good or service. But the United States Government is not a supermarket. It is a pawn shop. And I am born pawned, and I wake up every morning pawned. And if I want to get myself out of there, to work all day and try to make a few bucks so I can worry about something other than my very existence, I'm going to do whatever I'm told, and pay whatever is demanded of me. My interest in continuing to be me is 100%, and my demand to continue being me will not diminish no matter how abusive the situation you plunge me into.

My demand for me is perfectly inelastic, and the government knows it. Pay up, sucka.

The Mafia always understood perfect inelasticity, too. They'd come in, tell you how much protection money was required, and mentioned that your kneecaps were perfectly inelastic if you bent them backwards.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

What I Leaned From Donald Dunn, Among Others

Donald Dunn passed away this week.  I've played dozens of his basslines thousands of times, likely more than any other single bass player I've copied. He played on every damn thing. He's sorta famous because he appeared in The Blues Brothers, but that's kinda sad to someone like me. In my mind John Belushi and Dan Akroyd were somewhat notable because they knew Donald Dunn. 

Dunn joked that he played the bass because it had fewer strings, and so was a lot easier to play, than the guitar. There's some truth in that. It is easier to be a bad bass player than a bad guitarist. I was a bad bass player, so I'm an expert in these matters. But it's much, much harder to be a good bass player than a good guitarist. It must be; there are so few of them. He was one of them.

RIP, Donald Dunn, and thanks for feeding my kids, too.


[Editor's Note: Written in December of 2008 and never used. Not sure why]
Author's Note: Don't ask me; I just write the stuff. There is no editor]

I (used to) play the electric bass. It's not a bass guitar, although everyone calls it that. There actually is an instrument called a "bass guitar." It has six strings and is tuned lower than a regular guitar, but it's not a bass. A bass is that doghouse with the four strings. The electric kind hangs on your neck and gives you a bad back (left side), deafness, and a couple hundred bucks a night for as many nights as you'll show up, because every other person in the world is an unemployed guitar player. Own a bass and you'll always work.

That's what my brother told me all those years ago. He actually knows how to play the thing properly. Everything I learned about it he taught me in one afternoon in his freezing cold, decidedly downscale apartment in Providence RI. I never had to learn anything other than what he taught me that day, and I've forgot half of that, and I could still work every night if I wanted to. I don't. No one owns one, shows up, and plays bass -- instead of monkeying around like the guitar player they wish they were on the wrong part of the neck.

But you need bass lessons, and I'm busy and don't know how to play, and my brother's busy and lives in LA, so we're stuck with YouTube. I'll teach you everything you need to know right now.

You have to play the blues first. It's easy. Just shut the hell up and never venture past the fifth fret. There are only three chords, and if you play with John Lee Hooker he's not even interested in all three of those. Muddy Waters will show you how:

That's the first song I played for money three days after my lesson. I stunk, but everybody else did too, and they practiced so they had no excuse. The audience was drunk, what difference would it make?

You can actually practice, and you can hang all sorts of musical drapes on that framework. Like Miles Davis' friend Paul Chambers:

But you're a hack whitebread dude. You gotta eat too. Duck Dunn will show you the way to play in barbands where the all the fights are merry and the dancing is violent:

Nuffin' to it. But what if you want to play pop music? Well, it's really just tuba parts from the music hall. Macca gets it.

He sings OK, too. Remember, no matter how bad you sing, make sure there's a microphone in front of you or you'll make less money than the other guys. Even Ringo figured that out eventually.

But you need rock music, too. The thudding kind, not the Beatles kind. You only need to learn one song --any song-- by any one of a dozen bands with guys that go to Chest Hair Club for Men. Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd; makes no nevermind. This is as good as any:

If you want to play like a real bass player, you'll have to devote your life to figuring out what the hell got into James Jamerson to make him play like that on all those Motown records. Good luck. How Einstein came up with the special theory of relativity is an easier poser.

Got all that? Me neither. I used to try to play like 10 percent of that and had to sing over it, too. The seizures are getting better, now.

Reggae bass playing is easy. Just play like James Jamerson, only backwards.

But you've got to learn one lesson, and learn it fast: Girls don't want any of that. They want to dance, and they don't want it too sophisticated. This was the National Anthem of girls in a tube top right up to the present day: Easy, too. The song, I mean:

See, even Helen Reddy will have an extra sloe gin fizz and get jiggy when that's going on.

There you have it. You're qualified to make a crummy living from 8 PM to 3 AM three nights a week and two weddings a month. Hope your girlfriend has a comfortable couch.

What's that? Country music? Which country? Our country? Don't bother. There's only two notes, and neither is all that compelling.

(You can read the amusing and trenchant comments back when I first offered this here. Apparently 4/19ths of my readers are bass players, or married to one)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Underwater Mortgages

Tom Waits cruising past shotgun houses in Nawlins in '84. Across the tracks in Atlantis. He tells a story, that fellow.

Does Black Books have to send Tom Waits and Marc Ribot a check every week? Because they should.

My teenage son likes Black Books. It's fairly witty as these things go. An Irish drunk who reads a lot. How innovative.

It's hard not to notice that the vast majority of entertainment for today's generation consists of depicting misanthropes accorded the luxury of acting like total A-holes by dint of their superior intellect. Since all children are above average nowadays, and are raised by entertainment, the world is full of people full of themselves for no particular reason.

Tom Waits Rain Dogs
The Complete Black Books

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Behold The Birth Of Unorganized Hancock

I get all sorts of credit for these sorts of things but I don't deserve it. Laissez faire. To let to do. Forget economics, it's education that needs it. If you let them, they will do it. But one does guide. Show. Help. Encourage.

My neighbor is a very good teacher. He wrote a book about education. I've read it several times now, because he gave me a big box of draft copies, hundreds and hundreds of foolscap pages. He didn't give them to me to read; I crumble them up and start fires with them -- but I read the pages as I go. An old habit. He would tell the kids to write whatever they would and could, and he'd edit their work, suggestions, really, kindly offered, and give them back and they'd have at it again. Not much of the kids' work was very good, but it was all a lot better at the end than at the beginning. That's teaching.

The Heir painstakingly taught himself to sing and play, and assembled some local friends and got them a gig in the park last year. One kid didn't show up, so the Heir had to sing all the songs, but they made plenty of noise for just three guys. The audience made them play everything twice. They were in all the local papers. Then the other kids got together without the Heir and decided they didn't want to play the songs my son wanted to play. They wanted to play parts of Aerosmith songs in their mother's basement instead. That was the end of that.

So the heir assembled some other friends, and painstakingly taught them how to play the songs. They didn't know how to play -- or even own -- their own instruments. Eventually they had a gig at the recreation center in a neighboring town. They did great, drew a little crowd, made a little money, and were noticed, and so were offered a chance to play in the the high school gym for a charity event. The Heir sang all the songs, and supplied all the equipment, such as it it. They were in all the local papers again. They were offered a job at the big fireworks show downtown on July 4th.

Then the bass player showed up and said he was going to play the guitar instead. He didn't know how to play the guitar, but the Heir could show him, surely. By July. He'd got to talking to his friends and the drummer that played parts of Aerosmith songs was going to re-join.

But we have a drummer, the Heir says because he is loyal.

Well, the drummer doesn't want to play the drums anymore; I asked him, and he doesn't own any, anyway, and he's going to play the keyboard instead. And my other friend is going to play the keyboard and sing, too. Between the two of them, they can probably play enough keyboard to sound like something. He doesn't really sing, but how hard can it be, really? I've also invited the guy that didn't show up for the first gig in the park to be a singer, too, and all of them together can sing parts of an Aerosmith song well enough. I guess. They never tried. And the bass player from the first band that never played again even once wants to be in this one now. Anyway, we don't want to play those songs you like. You know, the ones the audience wants to hear.

But we have a job in a few months people are relying on us, the Heir says. We need to practice with the three of us, as hard as we can, or we'll never be able to play for two hours in July.

But this is a democracy says the bass player.(er... former bass player, current guitar owner) Just because you sing all the songs and we practice at your house, and you teach us all the parts on all the instruments, and we use your equipment and your father brings it all to the job in his truck and your mother feeds us doesn't mean you're in charge. We voted. If you don't like it, you're out.

The Spare Heir is barely nine, and has been playing the drums for a few months now. I know Time magazine says he should still be breastfeeding, but we decided to let him play the drums instead. He said: I will play the drums with you, my brother.

Children get an education whether they know it's an education or not. All these kids are learning lessons about all sorts of things, most only tangentially related to the music they think they're learning. I used to work, for hard money, sometimes with and for very hard people, in the music business, but I could never have dreamed up this very useful curriculum in what the music business is like. Laissez faire.

The Heir is still friends with his friends, of course. There was no malice in any of it. The others never got together, even once, but the bass player with the borrowed bass said the drummer bought a third bass drum. Which is nice.

Friday, May 11, 2012

I Don't Know If It's Art, But It's Not Vandalism

The building itself is a vandalism of the earth. Got no soul.

Mausoleum. The Vandals have come again and wreaked their destruction, and this is a tomb of a corroded society that would not defend itself. Let the pyre have a whiff of humanity daubed on it before it is subsumed.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Build A House In Six Minutes Flat

For some reason, I'm reminded of W.C. Fields' assessment of Mae West: A plumber's idea of Cleopatra. Oh, well; at least the trick-or-treaters will know where to ring the bell.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

So You Want To Be A Landlord, Part Two

Please note, the apartment dweller has hired someone to move her belongings, not clean up her mess. And if you've ever had to perform work in the home of a deranged person, you'd understand that the slightly lighthearted way they treated her is the correct approach. If you behave as seriously as a footman in a palace, they think you're putting them on and are actually just killing time until the black helicopters filled with lizard people that you summoned with your mind powers arrive.

Earlier episode of Sippican's So You Want To Be A Landlord here. 

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Elderly Pixels Being Viewed By Agoraphobic Misanthropes For Some Reason, Example 23

(From 2008: Please  note that only four years later blue and brown is in complete remission)

Ten Dreadful Things That Have Become Housing Standards

I've been watching all the "Let's have a housing makeover" shows. It's interesting how many of them there are. Everyone seems to be interested in the design process now. There's very little of what used to be the norm in home-improvement shows -- pointing the camera at the people doing the hammer and nail work. Now it's point a camera at the realtor, or the curtain guy, or the designer for the most part. They have elves do the work while the camera crew is at lunch, I guess.

Most people get their ideas about what to do in fashion by looking at what other people are wearing. Essentially, all the home rehab programs are fashion shows at this point; centered around the soft goods. I'm in the furniture business now, so it's sort of my game, but I used to be more heavily into the building of the actual house, so there's some things about the whole megillah that bug me.

They bug me because everyone is doing them because everyone is doing them. They are ugly; or nonsensical; or counterproductive; or wasteful; or mostly an ephemeral fad being written into concrete -- always a bad idea. The decorative stuff is going to be painted over shortly or thrown in the dumpster too quickly, and the permanent installations are going to make the owners miserable for generations because they're too expensive to get rid of.

So here's my counsel. STOP DOING THIS:

1. Snout houses.
Stop nailing your house onto the ass end of your garage. I'm not going to explain myself. I shouldn't have to. You are building a house for your car and living in a shack out back. Never ever ever do it.

2. Putting a flatscreen TV over your fireplace mantel.
Profoundly dumb. It's tiring to look at screens above eye level when you are seated. Designers have given up doing their job integrating two things to look at in the same room, and so have stacked them. They're not washer/dryers in a condo, people. You're slouching in your chair and getting headaches and backaches trying to look at the thing. There's a reason no one sits in the first row at the theater. Look down slightly at entertainers, and the entertainment, too.

3. Putting the microwave over the stove.
Reaching over a hot stove to remove dishes sometimes filled with superheated items, above eye level for most women and all children is profoundly dumb. It's the greasiest place in the world, too. Put it in the island and your five year old can make their own popcorn.

4. Cooktops in islands with seating.
I love to have hot grease spatters launched at me while I'm seated across an island from the cook. The boiling cauldrons of water give a nice netherworldly effect as well.

5. Open plan in a big house.
Open plan is for little houses, so rooms can share some space with one another and counterfeit roominess. A big house with undifferentiated space is a airport lobby. Last time I checked, having doors doesn't preclude a plan from being "open." You just leave them open. Not having them does preclude you from closing off the rooms when you want to, though. Even small houses are better with rooms that can be closed,if you ask me.

6. Very high ceilings in a family room.
You're trying to watch TV in there, or talk to one another, and the sound bangs around like an airport hangar. You've got an open plan so you get to listen to the dishwasher and refrigerator run, too. A two story bedroom is pretty dumb, too, but I don't want to make a Top Eleven list.

7. Plastic everything.
Vinyl sided, rubber windows, plastic decking... Man, everybody's living in a big rubber box nailed on the back of a garage. Wood, stone, masonry, glass, paint, people.

8. Ceiling fans everywhere.
Do you all really think you live in Casablanca? If I go into another ranch house with a ceiling fan hanging down from a 7 foot 6 inch ceiling, I'm going to go postal. If I can't stand up in the middle of the room without getting a bruise or a haircut, you're doing it wrong. There is no stratification of air in a house. Doesn't happen. You're screwing a window boxfan sideways to your ceiling. Stop it. Your house has AC anyway. And you live in Wisconsin. Cut it out.

9. Enormous jacuzzi tubs.
You can ooh and aah all you want when you go in the bathroom and see a big jetted tub with a window over it, and a skylight above, but I've got news for you: You will patronize your undertaker more often than you use that tub; 99% of humans will not bathe in front of a window; and the skylight will rain condensation every time you take a shower, forevermore. Strike three.

10. Blue and Brown.
I've lived through this three times now. I've ripped all this stuff out twice with customers muttering "What were they thinking?" Powder Blue and Cocoa Brown DO NOT go together under any circumstances, anywhere. Except of course in every room on every show on television.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Ancient Posts People Are Reading For Some Reason, Volume XII

From 2008: How To Blog. Lesson One: There Is No Lesson Two

Unsubstantiated rumor. Epithet hurled at people who mildly disagree with you. Specious argument. Disregard for manners. Balogna. Baloney.

Now insert cut-and-paste research to bolster crabby worldview cadged from monomaniac manipulators, if plain fibbing is unavailable. Charts are best:

Remember, hyperlinks to pointless unedited text are great, but really long strings of URL gibberish that make reader's browser display funny because they run off the page are always better. When in doubt, it's best to just paste thousands of words in one big undifferentiated paragraph right in there like a texty skyscraper of unanswerable intellectual doom. Otherwise no one might read it.

Possessive it's. Possessive it's. Possessive it's.
Contraction for it is: its.


Point out spelling is for loosers, you spelling Nazi! I learned critical thinking at Community College! All you can do is spell.

Big bowl of que cue and queue in a mixed salad with bile.

Pie Chart!

Just yell Strawman! over and over. Not sure why.

I hate hate. I hate the hating haters who don't hate hate like me. Kill the hating haters! Sterilize the hating haters, then kill them and desecrate their graves and dig them up and hate them for hating like that.

One word for you: Hitler!

There are too many people. Something something Darwin. Something something border fence. Al Gore is fat. Rush Limbaugh is fat.

Apocalypse now. Apocalypse then.

You drink the Kool-Ade. I drink from the fountain of truth and wisdom. And Mountain Dew and Red Bull.

Don't forget: Drop dead! is way too generous a sentiment for anyone you don't like. They must perish in a conflagration.

Picture of cat, with non-sequitur slogan rendered in mangled syntax, spelling, and in an unattractive font.
Ascribe superpowers and imbecility to the same public personage for the same action. Point out that you're forced to take Paxil, Prozac, Valium, Xanax, Ativan, Effexor, Zoloft, Zyprexa, Seroquel, Strattera, Ritalin, and Adderall because everybody else is so crazy and neurotic. Then fire up an enormous medical cheeba blunt to calm down.

***Place quote from "The Big Lebowski" here where quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson used to go***

Remind everyone of your threat to move to Canada if the political Zeitgeist doesn't shape up. Divide yourselves equally between people who will flee to Canada because it's full of pacifist diversity-minded hippies, or because you're going to get a job in the 1890s style oil boom economy where people go to the saloon after work with a six shooter on their belt. Never leave your cubicle or your couch, though.

For no particular reason, and with no particular point in mind, finish up the whole thing with:


Thursday, May 03, 2012

Old Posts People Are Reading For Some Reason, Part The Third

The Greater Fool Theory Of Housing

I must open by assuring everyone that I'm not denigrating other people because I don't like their houses. When I hear buzzwords like sprawl and McMansion and hyperconsumption and unsustainability and so forth, they are universally used as pretexts to allow the author to hate his fellow citizens without seeming snobby. No one needs what I don't want is the slogan of the age. And all the schemes are about rationing now. Martinets will decide if you need something or not. I hate it.

I don't want you to live in a snouthouse, though, but not because I don't like you; it's because I think you're swell and I want you to be happy. Your house might be making you miserable, and you don't know why. I know why.

I was asked in a formal setting why I make furniture. I have many stock answers for that, but I hesitated for a moment this last time, because it occurred to me that I was fighting a rearguard action against a determined foe, one that was beating me. The American house is being ruined, and I'm fighting a guerrilla war by trying to help people return a little soul to their homes by filling them with furniture that's got some. Half-million dollar mistakes have no reset button. You've got to deal with them.

Here's a house for sale in the town I grew up in:
Everyone looks around and sees houses like this. They pass unremarked now. After a while, if it doesn't look like this, people are going to think a house looks strange. And it's wrong, wrong, wrong. The situations where a house nailed on the ass end of a garage are appropriate are so few there's no use talking about them. Never do this.

There's Postmodern evil afoot here. Everything is boiled down to a pastiche, and you put all these disconnected totems into a blender and put the mixed up parts on a concrete rectangle. It's making us all crazy in a very subtle but profound way.

There has been a concerted effort to dismantle all standards of right and wrong and beauty and truth. If ever truthiness was put into sticks and bricks, this house is it. When you rebel against standard things, sooner or later you run out of ways to be original, and all that is left is to do the exact opposite of good. It's the only permutation of new that's left to you after a while. The American house is becoming that perfect distillation of bad ideas. Everything exactly at cross-purposes with its stated purpose.

People are rational and no rational person will ever feel any close connection with this structure. They will be proud of their house because it conforms to the general description of what a house should look like. There's a reason why everyone wears skinny glasses in one decade and skinny ties in another, all doing it at the same time as if on command. People will look the same kind of weird if they think that looking weird makes them look normal.

"The Greater Fool Theory" means you purchase equities or commodities not based on any intrinsic value they hold, but simply based on the assumption that you can find a "greater fool" to purchase it from you later at a profit. When people refer to Wall Street as a big casino, they're right only because they behave like a racetrack tout there; there's no reason why it should be that way. People should invest to own a portion of a company whose activities generate more than publicity and venture capital and the hope of a greater fool.

I read that the minute people are under water on their mortgage, many mail the keys to the bank and leave, because they "invested" in their house in the same Greater Fool way. It's just a big plastery box nailed on the back of a garage, after all. When escape from the house via automobile is the central theme of the structure, I figure the lienholders surprised by default should have gotten an Omega Man vibe from the occupants, not a Harry Bailey worldview, and planned accordingly.

Here's the "bonus room" you get for making your house into an outbuilding for your car:
I was going to make a joke and compare this room with the room Hitler was confined to in Landsberg Prison, where he wrote Mein Kampf, but I realized halfway through that I've seen pictures of Hitler's room in prison and it's a lot more pleasant than this one.

Stop building this house.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Always Encouraging

Who encouraged you? Who will you encourage?

Many people who work in a mostly solitary manner never pass on even a small portion of the things they've learned by hard experience. They're not allowed to be teachers in formal settings. The teaching of things is considered a method. The priesthood of the method doesn't like amateurs.

Of course the word amateur comes from the Latin word for love. You do it for love. Men like Wayne do it for the love of it, even though they are trying to make money at what they're doing. They could probably make more, or at least work less and get a steadier income, by doing something else. Teaching school, for instance. He is showing others what he's doing in the video, but he's not running a school. It's not the same thing. An apprentice is not a student.

The word love is thin gruel to describe the impetus for such work. Passion might be more like it. Fascination, perhaps. Compulsion and monomania, maybe. There are satisfactions available to a man that fully realizes his capacity to learn and do on his own terms. He looks only for an indication of that same urge in others as the entrance exam into his affairs. If no one shows up, he risks dying alone with his thoughts. Some men's thoughts are good enough company on their own, though.

Wayne Henderson

(Thanks to Rob De Witt for sending that one along)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

I Come From A Land Of Milk And Honey -- If You Milk Your Own Cows And Keep Your Own Bees

I watched intently, but I did not spot a little wrench to put the furniture together with.
Hands was an Irish TV program from about thirty or forty years ago that featured people who worked with their hands. I can find no current evidence of the Robinson and Sons furniture business on the Internet.