Sippican Cottage

Close this search box.

The Boys Are Back In Town — Yesterdays


Unorganized Hancock are back! They’ve got a cool new logo, and a new video, Yesterdays by Wes Montgomery:

It was — get this — over sixty degrees, so the boys recorded outside. No, really; it was over sixty degrees, all at the same time, instead of broken into pieces and spread over several days. Farenheit!

Wes Montgomery was such a wonderful and original player. I don’t know why my kids have such good taste. I think they’re supposed to be playing death metal at flight-deck volume or they’ll be thrown out of the garage band union, but they don’t show any inclination to annoy us or the neighbors yet.

Speaking of annoying the neighbors, Unorganized Hancock has a gig. There’s a converted church in town that has a real stage in it, along with function rooms and so forth, and my boys are appearing there next Friday night: It’s called 49 Franklin. (Scroll down to see their promo picture). They’re headlining, but they’re playing first. The drummer is a pro, but he’s got to be in bed by nine, so they’re going to blast away for an hour at 7:00 PM. Good luck to the band that has to follow them. How do you follow that?

Many thanks to everyone that’s hit the tip jar for the boys, and linked to their videos, and hit the like buttons on YouTube and Facebook. The Heir and The Spare had a difficult couple of weeks, and the love and support they receive from my Intertunnel mob means the world to them. And me. (Special thanks to Malcolm from America’s hat) We now have a computer that will play 1080p video (thanks, Cliff E !), and we were able to purchase a big hard drive to put the videos on. The boys have a keyboard now, too, and can both play it some. Look for that soon. The boys are improving by leaps and bounds these days. Me, I don’t even know which end of the piano you blow in.

(Update: Many thanks to Phil B. from Yucca Vall-E!)
(More Up To Date: Many thanks to Kathleen M. from CT for her friendship and support)
(Way Update: Thanks a ton to Stephen L. in Ohio for helping the boys out!)

Pure Pop For Then People

If you busted the seventies open like a big pinata — a pinata wearing flared pants and aviator sunglasses — I imagine the bizarre spectacle of Van Morrison with Elvin Bishop’s band backing him would about sum the decade up. Will they have Marvin Gaye fronting Black Oak Arkansas next? Rod Argent singing in front of the Isleys? Dobie Gray and Vickie Lawrence singing a duet with Redbone?

Obviously, I shoulda been a promoter.

There Is Too Much Butter… On… Those… Trays

I’ve often remarked that the most productive use of a blogger’s time would be to simply to point a camera out the window wherever they were.

I don’t think newscasts should have hosts. They should have a camera and point it toward things. I don’t think newspapers should quote anyone. They should print the text of proposed legislation, not talk about it.

I found the video fascinating, and well-done. I didn’t know much about Barcelona, at least not up-to-date knowledge of it. I recognized lots of buildings in it because I’m not illiterate, but I’ve never been there. It’s vanishingly unlikely I’ll ever go there. Still, it’s useful to know what it’s like there, even superficially. You can find out all sorts of things by paying attention. There was a street sign pointing out the way to Karl Marx Place, for instance. That was interesting to me, and told me things. I didn’t notice a sign for Hitler Circle, or the Stalin Memorial Abattoir, or the Mengele Park Towers, or Vlad the Impaler Children’s Hospital, or the Idi Amin Culinary Academy, but they might have been there, and I missed it. I’ll have to watch it again.

Wood. Working

I worked in an old-fashioned factory when I was younger. Timeclock. Bricks. Union. Job descriptions with labor grades that decided your hourly wage. I was eventually a labor grade eleven. There was only one labor grade higher than that: Toolmaker. That used to be a common pecking order. A person that can make things with tools is valuable. A person that can make tools is invaluable.

The tool handle he’s making at the end is for something usually called a “slick,” a big chisel common in post-and-beam construction.

What Al Capone Understood That You Don’t (from 2009)

(Editor’s Note: From 2009. Still attracts readers fairly regularly. People are curious about Al Capone)

Gangster movies and the general media have a tendency to portray criminals as more interesting and sophisticated than they really are. They portray politicians, who are sometimes the same thing, in the same way. But few politicians are really all that shrewd. They’re just shameless. That’s different.

Hollywood likes to show gangsters being Machiavellian, but they’re usually just willing to use force to get what they want, and are willing to take chances. Fearless and arrogant will get you a long way in a world full of the meek. Gangsters are in a state of nature, red in tooth and claw, while John Q. Public thinks meat comes in little packages from a deli.

Al Capone was not a sophisticated man. He was a Camorra gangster, a Naples thing, which is not the same thing as the Mafia, which is a (the) Sicilian thing. Camorra gangsters don’t have a lot of redeeming family values to add spice to your Pacino movie. Just violent and grabby.

That picture is Capone’s cell in the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. He spent eight months there for carrying a concealed weapon.

It would appear that the cell testifies that prison authorities could be easily bribed. Not exactly. I imagine that it was fear of Capone that got him his goodies, and the warders accepted his money as gravy. If they weren’t afraid of him, they would have just taken his money, or not taken his money, but he wouldn’t have got his goodies either way.

Al Capone was literally a barbarian. And yet he could assemble truly salubrious surroundings for himself in any circumstances. Tradition based in wholesomeness trumps intellect searching for thrills, every time, for comfort.

A Queen Anne wing chair is very comfortable to sit in. It affords motility –the ability to slightly shift your position without thinking — to avoid discomfort. The wings and sides shield the occupant from drafts. The open shape of the arms invites the sitter visually. The patterned fabric has a certain light friction that keeps the occupant from slipping forward.

The floor lamp gives a pool of light. The shade is angled downward, because the purpose of the lamp is not general illumination. It is to make a well-lighted spot at a sitting area without producing any harsh glare. The other, table lamp does so even more, and softens the downward directed light with a tasseled fringe to avoid severity.

The carpet on a hard floor is a no-brainer. Living on hard floors so your Swiffer or Roomba is comfortable instead of you is not smart. And nailing the carpet down is like wearing the same underwear too long.

The Chippendale drop-front desk is elegant and useful. Books are precious, or should be, and you can keep them best where they can be seen, but are not open to dust. You can write and then close up the clutter writing brings.

There is a chair and a mirror at the entrance/exit. You need to look at yourself before you leave your abode, and you often need to put things down, including yourself, for a moment when you enter. Capone understood that even though his door was a modern porticullis.

There is a piece of art hung to contemplate while seated or standing. The radio for entertainment is not treated as solely an appliance; it needed to be as elegant as furniture, because when you put it in a room, it is furniture. And Al wanted to listen to opera in the evenings, because he knew it’s crazy to wallow in misery voluntarily, even for your entertainment. There is something green next to it, to amuse the occupant with its tending, and to suggest the outdoors indoors.

Picture a contemporary person, not even a criminal, put in this place. They’d put in Pergo floors and have an X-Box or a crummy computer on a shabby rickety IKEA monstrosity instead of a writing desk. They’d have a glorified office chair with lumbar support on the wrong lumbar. There’s be a nasty flatscreen instead of a radio and a picture, about as elegant as a water heater when considered dispassionately, playing porno and gangster movies all the time.

As I said, Al Capone was a barbarian. I’d rather live in his prison cell than your house.

It Was The Best Of Badfinger Covers, It Was The Worst Of Badfinger Covers, It Was The Age Of Wisdom, It Was The Age Of Bad Backs

(Editor’s Note: First offered in 2006. I’ve added a video of my son, playing for the first time with a disreputable bunch of old men)

You’re really not supposed to take pop music too seriously. That goes for the audience, too. It’s just supposed to be fun, and ephemeral, and that’s it. You’re not going to save the world with your two minutes and forty eight seconds of foot-tapping goodness. And generally, introducing much more than foot-tapping to the proceedings brings the whole edifice down on your heads. You can’t make bubbles out of iron.

The Beatles killed pop music, though it was not their intention. They could write very high quality pop, with just the right balance between sophistication and raucousness; and if you set up two boom mikes and their instruments, they could entertain you.

But they went searching for the holy grail of seriousness, and they began to put together pop confections by using the entire array of studio technology available at the time, and so made music that was not possible any other way –the studio album.

The records they made were almost uniformly wonderful, so where’s the problem, you’re asking? Well, everybody else is busy Not Being As Talented As The Beatles, but they’re using the same techniques plus all the other aural spackle and visual wallpaper to make studio silk purses out of the sow’s ear of their meager talents, and then compounding their errors by taking themselves seriously. And we have to listen to it.

There’s a lot of potential to make interesting cultural artifacts with the studio system. But its been taken too far, and simply made it possible — if not required — for the most avaricious and outrageous among the already mildly inspired to elbow their way to the front of the pop music line. It’s killed the thing that spawned them, for all intents and purposes.

A few friends got together in Wales forty years ago, and played in some bands together. They didn’t take themselves seriously; their very name was an offhand joke — The Iveys, after a street in their town, and a play on words referring to the pop group The Hollies.

They learned how to play their instruments and sing a little, and made friends with the Beatles. They changed their name to Badfinger, apparently a snippet from a working title of a Beatles song. And when you’ve got the Beatles helping you out — at least the ones not named John Lennon, who thought you too, well, unserious — you’re likely to do OK. It doesn’t hurt to have Paul McCartney singing back-up on your songs, like this one, (knock down the old grey wall) and George Harrison and his friends playing on your others.

Thirty-five years ago, simple, lyrical, happy, glittering pop used to come out of the radio every few minutes, like No Matter What. It didn’t save the world, or grant any inner peace or enlightenment, it didn’t rage against the… well, let’s just say, there was no rage in it at all. It was fun and vibrant, harmless and marvelous.

Those Welsh fellers with the little knack it took to write tuneful nursery rhymes fell in with gangsters and lawyers, or the other way around; in the music business you need dental records to tell them apart anyway. They made all kinds of money and got all kinds of girls despite their golden retriever haircuts, bad teeth, and sunken chests. They managed to get their own sort of Yoko Ono. They took themselves very seriously, and two of them eventually hanged themselves over the idea that it all mattered a great deal more than it does, or should.

My friend Steve calls suicide “The permanent solution to your temporary problems.” It was better, for everybody involved, when they were supplying us with the temporary solution to our permanent problems, at least for two minutes and forty eight seconds.

Me And George Clooney Are In Woman’s World This Week (From 2009)

(Editor’s Note: from 2009. Lotta water under the bridge since then)

What a fascinating publication.

I know I’m supposed to sneer at it because it’s in the check-out line at the supermarket. I suppose a cover that simultaneously exhibits a Turbo Juice Diet and cupcakes is a target rich environment for making sport. It says “God Bless America” right in the title block, which would propel the average hipster intellectual directly from derision to rage. Me, I’m kind of in awe of the thing.

I never looked in one until I was in it. That’s not that unusual for me. I’ve been on TV and in a handful of newspapers and so forth. I’ve been on some radio stations. Way back when, I was sunbathing at the beach, and a biplane droned by dragging a banner with an advertisement inviting me to go and see the band I was in that evening. It had to be pointed out to me. “Isn’t that, you know, you?” I had never paid even cursory attention to any of those outlets or venues before I was featured in them. I’m in the Noel Coward camp on that issue.

But that has no meaning, at least from my point of view. I heartily disdain the common attitude that everything that I don’t like, or simply isn’t entirely geared towards my world view, is bad and should be banned. I’m not interested in cupcakes or dieting. So what?

The really interesting thing about Woman’s World is that like most things that are “square,” it’s useful to a lot of people and it makes money. Think about that in the publishing world. That’s an exclusive club they’ve joined.

I’d point you to their website, but it doesn’t exist. Think of the nerve of that. All the whiners in the newspaper business say the Internet is killing them because they can’t charge for their content. Man up, shut it off, and charge for your content. It’s very simple.

Pinch Sulzberger would rather give Bill O’Reilly a loufah rubdown than deign to pay attention to Woman’s World. But Woman’s World charges 62 bucks a year for 52 issues. They have 1.4 million subscribers. The New York Times is a daily, of course, but they barely crawl over the million subscriber line, and likely won’t be able to keep their head above the million paying customer line much longer. And since they’re hemorrhaging money like a print version of an abbatoir, they’re basically paying people to read them, and borrowing money to do so. My wife had to pay $1.79 to purchase a Woman’s World today to see if I was in it. If you want to read it – pay, is such a wonderful bet to make, and win at, for a publisher these days.

I certainly have learned more about what the average person wants, needs, and is interested in by reading Woman’s World than I would by reading a week’s worth of The New York Times. I’ve known lots of women, and many are interested in dieting and cupcakes – simultaneously or alternatingly, take your pick, – no matter how strenuously they try to convince you they’ve removed themselves from the hoi polloi.

People will pay to read Woman’s World, and wouldn’t cross the street to read 100 pages of editorials masquerading as news if it was free. Which one is useful and interesting? Come on, it’s science; don’t be a denier.

Requiescat In Pace

Little children deal with things as best they can using whatever is at hand, and whatever they have in their head and in their heart.

And we are all little children until the day we die.

(Sippican Cottage will return next week. Reruns until then. Thank you, to all my Interfriends)

This Slacker Doesn’t Even Work Weekends

You can’t always extrapolate from the example of genial and useful people like Frank Catalfumo. Many other people once worked at the same job as he has all these years, and were wiped out in their turn. His continuing existence is not proof that others could have made it, and should have kept trying.

People who operate businesses that have their name on it act differently than those that don’t, though. It’s personal. There’s the potential of starvation and ruin, of course. That’s pretty personal. But that’s not the end of it. People are amazingly stubborn about businesses that they feel a personal connection to. Many hang in there long after any outside person would counsel them to quit. If you’re a hired hand, you are generally much more ambivalent about the continued existence of a trade or business as long as you get a job at whatever replaces it. The owner feels a sense of pride if he’s hanging in there, and a kind of shame if it goes down the crapper.

Business is predicated on a kind of faith. If I’m useful, someone will use me. But as Nietzsche said, “A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.” A man’s dream must become a stranger’s reality, or it’s just daydreaming.

We should be in awe of Frank Catalfumo’s dream.

Month: April 2013

Find Stuff: