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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Z 105.5 Junior Battle of the Bands, and Other Diversions


Well, our boys, AKA Unorganized Hancock, were on Z 105.5 in Auburn, Maine this morning. It was a stone groove. The show is called The Breakfast Club. The very genial host is Matty B, and the very able producer of the show, who is also the Station Manager, is Bonnie McHugh. Here they are wearing their official Unorganized Hancock glasses. I do not know if Matty and Bonnie are the two most pleasant people in Maine, but after today, that's the way I'd bet.

You can listen to the whole interview by clicking this sentence that tells you to click the sentence by clicking this sentence. 

If you didn't take me up on the offer to click that last sentence in order to click the sentence, you should be aware that Unorganized Hancock debuted their new original song on Matty's show this morning, so you should go back and listen to it before I have to get mean, and threaten you with additional hyperlinked sentences. It's called Go, Go, Go (Don't You Know), and it's the greatest thing since Sinatra caught a cold. I'd click that sentence that tells you to click that sentence, if I were you.

Unorganized Hancock is performing at the Lewiston Colisee this Saturday. If that sounds familiar, it should. It's the arena where the most famous picture in the history of sports was taken:
I find it amazing that the kids will be playing in that very spot, more or less. It just seems like Mount Olympus or something, not a real place that will let me inside it. When my older son was very young, he had a similar drive-by with greatness. He performed in Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts. That's the same stage where Charles Dickens read from his books to a rapt audience. Mechanics used to read Dickens, and make things. That's a phantom one-two punch in today's world.

Back to the Lewiston Colisee. The boys are in a Junior Battle of the Bands, being held by the local hockey team, the Lewiston-Auburn Fighting Spirit. They are a Junior hockey team, which I gather is for men between the ages of 18 and 20. There are four contestants in the Battle of the Bands, and they each composed a fight song for the Fighting Spirit hockey team. The winner of the contest will receive a $500 prize from Central Maine Orthopaedics, and their song will be recorded in a studio. Then they'll perform the song live at opening night of the hockey season, and the recording of the song will be played at every Fighting Spirit home game. That would be some form of wonderful for my boys, and I hope they win.

The hockey team currently uses Dropkick Murphys "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" as their opening song, which if I recall correctly, involves accordions, plus additional noises that aren't accordions. If you're unfamiliar with accordions, they are a piano that has contracted emphysema. 

I know you people who read this blog figure I made up an Internet story that I had a wife, like Napoleon Dynamite's alleged girlfriend from Oklahoma. Well, here she is sitting in the green room with her sons while they wait to go on the air, and she's never been to Spain, or Oklahoma, either.


I told you to click on the sentence that tells you to click on it. This is your last chance to click on a sentence that instructs you to click on the sentence so that you can listen to the broadcast by clicking on the sentence.  You should click on it, and root, root, root for my little boys. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Cover Charge to Greatness


Bartok played Scarlatti because he could. That's the cover charge to greatness.

When people complain that X sucks now, but it used to be great, you're usually listening to nursing home conversation. All that people know is what was popular when they were young. They dream of their salad days and the soundtrack to what they were doing at the time, which is intensely trivial to everyone but them. Al Gore doesn't care about global warming. He just wants it to be 1976 again, forever. Lots of people are like him. They simply choose different topics to be fuddy-duddies about.

The problem with ignoring all old people who are yelling at clouds is the same problem you have with biker gangs. I have, perhaps, a greater experience with biker gangs than the average person who would be expected to have nothing to do with them. They pose a problem that I may be able to shed some light on. They are 99 percent harmless, if a bit silly, but they all try to look the same. The other 1 percent are the scariest mofos you'll ever meet, but they look exactly like the chromosexuals, and you can't tell who's who until it's too late.

The people with onions on their belts complaining that music sucks nowadays are more or less the same as the biker gangs. They're all drooling into the same tapioca and tuned in to Good Sunrise Morning Starter Eyeopener NewsFlash Update with Brian Kouric, but only 99 percent of them are entirely wrong about everything. The one-percenter could tell you why music really does suck now, but no one would ever listen to him because he looks like the rest of them, complaining to no one in particular that Justin Bieber is no Bobby Goldsboro.

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants is correct as far as it goes, but it gives dullards the wrong idea. Those giants don't hoist you up there for a piggy back. You have to climb up them like a kitten that hasn't been fed yet, and the giants swat at you while you make the ascent. Once you're standing on their shoulders, you realize that the giants are drunk half the time and palsied the rest. They were only giants because you were so short. You can't see as far as you had hoped.  There's a lot of work left to do.

Nobody understands that you have to be able to do it first. You can't deconstruct a goddamned thing until you can do it, and if you could do it, you wouldn't get the urge to deconstruct it. Frank Gehry can't design a proper two-holer so he designs giant monstrosities to hide the fact.

Politics is the same. You will never elect anyone to take the government apart. Once you know how to work it well enough to get in charge of it, you don't want to wreck it. You want to lord over it and add to it. No one wants the bulldozed empty lot where a Post Office once stood to be named after them. Humans don't work that way.

Incompetent people who know in their hearts that they can't hack it when they try, feebly, to learn what came before them say everything sucks, let's break it. Musicians that can't play Scarlatti say Scarlatti sucks, let's call Megadeth geniuses. Painters that can't paint put the nose on the side of the woman's head and say I meant to do that. It's easier to be a self-promoter than to learn how to do everything that came before you, and then build on it even a little. That's why art, and other things, do occasionally run into dead ends. It's hard to play Scarlatti, so it's deuced difficult to play any better. That's the real reason few attempt it, and the one percenters notice no one's even trying anymore.

Bela Bartok is playing Scarlatti like he's late for lunch and wants to get out of there. He sounds furious, in the true sense of the word. He's furious he has to waste his time playing it. He wants to get further than Scarlatti. He paid the cover charge to greatness.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Dr. Hook on Shel Silverstein's Houseboat


I do believe that title is what you call clickbait. It's not as effective as a 500-word search engine-optimized article with between 1 and 2 percent keyphrase density about diet pills or an app that delivers pizza to you while you're stopped at a traffic light in a crowdfunded cab. But it's pretty hard to pass by without stopping, surely.

The fact that Shel Silverstein wrote Sylvia's Mother is one of those trivia questions that everyone knows, but everyone tries springing on everyone else anyway. I'm sort of strange, so Shel Silverstein isn't a notable author of children's books who also wrote a hit song; he's a guy who wrote Sylvia's Mother and the trivia question is that he wrote some obscure children's books I've never been interested in.

If you don't know who's who, Shel is the feller with the dirty feet who's inexpertly playing the harmonica. Your house, your rules.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The International Language of Love: Steely Dan


I'll have a Number Seven, with a side of miso soup.

There are numerous trite opportunities to mention raying down the raw and blaking it, but  I urge you not to. We must experience the Dopamines in their native habitat, and appreciate the forces that produce a Steely Dan cover band at the Sumida Street Jazz Festival in Tokyo. We must appreciate it all the way to the the tinny goodness of that last wan cymbal hit by the drummer.

The United States of America took over the world, you know, without firing a shot, really. The wars were sideshows. A Steely Dan cover band at the Sumida Street Jazz Festival makes building a triumphal arch somewhere superfluous. When Japanese people sing, "angular banjos sound good to me," we've crossed a pop culture Rubicon that can't be forded in reverse.

The United States of America has led the world out into a wilderness. It has a responsibility to go forward. Moses didn't take the Jews into the desert, turn around, and say, "Now what do you want to do? I'm wide open here."

The United States must keep going. Angular banjos don't really sound that great.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Hoo Boy


Forty-seven seconds. I guess Pavel had to get to his concrete apartment block before curfew. Maybe the commies were rationing notes back then. Maybe Pavel couldn't sing for more than a minute without passing out because all he had to eat that day was a cube of suet, a slice of bread cut on a bandsaw, and a shot glass of sour acidophilus milk.

You must admit, though; it's forty-seven seconds of concentrated awesome. Buddy Holly wasn't a musician. He was a savior sprung from Eisenhower's fivehead descending from the heavens in a Cadillac chariot pulled by Sun records. .

Friday, August 14, 2015

Chicks Dig Guys With Skills

Chicks dig guys with skills. Nunchaku skills, bow-hunting skills, computer hacking skills...

This aggression must not stand, man. My little son will watch This Old House but passes on an offer to watch his father fix the old house he lives in. There's a danger there. It's not simply that the attention span required is too long. Of course a TV production removes dead time. All the preparation is excised, and even most of the work itself. There is a constant patter of a kind I call "refreshingly information-free." Most of TV and the Intertunnel is made up of this intellectual equivalent of a cow's cud. You chew it for a while, swallow it, and hurl it up to chew again later. Nothing is accomplished and no benefit is accrued but passing the time.

That is not the danger I referred to. The danger is much more profound. My son was exhibiting in a small way what it manifest in spades in everyone else: It's not real unless it's on the TeeVee. My sons have seen less TV than your average Amish kid, but the world's view on things intrudes even into a somewhat isolated life: You're no one unless the TV pays attention to you. It's a dangerous idea.

I've been on the television a few times, and on the radio lots of time. I've been in the paper a goodly amount over the years. I've been all over the Internet like a rash. None of that holds any terrors for me. But it's not real life. None of it is even a funhouse approximation of real life. It is a closed circuit feed being broadcast to itself. My wife drove to the grocery store yesterday, and when she switched on the radio, there was an advertisement being broadcast for an Unorganized Hancock show. She got a chuckle out of it, but my 12-year old wouldn't have cared. He is never interested in watching any of his videos after they're made, and you can't offer him any praise when a performance is over. He immediately goes back to being a little boy in the real world. He thinks Rhett and Link are like Salk and Pasteur because they're on YouTube. He's on YouTube, too, but somehow he doesn't count because he knows he's real-real, not YouTube-real. 

I had to find a way to make real life real for my son. I coaxed him to join me while I installed the convenience outlet. I could have forced him, but that would never achieve the desired effect. He would simply learn that working with his father is a travail and be programmed to avoid it at all costs. I must actually do work, however, and can't turn it into playtime. That's the danger of things like Sesame Street. Educational shows aren't. The alphabet doesn't get up and dance and sing. You have to make it.

I struck upon the idea of making it real using his own stuff. He has Snap Circuits. His aunt and uncle gave them to him for Christmas a few years back, and he loves to make little electronic trifles with them. I told him we would use Snap Circuits to fix the house. He followed me like a puppy.

I explained to him that the electricity in the wires was strong enough to kill me, and that I must be careful. I told him that I did not trust anyone that had installed wiring in the past, so I could not be sure that anything already in place was safe. We must determine it ourselves. We fetched a battery pack with two AAs in it and an indicator light from his Snap Circuit toy.

We went down in the nasty Basement Basement. That's adjacent to the Regular Basement, which is located above the Car Hole. The Car Hole used to be Frosty Hobo Central, but we fixed it so hobos can't get in any more and freeze to death so we changed the name.

I explained that I needed to make sure that the wire that was already in place but not being used was the same wire at both ends. I thought it was the same wire, but part of the wire was inaccessible so you couldn't be sure without testing it yourself. I turned off all the electricity in the house, and let my son hold an electric lantern like a character in one of his video games, which he loved. We hung the battery pack on the black and white wires in the Romex cable on one end, and then went upstairs. I connected the two leads of the Romex wire to the indicator light, and it shone brightly, much to the little boy's delight. It was a real thing made real in terms he could not only understand, but enjoy.

We were not solving a technical problem. We were actually solving a logic problem. IF all the wires in the house are not electrified because we turned off the main circuit breaker, THEN only the wire that has the battery pack will light the light, OR ELSE dad is electrocuted because he trusted the label in the Service Panel and threw the wrong circuit breaker. That results in my children GOTO: circus.

A few minutes ago I went up stairs and checked what he had learned:
-How many volts in a regular house circuit, son?
-About 110, I think.

-How many amps?
-15

-How many amps in a kitchen circuit?
-20, or 40 for the stove.

-What color wires are in electrical cable?
-Black, white, and a copper one.

-What do the colors mean?
-Black for hot, white for neutral, copper for ground.

-What colors are the screws on a convenience outlet?
-Gold, silver, and green.

-What wire goes where?
-Black on gold, white on silver, copper wire on green.
Go back to Minecraft, son. You're fine.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Imitation Is the Sincerest Form of Television


I decided to move my desk into another room last night. It's been in my dining room. I put it there because about five years ago I moved to Superman's Fortress of Solitude. Actually, that's not quite true. I moved to Rumford, Maine, which is more like Superman's horizontal freezer inside his Fortress of Solitude. Rumford is colder than an ex-wife that passes by when you're panhandling. The only heat in the house is the pellet stove in the dining room and I parked my sorry self within ten feet of it five minutes after I installed it. I'd get right in the hopper and button up like a Panzer tank if I could, but that would void the warranty, I think.

Unfortunately, it's like a bowling alley in the dining room, and I need to think occasionally when I write. I don't think about what I write, but I do like to think about central heating and other mythical creatures while I type. Passes the time. The dining room simply has too much hubbub, bub.

In order to move my desk into our bedroom, I needed to install an electrical outlet. Our house was built when McKinley was president, and I think he was the electrician, too. It still has knobs and tubes all over the place, and most rooms in the house only have one convenience outlet. The room where the kids practice music doesn't have any electricity at all.

I know how to install electricity in a new house, and an old house, and a restaurant, and a gas station, and a football stadium, and several other kinds of places no one invites me to build anymore. It's really very simple except the part where you're dealing with what was installed in the mists of antiquity by an escapee from a support group for mentally challenged subcontractors with Frankenstein fetishes. The meetings were held in my basement, I infer.

So I had a hankering for electricity last night after supper. My older son usually helps, but he's sick and in bed, and the little one is watching something on the screen in the living room. That left me by my lonesome to scurry up and down the stairs to find a spot to bring Romex up from the basement and into the wall on the first floor to install the outlet. I located a knot in the subfloor, and used it for a measuring point. I found an abandoned wire I could re-route from a clothes dryer from the seventies, and I followed it back to a spider's cathedral in the ceiling of the other, nastier part of the basement where I keep my personality and the circuit breaker panel.

I had to hunt around for stuff. I couldn't afford to buy a single screw, so everything had to be found in the heap of jetsam I keep handy in case I want to build an atom smasher or fix a window screen. I found an old work box suitable for a lath and plaster wall, a 15-amp duplex outlet left over from a house I built in the ninth century, and a cover plate still in its wrapper that included the rarest of things in the history of construction: a usable center screw. I found some wire nuts wherever you find wire nuts. No one ever buys wire nuts. You just find them in your basement, like mildew.

Now for tools: I located a hefty hammer drill that never had its perpendicular handle and will break your wrist like Rex Kwan Do if you're not careful, which I never am. I put a comically big 18" auger bit labeled the "Nail Eater" in the chuck, and prepared to drill a hole through 1.75 inches of subfloor, a little bit of the carrying beam of the house, and the 1-3/4" sole plate of the wall upstairs. The idea is that the auger will appear magically inside the wall at the bottom of the correct wall stud bay, directly under the outlet box I just installed. That's what I was preparing to do, as I said. I was expecting to drill through my wife's foot, or come up in the middle of the lawn like Larry Fine, or some such.

I had to turn off half the circuit breakers in the house because everything's labeled like jars in the dissection room of a dyslexia museum and I have no idea if I'm turning off some guy's iron lung across the street or a lamp in my living room.

I was getting ready to actually drill the hole, so I went upstairs to warn my wife that the "Nail Eater" might be coming her way, and I had no idea if they were referring to toenails or framing nails or what. And there, in the living room, was my 12-year old son, watching an ancient rerun of This Old House on streaming media on the TV because nothing else in the house will turn on. Tom Silva was explaining how to drill holes in framing lumber so as not to weaken them unduly when making holes for electricity or plumbing. My son was watching it the way teenaged boys watch girls at the beach. So I asked my son if he wanted to watch his father drill a great big hole in some framing lumber in order to install an electrical wire.

He said no.