Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I'm Walking The Floor Over You, But Only Because You Live Downstairs

We bought an Epiphone Les Paul for my heir for Christmas this year. Epiphone is owned by Gibson. Inexpensive, but really well made. We were always Fender people, but we got religion. Amazon's got some amazing deals on some Gibson electric guitars right now:

A Demonstration Of The Inner Workings Of The International Monetary Fund, Made Out Of Wood

Far be it from me to point out that half the world gets its monetary marching orders from an elderly backup singer in a ska band --after a scintillating synchronized swimming career-- with a Paul Anka-grade addiction to suntanning. Of course, she took the place of a homunculus who likes to run around in a bath towel with his pud in his hand and show it to any passersby in his hotel room, so things are looking up!

Pers Makanniska Kabinett

Monday, July 30, 2012

There's A House On My Block

There's a house on my block
That's abandoned and cold
Folks moved out of it a
Long time ago
And they took all their things
And they never came back
Looks like it's haunted
With the windows all cracked
And everyone calls it
The house, the house where
Nobody lives

Once it held laughter
Once it held dreams
Did they throw it away
Did they know what it means
Did someone's heart break
Or did someone do somebody wrong?

Well the paint was all cracked
It was peeled off of the wood
Papers were stacked on the porch
Where I stood
And the weeds had grown up
Just as high as the door
There were birds in the chimney
And an old chest of drawers
Looks like no one will ever
Come back to the
House were nobody lives

Once it held laughter
Once it held dreams
Did they throw it away
Did they know what it means
Did someone's heart break
Or did someone do someone wrong?
So if you find someone
Someone to have, someone to hold

Don't trade it for silver
Don't trade it for gold
I have all of life's treasures
And they are fine and they are good
They remind me that houses
Are just made of wood
What makes a house grand
Ain't the roof or the doors
If there's love in a house
It's a palace for sure
Without love...
It ain't nothin but a house
A house where nobody lives
Without love it ain't nothin
But a house, a house where
Nobody lives.

Tom Waits Mule Variations at Amazon

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Alamo May Have No Basement, But You Can Stand Across The Alley And Listen To The Quebe Sisters

Across the alley from the Alamo
Lived a pinto pony and a Navajo
Who sang a sort of Indian Hi-de-ho
To the people passin' by

The pinto spent his time a-swishin' flies
And the Navajo watched the lazy skies
And very rarely did they ever rest their eyes
On the people passin' by

One day, they went a walkin' along the railroad track
They were swishin' not a-lookin' Toot! Toot!, they never came back

Oh, across the alley from the Alamo
When the summer sun decides to settle low
A fly sings an Indian Hi-de-ho
To the people passing by

Across the alley from the Alamo
Lived a pinto pony and a Navajo
Who used to bake frijoles in cornmeal dough
For the people passing by

They thought that they would make some easy bucks
By washin' their frijoles in Duz and Lux,
A pair of very conscientious clucks
To the people passin' by

Then they took this cheap vacation, their shoes were polished bright
No, they never heard the whistle, Toot! Toot! they're clear out of sight

Oh, across the alley from the Alamo
When the starlight beams its tender glow
The beams go to sleep and then there ain't no dough
For the people passin' by
Lovely close-harmony singing to go along with the bluegrass fiddling around. That's an old Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys number as I recall.

Written by Joe Greene from Spokane, according to Texas Monthly in 1984. Joe said he'd never been to the Alamo, and he wrote the song while he was asleep with a broken arm. I'll have to try that method. Yields results. It reminds me of a story I heard about a woman with a wooden leg named Irene. I regret that I can't remember what her other leg's name was.

The Quebe sisters website. 

The Quebe Sisters on Amazon


Friday, July 27, 2012

Pure Pop For Then People

Paul Carrack in 1976 performing How Long with Ace. Paul Carrack is cooler than you because he was in Roxy Music and Squeeze. The only way you could be cooler than that is if you were Miles Davis, and you'd be dead so you wouldn't leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


What is dynamism? Off to the dictionary.

... great energy, force, or power; vigor: the dynamism of the new governor.

No, this won't do. All the examples in the dictionary mention a politician.

Dynamism is what happens when politicians aren't paying attention. 

There, that's my definition. Take that, Sam Johnson.

I don't know of an example of dynamism that sprung from political action. All politicians try to control everything, and in advance. They generally suck at seeing even ten minutes down the road with any accuracy. Then they glom onto whatever's worth taking credit for.

Hewlett Packard. Apple. Google. Disney. Amazon. Mattel. Harley-Davison. What do these companies have in common? They were all started in a garage. In Harley's case, it was really just a shed. Why do people start the most successful businesses in the world in a shed?

Because everything they're doing is illegal. No, really. Everyone tries to spin it as frugality, or spontaneity, or whatever -- but it's just a way to dodge all the roadblocks the political class has put in the dynamic person's way. There are no OSHA inspections of garages. No wheelchair ramps. Hell, there are no demands to hire a state senator's brother-in-law in a garage.

Pretty much all the examples I gave you turned into raging fans of the government after they were well established. Apple was next to nothing until they did a dirty deal to make their computers the only thing ever used in public schools. Harley got bailed out. Google spends all day using the government as a proxy to keep out competition. They all know there are bright people and garages everywhere, and give campaign donations to politicians that promise garage inspections daily.

Remember that Netflix "internal" PowerPoint cultural statement that made the rounds of the Intertunnel a few years back? Lots of people, deep thinkers, said it sounded like how every business should be run. To me, it sounded like what you'd do if you had a business in your garage.

Well, you don't have a business in your garage anymore, and garage strategies don't cut a lot of ice at the SEC or the EEOC or the EIEIO or whatever bureau run by basilisks you'd care to mention. You can't talk about only having people that have those wonderful x characteristics on your team. Someone from the government wants to know how many of them are brown or have ovaries or roll around in wheelchairs and lots of other things you may or may not care about. Strategies like a devil-may-care attitude towards a dress code sound great in theory, but the first time a presentable woman wears a unitard and gets a somewhat longer longing glance from the fellows in the mail room than she'd like, you'll figure out why pasties or speedos aren't allowed at IBM. It will be explained to you in some detail by her lawyer.  Hey, Woz, they don't let you throw things away in the household trash that smell vaguely like Chernobyl once there's a logo on the building. And promising people stock options instead of wages will only get you so far out in the exogarage sunshine when the government wonders aloud where their FICA money is.

So everyone wants dynamism, but no one wants to allow it as soon as they don't need it any more. Politicians never need dynamism. Dynamism can build institutions they can't control. Institutions that might oppose them. Dynamism gives regular people ideas.

In every case I can think of, dynamism is regular people unleashed. I don't find the founders of most of those businesses I mentioned earlier to be that dynamic. They're usually a certain kind of inspired drudge. They barely understand the forces they let loose. But by hook or by crook, they unleash things. Not just among their own employees. In most cases, it's the customers that get unleashed, and love it. Google sounds like a cushioned gulag to work at. But its customers use it to find things, including finding me, thank goodness. Who cares why?

The industrial revolution in England happened because the landed gentry wasn't paying attention. They scoffed at the importance of guys with grease under their fingernails right up until the greasy guys' clout --political, monetary, cultural-- eclipsed their own, and there was nothing they could do to put the genie back in the bottle. It was the same in America. When we just paved the roads and didn't worry too much about what was going on in all the sheds, America ran wild economically. It wasn't until we fixed everything in advance that it all got broken. You can't micromanage dynamism. Look at the explosion of commerce that happened in China when they took the communist boot off the average person's face, and improved it to an autocratic slipper on their neck. Russia may be a gangster state now, but a gangster is better than a commissar.

Until regular people are allowed to swing their elbows again in the US instead of listening to the national intercom's continual funds for this worthy project are soon to be released message, nothing much is going to happen.

I run a business out of my house and we teach our children at desks in their bedrooms. We make music instead of buying it. We write books. Food comes from recipes, not reservations. We make our own heat and our own fun. You can kill us, but you can't make us stop trying. Dare I call it dynamism?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Climate Change In The Land Of The Midnight Sun

I never paid much attention to the weather.

Why should you? People rarely go where the weather can get at you. A weather report on television always seemed like it was by, and for, lunatics. Watching a hair farmer in an off-the-rack suit wave his little stick-arms at a green screen depiction of the alleged weather happening somewhere else is for people with onions on their belt. Only people that have nothing to do with the outdoors watch the weather on TV.

It's lovely here in western Maine today. Around eighty, a little breeze, sun and clouds. You live for days like these. Well, I do. Everyone else here has barricaded themselves in their houses, windows shut tight, and turned on their air conditioning. If I had an opinion of them, I'd say they're sort of insane. I only recently moved here, so I don't have opinions yet. But it seems to me they could open the windows and be happy, but they won't. They pray to the weatherman deity and the weatherstripping gods now, and immure themselves in a plastic box with tiny rubber windows that they never open, are told it's so hot, and suffer. The suffering makes them happy, I surmise. Why else would they do it?

I've recently developed a nervous habit of checking the weather very carefully, very often. It was 22 below zero here one early morning two winters ago. I work in a semi-unheated workshop. I need to know about the temperature. I haven't seen TV in years, so I visit, which is the URL for The Weather Channel. I visit it a lot.

I've noticed a phenomenon at the Weather Channel website that was "a poser," as we used to say. The Weather Channel tells you what the high temperature at your location is at around three or four in the afternoon, no equivocation, just bam, here it is. That number stays there for the rest of the day. But if you check it the next day, someone's added between two and five degrees to it and entered it into the monthly schedule of high and low temperatures. Observe:

It was 84 degrees yesterday. I have a regular old thermometer, in the shade outside my window in my office, and I checked it, and took a screen cap. Here's today's monthly report of high temps from the same source:

My goodness. It says it was 87 degrees yesterday. It also says it was 93 degrees on the thirteenth. Yes, and I'm Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. I live here. I was paying attention on the 13th, too. It was 88. I wonder where the temperature butcher with the heavy thumb lives?

Let's try another outlet. The insanely named Weather Underground. (I guess the URL for PLO_Olympic_Squad_Weather dot com was taken already) What do they say the temp was yesterday?

Hmm. 84. Exactly what I observed, and what observed just before they didn't anymore. And they have 88 for the 13th. We're sympatico, I guess, but this lends confusion to the proceedings. No worries. Since The Weather Channel bought out The Weather Underground this month, I'm sure these discrepancies won't continue much longer. It'll be 105 in the shade yesterday every day except Christmas.

So all this leads me to admit a terrible secret, and forces me to apologize to you, my faithful readers. I am a fraud, and I'm sorry.

You see, I know that since I'm one of only fourteen persons that live north of Norway, Maine, and I'm the only one of them you know, you depend upon me to give you the skinny on all the various doings out here in the Willie-Wacks. And my terrible secret is this: I go to bed before 10:30 every night. I feel like a fraud giving you the impression I know what's going on around here, all day, when of course I'm obviously entirely unaware of the second sun that rises around 11 PM in Maine and incinerates the landscape after I'm asleep, pegs the high temp meter, and then sets before midnight. I imagine that all the locals know all about this second sun, and never told me about it, and snicker behind my back when they see me at the Dunkin' Donuts.

I just figured since there was ice in the birdbath in the morning in May, that I could get away with not paying attention all night. I apologize unreservedly, and for my penance, from now on I'll be sure to leave out a bowl of kibble for any Yetis that might pass by in the night, heading north, looking for a patch of shade.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

We Took To The Ramshackle Victorian Near The Woods

“There is nothing that I so greatly admire as purposefulness. I have an enormous respect for people who know exactly what they are doing and where they are going. Such people are compact and integrated. They have clear edges. They give an impression of invulnerability and balance, and I wish I were one of them.” --Louise Dickinson Rich
I do not have any money, and suddenly I want some.

I've made rather a lot of money -- for other people-- at one time or another. Upon reflection I realize I didn't like any of these people, and I made the most money for the people I liked the least.

If I made money for my own use, I'd have something to lavish it on today. I'd reach out the hand of the man with resources and make something happen for no reason other than that it should, and I could. I'd buy Louise Dickinson Rich's Maine cottage. 

Oh, they want 1.3 million for it, but that's not enough. I'll need much more than that. There are two houses, a "winter" house and a "summer" house, and I want them both. They're only selling the summer one. I want to offer the owner whatever it takes to stop monkeying around with it, and acting like a real estate vivisectionist by parceling out hams to fools. I want the whole pig.

Louise Dickinson Rich wrote We Took To The Woods in those houses. Hell, the chair she sat in and the typewriter she banged on is still in there.

The whole place is just as she left it, and it will be pulled to bits, or perhaps brined and immured in an aspic she never would have tolerated. One way or the other, the wrong people will get hold of this place, and do the wrong thing in it, and to it. Her Wikipedia entry mentions: "...a Thoreau-like existence..." Yeah, sure, if you don't know anything about Thoreau, and never read her book.
We belong to no cult. We are not Nature Lovers. We don't love nature any more than we love breathing. Nature is simply something indispensable, like air and light and water, that we accept as necessary to living, and the nearer we can get to it the happier we are.
Don't forget: Henry David Thoreau was a knucklehead.

When we first moved to Maine, our neighbor, a sterling fellow, gave us a copy of We Took To The Woods as a gift. It's considered rather quotidian to an educator in Maine, I'm sure, but it was news to us and immediately gained a pride of place on the shelf with Twain and Bierce and Wodehouse and a few others. Everyone's always trying to get me to read things. It's a rare person that hits the mark on the first shot.

I love that book. It matters. My older child reads her history of Maine, called State O' Maine, for his history lesson. He's homeschooled. The local schools don't require students to learn about the state they live in any longer as part of the curriculum. The book's out of print, which tells you a lot about what Mainers worship these days. There's always money for a homely mural about work where all the workers are on strike, but a Maine author writing the best history of Maine, who should rank with Longfellow and White, Millay and Stowe, goes out of print. The schoolchildren play with iPads instead of reading.

I felt a bit of wry amusement to read about her trips in from the wilderness to the big city of Rumford, and know that she had to pass right through the shadow of my house on the only road into town back then. She was my familiar all of a sudden. A neighbor, dead and buried, but not forgotten.

Someone cranky and pleasant and standoffish and friendly and outgoing and solitary should live there and write books about living in Maine. Ain't gonna happen. We live in a weird world, where you have to write the book first, so you can afford the house later.

We Took To The Woods, at Amazon

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Tribe

Mairead Hickey from Cork, Ireland. Just thirteen years old in the video. Fifteen now, and something of a big deal in Cork. 

Sullivans like me are thick on the ground in Cork. Lord knows what drove us from the place. I think they made it past the whole of the famine, and then bugged out. That strikes a familiar chord. Stubborn, then mercurial.

Nulla manus, tam liberalis atque generalis, atque universalis, quam Sullivanus

No hand so liberal,
And so general and universal,
As the O'Sullivan.

America is not a people. It's an idea, one that many people share, or shared, anyway. I have trouble discerning that idea with any regularity out in the landscape recently. Sometimes the tribe calls out to me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

I Just Wanted To Listen To An Ashford And Simpson Song But An Opera Broke Out

Now let me tell ya one more thing
Ain't no harm to have a little taste
But don't lose your cool
And start messing up a man's place
Ain't no harm to take a little nip
But don't fall down and bust your lip
Always wanted to write a busker song. A country canticle. A roadhouse anthem. A barroom ballad that crept into every heart and jumped out through every set of lips. It would say next to nothing, but everyone says: Yes.

I wanted the high school band to butcher it, and its ground carcass peddled internationally. I wanted it hammered into the top of everyone's head in the elevator, all the while tickling the agoraphobe's feet through the ceiling of those people downstairs. I wanted it blaring from the jukebox until the bouncer unplugs it and the disreputable band in the corner starts playing it. When they stop playing it, you'd be able to hear the doppler of its sing-song lyrics as a car passed and rolled it through the wedged front door.

I wanted to write a song and then sit in the front row of a restaurant while someone else sings it. I'll sing along, I guess. Everyone does

I wanted to sit right down and write Let's Go Get Stoned, but that seat was already taken.

Let's Go Get Stoned.(Wikipedia)

Let's Go Get Stoned on Amazon

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Being Odd Is An Excellent Career Move

cold nights on the farm, a sock-shod
stove-warmed flatiron slid under
the covers, mornings a damascene-
sealed bizarrerie of fernwork
        decades ago now

waking in northwest London, tea
brought up steaming, a Peak Frean
biscuit alongside to be nibbled
as blue gas leaps up singing
        decades ago now

damp sheets in Dorset, fog-hung
habitat of bronchitis, of long
hot soaks in the bathtub, of nothing
quite drying out till next summer:
        delicious to think of

hassocks pulled in close, toasting-
forks held to coal-glow, strong-minded
small boys and big eager sheepdogs
muscling in on bookish profundities
        now quite forgotten

the farmhouse long sold, old friends
dead or lost track of, what's salvaged
is this vivid diminuendo, unfogged
by mere affect, the perishing residue
        of pure sensation
--On The Disadvantages of Central Heating, by Amy Clampitt

Sunday, July 15, 2012

I'm Going To Russia To Have This Dude Buy Me Some Lottery Tickets

LUCK: a combination of circumstances, events, etc., operating by chance to bring good or ill to a person: She's had nothing but bad luck all year. 

Lucky? I'll say. But what sort of luck are we witnessing?

I count four vehicles that could have at least found a foot to roll over. There's a white car on the right, the kamikaze dump truck that got the ball rolling, whatever kind of truck that has the camera in it, and of course, the truck that was at the gasoline dispenser that was struck by the others.

And there's where luck's sometimes ambiguous nature reveals itself. I imagine the truck at the petroleum dispenser belonged to the man who survived that maelstrom of metal and happenstance. People don't drive such trucks to get to their job being CEO of multinational industries. That fellow might have just watched his livelihood being wrecked while his life was being spared. Luck has a Janus face.
In ancient Roman religion and mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, doorways, endings and time. He is usually a two-faced god since he looks to the future and the past.
The connexion of the notions of beginning (principium), movement, transition (eundo), and thence time has been clearly expressed by Cicero. In general, Janus is at the origin of time as the guardian of the gates of Heaven: Jupiter himself moves forth and back because of Janus's working. In one of his temples, probably that of Forum Holitorium, the hands of his statue were positioned to signify the number 355 (the number of days in a year), later 365, symbolically expressing his mastership over time. He presides over the concrete and abstract beginnings of the world, such as religion and the gods themselves, he too holds the access to Heaven and other gods: this is the reason why men must invoke him first, regardless of the god they want to pray or placate. He is the initiator of human life, of new historical ages, and financial enterprises: according to myth he was the first to mint coins and the as, first coin of the libral series, bears his effigy on one face.  (Wikipedia)
So there's Janus, throwin' gang signs and holding the velvet rope at the Studio 54 queue for heaven. And there you are, yammering at one face trying to tell him about all the bad luck you overcame in this world, and he turns his head to cough and you're looking at another face who says: "Can I help you?"

There is the old saw about your life passing before your eyes during such encounters with the actuary's henchmen.There's a kernel of truth in that one. All sorts of things run through your head when you're about to die, and occasionally you don't die and you remember them, then try to make sense of them. But there isn't any sense to them. Humans like to see patterns where there aren't any, and being run over by two trucks, a car, and then having your twitching bones incinerated in a puddle of spilled gasoline (or not) is no exception. The dazed fellow might be thinking about what he had for lunch, or a Chekov play, or whatever, but that doesn't make it important.

It is, as Homer likes to say, just a bunch of stuff that happened. That applies to either Homer the Ionian or the one that hails from Springfield. Perhaps our hero will be transformed by his adventure. But I'm not going to look for him in the dictionary under the word: Luck.

Aplomb, however ...

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Real Mad Men's Office Decor

It's got a view, of course. You need to be up high. Get that feeling of power. Sweeping vistas. That sort of thing. Oh, and a lot of woodgrain, definitely.

The smells are important. Woodsmoke, tobacco, coffee, a hint of whiskey from time to time. Color selection is crucial. There's a lot of plain, warm browns, naturally --almost monochrome -- but then you poke the eye out with apple-green swatches here and there. There's steel and some plastic, totally utilitarian, of course, but minimalist, not brutalist. The finish has to invite the hand. The clothes are almost austere, like a wrapper, not a drape, but they're made to let a person move. They signal a kind of status to the world.

One needs to understand the market, but live perched above it. Aloof. You take risks because the payoffs are so big. You push all your chips back onto the table the next day of course. You live for the moment, and there's no thrill in the mundane. Excitement must be mundane to you. You can't even smile when you've won. Spoils the effect.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

If You Can Use Tools, You Are Wanted

Thanks again to everyone that purchases items through my Amazon links, buys my Antiques Made Fresh Daily, and those that purchase and look at the cover of my collection of flash fiction, The Devil's In The Cows.I love you all more than indoor plumbing, which, coincidentally, we're thinking of installing in our home soon.

Thanks to everyone that reads, of course, and those hardy souls that leave comments here. I try not to throw sharp elbows, and I think I've been rewarded in turn with hundreds of Interfriends of uncommon affability. I would like to respond to comments more often, and faster, but I am banished to the workbench for most of the day and cannot. Talk among yourselves. Or read The Rumford Meteor to catch up on what's burning to the ground or freezing over within driving distance of my hovel here in Maine.

I finally realized who commenter BGC was, very much later than his message. Bruce! He recommended I read Chariot of Reaction's take on "Low Church Libertarians." He intimated that it might have reminded him of me, which I find flattering. I found it a fascinating short disquisition about a kind of person I know well. Unfortunately, I can't self-identify with persons like that. They're too... hmm... reliable for me to claim brotherhood with them. They're the sort of people whose respect I've always hungered for, and you should too. I would have an IQ of 130, though -- if you hit me on the back of the head with a shovel, and then put a number two pencil in my quivering clutch and gave me the test. I'd probably be better off for the blow to the head, too. A zig-zag streak of lightning in the brain is a curse. But I'm not a math guy, and never was. And I stopped going to school in any sort of reliable manner when I was 16, so I ain't educated enough to be simultaneously looked up to and down upon by the gentry in this manner.

Reader and commenter Derek Alexander mentioned he's writing flash fiction and partly blames me for his inspiration. That's not fair, really. I deserve most of the blame for my own writing, but that's as far as I'll go. He's got his own book to sell, Death at the Downs (A Cathy Vega Mystery), and it's free, of all things, if you have Amazon Prime, and only a buck if you don't. I really should convert my book to Kindle but I'm too busy hitting my thumb with a hammer all day. That's the good thing about a Kindle. You only have to hit it once with a hammer. A thumb you have to hit over and over to get the desired effect.

My friends at Maggie's Farm are having their annual pledge drive. They're all stinking rich, and blissfully don't want any money, so they're befuddled about what to ask you to pledge. They settled on asking you to read them regularly, instead of the more usual PBS method of asking you for money to ensure that you can turn them off with impunity. Of course the only way Maggie's can ask you to keep reading them is if you're reading them in the first place. They're like a bank offering toasters to people who already have savings accounts with them. That won't fly. Go over there and read them in the first place. They're raging Republicans, but it doesn't seem to have hurt them none, and they like Bob Dylan more than you do, but other than that, they're sound.

Glynn Young, who occasionally mistakes me for a competent writer and identifies me as such on his blog, has a book: Dancing Priest. Glynn is as pleasant as the third week in June so I imagine his book is, too. I never have the heart to tell bloggers that no sane person will read a blog that has white text on a black background, but I wish someone else would tell Glynn that.

Gagdad Bob, who drops by here from time to time from One Cosmos, produces text like a mill with eccentric gears, has all sorts of books, including this one: One Cosmos under God: The Unification of Matter, Life, Mind and Spirit. Bob has made my life miserable by not only using big words, but inventing about half of them to boot. He is the appendix of the Intertunnel's spellchecker, where interesting things collect.

A frequent visitor here, Casey Klahn, is an interesting man and a great artist. He's in my decrepit and untended blogroll as The Colorist. I consider him my friend though I've never met him. Lord knows what he considers me. You can see some of his work for sale here, and buy it if you have any sense and some money, which are infrequently seen at the same place at the same time, I'm told. How would I know? I'm fresh out of both.

Hey, I think Target already has Christmas decorations up, or maybe they've already moved on to Valentine's Day 2013. I have no way of knowing. The only store in Rumford is an Aubuchon Hardware and they don't sell Christmas ornaments any time of the year, just things to repair things that make heat, and fire extinguishers to put out the fire you caused with those things they sold you last week. At any rate, you should buy your Christmas ornaments from 32 Degrees North, who show up here to show me up by being pleasant all the time under the soubriquet Daughter Of The Golden West. 

Gerard at American Digest claims to be my friend and I don't deny it. I wish he wrote all the time because I'd read it. He's of the editor tribe, though, and when he comes to the pool it's generally to drag it for bodies, not pee in it, so to speak. He's always been generous with his praise of my writing and I'm grateful for it.

I have a batch of furniture ready to offer that's ready to ship, and I'm busy folding, spindling, and mutilating pixels and getting my illegible javaprescriptions filled, and generally acting all hyper about my text on my furniture webpage just now. I have to do it all myself, and everyone keeps breaking the Internet when I'm not looking, and I have to learn new programming languages instead of learning to swear in French as I'd prefer. If you want to be notified of the appearance of heavily discounted furniture when it first appears on my stand by the side of the Intertunnel, go here and type your email address in the box atop the page, and the Mail Chimp will verify you're not a can of Spam and you're good to go.

The results of the Amazon Checkout/ Google Wallet preference survey I subjected you to earlier were 95 percent Amazon, 5 percent Google. I'm dull, but I can take a hint. I'll make it so.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The True Story Of Spam

Has a whiff of Wikipedia on it. Truthy. Reconstituted fact product. Information Helper. Oh, well; when in doubt, print the legend.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A Polish Man Murders Fifty People In Galway

They have been coached their whole live-long. They are eager to be put on the spot, because they do not recognize it for what it is. They are prepared to flense the hide from another with the edge of their tongue, but no target is proffered. They are put on another spot, one they prefer to keep at home in front of a mirror, cracked. But they warm to their task like devils.

It is a deformed and crazy uncle in the belfry. It must not get out or he will desolate the landscape, entire. They have been coached to say nothing, lest they answer everything. They go to the confessional and eagerly assent that they've stolen a pencil they've never touched, while the corpses are stacked like cordwood in the secret cellar of their heart. They smile but there's a dab of lime on their cheek.

They regret everything, except their lack of regret. This they wear like a badge on their sleeve. The cannonballs of life have taken their arm and the sleeve hangs empty; they say it tingles still.

There is only one regret in this world and I don't have it.

When You are Old
When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

--W. B. Yeats

Monday, July 09, 2012

**Ring** Hobbit House Roofers. Peregrine Took Speaking

American house architecture was much more exuberant in the 1920s than since. I've worked on houses from the 17th century through the 21st, and the 1920s can lay a claim to being the most useful and practical without giving up anything in the style department. They're generally smaller than a contemporary house, but that's a feature, not a bug, if you ask me. Most contemporary houses are huge because they waste a lot of space, and waste it in multiples while the occupants try to find a corner of their caverns to actually live in. If the houses were designed better, they could be smaller. They aren't, so they can't.

They were, in the twenties. It's important to remember that compared to the walk-up rented apartments and ramshackle shacks the twenties homebuyer was moving from, they weren't all that small. But a 2012 female person takes one look at the modest closet, and the 2012 male person vainly searches for seven feet of blank wall for their TV, and are disconsolate.

One of the most exuberant style items afoot back then architecturally was the faux thatched roof. That's what you're looking at there. The Arts and Crafts retreat to rusticity was in full play. But hobbit house roofers are hard to find in the 21st century, and so the homeowners had to find someone willing and a little unusual to plan the necessary assault on their roof and their checkbook.

The roof is a very large visual element on a house. 90 percent of them are blah expanses of asphalt tab shingles. Back a hundred years ago, you might find asphalt shingles, of course --the house in the picture might have had them as original equipment -- but you'd be just as likely find slate, or sawn cedar, or heavier split shakes, or metal. They'd be laid in interesting patterns and a wider palette of colors than now, too. "What color gray do you want" is all they ask you at the lumberyard now.

I've repaired curved roofs like this. I cheated. If you lay cedar shingles on the lawn in the early morning, the sunny side shrinks and the damp, grass side expands, and they "cup" a good deal. You can bend them the rest of the way by hand and nail them down if you're in a hurry. The steam box in the video is a much better method, of course. Well, "better" until you get the bill, anyway.

You can see some more faux-thatched roof designs, among other wonders, inside Classic Houses of the Twenties (Dover Architecture)

Saturday, July 07, 2012

It's Disheartening To Consider We've Used Up These Proud Giants And Brought Them Near To Extinction

What? No, I'm not taking about the trees. There's plenty of trees. I live in western Maine. A tree is a weed. I'm talking about the men. Those men you see working there in the video. They've been hunted nearly to extinction as far as I can tell. They were marvelous.

The forests shown in this film are filled with sequoia sempervirens again, planted by the same men we just watched cutting them down. There are currently around 900,000 acres of redwoods being "actively managed," a modern euphemism for being logged and replanted. They do it more intelligently than they once did, I guess; but there's currently plenty of forest on fire out west that was being "intelligently managed," so that's no guarantee that intelligence involves any wisdom.  It's a dirty little secret that you can cut down the trees and use the wood for something useful for people every once in a while, or wait for nature to supply bugs and fires to get rid of them -- but one way or the other, they don't last forever.

They're cutting second-growth trees in California now. 900,000 acres is 1.35 Rhode Islands, for those of you keeping score. Rhode Island isn't that big, you might say, but I wouldn't want to rake it. They leave a bunch of gigantic sequoias alone in National Parks now, so we can go look at them, which is as good a use for them as building another split-level ranch to get foreclosed on, I guess. I don't know where you go to look at men like the men in the video now. They're probably panhandling in San Francisco and drinking mouthwash.

I noticed some inconvenient inconvenient truth at around the six-minute mark. I'm sure they'll airbrush that out of there next time.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Worth Doin'

I deal in trees all day, of course.

Well, the artists formerly known as trees, anyway. I try not to wax mystical about them overmuch. They are useful, sometimes beautiful, and I like using them to enrich other people's lives, and hence, my own.

But not all cows go to the butcher, and some trees are worth more than the sum of their firewood and end table parts parts. Some trees matter more than others. They've stood sentry over people's comings and goings long enough to earn a kind of affection. Some trees are worth saving from the saw. Some trees have a story to tell.

In League City, Texas, one big Compton oak was considered a part of the town, not just part of the landscape. Saving it was "worth doin'." It passed the ultimate worth doin' test, the one that's mostly overlooked these days: Would you reach into your own pocket to pay for it? Would you take your own hands out of your pockets and work at it yourself? League City said: Yes.

Certainly, moving a tree of such size involves more than a bucket and a shovel. There are dimensions to be taken, soils to be tested, trenches to be dug and on-site boxes to be built. By the time all was said and done, the great Ghirardi oak had been transformed into a Texas-sized bonsai, the center of the town’s attention as it waited for its big day.

Linda at The Task at Hand tells the story of League City's Oak move better than I could. Go there, and luxuriate under the shade of the Ghirardi's Compton Oak.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

I'm Ashamed Of My Shoulders And My Large, Awkward Hands

Edward Hopper And The House By The Railroad 

Out here in the exact middle of the day,
This strange, gawky house has the expression
Of someone being stared at, someone holding
His breath underwater, hushed and expectant;

This house is ashamed of itself, ashamed
Of its fantastic mansard rooftop
And its pseudo-Gothic porch, ashamed
of its shoulders and large, awkward hands.

But the man behind the easel is relentless.
He is as brutal as sunlight, and believes
The house must have done something horrible
To the people who once lived here

Because now it is so desperately empty,
It must have done something to the sky
Because the sky, too, is utterly vacant
And devoid of meaning. There are no

Trees or shrubs anywhere--the house
Must have done something against the earth.
All that is present is a single pair of tracks
Straightening into the distance. No trains pass.

Now the stranger returns to this place daily
Until the house begins to suspect
That the man, too, is desolate, desolate
And even ashamed. Soon the house starts

To stare frankly at the man. And somehow
The empty white canvas slowly takes on
The expression of someone who is unnerved,
Someone holding his breath underwater.

And then one day the man simply disappears.
He is a last afternoon shadow moving
Across the tracks, making its way
Through the vast, darkening fields.

This man will paint other abandoned mansions,
And faded cafeteria windows, and poorly lettered
Storefronts on the edges of small towns.
Always they will have this same expression,

The utterly naked look of someone
Being stared at, someone American and gawky.
Someone who is about to be left alone
Again, and can no longer stand it.

-Edward Hirsch 


You May Not Be Lookin' For The Promised Land, But You Might Find It Anyway

Happy Independence Day. We're gonna fire up the grill with the bullet hole and hope it doesn't let too much awesome escape.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

I've Been Living In Maine For Two Years Now, And I Still Haven't Gotten Used To How Homely The Hitchhikers Are

What's the difference between a moose and Paul Anka's orchestra?
A moose has the horns out front and the assh*le in the back.

And Don't Skimp On The Clip-On Tie

Fool Your Family Into Thinking You're Handy With Tools On Sale At Amazon

The Fuji HVLP sprayer at $200 off is the shizzle. I use one all the time.

Thanks to everyone that reads, comments, and supports my sites by using our links and buying my furniture. I like you more than ice cream. 

Monday, July 02, 2012

If You Make Things, You Are My Brother

Or sister, of course.

My wife made some people. Think of that. I make furniture. This guy makes knives:

I read Amy Alkon from time to time. She's been kind enough to link to me now and again. I got a chuckle out of the comments appended to: Cash And Caring: Ladies, Would You Date An Unemployed Man?

I've never been unemployed that I can recall, so my experience is perhaps not helpful. But then again, I haven't had a "job" for very many of the very many years I've been working; I just worked. I've been an employer, too; I've employed somewhere between no one and two hundred people at one time or another, so I do know what a person with a job looks like, anyway. 

I loved this exchange:
...One guy I dated (the /only/ much older guy) impulsively quit his executive job over some political issues at work. He had nothing else lined up, and then he didn't start job hunting, and the resulting stress helped end the relationship. He started talking about pursuing furniture building and other unrealistic career paths that could not provide a livelihood...
Amy responded:
He started talking about pursuing furniture building and other unrealistic career paths that could not provide a livelihood.
This sort of thing is a big deal. When women are willing to give a guy who is having some financial trouble the benefit of the doubt, they want to see realism and potential.
I dunno. I'm told some women want to see furniture. There's at least one I know of that wants to see the furniture maker, too.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Happy Canada Day!

25 Signs You Might Be Canadian.

Number 26: You read jokes from a Palm Pilot in a monotone at the dinner table.