Sippican Cottage

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Elevator Jones 4 (and a half)

You collect yourself in the car. I never knew what that meant before.

I hate the Star Trek doors. I want to feel the weight of a door when you push on it. A building shouldn’t devour you. I don’t want to go in its maw.

There’s something wrong with everybody. Spectator or actor or stagehand or director; doesn’t matter. Everyone’s a mess. There’s a man in pajamas in a wheelchair on the curb smoking a cigarette. It’s twenty. You could grind him up and make a paste of pure corruption.

VCT. That means vinyl composition tile. Twelve inch squares. Hard. Cold. Everyone stares at it and walks. There’s nothing to see and that’s the point.

After a while it’s over. It’s late. What difference should it make in there what time it is? But we are humans no matter the VCT. The moon is up and the sun is down and the day is over and that’s that.

You go down the long lonesome corridor and stare at the flecks in the floor and there’s nothing and nobody for the last fifty yards. You come up hard at a door. There’s a badge and some writing and it doesn’t matter what it says. The room has no people and the television is screwed to the wall in the last place it should be, in the corner at the ceiling, and it yells at no one. Not even me. You stare slackjawed for a moment and the wraiths of some hoary joke are blurted out to the audience of dead souls in an empty room.

Going down.

She Blinded Me With Science

My older boy’s science teacher showed him a video made from Tom Lehrer’s musical recitation of the Table of Elements set to a tune from The Pirates of Penzance.

I don’t understand the thinking. Actually, I lied; I understand it perfectly –I think it’s foolish, that’s different.

Science is not interesting because Tom Lehrer wrote a funny ditty about it. Tom Lehrer is interesting because he wrote something witty about something boring. If you’re interested in the table of elements it’s interesting. Just like all things. The idea that all things can be made interesting to all people by making them get up and dance in presentation is silly. To put it in woodworking terms, pointing to the veneer doesn’t make the flakeboard underneath it any more interesting to look at. Besides, people truly jazzed about chemistry are so much funnier than people jazzed about jazz ragging on chemistry. Behold the Boron lady and Phil Spector, PHD: Chicks Dig Boron.

My son was somewhat delighted I knew all about Tom Lehrer and could recite many of his ditties from memory. The Table of Elements song is his least entertaining work I can recall. Short on funny, long in presentation. This one’s much darker, and gleeful:

Dear School Administrators: Your Curriculum Sucks. My Kid Is Fine

Dancin’ Machine from sippican cottage on Vimeo.

A certain video hosting outfit erased, without notification, a video of my kid dancing because some venal grasping grabby entertainment company wants to beat pennies from children for every lick on Hollywood’s fecal lollipop, Fair Use under DMCA for mashups and spoofing be damned. So I’m (up)loaded for bear.

That coincided nicely with my son’s kindergarten administrators telling us that he’s: “unable to express ideas in front of a group, unable to selectively listen for sounds, follow multi-step directions,” and our supreme favorite: “unable to to complete assigned tasks in allotted time.”

I don’t have time to bring the little feller’s 522 piece Lego set suggested for 8-12 year olds and stand there while he assembles an entire Beach House, with absolutely no help, using nothing but a 72 page exploded diagram pamphlet. He does it faster than I could do it, but it takes a little while and we’re all too busy for that, and I’m not sure 72 pages qualifies as multi-step, because I’m a dolt. Likewise, I don’t have a video of our boy fearlessly performing a Smashmouth song in front of an audience of 250 or so at Lake Winnepesaukee when he was just four years old, because, of course, I was busy on stage performing with him at the time. I doubt that qualifies for selectively listening for sounds anyway, as the drummer kept coming in early and the boy ignored him.

A pretty girl sent me a picture of it, though:

You can tell he’s not an adult because adults never hold the microphone correctly like he is doing in the picture. Save your wisecracks; I know he’s cute and I look like hell. But cut me some slack, I had a temperature of 104 degrees the night before, as I was suffering from Lyme Disease just then but it was still undiagnosed. I looked like hell but the show went off on time, because I was hired to perform there and we take completing assigned tasks in the allotted time fairly seriously at our house. That assigned task was a four-and-a-half hour drive from our house, but somehow we managed.

The school administrator that summoned us to discuss my boy’s “inability to complete assigned tasks in the allotted time” came in, plopped a slovenly 8″ thick, undifferentiated and dogeared pile of foolscap paper on the table, and was sipping from a franchise restaurant disposable hot coffee container unavailable in the town I live in. And although the meeting was held at their school, had been postponed twice already, and she has a secretary, she was a full twenty-five minutes late.

My boy has never missed the bus.

So you’re “a group.” How’d my little boy do expressing himself in that video?

PS: I’m emailing this to the school administrator right now. Should I email her my earlier entry where I exposed another of our school system’s teachers masquerading as a teenager on the Internet? No, that would be cruel.

Messed-Up Mashup Goodness

Microsoft Songsmith. Like so much of what’s generated under the vague heading of “tech,” it’s useless for anything productive or elegant. But it’s lying there lifeless on the digital ground and someone picks it up and puts it to “good” use anyway.

In a real way, the more profoundly useless a thing is, the more fun people seem to get out of using it. All Your Base Are Belong To Us and Dramatic Chipmunk and the glorified Gong Shows most contest entertainments supply are really the audience putting the fun in what is essentially humorless. Do you really think the suits thought Paula Abdul making dizzy remarks about high-school-talent-show-level singing was going to be a phenomenon? They put it on hoping they could sell ShamWows to shut-ins, and were as surprised as anybody when people made their own fun out of the dreck and made the show a success.

Songsmith supplies “musical” backing to you when you sing in the shower, only you’re not in the shower. Some mildly inspired person decided to strip familiar vocals out of popular songs and feed them into Songsmith’s hopper and see what came out.

It’s like looking at a car wreck on the highway as you roll slowly past the flares and state policemen waving flashlights. Fun!

More here at Heh.

Snow In The Early Morning (In 2006)

[Editor’s Note: Rerun. The guy’s busy making things besides text. Besides, you all have “Internet Alzheimers” and can’t remember what you read last week, so what’s the diff?]

{Author’s Note: Notable in my mind because it’s the first time my Intertunnel friend Pastor Jeff read my blog and marked the occasion with a comment. A decent sort of fellow, that Jeff. P.S.: I think we just coined the term Internet Alzheimers. And there is no editor.}

We had snow yesterday at daybreak. The light was so faint, and tinged with blue, that the whole scene outside the door seems under water. I took a picture to try to catch the light:

Pine, Oak, Maple, Holly, and a few others mixed in. There are geese and ducks in the water just past the first row of trees. This is the kind of snow we get here in the southcoast; not enough to plow, generally, but enough to soften the barren look of winter a bit.

It’s funny to consider that, according to statistics, what you’re looking at is farmland “lost” to development. This was all a pasture meadow, for ruminant animals 75 years ago, when sturdier folks still tried to cadge a living farming in New England. The old surveying documents use what few trees were here previously as markers, and they were chosen because they were conspicuous for their lonesomeness. The soil is acid and there isn’t much topsoil over the sandy subsoil. You could mow it flat and plant cranberries, but there’s such a glut of cranberries that the government pays farmers not to grow them now, after attracting them to the industry by guaranteeing their prices previously.

My deed actually still allows me to drive my livestock across the road onto my neighbor’s property to water my herds if I need to; but the cats just drink out of the little dishes under the potted plants, so there is no need to take them up on it.

The land we own covers five acres. About three quarters of one acre is lawn, house, driveway, and plantings. The rest is wild, and will remain so. It’s surrounded by thousands of acres of river, fen, swamp, bog, forest, more swamp, brambles, poison ivy, nettles, ticks, and mosquitoes big enough to make you put lead diving shoes on your toddlers outside, lest they be carried off.

Farmland “lost” to development; I think not. Looks like “reforestation” to me. And last time I checked at the supermarket also built on “farmland lost to development,” the shelves are filled with the flesh of the creatures that formerly grazed in what rapidly turned into our little pine jungle. They must have found some of that lost land somewhere else, I expect. Or used less land to generate more food is more likely.

Are the cows any sadder, unable to drink my swampwater? I don’t know. But the ospreys like it here now. So do we.


I make furniture but the making of it is only half of it. Running a business is like being a shark. Swim forward or die. Many people long for sinecures so they can do the same thing over and over and still get their money, but the creative destruction of the economy generally precludes that. Even the Post Office uses state-of-the-art machinery to fold, spindle and mutilate your mail now. Time marches on. Me, I just would like a Sunday off.

The swimming forward can be as simple as presenting the same old thing in a fresh way. Or maybe you’re always at the cutting edge of consumer fashion and your ideas are obsolete while you’re still thinking them. Perhaps you make it exactly the same but you change the font on your website instead of keeping a storefront to display your wares. Whatever, things change. You can sell Mid-century Modern furniture hand over fist right now to twenty-somethings who watched The Incredibles and soaked in the design vibe, but that wasn’t a wise ware to hawk twenty years ago. But if you have hand skills, someone will always want you to do it. The buggy whip conglomerate might fold, but a few hardy souls can make bespoke buggy whips for the connoisseur if they got mad skills. The drones will get laid off and work at IKEA.

I ordered a lathe six months ago, to swim forward and make turned leg furniture too. It was delayed so long I sort of forgot about it. (It was ordered the same time as my replacement for my 350 pound doorstop) It arrived last week unexpectedly and broken. I don’t have time to pay attention to it right now, but I was compelled to because I had to tell the manufacturer what’s wrong with it so they could send me replacements for the busted stuff. Now it stands there in the corner winking at me. It reminds me of the boat I built four years ago and never launched. Its very existence is an accusation. Hurry up.

I went looking for video for lathe turning. Everybody is turning bowls I don’t care about and nobody has any skills worth mentioning on YouTube. My only rule for claiming to be an expert in any walk of life is you have to at least be able to do it better than me. That’s a lot rarer than it should be although I’m no great shakes at anything. At least that’s what the nuns told all of us about everything every day, you Mr. Big Britches, you. Anyway, at least I found this guy.

Here’s to you, crazy Greek dude with the sewing machine lathe and mad skew chisel skills. You rock.

Umm….I think it’s a dude.

Have A Pleasant MLK Holiday

The United Nations is a terrible fraud. There’s a dozen or two decent countries represented there, and the rest chairs reserved for dictators and jackleg statist functionaries, the kind of person that is actually the polar opposite of a representative of their putative population. The US is the reality of the imaginary UN ideal: Every kind of person lives together and gets along with his brother as best they can. And everyone is brethren. There are no untouchables born here.

I’m immensely proud, and feel damn lucky to be born in this place.

If I Had A Million Dollars, I’d Buy You A Monkey And This Record Collection

When I was younger I had to learn Oldie but Goodie songs for bands I was in. No Intertunnel. I found a hole-in-the wall store that loaded 45s into jukeboxes. They’d sell to the public, but in the most desultory fashion. If you found them out behind the Chinese Restaurant and the SCUBA place and were willing to look through all the boxes and brought a little money, you could buy the stuff. I still have some of them, and several hundred lps, too. This is so much cooler than that, which was pretty damn cool already.

Estate Liquidation

Month: January 2009

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