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Whose House? Times Ten

Whose house is this?

Update: J.Beck gets it in the comments. He wins ONE INTARNETS!

The Cure For The Black Dog (from 2006)

(Editor’s Note: First offered in 2006)
(Author’s Note: It hasn’t worked this year. It’s the March that never ends. And there is no editor)

Winston Churchill was a very great man. But far better, he was an interesting man. His life was so grand, and vast, and fraught with peril and adventure, and his wit was so engaging, and his intellect so profoundly capable and cultivated that he can stand almost endless scrutiny. And when you’re done reading all about him, you can read the books he wrote about everybody else.

He was funny, too. And like many men afflicted with humor, he got depressed from time to time. Not down in the mouth depressed, no; the kind of mental anguish that makes a man eye the kitchen knives while holding a tumbler of scotch. He called it his “Black Dog.” He knew it would present itself from time to time, and he would get past it by doing something else. Now, doing something else for him meant throwing himself into painting landscapes in the south of France, or building a brick cottage on his country estate, brick by brick with his own hands, or any one of a hundred interesting things that presented themselves to a person of his influence and capacity. And he’d refresh himself by tiring himself out, and get back to yanking on the levers of power in the British Empire.

The Black Dog haunts me too. It comes generally in the late winter. I range around the house, unable to sleep, dogged by some lingering catarrh, bored, and greedy for the sunshine that never seems to come back after Columbus Day. What sleep there is is death, not rest. And you remind yourself that there are others with real problems, and yours don’t compare. It doesn’t make you feel better, generally, but it keeps you from taking poison.

I was outside yesterday. It was clement. The breeze didn’t feel like a knife, or a fish to the face, the sky wasn’t crowded with scuds the shade of dishwater, and the sun began to warm to its task a bit and shooed the thermometer into the fifites. Woodpeckers banged their stupid happy heads against the trees behind the shed, an osprey kited over, silent, cruising the edge of the treeline for a rodent foolish enough to look both ways but not up. Oak leaves began to flutter down from the branches they had grimly hung on to all winter, rattling and writhing through the snows and winds, now gently set adrift by the birth of their replacements. I could smell things. Things that smelled faintly like life.

And then I heard it. The peepers. It’s such a pleasant little flourish they blow, indistinct, happy, variable. It’s such a part of the aural wallpaper after a while you don’t pick up on it right away. We’ve had people stay over our house who remarked in the morning that the peepers sounded like a jet engine outside the window — they were urban folk and preferred to be lulled to sleep by the quotidian sounds of the odd distant four alarm fire and the delivery truck — we barely noticed them.

Their little trill — the thrill of picking up on it for the first time — the ticking off in your mind of the first in the long litany of Nature’s To-Do-List: new mown grass; the crack of the ball on the Hillerich and Bradsby; the glory of fireflies in June; daylight at 9:00 at night; the languid drone of the cicada; rich warm breezes coming in the window as you enjoy the slumber of the sunburned and contented — it’s all there — if you’ll let your mind wander a bit to the end of the road the peepers are paving for you right now.

The Black Dog plays in the swamp, and is consumed.

The Goose


The goose flew by and jarred my mind

What was the life he left behind?

A distant lake that caught his eye

But who needs home if you can fly?

You’re free to go from place to place

And leave but ripples as a trace

To spread out like a ghost’s canoe

And then they’re gone the same as you

Do you remember where you’ve been?

The little families you begin?

Or do you soar without a care

For little goslings everywhere

The world seems small to such as you

Who fly above our earthbound view

But we who linger in the ponds

Can make a nest here in the fronds

We’ll never soar close to the sun

We’ve little dreams and not much fun

But as you pass us overhead

Do you wish you’d stayed instead?

( A continuation of: The Crow. Don’t ask me; I just start typing)


I’m Not A Bass Player, I’m A Bass Owner

My good friend Steve Devlin is the most productive person I’ve ever met, and I’ve met a lot of productive people. I’m sure when he passes away, he’ll still help them screw down the lid, and show them how to soap the screws to make driving them easier.

He builds houses on Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. He helped me to build my house, and we’ve worked together many times. He’s made his Central Cape Construction into that rarest of things: a success that deserves its success. Look out for flying wood! he says, and means it. To paraphrase, Steve is halfway round the foundation while the competition is still lacing its shoes.

We used to play in a band together, back in the day. It was the same way. If it needed doing, Steve was doing it while you decided, and laughing the whole time. Every once in a while he calls me and I hear the Blues Brothers yell in the receiver: I’m getting the band back together, man.

We were atrocious back then, but sublime. I can’t describe it any better than that. In entertainment, you simply have to give the audience a compelling reason to look at you. We always did that, one way or the other. There’s lots of ways to accomplish that. I suppose you could try learning to play your instruments properly, but that sounds hard. Steve used to say we were the band you had to see twice. The first time to have the most fun you ever had, and the second time to figure out we stunk.

Steve has done another thing which is rare and wonderful. He started a real, live tradition. Someone has to be the guy that says: You know, I think we should have a parade on Saint Patrick’s Day. People might come. Steve is that man.

Only with him, it’s hockey, and the The Lobster Pot Tournament. Steve was a good hockey player. He taught his sons in their turn to play, and helped the area he lives in to teach their kids, too. Like a true good citizen, he didn’t lose interest just because his kids were too old for it after a while. He kept going.

I remember when he first tried to put together the tournament. He beat the bushes and worked like a slave and paid all sorts of money out of his own pocket that no one knew about because he thought it mattered. Then that rarest of things I mentioned happened. Everyone else embraced it, too, and it’s become a tradition.

“I took my sons to a college hockey game, and they really liked the whole atmosphere,” said tournament director Steve Devlin. “And on the way home they remarked how great it would be to play in a game like that. So when we started this tournament, we wanted to bring that kind of fun to our games. We want this to be a fun tournament for the kids and for the fans.”

The action started last night and runs through Sunday afternoon with the teams combining for a total of 64 games.

Teams will be competing in four divisions: Crawfish (Mini Mites), 1 1/4 Pounders (Mite C), 2-Pound Broiled (Mite B) and 3-Pound Baked Stuffed (Mite A). Of the five BYHA teams in the tournament, four will be competing in the 2-Pound Broiled division with the fifth squad in line to contend for the 3-Pound Baked Stuffed crown. (The Enterprise)

So Steve got us all out of bed on Sunday morning at hockey mom hours, year after year, and we stand on the mezzanine freezing to death and watching the kids bob like buoys across the ice. Steve’s son, who we told you about here before, is playing music with us in the pick-up band instead of hockey now. That’s him over on the far left, along with my friend Chopper and another fellow from the band Cape Fear. They’re the ones that sound like they practice.

I’m getting old, I guess. I’ll still show up, though, if Steve tells me to. When the sun comes up, the birds sing, though they don’t know why.

Arena Rock from sippican cottage on Vimeo.

Whose House? Niner. Neener Neener Neener

Whose house was this? Somewhat austere, but elegant. The house, too.

(Update: No one’s got it yet. Here’s another room:)

(Uppity update: Andy gets it.)

The Future Of The Internet Is A Blackboard

(Photo from AfriGadget)

I don’t write a blog. I hate the word. I sorta hate the concept, really.

I’m not sure what I’m doing. I was doing it before I knew there was a blogosphere. I liked the interface and jumped at it when I saw it. I write essays, I guess.

I thought it would be a new, interesting and destabilizing force in publishing. It would sort of democratize things. Everyone had a foot in the Internet door at birth all of a sudden.

It didn’t work out like I figured. It certainly has upset the applecart of the monolithic media. The newspapers are drowning in front of our eyes. There’s a reason for that that not many people understand.

It’s true that the Intertunnel is killing print, but it’s suicide, not homicide. The newspapers are not doing the only thing that will make them indispensable to the public, and so they are dying.

The news in the newspaper, and broadcast TV news, was just the come-on for the true reason the proprietors of those institutions existed. They got all the manna you could cadge out of holding information hostage so they could get their opinion higher up the totem pole of public discourse than anyone else.

I don’t like seeing the glee among many observers that accompanies the daily layoffs in the newsrooms of the papers. These are real people, most not very wealthy, and their lives are wrecked because the owners of the paper don’t care if they are the equivalent of Martin Bormann in the bunker — so enthusiastic about the proximity to, and the effect on, the exercise of real power that they don’t care that in a little while they’ll have to bite the cyanide ampule themselves. Let’s have a care for those mowed down that don’t have a triple-barrelled name and a trustfund, shall we?

The New York Times sells their building and their jet and lay off thousands who are just doing their job, but they pay hundreds of thousands — millions — to keep the Op-Ed page going, and the bigshot managers in caviar at their Long Island Gold Coast getaways.

All I can get on the Internet is opinion. It’s an enormous sea of opinion. Everyone is doing for free what Maureen Dowd wants to earn a phone number for. That can’t last. But they’ll sacrifice the entire news operation on the altar of opinion to keep it going to the bitter end

The democratization of opinion would tell a normal person in a position of authority at a newspaper to abandon opinion and put factual information first, last, and always in the paper. And maybe not print it, just offer it in pixels. They refuse to do it, because of the Martin Bormann syndrome they’ve got. They’ll fire everyone but never give an inch, because it’s not exciting enough for them to be useful; they want to matter, and disproportionately so.

This man is the future of information:

A man with a chalkboard in Liberia is smarter than Pinch Sulzberger.

Whose House? Ocho

Hint, sorta: His name is Tom.

(Update: I thought this one would be easy. Shows you what I know. Here’s the back of the manse:)

Not Nez Perce. Wore a pince nez, though.

(up-update: Tom L has it in the comments. Tom wins Two Intarnets!)

Def Star

Oh, you average pop star. You think you’re a big deal. You’re not a big deal. Solomon Burke is a big deal.

It’s true you’ve got minimum wage flunkies to sort your M&Ms by color. But until you get a throne, a harpist, and Jools Holland, you’re JAG, baby.

Month: March 2009

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