Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Some things change; some things stay the same. However, I can assure you that the woman behind the counter at the Walmart in Mexico Maine selling frozen turkeys didn't look at all like the picture.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Wishes, Nine Years On

[Editor's Note: I first offered this sentiment nine years ago. Since then, I've lost everything, several times over, except for my family, so I have lost nothing. We will have Thanksgiving today, and mean it. You should, too] 
There are lots of news stories available -- the majority of them, I think -- expounding on the horrors of Thanksgiving. "Send us your dysfunctional family Thanksgiving disaster stories" is the lede on every radio program I can find, at least those that haven't jumped the gun entirely and started with, "Tell us your Christmas horror stories."

I'm not having it. Thanksgiving is lovely. Or it should be.

Thanksgiving doesn't beat around the bush. Right in the name it tells you it's a day to be grateful. Complaining about it seems to me to be like going to the art museum and complaining that the paintings are obscuring your view of the walls.

Hmm. Perhaps that's a bad simile. I've been to many museums where the dropcloth daubs they hang on the walls aren't as interesting as the off-white paint, now that I consider it. So please insert Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy in the preceding paragraph where art museum appears. Thanks.

Anyway, it's not about you. For one day, at least, I don't want to hear about your crabby attitude towards your assembled family and your overcooked turkey. I don't want to hear about the lousy TV you've got to watch the football game on. I don't care if you don't like the floats that drift by Macy's like garish barrage balloons. Put a sock in it. It's not about you.

It's not about any of us. It's about remembering that everything we have is a gift, and we could lose it, and we should take time out from our lives for one day a year and acknowledge that.

Have you ever been in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving? I hate the preening socialites and politicians that visit there on Thanksgiving to get face time on TV. I think much more kindly about the people that feed those poor souls on November 22nd and November 24th, when the cameras aren't interested.

There's a look on a person's face, when someone gives them something they need that they might not have otherwise. It's the look on the face of the man in line at the soup kitchen. It's gratitude.

I'm going to give it a try tomorrow, that look. It looks like Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

I'm Out of the Fruit Loop

My life is endlessly interesting. There's a Chinese proverb, "May you live in interesting times." It's meant as a curse, of course, but I have to take my pleasures as I find them. My life hasn't been boring for so long I forget what boring looks like. Three square meals a day and central heating is what I imagine it looks like, but how would I know?

My older son is off visiting a friend for a few days. My younger son, who is 12, likes to sleep in his room when the large son is away. The room is ten feet away from his own room, but a big brother's room has special magical powers that make it magical and special and tautological. He also likes using big brother's computer. It's a special treat that also makes no sense. His older brother's computer is at least a decade old and runs Vista. The computer in his own room is newer and faster, and at least has Windows 7, but the magic beans extend to his brother's computer, not just the room itself.

Before school and after school we pretty much let the little feller do what he wants. He spends most of his time monkeying around with various computer programming tasks. He's learned a scripting language in order to produce new versions of Doom rooms, likes working on it a lot, and has basically abandoned Minecraft over it. Kid stuff.

Doom is an old "First Person Shooter" that invented a lot of what is take for granted nowadays in computer games. The computer language that runs it looks vaguely like Javascript to my eye. He knows at least a smattering of Javascript, HTML, and several other programming languages. He uses Khan Academy to learn what he wants, and he has a big pile of programming books that a friend of ours gave to him in a fit of generosity.

I looked over his shoulder this morning as he was writing code. He looks really funny in the morning. His hair is going this way and that from his nightly battle with the Laocoon of his pillows. He still has sleep seeds in his eyes, but he can't wait to get at the computer.

On the screen was the usual text editor window used to code Doom levels. Inside the text editor was something that looked entirely like hieroglyphs to my eye. It was like four hundred Led Zeppelin IV album covers strung together. Line after line of something way past gibberish, because regular computer scripts look like gibberish anyway. This looked like a telegram from Alpha Centauri. What the hell are you doing, son?

I'm writing Doom scripts in WingDings, Dad. Duh.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Oh Noes! It's Gypsy Jazz

That's Rocky Gresset and Noe Reinhardt playing Them There Eyes.

I really feel compelled to correct the grammar in that song. Not sure why. Old habits die hard, I guess. Those there eyes? No, that won't get it done. Those eyes there? That's better, but not quite the knees of the bees, I think.

When in doubt, spray in commas like an Arab, I always say. Even if they're used incorrectly, they give the reader a pleasant place to stop and rest awhile. They're like a bench in a park. Here goes: Those eyes, there.

Hmm. That's grammatically correct, but the meaning has changed somehow. It's possible that it might be preferable to use a semicolon instead of a comma, but I'm fairly certain that semicolons aren't allowed on the Intertunnel anymore. I'd put an exclamation point after: there, but exclamation points are just used instead of periods now, so it wouldn't have the proper declamatory effect.

All I really need to do is need to sneak up on: Those eyes that that girl is in possession of. Oh, dear. Anytime I see "that that" abroad in the land of a sentence I just wrote, I have visions of a nun and the sound of a ruler dopplering towards my knuckles. Also, the song is all bollixed up and wishes to intimate that the beauty is in the eye of the beheld, which can lead to a dangerous feedback loop now that selfies are en vogue. I also feel as though I should specify the gender of the beauty of the beheld of the eye. I'm a guy person, and rarely notice the eyes of another guy unless I'm poking them in a bar brawl, so I'll go with a girlie eye from here on out. 

"That girl is pleasantly ocularly equipped." That mellifluous combo works well enough, but the spellchecker is freaking out over "ocularly." There it goes again. You'd think that after you wrote it once, it would leave you alone after that, but it keeps on telling me that ocularly isn't a word. It's weird knowing more words than the spellchecker and Maceo Pinkard, Doris Tauber and William Tracey.

I think I have it now: "I'm fairly certain that neither of that woman's eyes are made of glass, or both are." Perfection. Someone's going to have to get busy on the chord structure, though. It doesn't seem to fit anymore. I had a hunch something was wrong with that, too.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Three Old Men Having Fun

Back towards the tail end of my stint as a working musician, my friends and I had a name for our band, strictly for internal use: Four Old Men Having Fun. I was in my early forties at the time. We understood that what we were doing was ultimately a young person's game, even though we were still doing it. Unlike many of our contemporaries, we didn't have any ego problem that would interfere with acknowledging the growing absurdity of it. It seemed plenty absurd to me before we got old, so for me the transition was seamless.

Music wasn't our real profession, though. Don't get me wrong. We performed a lot and got checks with more than one zero on them. That was the whole point of it. We had regular occupations and played music at night and on the weekends to make some extra money. When we were younger we met lots of pretty girls and when we got older we used the money we earned to buy formula for the babies we had with the girls. 

I have no complaints. I simply stopped doing it. It was easy for me to stop because I was stopping being what I wasn't.  It's not so easy for people who are musicians whether the sun's up or not. They are what they is, as they say. They don't want to stop being musicians because then they stop being people. A few prominent people in the arts, who don't want to keep slugging it out in a fickle industry, open wineries or some such enterprise when they want to live my life in reverse, but most are still trying to sing Hope I Die Before I Get Old right up until they're screwing down the lid.

I find that most of the interesting songwriters in pop music are basically scholars. Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, and people like Donald Fagen are bookworms for music. They perform their own stuff, but they would probably be just as happy if they were like Jimmy Webb or Rogers and Hammerstein or a million other guys that sat in a walkup office with a piano and a pile of foolscap and wrote music all day. I'm pretty sure that Fagen and Becker actually tried their hand at being Brill Building-type drones before the music business decided that it was simply cheaper and easier to have all the bands write their own stuff. Man, the Beatles ruined everything.

I found it amusing to watch the Three Old Men Having Fun resurrecting the Isley Brothers Who's That Lady. Pop music doesn't cure cancer or anything, but you can always find interesting things in it if you look around. Donald Fagen isn't about to seine the Seventies looking for material and come up with The Candy Man. He has better taste than that. Who's That Lady was a great piece of pop when it first came out. It's been mostly overlooked in the recycled music industry, so it was both a surprise and familiar for the audience of geezers. That's the secret to good covers.

I found all sorts of things interesting in that video: Bog Gas is performing with the wreckage of Steely Dan now? Fascinating. After all these years, Michael McDonald still doesn't know the difference between a cardioid and an omnidirectional microphone? He pulls his head away from the microphone too abruptly at the end of phrases. In about ten more years, are you going to be able to tell the difference between Donald Fagen and Stephen Hawking without nametags? I used to think the Gibson SG was the worst guitar ever made, but now that I've seen Jon Herrington play one, is it possible that it's worse than the worst guitar ever made? It makes him play badly, at least for him.

I'm moderately surprised that was a performance at the Metropolitan Opera. It's not that goofy an idea, I suppose. Mean Joe Greene (Giuseppe Verdi) was a pop artist, and opera was the equivalent of the top forty on AM radio back in the day. Sometimes only the passage of time gives things cultural weight. But man, if you asked me in 1974 if the Isleys would be covered in the Metropolitan Opera House by Bog Gas and Steely Dan, I would have said that's impossible. And tried to buy tickets.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Top Ten Adviceses for Aspirating Writerers

Before I begin with the advices, I'm required to pull rank somehow. Lay out my bona fidos. In order to tempt you to take writing advice from me, I have to lure you into thinking that I've managed to produce some form of folding money by writing. That's the Holy Grail, and I have to convince you I've had a swig from it before you'll listen to me. Here goes: I'm such a good writer that I have intermittently been able to cover the monthly fee for keeping a bank account open to accept the money I've earned by writing. I know, huh? How awesome is that?

I don't mean to brag, but I have adjectives I haven't even used yet. I can swear more convincingly than Edna St. Vincent Millay and write dialog better than any you'll find in the Encyclopedia Britannica. I can make grown men weep and women violent. I have the touch, and I'm here to give you the benefit of my touching.

I started out fairly wretched, so it was easier for me to become an inkstained wretch than most people. I wrote a book that had pages with printing on both sides and two covers that were too far apart. I sold several copies of that book to drunk persons who found themselves on Amazon at 4 AM (it's my target demographic). That doesn't mean you'll necessarily have that kind of luck. Those people might have sobered up by now. I advise you to start off slowly and confine yourself to writing for the Internets. But whatever you decide, make sure you confine yourself, or someone else will.

 Here's my Top Ten Adviceses for Aspirating Writerers:
  1. Make sure all the guidance you seek out on any topic is from a deciled list. Never read anything with even a hint of paragraphs about it. Numbered pages are right out. Don't waste your time with any wild-eyed iconoclasts while you're poking around the Intertunnel looking for your lists. Remember that nothing important ever consists of nine or eleven items. Ten items is your guarantee of quality. 
  2. Use words like "deciled" in your writing. It wasn't a word until I made it a word in the previous entry on this list. Sprinkle in words like that, and pretty soon your blog or website or honeypot or whatever will be search engine optimized to be Numero Uno, baby, whenever anyone uses Google to look for words that don't exist. Just watch the money roll in from that.
  3. Only express strong opinions about who shot first or the dress some talentless skank was wearing at the Oscars. All other opinions will be met with an endless cavalcade of death threats on Twitter and bad reviews on Yelp! -- whether or not you own a business. Yelpers will found a company under your name, rent a strip mall storefront, and then fill it with employees just so they can give you bad reviews if you express certain opinions that are beyond the pale. Never mention that Windows 10 works just fine, for instance. 
  4. Make sure you tell everyone how passionate you are about writing. Let's say you're applying for a job offered by a Bangladeshi spammer on People per Hour to fill out an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the comments he's leaving on abandoned blogs for generic Nair for back hair. It's really important for you to assure him how passionate you are about that type of work. The job pays almost as well as delivering gluten-free pizza using Uber cab service, so you're going to have to show some serious passion if you want to beat out Mikayla, Michaela, Makaila, Makhailla, and Premjit for the job.
  5. You need a headshot photo. Make sure it's taken of you, by you, at arm's length. Employers have learned to trust only people who appear to be furtively looking up at the surveillance camera in a convenience store while pursing their lips into a kind of smirk. It gives off a vibe that screams: passion.
  6. Sometimes passion alone isn't enough to get that Kenyan to award you that erotic fiction e-book gig. That's when you need to haul out the big guns, and assure them that you have a real "flare" for writing to amplify all that passion.
  7. You're going to have to know all about how sexy a werewolf is. You can't limit your ability to textually sexify werewolves solely to the terrestrial kind, either. Bone up on sexy interstellar  werewolves along with the domestic breeds. It never hurts to have a minor in Sexy Vampirism to go with your B.A. in Libidinous Lycanthropy. 
  8. Don't make the mistake of offering content that's too challenging for the average college-educated person to understand. I mean, does that GIF really need to be animated? Can't it just be a GIF? 
  9. Use mnemonic devices to organize your daily efforts. For instance, I keep a little framed sign on my desk that says: K.I.S.S.. It's an acronym that reminds me that if I don't write something and sell it soon, I might be Killed Indiscriminately by the ShutzStaffel. I think that's what it stands for. I got it from the tail end of a deciled list and can only remember the first three items. Number 4 was an animated GIF, and I got confounded. 
  10. Under no circumstances get a real job and leave writing to people who are good at it. Get a real job and then use the office computer to write badly and show those starving writers they're starving for a reason. 
Well, there you have it. You're now ready to enter the lucrative world of Intertunnel writing. If you're wondering if my advice is any better than the other 40,995,651 websites offering writing advice, I urge you to search on Google for "Top Ten Adviceses for Aspirating Writerers." I assure you I'll be the very first entry on the search results. That's how the quality of everything on the Intertunnel is determined.