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Oswald Spengler Would Understand My Affection For This Video

Spengler thought civilizations, and little bits of civilizations, had a trajectory. They’re not a ferris wheel. They’re a moonshot. They are born, mature, and wither. The withery generation blames kids these days for what’s going on, but it was always inevitable. Kids only live in the world we make for them.

These people are making music live in front of other people. Those sounds are coming out of Al Green’s mouth. The drummer doesn’t follow a metronome. No one even had an electronic tuner back then. Someone had an A440 tuning fork, struck it, listened to it, tuned their instrument to the tone, and then everyone else painstakingly tuned up to them. They’re all listening to each other and producing the sounds together. This is an artifact of the high summer of pop music made in this manner.

Spengler’s almost completely misunderstood, even by his devotees, and I’m sure I’ll be misunderstood, too, like I always am. He mostly said that the action in important affairs didn’t die, exactly; it moved to other arenas. Music might matter a lot for a while, but then it would go overripe, and everyone important would go and ruin architecture or something else next. I must admit that I haven’t got nearly as much idea where the action is right now, and in many arenas I just don’t give a fig, but I can assure you I have an intimate knowledge of nearly everyplace it isn’t happening.

Nostalgia for bad things makes you a Philistine and a reactionary. Affection for things that used to be better isn’t nostalgia; its the only refuge of a sensible person.

You Might Think This Was The Most Maine Thing Ever

Well, it’s right up there, but I have serious doubts whether this is the most Maine thing ever.

For starters, the plow is shiny. Shiny, people. This plow is obviously new, or stolen. Maine people don’t own anything new, or steal. They rescue all the copper pipe out of your camp house if it’s empty for more than a month, and they borrow grandma’s Oxycontins to use as currency in Bangor until their medical marijuana prescription comes around again, but they don’t steal. If that was a true Maine plow, it would be rusty, and leaking hydraulic fluid all over the road.

I notice that the headlights are working properly. That is also suspicious. He’s straddling the lanes nicely while yammering on the cellphone, and the skin on his porcine arm looks like a sausage casing that’s about to burst, and those are marks in the photo’s favor. It would be slightly more Maine-ish if it was a single mother in a Dodge Neon with an unbelted baby in the back seat, texting while driving 70 on a road last paved in the 1960s to get to a party being held in a single-wide trailer, but the lobster traps do keep this one in the running. Besides, in all the pictures I have of Dodge Neons, the car is upside-down, and they’re not as interesting to look at.

This could very well be Maine, don’t get me wrong. But all the door and body panels on the truck are the same color, which gets my Charlotte’s Web spider sense tingling. That reeks of Rye, New Hampshire, which is like another planet.There’s no way to see if the guy is wearing jorts and shower shoes in the wintertime, which would settle this thing once and for all.

The Strangers: The Upside-Down Beatles

The Strangers were a pop/rock cover band in Melbourne, Australia in the 60s and 70s. They were the house band for a sorta Australian version of a Hullabaloo/American Bandstand/Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert-kinda thing called The Go!! Show, which shows the early predilection for exclamation mark abuse in the teen set, which would metastasize into full-blown emoticon leprosy when the Intertunnel finally showed up.

This version shows a few thing admirably. It’s an excellent cover, overall, but brings nothing new to the proceedings. Back then, access to music was much more limited, and cover bands had to deliver the payload precisely. Just like the record was the grail. You were stand-ins for the bands.

Nowadays, no one wants to call themselves cover bands, though. They’re tribute bands, and they play just like the record, forevermore. The actual bands that played the songs in the first place get old and become cover bands of themselves, playing at state fairs and whatnot, trying to sound like themselves even thought four out of five original members have died by choking on vomit by the time they play at the Waterfront Concert for Balding Hair Metal Bands.

No one knows whose vomit it was. You can’t dust for vomit.

Hank Mobley Comes Up The String

You don’t need your mind blown every minute, do you? Sit in the sun in the kitchen. There’s a round table by the tall windows, and the snow shines like the wing of an airliner when you look out the window. You’re flying high over the back yard. There’s a cap of snow on the birdhouse. The birds have gone to Miami for the winter, missing all the fun of not being cold for a few minutes.

Put on a pot of coffee and listen to Paul Chambers swing a bit. The occasional thunderstorm on the snare. Hank Mobley won’t make you wonder what’s going on, so you can wonder what’s going on in your house, instead. We gave the little one a yo-yo for Christmas. He loves it above all things. A yo-yo. He makes it go up and down, and that’s it. It’s sublime. It goes down the string. It comes up the string as if by magic if you snap your wrist just right.

Hank Mobley makes the morning come up the string.

Merry Christmas To All Our Friends, Everywhere

Peace on Earth, and good will towards men. To me, it’s more than meaningless words appended to the modern equivalent of Have a Nice Day. Many people have shown good will towards me and my family. I send my meager good will back, like a weak backhand return from the baseline from a powerful serve, but one must try or be aced.

When you put your head on your pillow, your mind can swim with work unfinished, or battles lost, or simple regret. Or you can go down the list of kindnesses you’ve had in your life. Guess which one sends you off to sleep faster.

I slept like a baby last night, and never got through the list. I never do.

Death By Oklahoma

A Christmas Carol, Also Known As: You’re My Delta House Lady

Cocker was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the barman, the A&R weasel, Google analytics, and the chief mourner. Rolling Stone signed it: and Rolling Stone’s name was as good as a contract with Alan B. Klein, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Cocker was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade, and Joe had smoked four packs a day of coffin-nails for decades. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Cocker was as dead as a door-nail.

Rolling Stone Magazine knew he was dead? Of course they did. How could it be otherwise? Rolling Stone and he were partners for I don’t know how many years. Rolling Stone was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner. And even Rolling Stone was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that they were excellent men of business on the very day of the funeral, and will solemnise it with an undoubted bargain reprint of a Mad Dogs and Englishman review from 1970 that said that “the album lacks stylistic variety.”

The mention of Cocker’s YouTube funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Cocker was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot—say the Washington Square Arch for instance—literally to astonish his son’s weak mind with his twitching.

Rolling Stone Magazine never painted out Old Cocker’s name. There it stood, years afterwards, no matter how many times Nicki Minaj appeared on the cover, above the warehouse door: Rolling Stone and Cocker. The firm was known as  Rolling Stone and Cocker. Sometimes people new to the business called Rolling Stone Rolling Stone, and sometimes Cocker, but they answered to both names. It was all the same to them.

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Rolling Stone! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster, with a bit of tabasco and horseradish and some Grey Goose from the icebox, natch. The cold within the Rolling Stone office froze their old features, nipped their pointed noses, shrivelled their cheeks, stiffened their gait; made their eyes red, their thin blood even bluer; and spoke out shrewdly in their grating text. A frosty rime was on their masthead, and on their website, and their reviews of Maroon 5. They carried their own low temperature always about with them; they drank Starbucks iced coffee in their office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Festivus or Kwanzaa.

External heat and cold had little influence on Rolling Stone Magazine. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill them. No wind that blew was bitterer than Matt Taibbi, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have them. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over them in only one respect. They often “came down” handsomely, and Rolling Stone never did.

Nobody ever stopped them in the street to say, with gladsome looks, “My dear Rolling Stone, how are you? When will you come to see my indie band?” No beggars implored them to bestow a trifle, no children asked them what the Arctic Monkeys were up to, no man or woman ever once in all their  life inquired of them the way to anywhere outside of Manhattan, of Rolling Stone. Even the blind men’s service dogs appeared to know them; and when they saw them coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and into the lobby of a Chemical Bank; and then would wag their tails as though they said, “No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!”

But what did Rolling Stone care! It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, at least kept the phone from ringing and interrupting his brown studies. It was the reason why everyone ended up with forty subscriptions to Vibe.

Once upon a time—of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve—old Rolling Stone sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: global warming cold: and he could hear the people in the court outside, go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to protest something or other. The city clocks had only just gone three, so the sanitation workers were already home in bed, but it was quite dark already—it had not been light all day—and wan CFLs were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink and revolving door, and was so dense without, that although the Avenue of the Americas was of the narrowest, the counting houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that New Jersey was hard by, and their tawdry middle-class weather was thinking of moving to a rent-controlled loft their cousin had in the Bronx.

The door of Rolling Stone’s counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerks, who in dismal little cells beyond, a sort of tank, were inventing rapes. Rolling Stone himself had a very small screen with little information, but the clerks’ screens were so very much smaller that they looked like one pixel. But they couldn’t replenish them, for Rolling Stone kept the fact box in his own room; and so surely if any clerk came in with a thumb drive, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on her Rag & Bone $350 Trucker Shirt, her $495 Cannon Jacket, and her $1,195 Coldweather Parka, and tried to warm herself at the fluorescent light; in which effort, even being a woman of a very, very, very powerful imagination, or none at all, depending on how you look at it, she failed.

“Joe Cocker is dead, Rolling Stone! Gaia save you!” cried a voice that turned every sentence into a question by going up an octave on the last syllable. It was the voice of Rolling Stone’s amanuensis, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of her approach.

“Bah!” said Rolling Stone, “I always liked John Sebastian’s version of Darling Be Home Soon better anyway!” 


Damocles Had Nothing To Do With It. It Was Cassandra All The Way For Sippican

daughter of the king and queen, in the temple of Apollo, exhausted from
practising, is said to have fallen asleep; whom, when Apollo wished to
embrace her, she did not afford the opportunity of her body. On account
of which thing, when she prophesied true things, she was not believed.

THE GAS TANK OF DAMOCLES (first offered in 2012) 

Let me wax philosophical about my wife’s gas tank.

We drive old vehicles. I don’t like driving old vehicles. The reliability of your transportation is paramount. Old cars break down. Buying a new car is a form of insurance against risk. But real insurance against risk is unavailable, or illegal, for such as us, with one exception — personal avoidance of risk at all costs.

My wife saw a piece of metal hanging below the car that looked as out of place as an honest man in Congress. One of the two straps that held the gas tank from dragging on the road had rusted clean through and broken. The other strap looked as reliable as cell phone service in a tunnel. Something must be done, and immediately.

My family never goes anywhere much now. We cannot hope to weather much bad luck with our own meager resources, and we cannot rely on others, so we keep our heads down. We were lucky that we discovered the problem in our driveway, instead of on the highway. You might think us daft for being grateful for a broken gas tank strap in our driveway, but we were. We were doubly grateful that it wasn’t February, as well. So we offered our hosannahs. Now what to do?

In a fiscal landscape that made any sense, I’d pay a mechanic to repair the car. There’s a fellow down the street –walking distance, what a luxury for us —and he’s honest and could use the money. He’s my neighbor. But I poked around and found out that the repair would cost maybe $750 at a dealer. The mechanic down the street might only command half that, but it’s still too much. I’d have to fix it myself.

I do not enjoy fixing my car. I’ve done it, back when I was young and Gerry Ford and Jimmy Carter were desolating the landscape, but I have no natural ability or affinity for it. But I went to Amazon, and found the correct parts, and ordered them, and crawled under the car and fixed it. My older son is old enough to help now, thank goodness. I am somewhat infirm in certain ways, and to lay vaguely upside-down under a car yanking on rusty bolts nearly overcame me. But after two days of effort interspersed with trips to the fainting couch, we had replaced the parts. The repair will outlast the car.

I did not earn money by fixing my own car, of course –just the opposite. The mechanic did not earn money. The people who rely on the mechanic to earn money will not earn money, and so forth. Ultimately, through a process which must be deduced, because it cannot be observed, this lack of commerce will ultimately filter its way through the entire economy to the point where someone will not buy what I make because I didn’t hire the mechanic. It’s the circle of life, except it’s the circle of the death of commerce.

I am barraged daily with references to Helicopter Ben running the Treasury printing presses day and night, and thereby causing inflation. It’s an insane idea. When the velocity of money sniffs zero, there is no inflation. The Fed makes money and gives it to the government, who lends it to itself, and none of it ever makes it into the wild where a car mechanic and his downstream brethren might get ahold of it. For productive people in today’s American economy, the money might as well not exist. The bill for it will exist plenty in the future, of course. But when the velocity of money is zero, the future must be entirely discounted. It’s a meaningless concept, like watching an unplugged clock.

The term velocity referring to the passage of money through the alimentary canal of commerce is very descriptive, and apt to my circumstances. The economy is in exactly the same shape as my wife’s gas tank — filled
with fuel which only makes it sag on its rusty underpinnings further,
making it more difficult to fix, and dangerous to be underneath, but you
must bang around under there anyway because there’s no other choice. 
Nervous Nellies endlessly warn me that if it was all released at once, it would explode, but that eventuality is remote compared to going hungry because we can’t drive to the supermarket until it’s fixed. Above all, the fuel isn’t taking you anywhere because the whole apparatus is busted, and the process to fix it is busted, and if you want it fixed you better do it yourself because nobody outside a building with a seal on it has any money.

It’s hard to work under the gas tank of Damocles.

My Interview in Hovels and Shovels Magazine

Knowing that my regular readers are curious about my current circumstances, and probably eager to finally get a glimpse of ol’ Sippican, it occurred to me to save time for everyone by reprinting a copy of my recent interview in Hovels and Shovels magazine. The publisher has graciously agreed to let me reprint it here by not returning my emails, texts, phone calls, and one registered letter; and by turning off the lights when he saw me pull into his dooryard last night.

A subscription to Hovels and Shovels comes free with every fill-up at the West Paris McDonald’s recycled grease tractor-fuel depot, or you can find it at news stands everywhere in the New Sweden area. Besides this stunning 3 x 5 glossy print of me relaxing between tantric stump grinding sessions, there’s a centerfold picture of June Lockhart in her Reynold’s Wrap jumpsuit from Lost In Space in there, too. Hubba hubba. Enjoy:

Catching Up With Sippican: The Man, The Myth, The Man

By: Edna St. Vincent Malaise
Photos by: Paco Manraybanne 


Hovels and Shovels: Thanks for taking time out from your grueling schedule to speak with us. We’re curious. Why the compression bandage on your right knee?
Sippican: It’s an old candlepin bowling injury. It acts up on me when I genuflect. It also signals the coming of winter and

tax bills. 
H&S: Taxes and winter. Are those two things related somehow?
Sippican: Well, the tax bills last all year. Winter is only eleven months long, so I don’t see the connection. 
H&S: I see. On to another topic, your neighbors say you’re a very spiritual man. 
Sippican: It’s a damn lie. I drink as much Allen’s Coffee Brandy as the next fellow, but I haven’t been up in front of a judge in almost a fortnight. 
H&S: I see. Do you have a favorite Allen’s Coffee Brandy cocktail?
Sippican: Well, there’s the Lewiston Martini. That’s coffee brandy and milk. I’m partial to the Burnt Trailer, myself. 
H&S: What’s that?
Sippican: Coffee brandy and Moxie. 
H&S: What’s it taste like?
Sippican: I don’t know. No one can ever remember. I imagine it tastes like a Welfare Mom. 
H&S: What’s that?
Sippican: Coffee brandy and Diet Moxie. 
H&S: Let’s move on. 
Sippican: Last time I was told to move on, I ended up in Maine.
H&S: Change the subject, I mean.
Sippican: You’re the doctor. 
H&S: It’s currently four below zero. You’re wearing shorts.
Sippican: Yes, but not to worry; they’re lined. 
H&S: With what?
Sippican: Me.
H&S: Is that an LL Bean hammock?
Sippican: Never heard of him.
H&S: You never heard of LL Bean?
Sippican: I don’t care for your tone, young lady. Ask him if he’s heard of me. If he says yes, you can call me a liar, but not before.
H&S: Are those tribal tattoos?
Sippican: I get that question a lot, especially when I’m being frisked. No, my mom used to buy all my clothes at Marden’s, and I accidentally put on one of my shirts when it was still a little wet. It’s been fourteen years, but it’s starting to fade a bit, I think.
H&S: That’s an interesting book you’re reading. Translating the Word of God
Sippican: Well, I used to guest-post on God’s blog, and I wanted to make sure this Beekman fellow didn’t take any liberties.
H&S: God has a blog?
Sippican: Yeah, but it’s on Weebly, so pretty much no one reads it.
H&S: What’s on God’s blog?
Sippican: Recipes, mostly. 
H&S: Thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to talk to us. 
Sippican: You got any jumper cables?      


Month: December 2014

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