Saturday, June 30, 2012

To Do A Simple Thing Well

It's hard to do a simple thing well.

Perhaps the hardest part of it is to understand and accept that you should be doing some simple thing. We all have conceits, and many of us have talent that eggs our conceits on even further, so we start to orchestrate cross-media platforms to repurpose web-enabled technologies and thereby incubate impactful functionalities while synthesizing interactive metrics. You know, instead of doing something.

So it takes an admixture of humility and egotism to begin. A: It's not beneath me to do this simple thing. B: I'll take it seriously, because my efforts are important, no matter what they're aimed at.

It's a lonely and brave thing at first -- always. Attempting simple things often sounds insane to most people. In business, for instance, you have to have a vision of the whole thing, all at once, right away. The world might change your mind partway through, of course, like an ax can change a tree's mind, but you'll just come up with another vision of the whole thing, not an alternative to having a vision at all. The market will only tell you what it doesn't like. It can't tell you if it would like something that isn't there. The market says all sorts of things to you in advance, of course, but it lies a lot. The rest of the time it's mistaken.

Movie stars work as waitresses for a while and tell their customers they're going to be big stars some day. You have to say it the same way knowing you might still be waiting tables at fifty. Maybe you'll find it was being a waitress that you liked all along. They're both simple things that are hard to do well.

I read the Intertunnel a lot. There are so few people whose opinions on any topic are of any use to me that it's pointless to talk of them. I have opinions. I can make opinions at home, even if there's a power outage. I can make opinions even if the cupcake pans are dirty. I really don't need any more one-person amateur McGlaughlin Groups opining on the day's events after they're filtered through Brian Williams' hair.

Hey, I've got an idea. Why don't you point a camera, and your attention, to what's going on right outside your window. A little contextual text appended to it might be nice. It's a simple thing, hard to do well. Good luck.

Friday, June 29, 2012

What My Children Are Currently Playing In The Attic

Arctic Monkeys on Amazon
More and more, the only wholesome-looking people at any public performance are on the stage.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hurray For Capitana Spalding

My Intertunnel friend Gagdad Bob at One Cosmos, who's the love child of St. Thomas Aquinas and Norm Crosby, sent me this video. It's cool for a lot of reasons.

There's a man-bites-dog aspect to the proceedings, of course. Wispy girl plays upright bass. It's unusual. The bass is a great big thing, and many men's hands and most women's are too small to comfortably play them. A regular bass neck is 34 inches long. A guitar is around 25 inches with the same number of frets, and the bass doesn't have frets all the time. The strings on a bass are very thick compared to a guitar. It's kind of athletic to fret a bass. Bass manufacturers started offering short-scale basses to accommodate people with smaller hands, but they didn't catch on much. They're still pretty big.

It's hard as hell to sing while you're playing the bass. Playing the guitar and singing is easy compared to the bass. Guitar playing as accompaniment to singing usually boils down to brain-stem-level motions -- chord shapes long committed to memory and rhythmic strumming that's no more complicated than tapping your foot. Bass playing's different. You're usually playing a kind of melody, and a kind of rhythmic counterpoint, too. I have to think about what I'm doing all the time to play anything but the most rudimentary thing on the bass while singing. There was a reason James Jamerson didn't sing.

I'm not alone in that. Listen to Paul McCartney play the bass while he's singing. He often resorts to playing a tuba part, more or less, so he can concentrate on what he's singing. Fhum, fhoom, fhum, fhoom, umpa, oompa. Not very many people can play one melody while singing another. People get very impressed when they hear George Benson sing the same notes he's playing on the guitar during a solo, but it's the easiest thing to do other than keeping your mouth shut entirely. What Esperanza Spalding is doing is hard to do.

Really good musicians can let it rip at two things at the same time. It's a higher form of mathematical thinking than the average person can even understand. It's a gift to begin with, and then that gift must be cultivated to the nth degree on top of it to stand out.

In a way, Esperanza Spalding is playing trite things. There's no cutting edge in there exactly. She is working at a very high level covering ground that's already been broken by others. But sometimes the only way to be unusual is to be worse than what came before you. Isn't it enough to stand on the shoulders of giants, and belong there? She does.

Esperanza Spalding stuff on Amazon
Amazon has discounts on Apple laptops, too. Use this link to support this site.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Hate To Admit It, But This Is A Close Approximation Of Me While I'm Reading The Newspaper

I stole this from my son's Tumblr page, which is much funnier than anything I'm doing.

Thanks to everyone that reads, and comments, and links, and all you nice people who have used the Amazon links and search box on the page here. And of course, everyone that's purchased furniture from my little bidness. You're all swell and I love you more than my folks.

I'm making a pile of furniture right now, and getting ready to release it into the wild shortly, heavily discounted, natch, with a What's New email blast. If you're interested, but not signed up yet, go here and enter your email address in the box atop the page. I don't send them out very often, so your inbox won't get clogged with soapy textual Sippican hairballs or anything. I like to keep the Intertunnel drain free-flowing.

I have a question for my audience: I'm considering changing the payment method on my Sippican Cottage Furniture page from Google Checkout to Amazon Payments. I have no complaints with Google Checkout; it's been terrific, but next to no one has an account, so I figure that since an Amazon Account is almost universal at this point, it would be more convenient for my customers. So:

What say you, Intertunnel friends? Google or Amazon? 

Additional input in the comments would be most welcome, of course, but I warn you: anyone that mentions PayPal will be snickered at behind their back.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


I like to see regular people working.

Regular people don't work much any more. You don't know that because you don't know any regular people. They're the guys with meth teeth and neck tattoos glaring at you on the subway, sitting next to some other regular guy's illegitimate kid and her mother. Their new job is being a professional mess. It pays OK, but it doesn't "beat working," as we used to say when we cadged a job with no heavy lifting.

If you think regular people not working is a problem now, you ain't seen nothin' yet. There are elaborate schemes in play right now to hide all sorts of people from being counted as not working. They're tucked away in endless educational gulags where no one learns anything or goes on to do anything worth doing. They're stashed in cubicles where people don't do the things they were hired to do, that shouldn't be done anyway, and won't be for much longer. You'll find them nibbling around the edges of commerce in various hamstringing poses, an army of love children of Ralph Nader and Howard Zinn. They are never going to make anything, and will keep others from doing so if they can. Beats working. For now.

Working in a factory like the one shown in the video can be dreary work. I've done it. But it doesn't destroy your soul. You can destroy your soul on the weekends if you like, but the work lends meaning to life.

Time marches on. If you want to get your knickers in a twist over the loss of jobs in a Hammond factory, you should probably at least consider that the Hammond organ, which is a wonderful thing, was designed and made to put big pipe organ manufacturers out of business. Churches and other public buildings needed cheap organs after WW II. It's nicer to see people making musical instruments than munitions in that factory, isn't it? Tell it to the pipe organ makers.

A Hammond organ cost a fortune and weighed a ton. I've moved a "chopped" Hammond organ many times, along with its evil brother, the Leslie cabinet, and I didn't sing opera under my breath while doing it, except maybe the parts of an opera where someone gets stabbed. It's weird to think of it as a cheesy, cheap substitute for what it replaced, but you have to understand what's going on in an economy that becomes technologically more advanced and allows for creative destruction.

The people in the video were useful and valuable, and made useful and valuable contributions to public life. They had dignity. A good machine makes people more valuable. The world is full of bad machines.

Monday, June 25, 2012

You're My Humber Estuary Lady

I'm trying to picture what delta a Welshman and Yorkshireman are on about. I guess,"You're my Ffrwd Cerriguniawn Lady" doesn't trip off the tongue, and "You're My Humber Estuary Lady" has too many syllables, so they went with the Mississippi.

Well, at any rate, when was the last time you witnessed that kind of concentrated awesomeness? I mean, that would give every woman in the world the vapors, one way or the other, wouldn't it? The beauty parlor set gets Tom Jones, Joe Cocker covers the women that fall between the barstools. The overlap is immense.

One caveat: There's a misalignment in the video between the images and the sound. I wouldn't want you to get the impression that Joe was weird or anything.

(Thanks to reader Charles for sending that along. I can die now)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kiss Someone By The Light Of The Cash Machine Tonight

Something approaching perfection in a pop combo. A free hour of Glenn Tilbrook and the Fluffers, live in New Yawk Shitty:

I heard a little while back that Glenn was in the market for a skinny bass player, but he never called. Look what he had to settle for. I mean, she plays OK, but I'm much prettier.
Glenn Tilbrook's Stuff On Amazon

Saturday, June 23, 2012

What If Lynyrd Skynyrd And Parliament Had A Love Child? M.F.

Regular reader and commenter and loverly person Harriett Gillham put this in the comments after Summertime Music:
Wing window wake? Nice alliteration. Perfect imagery. and Sly and the Family Stone? make me smile, every time. Do you know of Mother's Finest? The band? They could be local down here in the South. You just know so much about music that I thought I would ask. I loved them.
Well, what's not to love? Mother's Finest!

Well, I used to be a DJ on a college radio station back in the day, even though I didn't attend the college, (what's the statute of limitations on these things, anyway?) and I remember Another Mother Further, vaguely. I liked  their cover of Mickey's Monkey. I'm fairly certain the broadcast strength of that station required the listener to be close enough to the transmitter to hit it with a snowball to pick up its emanations, and I'm almost sure you had to open the window, too, so I doubt Mother's Finest owes me a thank you note and a small remuneration for introducing Framingham, Mass. to their awesomeness.

It's crappy to say kids these days, and all that other nursing home remembrance, but the radio sure could use a dose of plain fun right now. People like Lady Gaga all take themselves seriously. That's pop entertainment death as far as I'm concerned. It's supposed to be trivial, and so, fun. If I want serious, everyone's going to be wearing a tux or an evening dress and sawing away at something hollow and wooden, thanks.

And it wouldn't kill you to go read about Harriet's desk, would it? 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

So High, You Can't Get Over It

I like to see my neighbors doing well.

I don't know anyone in this video, or anyone in Hancock, Maine, either, as far as I know; but there are only 1.3 million people in Maine, so they're all my neighbors, I guess.

I of course especially like to see people making stuff that other people can make other stuff out of. I could make all sorts of things out of the pine boards you see exiting the mill, and have, and likely will again. House-y sort of stuff. I'm fairly certain I could build a whole house and all the furniture in it out of nothing but 1x12 common pine boards, and it would still be better than whatever you're living in, no matter how elaborate. It's an infinitely useful material, and since a pine tree is a weed here, it's infinitely infinitely useful stuff -- the best kind.

The new owners are taking a chance, I'll bet, by re-opening this mill. They're betting on demand that is not currently in evidence. Maybe they think they'll prevail in a game of economic musical chairs instead of expanding capacity in preparation for an uptick in business. I hope not. People need jobs here, badly.

They took a $200,000 government giveaway to restart the shuttered lumber mill. The aroma of Gerry Ford and the redolent smell of Jimmy Carter is on the money; I'm old enough to remember when the Community Development Block Grant was introduced. Like everything to do with the government, everything but the government might go away, but I'll bet the CDBG never will.

The last owners "went away." The Crobb Box Company went out of business just last year. They'd been in business at that location since the 1940s. Think of all the economic tumult they'd endured since then, and what sort of economic Armageddon it would take to finally kill them off. Fans of ascribing everything bad that happens to a business solely to mismanagement or simple creative destruction should pause for a moment and consider that in 2008, the Small Business Administration gave Crobb Box the "Jeffrey H. Butland Family-Owned Small Business of the Year award." If Crobb Box was a disaster, why'd they get a government award ten minutes before they drove to the economic tollbooth with Sonny Corleone? It's the same government that gave Pleasant River money to re-open the place on top of the barely-room-temperature corpse of Crobb. Were they wrong then, or are they wrong now?

I'm pretty sure that's a rhetorical question. The answer is probably "yes." They have no idea what's going on, except to wreck it, blame someone for its demise, or take credit for it, depending on what week it is.

If Pleasant River makes a go of it (I hope they do), then they didn't need the money. If they're going to go the way of Crobb, then the grant money wouldn't save them. What would be useful is a return to some sort of transparency in the basic workings of the market. There's no transparency in much of anything anymore. It's surrounded by impenetrable walls; sometimes the walls are made of block grants.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summahtime Music

Top down. Seat back. Wing window wake takes your hat.
Diamond in the back, sunroof top
Diggin' the scene
With a gangsta lean
Gangsta whitewalls
TV antennas in the back

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Manufactory is a great word. People often think I made it up when I use it, because they don't read Smith. It's fallen out of favor. Its two great pieces have been made wholly independent: Manual and Factory. But they are not mutually exclusive; at least, not for people like me. I think the word factory is cold; dead. People animate it no matter how few are in it. A factory without people is a machine -- no more. 

I work in a manufactory. It is not a factory and it is not entirely manual, but a melding. I have hand skills of some sort or another, and I use judgment more than you'll see in a factory, but things get made.

I work in a manufactory that is solely of my own making, but it is not entirely to my liking. I am constrained by my circumstances. I have to produce what I am capable of making with the resources I have at hand for the customers I can find. I have worse tools than I'd like to. A more challenging physical environment than I'd care to be in. There is unnecessary drudgery that is made quite necessary. Yet here we are.

Watch the man in the video. He is highly skilled at what he's doing. He has cultivated an ability and he's using it, which is gratifying. His ability shows externally, but it's internal, like dignity is. It is portable, as long as he is.

It is a little thing, but mine own.  That's all I can claim about many aspects of my life. It's enough.

Monday, June 18, 2012

What's A Human For?

I find the modern factory fascinating.

There's no one working in there to speak of. And most of the people that do work in there are really just presiding over work, not doing it. They're valuable in a definable way, but not highly skilled. They have knowledge peculiar to the operation and that's it. They couldn't work anywhere else using the knowledge they've got.

If you were training someone to do this job, you'd have them read a little bit, watch a few videos, maybe, and then endure ten times that much information all about safety. Workers become extravagantly valuable only if you injure them. Most safety training nowadays is simply to keep workers from injuring themselves through a bizarre set of foolish behaviors, undertaken against the express demands of the employer.

How would you educate a child in expectation that they'd someday fill a job like this? If I was in charge, their childhood education would have consisted solely of being taught to read, understand, and be able in turn to produce plain text; to accurately and quickly work with numbers in their head and on paper; and to pay attention closely for extended periods of time while important things are done. This is exactly, precisely, explicitly, utterly and wholly the polar opposite of public education today.

Some people think humans are for making things, [See: Rowe, Michael] and some people think humans are only good for consuming things. [See: Kardashian, various] When the consuming contingent can't afford to consume things anymore and the producing contingent can't make anything anymore because there's no one left to consume it, there's going to be big trouble.The robots, however, will remain sanguine.

After  re-reading that last paragraph, I realized I should have written this about thirty years ago. I apologize for the delay. I have to go make something now. Hope someone buys it.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

If You Think Seasick Steve Is Too Highfalutin', Try Brushy. He's Keepin' It Real With One String

Andrew Chin a.k.a. Brushy One String is the son of the late great Freddie McKay, one of Jamaica's most renowned artists. Like his father, Brushy has reached the hearts of many through the power of original song, fascinating audiences since he was a child with only ONE GUITAR STRING! Established in Jamaica where he is revered by both young and old, financial success and professional management have eluded Brushy. With a soulful voice and infectious guitar melodies, Brushy‚ 'soothes souls and rough hearts' as he continues to perform in Jamaica without a record of his own to sell. -United Reggae

I recall a long time ago, when I still lived in Los Angeles, my older brother answered an ad in the local indie paper looking for musicians, and I tagged along. It was in a very sketchy part of town, and I wondered if the car would still be there when we returned to where it was parked.

The fellow answered the door wearing an outfit you couldn't reproduce without diving in a Goodwill box. A cross between pajamas and clown motley. All the details about the guy's appearance that weren't average-y were actively bad. He was shortish, his face was as pockmarked as any Dark Ages smallpox survivor, his hair was wild and falling out at the same time. His teeth were a three-hundred-year-old graveyard.

He apologized that all he had was a Spanish guitar to accompany himself, one that had obviously been used to dig a drainage canal before he owned it.  He'd given up trying to keep anything better in his crash pad, as anything even remotely valuable would get stolen on a roughly twice-weekly schedule. If he was home when he was robbed he'd have to hand it to them; if he was out they'd just take it or break it. His entire life's work was in a spiral bound notebook of the kind purchased by mothers and ignored by schoolchildren. He carried it around with him like an oxygen tank.

It was the foulest looking sheaf of documents I've ever seen. It looked like he ate off it and slept in it. He opened it up to a page, scrawled runes with chord changes peppered over the top. He had a singing voice somewhere between meh and unpleasant.

Every song in that book was fantastic. We were transfixed by him. He'd get bored a quarter way through one number, and then after a fit of speed-flipping he'd find another one and start in and we'd be entranced again. He was like the love-child of Cole Porter and Professor Irwin Corey.

I knew in my heart that every single page in that book could win a Grammy or sell a million copies or cure cancer or at the very least explain the meaning of life in a fashion that would make Thomas Aquinas look like Benny Hill. And I also knew, immediately, that no one would ever hear any of them.

Friday, June 15, 2012

How To Be A Dad

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years. -Mark Twain

Every mother generally hopes that her daughter will snag a better husband than she managed to, but she's certain that her boy will never get as great a wife as his father did. -Anonymous

The father is always a Republican toward his son, and his mother's always a Democrat. -Robert Frost

A father is a banker provided by nature. - French Proverb

When I was a kid, I said to my father one afternoon, 'Daddy, will you take me to the zoo?' He answered, 'If the zoo wants you, let them come and get you.' - Jerry Lewis

Small boy's definition of Father's Day: It's just like Mother's Day only you don't spend so much. - Anonymous

When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry. -Jewish Proverb

How pleasant it is for a father to sit at his child's board. It is like an aged man reclining under the shadow of an oak which he has planted. -Voltaire

My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it. -Clarence B. Kelland

It is a wise child that knows its own father, and an unusual one that unreservedly approves of him. -Mark Twain

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, "You're tearing up the grass." "We're not raising grass," Dad would reply. "We're raising boys." -Harmon Killebrew

One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters. - George Herbert

You don't have to deserve your mother's love. You have to deserve your father's. He's more particular.-Robert Frost

Never raise your hand to your kids. It leaves your groin unprotected. - Red Buttons

It's a terrible thing to raise your own to disown you -Sippican Cottage

Spread the diaper in the position of the diamond with you at bat. Then fold second base down to home and set the baby on the pitcher's mound. Put first base and third together, bring up home plate and pin the three together. Of course, in case of rain, you gotta call the game and start all over again. -Jimmy Piersall

My Father had a profound influence on me, he was a lunatic. - Spike Milligan

(Thanks to reader Al Johnson for sending the video along)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

More Beatles Bolognese

(Galeazzo Frudua on YouTube)

My sons are up to around twenty-five songs that they can play together now. After dinner each night, my wife and I go for a walk around the neighborhood while they practice together in an unused bedroom. The plaster is falling off the walls rather nicely in there.

The nine-year-old is entirely immune to praise. If you tell him,"You played that really great," he might say,"Yes, we did," in his best Chance the Gardener monotone, but he's more likely to start rambling about something he's building on Minecraft, which is apparently what he's thinking of the entire time he's playing the drums. My older son teaches him the songs. They have become self-contained now.  I used to give the little one a lesson at lunch every day, but it became superfluous.

They use Spotify  and YouTube to find out what they need to know. Our children do not attend the public schools. I was amused --if that's the right word -- to read that the local schools hand out laptops to all the children, but are reconsidering allowing the children to fully use them for school. They're thinking of blocking certain sites because the kids waste too much time there. Only a few websites, one being YouTube, were mentioned as needing to be blocked.

After all, what could an intelligent and curious youngster find on YouTube that's worth knowing?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Yeah, We Home-School Our Kids. Why? No Reason. Next Question

[Editor's note: The original video was removed by the author. I've substituted another. The original was from a High School in Hartford, Connecticut, and the students were even less informed than these kids are]
At 2:10, the young lady actually texts her answer aloud: IDK.

I give you, one more time, a six-year-old:
Keep doing you-know-what to that Public School chicken, everybody. It's working out swell.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

O Eeys That Loke

O Eeys That Loke
by: Sippican Cottage

Banquo's ghosts all shuffle in 
Take their chairs and we begin 
They whisper things incessantly 
Beyond the ken of men like me 

I want to speak but I am mute 
So they continue in cahoots 
Or I can speak but never dare 
To make a squeak while they are there 

They hold a mirror to my face 
While drawing marks to prove their case 
Regret is limned in every one 
Perish crosshatched when they're done 

The statue's broke, there's no repair 
But broken now it cannot wear 
But I am worn down -- there's the rub 
Until I join their shady club 

There's one among them I can't stand 
I've felt the touch of his right hand 
If he ever looks me in the eye 
I'll lay down on the ground and die 

It's worse than that; he does not linger 
Or look my way or lift a finger 
I turned my back on him you see 
Can't help but turn his back on me 

Now I wander all alone 
The seconds tick by like a loan 
I'll sit and murmur in my turn 
While children fill my leaky urn

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Fourteenth-Best Song About A Mortuary

I used to buy old Skinner auction pamphlets to look for furniture to copy. They had really nicely printed stuff back in the 70s and 80s. Back then, something resembling antique furniture was still being sold at auctions. The definition of what an antique is has morphed over time. It used to mean furniture that wasn't made in a formal factory setting. Pre-Civil War, basically.

The problem was, it didn't really exist out in the wild anymore. All of it was in collections or museums or being extinguished inexpertly by a fireman, and auction houses had nothing much to sell. So they changed the definition, informally, mind you, to anything 100 years old or so. The flea markets just soldiered on with "anything that looks vaguely old." It's still common for antique stores to leave all their furniture wares outside to get ruined so it looks older than it is. The patina on your antiques is probably as forced as any I make in a bucket in my workshop. And since I actually make furniture by hand, my brand-new stuff is closer to a real antique than most of what's in an antiques store, which is mostly just humdrum homegoods from some dead, unmourned aunt's ranch house.

But time does winnow. It's slapdash, of course. Hard to say if Shakespeare was all that. Maybe he was the third best playwright in the greater Avon area, but the rest of the guys forgot to go to the Stratford Kinko's and left the originals near an outhouse the day after the all-you-can-eat blood pudding special at the Pig&Pox Inn. But the sloped sides on the funnel of time do make some things more interesting, don't they?
"St. Dennistoun Mortuary" is a coin-operated automaton, attributed to John Dennison, c. 1900. The mahogany cabinet and glazed viewing area displays a Greek Revival mortuary building with double doors and grieving mourners out front. When a coin is inserted, doors open and the room is lighted revealing four morticians and four poor souls on embalming tables. The morticians move as if busily at work on their grisly task and mourners standing outside bob their heads as if sobbing in grief. This automaton will be offered as Lot 207 at auction on June 2, 2012 at Skinner Auctioneers & Appraisers in Marlborough, Massachusetts. Estimate $4,000-6,000

And for all I know, that's the fourteenth-best song about a mortuary. But I doubt it.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Hint Of Debris

It's cool in the early morning. The window screens breathe in and out with the breeze. The sun finds all sorts of windows it's not on speaking terms with three seasons a year. Its fingers point out a spot a painter missed in 1901.

The birds are arguing or in love -- what's the difference -- and the butterflies start their congeries of flightpaths around the lupines and phlox. I've already opened the basement below the basement, and put the bicycle out on the patch of pavement behind the house that is my boy's ration. He'll spend the morning looping around it a thousand times, as precisely as a driver with a sponsor.

There's a hint of debris from a neighbor's visit on the table before the couch in my office. Last night his European charges sat barefoot on the floor before the screen and pressed their ration of buttons with my sons, while we sat two doors away in my midden and talked of this and that and not much. He is smart but not an Intellectual and that's the only kind of person you want in your house. He told us the Massachusetts people who bought the house on the corner, who only show up once in a great while, were rude to him while he was out walking his dog. He's been here since Eisenhower.

He said it like he was talking about strangers. Not to strangers. For a brief, shining moment you wondered if  you finally belonged somewhere.

Saturday, June 09, 2012


[From 2007] In my yute, I spent a lot of time in bars.

Of course I was occasionally drunk in them, that's true; but not all that often. I worked in them, mostly. It's a different animal, working in bars. People imagine that show business is the same, only better, if you're on a stage. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Anyway, you had to find a way to pass the time in a bar, without getting loaded, if you were working in there but idle for a time. I learned to play darts. I got pretty good at it. It never hurt that I was six-two with long arms; to the short fellows I appeared to just be leaning over and inserting them in the bulls-eye. I was so very much built to do it that the tip of my nose is exactly the height of the bulls-eye from the floor. When I worked constructing nightclubs, we used to hang dartboards using me for a ruler. Darts were a fun way to pass the time.

My son found my darts, in a little velcro pouch, and was fascinated by them. They have the appearance of weapons to a grade schooler, which they always find compelling. Dad, what do you do with these?

It's been 15 years since I played at all. I used to like to play a game called Cricket, which has lots of strategery possibilities because you can rack up penalty points that your opponent has to overcome. Any game that allows you to simply win, or crush your opponent to taste, is the game for me. There's almost always hope in such a game, as there is always a way to change tactics to suit the situation.

The real players don't play that, they play 501. In 501, you have to simply throw the darts into the little slivers of the board marked with the numbers 1 through 20, with the thin outer ring counting double, the thin ring toward the center triple, and the bulls-eye rings counting 25 or 50 for the very center. You subtract the total of your throws from 501. To finish, you have to end on a double; so, for instance, you could subtract the sum of your throws down to 40, then hit the double 20 at the very top of the board to win. It seems counterintuitive to most onlookers, but the center bullseye is worth less than a triple 20. In 501 you essentially ignore it.

I was good at this game, but I found it boring. It's the reason you see a list of arithmetic posted next to dart boards, outlining various combinations of throws that will lead to an "out" based on your remaining score. It's too much like work.

My son wanted to see what playing darts was like. YouTube to the rescue. Here's a World Championship in 1974. Look at the size of the crowd.

Well before my time, of course. But I tell you, with God as my witness, I would have murdered either one of these guys. I was shocked at how bad they were, even taking into account their rather old-school darts. How could they be competing at such a level?

Like many things, as soon as there's enough interest -- and some money-- that which is casual becomes very, very serious. And so, thirty years later, look at how good you have to be to win:

I'm out.

Friday, June 08, 2012

***Ring*** Hello, Pet Sematary Property Management. Sippican Speaking

My friend Gerard at American Digest sent me this video, figuring Zombie Ammo would be right up my alley.

Now, that might seem OK to an ink-stained wretch like Gerard. But of course, Project Management is my forte. One never works on a piecework, retail level when wholesale rates and production processes are available. And remember, "land-clearing" means exactly what it says; no more, no less.

As always, remember kids: Let the machine do the work.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Sippican's Patented Go/No Go Intertunnel Newspaper Reading Gauge

I hafta read the newspapers now. 

I stopped reading newspapers a while back. Can't remember exactly when. 1980s, prolly. I remember reading rather a lot of newspapers when I was very young. There were a lot of newspapers in the house. We lived near Boston, and Boston had a lot of newspapers. They were pretty good newspapers, too.

Well, they're all a joke now, and there aren't very many of them. Reading the newspapers here in Maine is literally terrifying. The writers are borderline illiterate, innumerate, and not very curious. That strikes me as a bad combo for a newsgatherer. Mark Twain used to write for the newspapers, and so did Benjamin Franklin. We seem to have traded them for girls that make a little heart over their "i" instead of a tittle, and the guy in your grammar school that liked comic books a lot and used to cheat off a C student because he printed big enough to see from one row away.

The Intertunnel isn't much better. I barely understand about 97 percent of blogs. They inexpertly choose a snippet from one of the aforementioned useless newspapers, and then add their incisive George Bush did it!, or, Obama, what's up with that?  I honestly don't understand why people enjoy a slow boil of outrage all day, every day. Whenever I visit a blog, I can always tell who they hate because there are nothing but pictures of them on the blog. You wouldn't hang pictures of people you hate in every room in your house. Why would you hang them all over your Interhouse?

The dirty little secret is people loved to be outraged. Feel persecuted. The greatest feeling available on the Intertunnel is the harrumph. Me? I'd like to know things. I wouldn't mind being amused while being edified, either, but the pros aren't up to the task -- they can't operate an apostrophe, what chance do they have of running a litote up a stump -- so I doubt the amateurs are going to manage it.

I'm awfully glad for the Intertunnel, though. Not because it's generally swell, but because it's so vast you can cobble together something useful out of it. I'd starve to death without it if I wasn't able to eat out of the intellectual dumpster it represents. Like any dumpster, you've got to pick and choose.

In woodworking, as in many other industries where things are manufactured, workers are often supplied with a simple device to determine if the thing they're looking at while they're banging on it or gouging it or smashing at it or whatever is the correct size. In the vernacular, it's a Go, No Go gauge. When I'm turning a leg for a chair on a lathe, for instance, and it requires a tenon on the end that's 1/2" in diameter, I can simply use a 1/2" crescent wrench as go/no go gauge. If it won't go over the tenon, the tenon's still too big. If it goes over the tenon, the tenon's likely too small now and you can safely throw it away and start over. I'm not sure of how to behave if the tenon is exactly the right size. It's never come up.

I've made my life easier by fashioning various go/no go text gauges that allow me to immediately stop reading or listening to anything that contains certain terms. They are like intellectual tramp stamp tattoos on the southern end of a northbound doofus. Their appearance signals that nothing intelligent will follow and you can stop paying attention that very instant and move on to something more edifying, something closer to the Sorbonne of the Internets --say, cat pictures and animated gifs.

Anyhoo, here's today's list of magic Internet markers:
  • Sugary
  • Sustainable
  • Green
  • Meds
  • Access to
  • Cash-strapped
  • Diversity
  • Step up
  • Evolved
  • The help they need
  • Toxins
  • Pumping
  • Fiat currency
  • Bankster
  • Bubble
  • Sheeple
  • Obesity epidemic
  • Give back
  • Racist (rascist is like a neon sign)
  • Fascist (facist is even better)
  • FUD
  • Jackbooted
  • Snowflake
  • Homeland
  • Targeted
  • Healthcare
  • Hater
  • Soros
  • Koch
  • Speak out
  • Multi-tasking
  • Virii
There are many more, I'm ashamed to say. These are just off the top of my head. If I get any crabbier about the whole enchilada, pretty soon maybe I'll just shout, "It's in English! Bah!", and close the browser.

But as lists go, it's as good as any. I think there's a zoning law on the Intertunnel that requires me to make it a Top Ten list, but I refuse to cater to popular tastes. That's probably why I can buy a Snickers bar with my Google Ad money every three months.  Fun-size, not one of those huge things, they're expensive.

Now, if you decide to use my patented go/no go reading gauge, what you do with the extra four hours a day you save by closing the browser when you see these terms is entirely up to you. Perhaps you can use some of it to tune in tomorrow when I'll defame women writers with hyphenated names and men who shave their heads while sporting a Van Dyke.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Love, Love Me Don't

I dearly love seeing people making things.

It's jarring to see the juxtapositions of fine and heavy work. Half-way through, the thing already looks like a delicate instrument, and then all of a sudden guys with hammers and nails and drills and files start whaling on the thing like it owes them money when it gets to their work station.

Hofner is a German company, of course. Their info page ominously notes Beijing along with Bavaria now, so one wonders what everyone in the video is doing for work now. Their violin bass is simply known as The Beatle Bass where I'm from. Paul McCartney played one and that's that. You can dry your tears with a kleenex after xeroxing something you read on your iPhone after googling it  if you don't like it. Get a coke out of the frigidaire; you'll feel better.

I've played rather a lot of electric basses in my day. I've owned a few, too --a no-name mess hand-me-down from my brother I took apart to try to refinish and couldn't reassemble; a four-hundred-pound Peavey that my lower back still talks about; a G&L P-bass (there's that generic thing again) I still own; a Pedulla fretless that sounded amazing, even with me playing it, that gave me an aneurysm trying to sing and play at the same time and that I eventually sold to buy food; and a graphite-plastic Steinberger that I rigged to spin in a circle like a propeller. I liked the Steinberger best -- it was good in a fight, and since it didn't have any wooden parts, you only had to tune it every January 12th.

So besides all the stuff I've owned, I've played Fenders galore, and Rickenbackers, and Ibanezes, and all sorts of other electric doghouses. And without question, a Hofner Beatle Bass is the worst musical instrument of any kind I've ever encountered. Paul McCartney said he only bought one because he couldn't afford a Fender, and the thing looked about the same upside-down. I don't know what everyone else's excuse is.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

I Can Work The Beatles Into Anything

So, Richard Dawson kicked the bucket. He's one of those fellows nobody much has anything bad to say about. (Parse that sentence, college boy)

I suppose everyone will remark about his turn as the host of a vapid game show, but he'll always be Corporal Newkirk to me.

His biography says he ran away from home when he was 14 and joined the Merchant Marines, and later boxed for money when the rozzers weren't looking. Then he became an actor by acting like himself. In short, he was exactly, precisely the opposite of every male child in the English-speaking world today. Let's face it. Chicks dig that sort of thing.

Well, chicks did dig Colin Emm the truckdriver's son, and he dug them right back. I think he kissed them all, sequentially towards the end, but in a big pile on the floor with Bob Crane at first. One of them was Diana Dors, who was often billed as the British Marilyn Monroe. I think that meant she filled out a bustier nicely but had crooked teeth. She married Dickie Dawson in 1959, and during an eight-year marriage, they had two sons. Both Dickie and Diana sound about as wild as one another. She was the youngest person to ever register a Rolls Royce in England, using all her ingenue bucks. And he was the guy that got busy with the only girl that Swindon ever felt the need to memorialize with a statue. She makes Jessica Rabbit look like Olive Oyl.

Oh yes; the Beatles. Well, if you were somebody in 60s England, I mean really somebody, you were on the cover of Sergeant Pepper's. Hell, only Marilyn Monroe's face is pasted in there, but Diana's in the front row in all her glory.

Way to go, Dickie. Only Lawrence of Arabia, if that's who the Easter Island head in front of George is supposed to be, managed to get better billing than your wife.
Like the man said: No matter what -- keep smiling. Some of that must have rubbed off on John Lennon; he smiled here and there during this video, even though you could tell he was thinking of murdering Paul McCartney the whole time for making him sing Hello Goodbye:

Saturday, June 02, 2012

It Won't Be Long

My son has to learn how to sing.

He already sings pretty well, it's true. None of his musical friends can carry a tune in a bucket with two handles, and he's had to sing everything he's ever performed with others. But he doesn't know what he's doing. I have to help him.

I never learned to sing properly myself. I sang quite a bit in the last band I was in. I was awful all the time. Sometimes (rarely) people would compliment me on my singing, and the (very) odd person said it sounded better than my bandmates' singing. What they didn't understand was that I was just bellowing out a song they liked better than the others, and because the other fellows knew how to sing, and accompanied me, I sounded better than I was. I was of little to no use to the others when they sang. But I seen my duty and I done it.

My older brother taught me to play the bass. Later, I wanted to learn to play the guitar some, too. He told me to get The Compleat Beatles, and learn all the songs, and when I was done I'd be a guitar player. I never finished, and the book's out of print now. Oh, well.

Along those lines, I know from experience that if you want to know how to sing, you just need to learn all the Beatles songs and then you're a singer. It's how my friends that knew how to sing did it. They were a Beatles tribute band before I met them.

First off, you have to understand that John Lennon had a bad singing voice, and George Harrison was a lot worse than bad. Ringo didn't have a singing voice of any kind, so there's no point critiquing it. George, especially, always sounded like he was gargling while being garrotted at the dentist whenever I could pick out what he was doing. And all that was before you factor in the scouse ladled all over the top of everything as camouflage. But.

It's a BIG but. Those fellows knew how to sing. Someone must have told them to learn the Everly Brothers songbook, even though there wasn't one back then, and they did. More likely no one told them anything and they figgered it out on their own. Paul McCartney has a pure, high-register singing voice, really rare. But you put it with Lennon's odd and wonderful counterpoint and slip Harrison's weird and effective croaking down low interspersed with a hopscotch up high, and it's as sophisticated as Scarlatti.

Speaking of Italians, as I said, I had to find someone to show my son what I couldn't: How to sing like the Beatles. My Google-fu is strong, so, I found the two most charming teachers in the wwworld -- a world which encompasses both Liverpool and Bologna, of course -- Galeazzo and Danilo!

True harmony singing is electrifying. It's a form of audio alchemy. Disparate elements, perhaps not very valuable on their own, meld in something spectacular. I can't recall the last time I heard it done in front of me. Good singing is rare.

*** burp ***

(Galeazzo Frudua on YouTube)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Now Is Der Time On Schprockets When Ve Dahnce

"Mechanical Principles," from 1930, by Ralph Steiner.

It's another world. A mechanical world. A machinist's world. Newtonian. Euclidian.

A few years ago I took my father to see a B-24J Liberator bomber like the one he flew in. It wasn't an elegant machine. There was a B-25 and a B-17 at the airfield, too, and they both looked kinda sleek compared to the B-24. Dad's plane was a sort-of flying dump truck.

We went inside the thing, and I found it jarring that I understood everything I was looking at, just by looking at it. There were wires and cables and tubes running hither and yon and they were all about as complicated as a hammer and nail. The ammo boxes were wood, and the machine guns just shot out of a open window on the side, like a well-armed barn would have.

Lots of things seem complicated to the modern eye because they're unfamiliar, not because they're sophisticated; just the opposite, mostly. Simplicity stuns people now. I can walk into a 150 year-old house and nothing in it surprises me. Most of it is simple, if not barbaric, compared to a lot of stuff in a brand new house. The old stuff is vastly superior in many ways, too. Sprockets go round and round when you turn the crank if the power goes out, unlike a 486.

It's not just mechanisms that amaze many if they're too simple to recognize nowadays. My wife sits next to my son, before a window and a calendar and a little flag, and slides sheets of work under his nose, one after another, as he sits at an antique school desk that cost five dollars at a flea market. People ask her, "Yes, but how do you educate him?"

Sprockets work.