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Fold, Spindle, and Mutilate Everything

Being in a cover band is tough.

Wait a minute, I’m not sure they call them cover bands anymore. Fine people are still out there playing other people’s music for fine audiences, I’m sure of that. My own children do that. But the industry has shifted quite a bit to semi-impersonations. Tribute bands are thick on the ground at the state fairs and so forth where my kids have performed. They get paid more than cover bands, and hold the top slots. The last time my kids played at the Fryeburg Fair, the headline act at night, the big show, was a Billy Joel tribute band. I think Elvis impersonators began this trend, but it’s metastasized all over the musical map now.

I’m not sure I’d cross the street to hear Billy Joel, never mind a Billy Joel tribute band. But regler folks want to hear familiar, popular songs performed just like the originals, and tribute bands fit the bill. It’s like the menu at McDonald’s. It never disappoints the customer. It’s a disappointing substitute for food, don’t get me wrong, but the customer knows exactly what they’re going to get, and how much it’s going to cost, and how long it’s going to take to get it served, before they even pull into the parking lot. McDonald’s is a 50’s drive-in tribute restaurant, I guess.

Man, I like bands like the aptly named Cleverlys. They fold, spindle, and mutilate songs, and make them fresh and funny and interesting. I’d have said interesting again, but I’m not sure they were all that interesting in the first place. Just popular. Anyway, performers have to give the audience a compelling reason to look at them. You can manage it by being great musicians, or being lively, or being good-looking, or being funny. Luckily for the Cleverlys, three out of four of those things is more than enough.

All He Needs Now Is a Manifesto

A fine effort. I gave it a solid 6 out of 10 on the Dick Proenneke scale of bushcraft. Then I discovered he’d disabled embedding on websites other than YouTube, so I knocked it back to a 5. The insulated, “captured” floor is the shizzle. I love the auger holes and the wooden pegs. The whole thing is a nice, quiet job. He knows enough to come in out of the rain, too, which is not usually a distinguishing mark of the outdoorsy breed. The door hinges are pretty slick, too. Even Proenneke waterproofed his moss roof with a layer of plastic film, so we’re not going to fault him for that. And his foldable rocket stove is fantastic.

Of course, if I received a package from a guy like this, I’d put it in a bucket of water before I opened it. Just sayin’.

Too Much Time On Your Hands

If you’ve got too much time on your hands, you could try to see everything at the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany. That’s just looking at it. Building it involves too much time on many, many hands.

Model trains used to be a fairly common hobby. I’ve been in lots of basements with sheets of plywood on sawhorses with trains not currently running around them. They were artifacts of earlier times. Great-grandpa’s trainarama. Grandpa’s train obsession. Mom’s abandoned trainyard after she threw dad out for spending the sugar bowl money on HO scale houses instead of a new roof on the actual house.

Human beings dabble, that’s for sure. Otherwise there wouldn’t be an exercise bike being used as a clothes horse in every bedroom in America. But some people, weird and wonderful, take things all the way to the end of the line. So to speak.

Oh Boy. Indeed

I’m in my default mode here. I’m late to the party, I have no idea what’s going on, but I approve. I guess. Sure, why not?

That’s Peps Persson. If you wiki him, you’re in for a treat, except that he’s dead. He’s apparently in the Swedish Music Hall of Fame. I’d mock the Swedish Music Hall of Fame, which has the notation “page does not exist,” but I’m not even in the Swedish Hall of Fame. That means Pers is one up on me, no matter how you count it. I love Peps “vibe.” He looks like he just rolled out of the back of a VW microbus to give you the peace sign and bum a few cigarettes. I’ll bet he had a “Röv, Gräs eller Kontanter” bumper sticker, too. Groovy, man.

Peps didn’t always play Malmo riddims, mahn. He started out in the seventies playing in a band called Blues Quality (page does not exist), or Pop Penders (page does not exist), or Peps Bloodsband (page does not exist), depending on who you ask online, performing what sounds to my ear like the love child of Muddy Waters and The Swedish Chef:

We need to mambo right past the fact that we’re listening to Swedish reggae. There’s no commentary I could offer that could do that concept justice. I wouldn’t mock Jamaicans for banging out toccatas by Dieterich Buxtehude,  so let’s call it even.

The world is a fabulous place filled with all sorts of weird and wonderful people and things, and they don’t even charge admission, just slap your bottom to get your motor started.

Quick, Hide the Hide Glue. Sippican Is Coming

Man, I love hard work. I could watch it all day.

I’ve actually been to Firenze, many years back. We wandered all over the place, and met all sorts of people, including long-lost relatives who were likely happy to remain lost, and are probably still counting their spoons. The museums are ridiculous. There are finer objets displayed in the lobby of the restroom than in any museum in America. There was no room for it in the regular parts of the museum, jammed with Michelangelos and DaVincis and Titians and that gang.

There are a lot of craftsmen in Florence, of many different kinds. There’s a whole neighborhood filled with guys making stone inlay tables that cost more than space shuttles. Mark Twain extolled their wonders in The Innocents Abroad, the funniest book I ever read. You should get a copy of that book before they bowdlerize it. I assume it’s no longer allowed to call Italians fumigating, macaroni-stuffing organ grinders, so I assume they’ll “fix” it, and the covers of the book will be very close together indeed.

I learned to speak Italian passably well before I went. I listened to Pimsleur tapes while driving, and at the time, I’m sure I looked crazy to other drivers, yelling Italian in an empty car. Of course everyone talks endlessly in empty cars now, worshipping at the temple of the God of Apple, and looking just about as crazy, but you don’t notice it so much.

Speaking the local lingo made lots of bonus points with the denizens of Florence. They’d treat the average tourist as a cash machine, but if you at least parloed with them haltingly they’d treat you like a friend. I met a group of woodworkers, in a barroom, of course, and they wanted to know how we did it in America, so they picked my brain, and I pestered them in return. I managed to tell a joke in Italian, a prodigious effort I can tell you, and everyone laughed, and they damn near adopted me. They all had next to no machinery or tools of any kind, and every man-jack of them was a better woodworker than anyone I’ve ever known. For shiggles they used to make gigantic wooden bolts and nuts. The nuts turned on the threads like they were steel, and made in a factory. They made them with hand tools. If you locked me in a prison cell with a baulk of wood and their tools, and told me I would be released when I managed to make one half as good as theirs, I would immediately make a wooden knife and slash my wrists, to save time.

So I visited (translation: drank grappa) with guys who made picture frames worthy of anything in the Uffizi, and leather goods, and gold jewelry, and every other thing under the sun that no one seems to know how to make anymore outside a factory.

I missed the whole luthier scene though. Maybe they were on the wagon.

Straight From the Roadhouse

Kid Bangham and some iteration of the Fabulous Thunderbirds. Great stuff. Kramer clothes and architectural hairstyle. A short vacation for the singer. Gibsons need not apply.

Nothing New Under The Sun

Holy cow this film is something like 100 years old. Was Edison cranking the handle? I kept expecting Charlie Chaplin to appear.

It starts out with the usual lament. We’re running out of coal, of all things. The only endangered species on display isn’t coal, it’s a man willing to do more than watch football on TV in his basement, and a two-parent family next door. But let’s not quibble. The denizens of ye olde draftopolis are interrogating the cloud people on how they were able to keep ice from forming on the goldfish bowl. The answer, which is not directly mentioned in the video, was asbestos. They covered everything in asbestos.

I’m not an environmentalist, I guess. The word itself contains the word “mentalist.” Now, I can predict the future (it will be worse), but I’m not really a mentalist, or an environmentalist. Environmentalists commute to work on recumbent bicycles and paddle plastic kayaks on the weekends. I commute to work in my socks and have a boat I built entirely from wood in my basement. It’s never been launched.

I simply don’t like wasting things. They don’t have a name for that anymore. I’ve saved more stuff than any ten environmentalists. I’m wary of wonder cures for everyday problems. It’s how you end up with everything in your house, including most of the house itself, made from plastic. It’s how paint and gasoline ended up with copious doses of lead in them. Hell, they used to put mercury into paint to kill spiders who might walk over it.

The video is labeled “Energy conservation in the Home in the 1920s,” but in today’s parlance, conservation just means rationing. This is different. These people are trying to get more bang for the same buck. They didn’t like wasting things, either, or wearing their winter coats to bed in January.

So they insulated the jacket of the furnace, and all the pipes, with asbestos. They got more heat in the right parts of their house for the same amount of money, and the installers all got mesothelioma at no extra charge.

One wonders if in 100 years, an ill-informed internet so-and-so will post a video of the benighted 2020s, and wonder why everyone thought coal was evil, but lithium, cadmium, and a healthy dose of cobalt was peachy.

How To Make Friends by Telephone

Well, no one currently knows how to make friends in any setting, public or private, so I guess this pamphlet from the 1940s might be useful again. Or not.

I just sort of scratch my head about how people communicate nowadays. The average American is basically terrified of the telephone. They’ll send pictures of their private parts to people they haven’t met, but answering a ringing phone and talking to a stranger is beyond them. Anybody younger than a Rubik’s cube figures texting is the only way to communicate with other people. See: They Call Me Captain Kirk for an old exposition on the text-mess recipe. But honestly, they’re not very good at texting, either. If they could make themselves understood by typing little messages on a baby corn keyboard, they wouldn’t need emojis, would they?

This booklet from the 1940s is actually quite useful, no matter what the twitterati might say about it. I went looking around to see if there was someone I could credit for digging it up, but all I found were Gen Xers and younger mocking it. They wondered how dumb people had to be to need instructions on how to talk properly on the phone. It escaped every one of them that they are entirely incapable of doing it themselves. I know they can’t talk properly on the phone, without ever talking to them, because I haven’t spoken to anyone who knows how to make themselves understood on the phone for decades. They might be the exception, but I am beset by doubts.

I’m hardly a luddite in this regard. I understand the need for call screening, etc., in the age of robocalls. I don’t answer my phone much, or carry it around, because I don’t want to, not because I can’t. That’s not what I’m talking about. I know how to talk properly on the phone, coming and going, including (especially) in a business setting. I have a business phone number, all digital, that transcribes every voicemail and texts or emails it to me. It’s hilarious to read what people, who talk on the phone for a living, mind you, sound like when transcribed. I received several voicemails from someone at Microsoft about a Bing Ads account I ran for a client of mine. Every time, the transcription read, “This is (so and so), I’m calling about your big ass.” Every time.

It’s also instructive that everyone online mistakes this pamphlet for literally “making friends” using the phone, like some kind of primitive Tinder app. The pamphlet is obviously a training method for receiving and placing calls to businesses. It’s a series of excellent tips on making yourself understood on the phone, and projecting a friendly demeanor in return to someone who has no visual cues to rely on to assess what you’re saying, and how you’re  saying it. It puts me in mind of lots of useful informational videos. Things like Coronet films. They have titles like How To Improve Your Personality, How To Be Well Groomed, Dating Do’s and Don’ts, What Is Money? and Everyday Courtesy. Coronet films were made for our parent’s generation, but we’d occasionally get a look at one when my high school teachers were really hung over and wanted to dim the lights and sleep a little.

These are universally mocked by everyone on the internet, but I’ve been to Walmart, and believe me, no one has any personality, no one is groomed at all, never mind well-groomed, and everyday courtesy is scarcer than something to eat at a vegan barbecue. And as far as “What is Money?”, it was appropriate for my parent’s generation because they were poor and they’d never seen money. Walmart shoppers seem to have plenty, comparatively. They just don’t spend any of it on soap or combs or pants without elastic waistbands.

[Hey, Hank christened my new KoFi Buy Me a Coffee tip jar! Many thanks!]

Blast From the Past

Every video ever made is a requiem mass. You just don’t know it at the time.

Through a Glass, Darkly

I’ve been around the blues block back in the day. I can play at least three of the instruments shown, badly. I know how to carry the ones I can’t play, too. I sang worsely while I played badly. Everything in this video is familiar, but not exactly. I feel like I’m looking at a photocopy sent through the copier over and over.

That’s not a criticism. We all cobble together some form of today out of the bits and pieces of yesterday that catch our eye. The only truly original people in this world are schizophrenics. The rest of us make do with the world as it is, and was. I’m interested in this video because it’s an example of what some young people are finding interesting in the flotsam and jetsam of R&B and blues. I’m modestly intrigued to survey the instruments and amplifiers to see what has snagged their wallets at the music store. For instance, kids are playing Telecasters again, after a long love affair with Stratocasters. My sons played out the other day, and the Heir showed up with a Telecaster for some reason. Synchronicity, I guess. Speaking of synchronicity, Wilhelm Reich lived right down the street from us in Rangeley, Maine, after all.

Wait a minute, my bad. Synchronicity was Dr. Carl Jung and Dr. Gordon Sumner. Wilhelm Reich was the guy who put people, naked, into a sheet-metal-lined box with a tiny window, and told them to stay in there until whatever was troubling them, from being neurotic to having cancer, went away. They were supposed to be cured by their own energy, in a form he called orgone. Hmm, that sounds a lot like a typical music studio. Cramped, mostly windowless, with long stretches of boredom between bouts of inspiration.

So Eddie 9V locks himself in a box with his friends, and cures himself with his own energy. He picks up hints from musicians long gone, but not forgotten. He gets his dress sense from a blow to the head, I guess, or watching any number of movies about the seventies. He’s like a magpie, taking a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, and trying to make a nest of music and image for himself to sit in. It’s not bad, is it?

And I ain’t going to lie. If the blonde backup singer sits naked in the orgone accumulator, I’m going to look through the little window, whether I’m wearing a lab coat or not.

[Many thanks to my interfriend Mark M. for sending that one along]

Month: June 2023

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