Friday, January 31, 2014

Hey, Wanna Come Over My House And Listen To Chi-Lites Records?

That drum intro can't ever mean anything to me other than Benny Benjamin opening up Ain't Too Proud To Beg. I've made money singing that song. Please notice that I didn't claim I earned money singing that song. I said I was paid money to sing that song. Different set of circumstances. Mayer Hawthorne is earning his money.

There really can't be anything truly new in culture. The idea that you're an artist so you have to constantly break new ground is silly. Humans have a trajectory as individuals, and as societies; humans start from scratch but their cultures don't. Smart humans don't reject everything that came before them out of hand. Winnowing through the dross to get the gloss.

After a while, the only way to do something truly new is to do something bad. After all the bad stuff is taken, you have to move on to malignant. The search for novelty over all things is a form of vivisection. You made a new animal, Dr. Moreau, it's true, but it's born dead. And ugly.

It's hard enough to be entertaining, or interesting -- hell, it's hard to be plain competent. Holland-Dozier-Holland didn't invent music. Mayer Hawthorne didn't either, but being unafraid to plant a fresh crop in a fertile vineyard is a kind of bravery nowadays.  Go, man, go.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Welcome To The New Admixture Economy

Do you work in the new Admixture Economy?

If you don't, but feel you're missing out on something, don't worry; you'll be laid off or fired or downsized or rightsized or smartsized or bought out or furloughed or spun off or phased out or involuntarily attritted fairly soon. You'll be Bangalored, good and hard, and end up out here with the rest of us trying to cut and paste a living out of the remains of the day. The day after the severance runs out, I mean. 

I don't think anyone's inventing anything much lately. Not in any meaningful way. I see everyone fumbling around with the most misnamed thing in the history of the universe, the smartphone, and they're busy as beavers with a loose tooth, apping this and texting that, and they're looking at me with my flip phone thinking I'm L7, man. They think I'm L7, man, just for using the term L7, I imagine, or the term, "man" too, so their opinion of me is going way downhill, and fast. But I had a Palm Pilot fifteen years ago. I've seen it all before, kids. You're not doing anything I wasn't, except paying by the minute instead of all at once at the beginning.

In my heart I knew my Palm Pilot couldn't do anything a geezer's battered daytimer and a pencil couldn't do -- except run out of batteries. A variation on a theme isn't an invention. But variation is all that matters now. Google's just the Yellow Pages, with those nasty ads from the back page of the indie newspaper thrown in. Craigslist is just the classifieds.  Facebook is just a dry-erase clipboard on some college girl's dorm room door, writ large, and with about as many emoticons. Come on, if you don't remember hearts over the "i"s and little kitties in the margins on the " I've gone to the mixer" message on her door, you haven't lived.

Look at that video. Some nameless guys with pocket protectors and slide rules made everything in that video possible. And not the geeks pictured on TV in The IT Crowd, either. No, it was IBM types in the seventies, and NASA dorks from the sixties. People that look like Milton on Office Space, not cool kids like Peter Gibbons. Of course they had to understand real world engineering with profit and loss thrown in along with the slide rule stuff. They had frumpy wives and 2.3 kids and a dog to kick at home, too. They didn't have time to dress their dog like Boba Fett. They had to shovel the walk before they went out on Rt. 128 and made it to the office park early anyway. They made all this stuff so that avaricious punks in hoodies could pick it up off the desk and Rubik it into a fortune.

Some people come along, and they see these disparate things, and think they can cobble them into a working whole. So your phone has maps in it, because there's this satellite made by who knows who, circling the earth, doing not much, and they can glom onto it and mash things up and make some money for doing nothing but seeing possibilities in joining things Then they crank up the cognitive dissonance and use their phone to get online and slag Henry Ford in some off-topic Guardian comment section because he didn't invent the assembly line, you know. And Bill Gates? Don't get me started.

Everyone hates the circus all of a sudden, so people start skateboarding and biking and just plain running and tumbling, and a little digital camera makes YouTube into the circus. It's still the circus, even if the only animals you tease are hominids with tatts. And a tiny digital camera, slung on a remote control drone, and mashed up with music and posted on the Internet to cadge advertising without paying in order to sell the whole mess, is an Admixture Deluxe, my friends.

I make furniture. People think my occupation is making furniture, but it isn't. I'm not sure what I'm doing, exactly, but making furniture isn't a quarter of it. The most interesting part of what I'm doing might be packaging, or selling what I have without ever advertising, or something else I'm doing that doesn't even register with me right now. I mashed all sorts of possibilities together, and I'm trying to make a go of it in the new Admixture Economy. A wise man said he could see so far because he stood on the shoulders of giants. I'm looking into the navel of prosperity right now, because I stand on the shoulders of midgets, but maybe I'll be able to add the admixture of  human growth hormone into my midget's affairs and fix that someday soon. You never know.  But I do know that there's very few places to hide from the Admixture Economy anymore anyway. I'm glad I'm in on the bottom floor, even if it is flooded and moldy a bit, and the light over the stairs went out five minutes after I went down there.

I hope I do half as well as whoever thought to put that turquoise bathing suit on that very tanned woman at the beginning of the video, because that is some admixture, I'll tell you what.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sippican's Greatest Hits: The Autocoprophagy Of Mark Twain

My wife loves me and looks after me. Many and many a time I have noticed, when I wake up in the middle of the night for some reason or another, that the pillow is only gently pressed to my face.

She visits the library here in town quite a bit. It's a Carnegie library -- a wonderful thing wherever you find it. The town I live in values it highly, of course. It is rarely actively on fire when we drop by, and a solid voting quorum of the slate roofing tiles aren't on the sidewalk yet. They did hire a person, whose name is likely shrouded by the mists of near-antiquity, modesty, and an unpaid bill or two, to design an addition for the building, back when the town was still booming and the parades had more people on the sidewalk than commiserating on the floats. That addition could compete in elegance, in beauty, and in comfort with any dentist's office, but holds slightly-less-current magazines. The old, original part is built like a brick redoubt designed by a renaissance polymath: elegant but ready for battle. But new ideas like the design of the addition resemble mildew -- they get in and corrode a place from its innards, no matter how well-defended the perimeter.

As I was saying, my wife looks after me. She unwisely brought me back the Autobiography of Mark Twain from the library to read.I say unwisely, because it's nearly 750 pages, hardbound, and if I get to lifting it often enough, I may eventually become strong enough to defend myself against her nocturnal depredations, and the assaults of her housecat.

In addition to my newfound physical abilities, this titanic tome is cultivating in me a powerful  urge to seek out the editors and amassers and packrats that  produced the book. Not because I picked the thing up, no; I unwisely read the thing, too, and it makes me want to strike someone in the face, and not with an upholstered cushion, either. I realize assault and battery and eye-gouging and mayhem and attempted murder are, if not strictly illegal, at least frowned upon in literary circles, but I'm willing to sit in an electric chair by the hour as long as the mouthbreathing, windowlicking, buttsniffing, dimestore intellectuals that dug up Mark Twain's literary corpse and rifled through his pockets are forced to sit in my lap. I bet I can outlast the whole lot of them on pure spite alone.

Why, oh why was Twain's unpublished work turned over to these jackanapes to paw through like illiterate raccoons looking for rancid bits to eat? Yes, yes, I know they style themselves "The Mark Twain Project," and have devoted their mortgages, if not lives, to Twain, or at least to raiding his intellectual larder to stock their shabby ivy-stricken midden over at Berkeley.  So what. The mental contortions needed to adduce that their name and their sinecures makes them capable of understanding such a writer is like saying that a dog has ticks so the ticks should inherit the dog's estate. Haven't you drawn enough blood from the man already, you stooges? You've been carving out a living carving your initials, likely misspelled, into the outside of Twain's bier for a century. Who allowed you to climb in there with him and start carving away on the inside?

There's Twain inside this book, don't get me wrong. It's exactly, precisely what you always get from Twain. His laundry list is a Dead Sea Scroll. His lunch order is a Rosetta Stone. He has more intellectual horsepower under his fingernail after a trip to his ear than Berkeley has in a building, and that's if the building is full of janitors. At least janitors know how the world works. The buildings full of these scholars need fumigating. Lock the doors, first, from the outside.

It was easy enough, if annoying, to tread across the minefields of intellectual delirium tremens these invertebrates have made of Twain's writing, leaving their little piles of brain droppings here and there like badly behaved dogs, explaining Twain. I put on heavy shoes and plowed ahead. Then I got to page 468, the glimmer of a tear still in my eye over SLC's description of his older brother, Orion, filled with pathos and love and respect and affection and a wistful, unspoken wish that his brother wasn't doomed by his nature to miss the life Twain got by the thickness of one of Sam's famous whiskers -- and then I turned the page, and there on page 469 was text as terrible and incomprehensible as the writing on your own tombstone, delivered early: The rest of the book, almost 300 more pages, was entirely comprised of the stark, raving drivel of these toads, with only bits of Twain embedded in it like reverse carbuncles. Good God. I'll hold my nose and run through Twain's Elysian fields, keeping an eye peeled for your intellectual Beserkley cowpies the whole time, but I'm not treating myself to a one-man Easter-egg hunt in a sewage treatment plant.

Explaining Twain. Think of that. Why not send a cigar store indian out on a speaking tour to explain smoking. He stood outside the shop for a hunnerd years. He must know something about the topic by now.

Friday, January 24, 2014

I'm Considering Going Into Retail. Looks Easy

(A little coarse language)

From Harry and Paul, a British sketch comedy show.

And to think I've been making furniture all these years when I could have been fishing through dumpsters instead. Duh. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

From The Foot Of Mount Belzoni

Denise LaSalle. Big hit back in 1971. Not the sort of song that gets played during timeouts at a football game, so it's mostly forgotten now.

You have to be a really good bassist, guitar player, or drummer to play like that. And all it gets you is a better class of Chinese restaurants or lounges on cruise ships to play at, generally.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

It's A Terrible And Wonderful Thing To Have Your Child Work At Your Shoulder

They say no man is a hero to his own valet.

But your children see more of you than any valet. At first you're this mightly giant, a good, long while passes, then you become this semi-inscrutable monument to your past life, likely still at some young man's game when you're past your physical prime. It's not fun to have your son find out you're just a human man, after all. Every man wants his son to be a better man than himself, but how are you going to produce that which you can't manage for yourself?

You would never treat a stranger as badly as you treat your own son when he works with you. I'm crabby and direct with mine. I'm impatient. I'd be polite if it was the neighbor's kid, and not expect nearly as much out of 'em.

My older son has fallen asleep in his supper after a day with me. A badge of honor, surely. Coming and going, I hope.

(Thanks to Delaware Dave for sending that one along)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pffftt. All John Singer Sargent Paintings Do This Anyway

Notice: Many of the girls in classical paintings are dressed for the tanning booth, not for work, and descents into hell used to refer to more disturbing things than a Mork and Mindy marathon on TV

Friday, January 10, 2014

Show No Enthusiasm; Don't Complain

Winter came like a postcard a long time ago. The snow drifted down in slow motion, the big, fat flakes parachuting in and accumulating gently on the frosted earth. There was a lot, all at once, and in the morning the birdhouse wore a pope's hat, and the birdbath was a cheesecake. The sun shone and the trees wore their coat of flakes like ermine.

Then the rain came. It turned the pope's hat to a drunkard's fedora, and the cheesecake to a dog's breakfast. It came down mechanically, at an angle that could be measured anywhere along its route, as methodical as a secret policeman; the icicles on the eaves turned from a little fringe to dragon's teeth. The trees threw their coats on the ground with their shivering, and left craters like the moon in the slumping snow.

Then it did it all again. Snow fell on top of the icy film over the styrofoam snow, and brought Currier and Ives back to town. Then the ice came and put Currier and Ives in the stocks in the town square for the crime of being jolly out of turn, and pelted them with everything handy. The roads turned to suggestions. The pavement was just the bottom layer of an arctic lasagne of sand and ice and mud and snow and general corruption. My wife's car and my truck told me to shove it more than once when I turned their keys.

Then the thermometer began a truth or dare phase. It had been ten degrees below normal for months, but now it wanted to impress people. Pinch the unwary. Show you who's in charge around here. Twice it showed me twenty below and kept going, and days ticked off the calendar, one after another, without ever reaching the number one. The ladder to spring had been drawn up into the calendar's treehouse. We'd have to set a spell and wait for it.

There is no heat but what we can make. I shoveled the logs into the stove like a man in the belly of some great, dripping, iron ship, while icebergs passed by the portholes in first class. Nothing you could do could touch twenty below. You could set your house itself on fire and not raise the temperature in the living room ninety degrees. What chance do you and your disassembled birches and beeches have?  But one bails a leaky rowboat whether you have a bucket or a teaspoon.

My neighbor passed by and said he was angry at his thermometer today. I understood, because he felt the thermometer had betrayed him. It was still five below at nine o' clock this morning, and that was a shiv in the guts from a friend. He was promised by the man on the TeeVee, who combs his hair a lot, that it would be warmer today.

We were out of firewood. Well, not out, exactly; I'm a fool, but not that big of one. There were still three cords sleeping in the back yard where we stacked them in August to dry. But there was no more in the house. We'd put three cords in the basement, and all but a few junks were gone in a puff of woodsmoke already. It will rain again tomorrow, and be miserable to be outside, and handling firewood in the rain is a penance not to be inflicted on the innocent. The time to get more was today. 

My son came out with me. He shows no enthusiasm, but does not complain. It's the mark of an adult, I think. The sun looked like a cataract and hung low in the sky, skulking across the horizon for the few hours it deigns to shine in January, and looks ashamed of itself the whole time. You could look right at it, but why would you? You look at the ground right in front of you, and that's that. We shoveled the top layer of snow and ice to get halfway to the ground, and walked on the skin of ice over the first heaping of snow as we went. The ice was almost strong enough to hold my weight for every footfall, but every once in a while the heel of my boot would punch a hole in it, and my knee would hinge backwards and remind me that I hit a hurdle when I was in tenth grade and that I wrecked a car when I was nineteen. Winter is very solicitous here, and worries you might get the Alzheimer's, and tries to help you remember things. 

In the fall, we'd made and installed four, great big swinging barn doors leading out of our basement into the paved yard where the firewood slumbered. The firewood only had to travel twenty feet. The nature of those twenty feet was the issue. There was a buttress of ice eighteen inches thick holding the doors closed. The eave above had basted the snow that collected there with water, over and over, until it was as solid and unyielding as any revetment. We stood like Napoleons looking longingly at Moscow in the winter.

My son got an iron bar we keep for some reason. It's six feet long, as big around as a toddler's wrist, pointed at one end, with a sort-of chisel at the other. This tool is of absolutely no use, until it's essential, like a lawyer or a prostitute. I laid into that bulwark of ice like, like -- like it was the only thing between me and heat tomorrow morning. Ten minutes and the big door swung clear. We dumped the plywood that covers the woodpiles overboard, and then layed them on the iffy ice and snow layer cake on the ground. We rolled a handtruck back and forth over them, and assembled the clanking junks of wood into a wall four feet high and twenty-four feet long in the basement. People here call a piece of firewood a "junk," and firewood that's been dried properly rings with a ceramic tone when you handle them. The last of the wood outside came hard; frozen solid six inches below the level of our feet. The iron bar levered them out, and they joined their brethren. The last of them will no doubt go in the furnace still wearing their necklaces of ice, because it's not warm enough down there to melt it.

My son, who is no longer a child, really, never flagged, never complained once. We spoke almost not at all, because there wasn't much to say. The work would whisper done when there wasn't any more of it. I thought to myself that I would not have been able to do it without him to help me. I wondered -- I very dearly wished -- he might say the same thing about me.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Dead Tenant Is The Unholy Love Child Of Segovia And Dick Dale

Dead Tenant is a fellow named Andrew Amirzadeh from Columbus, Ohio. He's playing Bach on a Fender Telecaster without any effects pedals or by stitching together takes. Pretty neat. I used to own a Fender Telecaster. It made a pretty fair boat oar, as I recall.

My friend Bird Dog at Maggie's Farm sent me this video. He claims he has no taste, no doubt using his friendship with me to prove it to his friends, but he's on to something here. I got to poking around on these here Intertunnels and it appears Andrew's guitar and laptop got stolen from his car on Christmas. Jaysus. He has a Bandcamp page and sells his interesting tracks there.