Sippican Cottage

Search
Close this search box.

The Montessori-Americans Strike Again (Again)

(Written two years ago. Sears tried to launch a Intertunnel TV show called Screw*d that went nowhere, and I was writing about it. Yesterday’s episode of Portlandia makes me wonder if they were the only people who watched it. And I just might have been fibbing when I said I didn’t know whether it was funny) 

When I got up yesterday, I had 6019 emails in my inbox. The Montessori-Americans are at it again.

I wrote the other day about the benighted graduates of the White Dwarf Star Academy. No matter how I phrased it, and explained it, and commented about it after in simple, declarative style, I couldn’t seem to get my point across. Everyone just goes back to their default setting and starts talking about kids these days, and how no one, sometimes including themselves, is handy with carpentry tools. I’ll try again.

The people in the video, and the target audience of the TV show Screw*d are indeed not skilled in any productive manual arts. That is not the point. They are not good at any useful behavior. None. Zero. Zip. Nada. That’s my point. Asking them to do something practical highlights an overarching, fatal flaw, because unlike every other thing they’ve been exposed to during their development, it requires them to change the world in a fundamental, productive way –something that can be measured. There’s supposed to be a birdhouse visible at the end of the test, and there isn’t. I was supposed to have today’s email in my inbox, not 6000 emails I already erased. There’s no difference, really. Someone like the hipster dorks in the video kept pressing some caramel-colored button somewhere for no particular reason– somewhere that calls their workplace “a campus” to keep from terrifying their employees with even a hint of real work on the docket — and I got thousands of emails I’d already erased sent to me over and over. I’ll fix the email myself, and the birds will live in a dumpster, and that’s that.

Whenever I go on one of these jags, everyone seems to further assume that I’m just a less successful Norm Abram making fun of the Valedictorians because they can’t bang a nail, and I don’t know Shakespeare from Shakes the Clown. But I am a born poindexter. I am the Valedictorian; or would have been, if I didn’t stop attending school regularly when I was about sixteen. I don’t presume to be as dumb and useful as Norm Abram. Norm learned what he knows from his father. My father taught me that when the vibration of the Briggs and Stratton loosens the nuts and bolts on the handle on the lawnmower, and they fall out and get lost on the tan lawn you’re growing, you put rusty framing nails through the holes and bend them over with an upholstery hammer. I learned everything I know of  a practical nature on my own, because it seemed, well, useful; it bothers me to see so many robbed of the chance to hit their own thumbs and then proudly display their hematomas to a real, live girl  like I do every night.

Let’s organize meetings, and everyone can puff on their inhalers instead of smoking and drink diet Mountain Dew instead of coffee and testify:

Hi. I’m a recovering Montessori-American.I was raised to pay attention to nothing in particular, until it got boring, and then pay attention to something else, and not learn anything by rote lest you lose the childish wonder of the goldfish discovering the side of the one-quart bowl with your forehead over and over again. When I grew up, I just expected my “workplace” would have half-circumcised tennis balls on the bottom of all the chairlegs, and a cafeteria and a ball crawl for when you get bored between team-building exercises and placing cover pages on your TPS reports. I figured important ideas would always be presented by a cartoonist on a whiteboard, or in collage format. I promised to make fun of people who read USA Today while simultaneously demanding everything be presented to me as a bar chart or a Venn diagram, and I fully expected to be drugged senseless to tolerate blocks of text of any kind. If a co-pay is suddenly required for my anti-anxiety medicine I figure I’ll lay down on the low-pile carpet outside the HR office and whimper until one of us dies.

It breaks my heart to see them. They sit as meek and passive as Chance the gardener in an empty house saying, “Louise will bring me my lunch now.” You’ll not hear kids these days from me. Adults these days, maybe; because those adults have robbed most children of their birthrights, to soothe their own neuroses by visiting social engineering on the following generation.

The denouement of all public policy towards children from the last forty years has been reached. They don’t know anything useful, they don’t know how to learn anything useful, and they’re afraid to learn anything useful. They’re so far gone they’re even afraid to reproduce themselves. But by god, they sure can update a Facebook page and dress the dog they have instead of a child as Boba Fett, which is nice, too. Who are you going to blame for that, exactly? Certainly not them.

The purpose of the Screw*d show isn’t to make manually literate adults. It’s an attempt to reposition the squaresville retailer that’s selling the tools as someplace a hipster should shop. They want a taste of that magic Pabst Blue Ribbon marketing that turns anysuds into the hot new thing. They don’t have any respect for manual arts, or the contestants, or the audience. They just want you to collect and display their tools along with your Legos and your action figures, even though you’re balding and childless at this point and don’t know anything about fixing things that the Handy Manny website didn’t teach you. (Warning to productive adults: The Montessori-Americans that produced the Handy Manny website coded it to autoplay music, because they’re tools, and not the kind of tools Handy Manny uses, either)

Don’t cooperate. Have some respect for yourself, and for the subject at hand. Being a productive and useful adult is gratifying. Don’t let them herd you into the world of the useless.

Do Not Go Useless Into That Website.

Do not go useless into that web site,
Young age should spurn the rave and close the browser;
Rage, rage against the dying of the sleight.

Men’s men scratch their ends and know only right is tight,
Because their nerds had forwarded no emails they
Do not go mental because of some web site.

Fantasy Footballers, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail rosters might have danced against Green Bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the sleight.

Mild men who know only of girls in bytes,
And learn, too late, that Darwin’s on his way,
Do not go gentle into that porn site.

Concave men, out of breath, who see with myopic sight
Four eyes could blaze like Death Stars and be gay,(NTTAWWT)
Middle-age rage against the dying of the sleight.

Luke, I am your father, turn off The Dark Knight,
Text, tell me not of your IT career, I pray.
Do not go useless into that web site.
Rage, rage against the dying of the sleight

(By the by, for obscure (to me) reasons, Amazon has decided to discount my book of Flash Fiction, The Devil’s In The Cows. It’s now only $7.19 and is Prime eligible, too. Buy one before they change their minds)

I Have No Idea If This Is Funny

Reader and commenter and left-coast Interfriend Charles Schneider sent this one along. He said, “Not sure if this is funny or not…”

I wondered if he was being polite, and thought it was funny, but was worried it might offend me a little, since I make furniture. Or maybe he was like me: I have no idea if it’s funny.

I’m not saying it isn’t funny. I didn’t laugh at it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not funny, necessarily. It might be a scream. You tell me.

Remember Night Shift? It was back when Michael Keaton was zany and Henry Winkler was trying to Un-Fonz himself, and Shelley Long still had a prayer of a career outside a disreputable bar in Boston. (me too, babe; me too)  It was quite charming, and there were plenty of jokes in it to carry it along. Somewhere in the middle of it, one of the characters is trying to explain just how much of a misguided deadbeat schlub someone else’s boyfriend is. She says he’s quit his job, and is making furniture by hand.  It was 1982’s version of the same joke.

But not the same joke, I gather. I assume that it’s the opposite of the same joke. In 1982, no one cared if you could make furniture. It was assumed that anyone could do it, but no one would. It appears in 2013 that the same joke relies on the assumption that everyone wants to, but no one can. It reminds of how the same thing spoken in two different times means two different things. In 1950, the prosecutor told the jury that the defendant went nuts and killed two people. In 2013, the defense lawyer tells the jury that the defendant went nuts and killed two people.

I’ve seen an episode of Portlandia. It was funny. I’m not immune to their schtick. But in order to get a broad, topical joke like that, you have to be in on the cultural stereotypes that are the moving parts of it. I guess I’m not. Do the young women of today really go wobbly if you’re able to make a chair, unless it’s a wobbly chair? I don’t know. Who are the stereotypical male males in popular culture now? I find Orlando Bloom, Johnny Depp, Leonardo DiCaprio, and a handful of other leading men to be interchangeable. They don’t seem to be able to grow a beard yet, though they’re close to collecting Social Security.  I know who Ron Swanson is, but I’m not going to watch that show to figure out if he’s just the handy Archie Bunker I assume he is, or if he now represents an archetype of some sort of an overtly masculine person in a feminine world. If he does, I imagine it’s just to mock him for it.

The actor that portrays Ron Swanson, Nick Offerman, seems affable enough. I’ve seen him here and there on these here Intertunnels. He understands deadpan. Deadpan comedy is best. It’s Ward, via Twain, if you do it right. You can be subversive when you can deliver the payload with a straight face. A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down the pants is fun, but it can’t be subversive.

So our friends in Portland shot some seltzer down their pants while they made a chair, and I don’t know if it’s funny. But then again, I’m too busy actually making furniture to keep up. I’ve made furniture for a decade now. Well, I made furniture for two months, mixed in with looking for my bevel square for nine years and ten months, anyway.

Matthew 7:9

When I was little my father took me to the graves on Memorial Day.

He was a younger man than I am now. He’d drag any of us he could catch all over the Boston landscape to one boneyard after another. Memorial Day wasn’t just for the military dead for him. It was some sort of druidical day. Touch the stone. Pull the weeds. Say the words. Explain to your son who that person was and what they meant to him. Then off to look for the next stone marker by the next oak in the next town. I never understood it. To me it seemed like the stone was all there was to them.

He was a veteran. Everyone was, once. Army Air Force in World War II. He hung below a B24 in a little glass ball and watched the Pacific and the Zeros pass by. He never spoke of it, really, until he was dying in front of me.

I don’t know if he knew he was dying. I don’t know if you look that visitor in the face, ever. Humans don’t seem capable of dealing with the idea. If you’re 114, I imagine you figure you’ll die tomorrow. But not today. Never today. You know you’re dying when you’re 10, too. You file that knowledge away with the things that live in the back of the closet and out by the woodpile on a moonless night.

Towards the end, I took him to the doctors a lot. His body wasn’t sick. It was a villain, an enemy at that point. It didn’t let him down; it turned on him. But I’d take him to the doctor just the same — who seemed more in tune with the wraith of endless malady that shared my father’s body than my father himself.  They took turns working on  him like a heavy bag. I’m not sure which showed more mercy. Doctors have precious little mercy in them, in my experience. It’s not in their job description, anyway. I don’t understand why people look for it from them.

I had almost nothing to do with my father for about 15 years or so. He was lost to me, or I was lost to him, or something. I got the feeling towards the end there that I was of some small use to him, and I liked it. I took him and sat with him while we waited on chairs that would make you feeble if you weren’t already, then afterwards we ate a donut and drank coffee at the Dunkin’ Donuts while gaping like shut-ins at the traffic passing by. He lost all his teeth when he was a child, and had a soft spot, always, for a jelly donut.

It’s hard to describe what came out of his mouth while we lingered there on those afternoons. I’m not sure he was talking to me. He was unraveling a long string, and allowed me to sit with him as he did it. The string wasn’t coherent. It was all one skein, but it was bits and pieces of things, knotted together roughly, all out of order, but all of immense interest to me. I think the Rosetta Stone has mundane things written on it, doesn’t it? What’s mundane… depends.

All these people appeared among the clatter of the cash registers and the muffled sound of the traffic outside, suspended in fleeting words in the air in front of his eyes, eyes gone the color of dishwater from their blue beginnings. He produced laundry lists of my flesh and blood; himself when he was younger, described like any other stranger; far-flung relatives; friends gone but not forgotten. They assembled as he called them up in an imaginary mob behind him until there were too many to count. He was their priest, or maybe their ouija board, their lawyer, their mourner, raiding their tombs like Carnarvon.

And nothing passed their lips but a terrible murmur that my father could not hear: Why the world would give them a stone when all they asked for was bread.

Shame About The Creedence

Our friend Deborah asked a question in the comments after yesterday’s essay about Wichita Lineman:

This is a bunny trail, but please go with me. Since you have an “ear”
for the electric bass, can you tell me if the first 30 seconds of the
Hollies’ “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress” is played on the electric
bass? I maintain that the first 30 second of “Long Cool Woman … ” is the finest 30 seconds in all of Rockdom. I’m wondering if I like the sound so much because it is played on the electric bass.

Well, now.

It’s hard to argue about her rating for the first thirty seconds of Long Cool Woman. It is instantly recognizable everywhere, to most everyone. Let’s have a listen:

There’s a problem with Long Cool Woman, though.

Let’s move on to second number 31, and all those that follow. Like many songs with very recognizable intros, it’s two different songs. Back in the day, if you played that intro in a club, the audience would whoop and flood the dance floor. So far, so good. But when the scintillating guitar riff and the second big ol’ BOOM BOOM on the snare and floor tom was over, the bass player starts dutifully playing a polka at the slowest tempo imaginable. Short of turning on the lights, you can’t possibly clear a dance floor any faster than by doing that.

It’s the same problem you have when you play a rockabilly song in a place frequented by people that can’t dance country. Everyone gets really excited, then discovers on the dance floor that they have no idea what the hell to do with that beat and their feet. The hayseeds that can two-step glide around the floor, everyone else hears their mother calling them right quick. The brave souls that could Lindy Hop before their hip gave out could have managed it, too.

To answer Deborah’s question: no, that’s not an electric bass guitar that gives the intro that sound. The guitar players in the video are playing regular Fender Telecasters, and the recording sounds like it, too. They’ve got the reverb cranked up to 11 on everything, though, including the vocals and drums, and it gave it that sound. The producers and engineers of these records don’t get enough credit for such contributions to the final product, generally. George Martin, the Beatle’s producer, wasn’t “the fifth Beatle.” He came in third, if you ask me. Maybe second.

That song was immensely popular when it came out, mostly because it didn’t sound much like the Hollies. The Hollies didn’t want to sound like the Hollies that day. This is what they wanted to sound like:

Speaking of songs that are pretty good flash fiction in their own right, Green River surely is that.

Well, take me back down where cool water flow, yeah.

Let me remember things I love.

Stoppin’ at the log where catfish bite,

Walkin’ along the river road at night,

Barefoot girls dancin’ in the moonlight.

I can hear the bullfrog callin’ me.

Wonder if my rope’s still hangin’ to the tree.

Love to kick my feet way down the shallow water,

Shoe fly, dragon fly, get back t’ yer mother.

Pick up a flat rock, skip it across Green River.

Up at Cody’s camp I spent my days, oh,

With flatcar riders and cross-tie walkers.

Old Cody, Junior took me over,

Said, you’re gonna find the world is smoulderin’

And if you get lost, come on home to Green River.

I could try for a good long time and never come up with the imagery bagged and tagged by “I spent my days with flatcar riders and cross-tie walkers.”

Long Cool Woman is lots of fun; but Green River is Artemis’ baby, conceived on the sly, midwived by Bob Dylan, delivered by a stork from Bakersfield who got lost and stopped to ask for directions in Yoknapatawpha County.

Another In The Long List Of Songs I Don’t Like That I Like

I used to play the electric bass, mostly. When anyone asked what instrument I played, I’d say electric bass, and they’d immediately say, “You mean bass guitar?”

No, I mean I play the electric bass. That thing Glen Campbell is playing in the video is a real, live electric bass guitar. It looks like some form of  Fender Bass VI.  It’s an electric guitar tuned down an octave. It sounds like Bonanza.  It’s so rare that I’ve never actually seen a real one in person. It was so rare that Nigel Tufnel didn’t want Marty DiBergi to even look at his Fender VI.

When I was a little kid, Wichita Lineman came right out of the radio whether you wanted it to or not. Every radio station played everything back then. FM hadn’t caught on in cars yet, so there weren’t that many stations, and radio stations grubbed after the same audience by throwing everything popular at the wall. It lent itself to an interesting phenomenon: Songs you hated that you liked.

I wasn’t a teenager yet, but I recognized Wichita Lineman as something for the squares. I wanted to hear Marvin Gaye sing Grapevine, or Hey Jude by the Beatles, or maybe People Got To Be Free, or hear Archie Bell tell us he was going to tighten up that bass, one more time. Instead of those, you’d have to sit through Honey by Bobby Goldsboro, or Judy in Disguise With Glasses, or some Herb Alpert shite.

It didn’t matter if I liked the stuff or not; I had to hear it, so I knew it. Inside and out. Years later, we used to play Stump the Band with our audiences, and we didn’t have much trouble banging out a terrible but recognizable version of most everything. It was banged into our heads all those years ago. Hard.

Considered dispassionately, Wichita Lineman is an amazing piece of work. Soup to nuts, composition to execution. It was even marketed properly — it was on everything all the time.  Jimmy Webb wrote it. It’s just a pop song, I guess. But I write flash fiction, and that’s almost exactly like writing songs. You have to conjure a mood immediately and describe a small story arc without exposition. It’s simple, but not easy. A very difficult knack.

It’s harmonically unusual for a pop song, and very effective at instantly painting an image of intense longing and loneliness in a particular time and place. Everyone involved in its production was a consummate pro. People don’t like to admit it, but popular entertainment can be broken into its component parts, the parts understood, and then produced like a widget. It’s the understanding part that’s difficult.

So Wichita Lineman sucks. But how can you help but love it?

(Also: Wichita Lineman at the Rumford Meteor)

SKATE TO THE RIGHT!



When I was young my father would take me to an MDC skating rink. The MDC was the “Metropolitan Disctrict Commission.” It was a layer of government in Massachusetts that allowed the corrupt mayor of Boston to be corrupt outside the city proper. The MDC had its own police force, and ran all sorts of public parks and such. They constructed skating rinks here and there around Boston.

They were spartan affairs, but didn’t seem so to us, because all we had was the corrugated ice on the local pond, and we had to shovel that first. Some people think that sort of activity, born of privation, builds character. People that think that have never met me. I don’t have a trace of character, and I went through all sorts of inconveniences.

The MDC rink we frequented was on the banks of the Charles River, on the Jamaicaway, I think, and it was simply a roof over a patch of ice, with a chain link fence for walls around it, and a blockhouse where you could rent someone else’s athlete’s foot by the hour. They threw in the skates for free. They also sold hot chocolate that wasn’t either of those things. It was a long car ride from where we lived, and it seemed very cold, but we loved it.

During public skating hours, they’d play organ music over loudspeakers they had borrowed from a defunct prison camp or something. It transmogrified the music into something not quite musical. It was the same hoary old stuff the organist at Fenway Park used to play, only recorded.

There were usually a lot of people. There were all sorts of rules posted, all ignored, mostly, except by custom, but there was one, big, hairy rule that everyone followed uniformly: Everyone skated the same direction at the same time. You’d skate counterclockwise for 15 minutes or so, and then a voice would break into the groaning organ music and bellow: SKATE TO THE RIGHT!, and everyone would immediately stop and go clockwise. To this day, whenever I hear any sort of Hammond organ music, I still mutter skate to the right to myself.

I was little and in awe of my father. He could skate pretty well. I had a problem. I could only skate to the left. When the direction was reversed, I’d have to cross my left leg over my right to make a right turn, and I’d fall down. A lot.

Humans are practical creatures, and devise various strategies for dealing with such failings — almost all of which involve avoiding trying. I’d say I was cold, and sit down on a metal bench the temperature of Neptune, or hang on the boards and lie like a Turk in a bazaar and say I was tired. When the disembodied voice re-appeared and said SKATE TO THE LEFT again, I’d go back at it.

My father gave me some good advice, which I still remember. He said that if I didn’t want to learn to skate that I shouldn’t go skating. It would be a waste of time, and I should simply do something else that I really wanted to do. But I enjoyed my counterclockwise self, so it’s more likely that going clockwise was just a difficulty that I could overcome with effort and intellect. If I was happy fifty percent of the time, why not make it a hundred? 

He told me that I had to figure out the aspects of skating I was bad at, and only do them. He told me to sit on the arctic bench and hang on the boards when the direction favored me, and only skate to the right.

It’s counterintuitive to do this. Go with your strength everyone says. There’s an entire school of thought in business called the Hedgehog Strategy. Find one thing you do well, and only do that one thing.

Dad said don’t go with your strength. Take your strength for granted. Work on your weakness. It was marvelous advice, and not just for skating. Businessmen, especially small businessmen, rarely understand the concept. In large organizations, your boss exists to do one thing: make you skate to your right. Left on your own, you’d do whatever was easy and file everything difficult under M for manana.

That’s why most everyone hates their boss; he makes you do things you don’t want to do. If you were wise, you’d realize it’s in your own best interest to learn to skate to the right, but that’s not why he asks you to do it. If you don’t skate to the right, he gets fired and can’t afford to get the GI Joe with the Kung-Fu grip for his kids for Christmas. So he makes you. His boss makes him. And so forth. 

When people want to start their own businesses, 99 percent of the time it’s because they think that if they don’t have a boss, no one can make them skate to the right. They’ll go with their strength. Of course their strength is likely not of any use to the public. If you’re in business on your own, you don’t have one or two bosses. The general public is your boss, every man-jack of them. And they’re not interested in the fact that you can really check boxes on forms, or your desk is really clean, or that you’re amazing at leaving witty comments on FARK all day. They want their stuff. They all want you to skate to the right all the time. But they only have one way to make you skate to the right. They starve you out. They go away and never come back. The public is so much more cruel than the worst boss in this regard, because they almost always say nothing to you. They figuratively kill you without telling you why. They would tell you why, but listening to the customers is the A, Number One, Primary, Overarching, Central and Foundational example of skating to the right for almost everyone. That’s why salesman make so much money and do so little heavy lifting.

So my advice, for all you owners and managers and employees of businesses, is simple: Your business should skate to the left, hedgehog style, all the time. Go with your strength. All your employees, and you if you’re an owner or manager, should work on skating to the right all the time, to make it possible for the business to keep that Business Hedgehog fed, so all his spines don’t fall out from inanition. There’s a name for a hedgehog without spines that curls up into a ball and plays dead. That word is “lunch.” 

Most managers do not have a deft touch at making demands for clockwise skating. They grab you by the shirt collar and drag you to the right. My father wasn’t like that. He told me why I should try, and I believed him, and I made up my mind to try as hard as I could, because I’m stubborn. I battered my knees with fall after fall, and heard the tittering of everyone wondering who the clumsy kid was, but I eventually learned. I got to be as facile one way as the other.

Filled with a bit of pride, I said, “Dad, I think I can skate to the right better than to my left now.”

“Now skate backwards.”

Billy Mays With Acromegaly And A Palsied Makeup Artist

The sign says the factory is in Brewer, Maine. Brewer is basically Bangor. It’s a city a couple hours east of where I live. We have a Paul Bunyan statue in our town, too, that doesn’t belong here, either. Ours doesn’t look like a nifty gay superhero like Brewer’s does. Ours looks like Billy Mays if he had acromegaly and a makeup artist with palsy. All those people in the video sure look familiar, though. Mainers from the poor cities look and talk like everyone working on the line in that video, except for the robo-dweeb that’s narrating. He looks more like Portland, ie: Northern Massachusetts.

No one in any of those places would be caught dead wearing Sperry Topsiders. Someone must still be wearing them Down East, I guess — the constellation of little hamlets hard by the granite coast where people sail during the ten minutes of good weather that Maine gets every year. They don’t wear them while sailing, of course, just in the bar after.  Yuppies used to wear them in the eighties. I wonder if the fellow with the shirt three sizes too small signals a resurgence among the hipster crowd. They’re comfy shoes; they could do worse. According to the Bangor Daily News, it’s the Japanese and other assorted Asians that are buying them. Asians only want them because they aren’t made in Asia. You can try to explain that if you want, but I have a headache already.

It’s the Sperry label you see at the beginning of the video, but Justin Brands owns it, and Berkshire Hathaway owns that. That’s Warren Buffett’s bailiwick. Warren Buffett only buys things that have some strategic advantage someone’s missing out on. A “Made in Maine” tag seems to be all you need to sell boat shoes in Japan. Who knew? Then again, Berkshire Hathaway used to make shirts when Buffett bought it. If I was working in one of his factories, I wouldn’t buy any green bananas.

The elderly workforce in the video is not a gimmick. Maine is old people. After we moved to the wilds of western Maine, we later learned that everyone called us “the young couple.” We are not young. But if you stand next to midgets you’re tall, I guess. If you have children shorter than you, you’re young, at least in Maine.

Maine used to make a lot of shoes and boots. It was the state’s largest industry until very recently, when free trade killed American piecework dead.  The state’s current largest industry is selling oxycodone you stole from grandma’s medicine cabinet, I think. You can still find Quoddy in Maine. Bean. Sperry. Bass. Red Wing. New Balance. Oops, I forgot about Bass. They’re made in: “Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China, Honduras, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan.” They still show scrawny, WASPy- looking chicks and their lantern-jawed LL Bean brochure consorts sitting on Adirondack chairs, dockside, on their website, though. The Maine ethos still sells. Maine is the size of Ireland, and about five square miles of it looks like those ads, but, whatever.

Maine used to look like those people in the video. Hardworking, no-nonsense people. I always admired people like them. I wonder who I’ll admire when they’re dead and gone. It won’t be long till I find out, I guess.

(Thanks to my friend Gerard at American Digest for sending that one along)

Working 9 to 5

In some ways, the work that goes on behind the scenes in most forms of entertainment is more interesting and fulfilling than whatever the “talent” is up to. I’d rather own a football team than play on one, too.

I always found bars to be dull unless I was working in them. The most fun I had in the music business was generally after the show was over and we were breaking down the equipment. It was my job to look like I was having fun while I was performing, and I tried to, whether I had a strep throat or a chisel wound in the meat between my thumb and index finger or not. Most applause simply brings a feeling of relief, not elation.

You have to be on top of your game and your craft to be in charge of the stage at the San Francisco Opera, whether you can sing a note or not. There are satisfactions to being invisible.

Obscurity and a competence—that is the life that is best worth living.  -Twain

It’s Hard To Get Old

You can die young, or get old and watch everyone you know die. It’s a crummy choice, and insult to injury, the choice is made for you, anyway. Everyone works it out as best they can. 

I can hear you calling my name

Or somebody’s whispering

That sounds like you

I can see you standing in the shade

The sun is glistening

And it’s blinding my view

I can feel your touch on my face

I remember kissing you

For the first time

I can sense you just out of fray

And I’ll be reminiscin’

For the rest of my life

Never loved anyone

I never loved anybody

But you Baby

Never been lucky baby

I never bet winners

But I’ll never say never again

Sultana Of Swing

You have to give the audience a compelling reason to pay attention to you.

That’s the only advice I ever gave to my children about performing, really. The rest was details. The rest is details. There’s lots of different approaches. They all work. Or they don’t. It’s up to the performer. Performers can have the wrong audience, it’s true. A metal band that looks out into the audience and sees nothing but blue hair is probably in for a rough time. But the audience is rarely the problem. A stubborn insistence on entertaining yourself before the audience, or instead of the audience, is usually the culprit.

We used to call the phenomenon “Doing The Show.” Caravan Palace knows how to Do The Show.

Month: May 2013

Find Stuff:

Archives