“To rebel in our house, I always said, I’d have to become an accountant or a lawyer.” — Dweezil Zappa
“To rebel in our house, I always said, I’d have to become an accountant or a lawyer.” — Dweezil Zappa
It was 20 years ago today … and no, I’m not talking Sgt. Pepper here.
“There is more stupidity than hydrogen in the universe, and it has a longer shelf life.”
— Frank Zappa, Dec. 21, 1940-Dec. 4, 1993
Hey, do you think he was channeling Larry’s wife?
Herself and I were briefly patrons of the arts this week.
We had rented the House Back East™ to a gent name of Colm Ó Ciosóig, who was coming to town for an international film festival. Herself wondered how his name was pronounced — and so did I, being fluent only in American, Filth and Drunkard — so I looked it up.
Turns out Colm — a very pleasant fellow indeed — is the drummer for and one of the founding members of the band My Bloody Valentine, which recently concluded a yearlong world tour in support of its latest album, m b v.
Colm is also a film aficionado who shoots many of the backgrounds for the band’s shows, and he wangled a freebie to attend the TIE-Alternative Measures festival by agreeing to DJ at the closing soirée.
But it seems the festival endured a few hiccups and finally ended badly — some class of a dispute pitted the artists against the organizer — and come Sunday evening Colm popped round to inquire whether he might host a gathering of filmmakers next door. We were invited to join them.
We said sure, and before long there were a couple dozen artists, musicians and filmmakers from around the globe crowding the tiny house, merrily chattering away over barley pops. They were all quite delightful, and included us in their conversations, asking about the States and Bibleburg and complimenting the House Back East®. Marv’, the old saloon musician, would have had a wonderful time.
It was amusing to note that a thirst for Pabst Blue Ribbon is apparently not just a proletarian pose adopted by Yankee hipsters, because nearly everyone in attendance brought a suitcase of the stuff (we contributed a bottle of Bushmills). But perhaps the altitude affected consumption, because there was more than quite a bit left over after the party ended — about three and a half suitcases worth. A gaggle of journalists would have gargled the lot and eaten the cans.
So Monday afternoon, after Colm and the others had departed, I decided to support another class of artist — I hauled two suitcases down to Old Town Bike Shop as a gift to its long-suffering mechanics, who are always giving me freebies on annoying bits of work when by rights they should be charging me double.
The Hobbes to my Calvin enjoys a snooze in the sunshine.
Speaking of which, were you aware that there’s a documentary about Bill Watterson and his creations? True fact — “Dear Mr. Watterson” premiered yesterday, and NPR carried an item about it this morning.
“Calvin and Hobbes” is one of my favorite strips. I have a dozen or so of Watterson’s books, and tried to get an interview with him back when I worked for The New Mexican (through a minion, he declined, as he does pretty much any invitation to chat with the press; smart fella).
I made the mistake of listening to the NPR piece, and now I’m going to have to thumb through a few of Watterson’s books, goddamnit. If you’d like to take a bumpy trip down memory lane on your toboggan, with your best friend for company, you can read “Calvin and Hobbes” online at GoComics.com.
It’s that time of year again, when I start ringing up editors to inquire whether come the new year they will keep flinging good money after bad by continuing to accept contributions from Your Humble Narrator.
This process always involves a bit of give and take — the editor explains what s/he wishes to take from me, and I tell the editor where and how I plan to give it. A good old time is had by all, often at the top of our lungs, and before long the spreadsheets, knuckle-dusters and restraining orders are set aside and we all go back to earning our meager livings.
And meager is all I ask. My needs are simple, not unlike myself, and I retain no illusions about the freelance rumormonger’s position on our long list of must-have items in the 21st century. (Hint: It’s more than a couple of folds down from the top of the page.)
Today, there is no more writing, illustration or photography — it’s all “content,” and a smart fella can get that anywhere.
Just ask Evan Williams, Twitter co-founder and Innertubez gazillionaire. Now one of the guiding lights behind a newish venture, Medium, Williams has moved beyond the 140-character limit in search of “thoughtful, longer-form writing,” says Matt Richtel of The New York Times.
Well, not all that far, perhaps. To be sure, Williams wants more characters for his new enterprise, but he’s offering the same level of compensation — to wit, nothing. Writes Richtel, 745 words into this paean to long-form work: “A few writers are paid, with their work solicited by a small editing team, but most are not.”
Medium employs some 40 folks; I assume that they are taking home paychecks, though being an Innertubez gazillionaire, Williams — whose personal fortune recently ballooned by nearly $2.5 billion, thanks to his 10.5 percent share of Twitter — may not require anything so mundane as compensation for whatever it is that he does.
Well, I do, and thus you should not expect to see my byline over at Medium anytime soon.
I don’t object to writing for free. In fact, I’ve done and continue to do plenty of it. I kept a journal for a decade or so; covered cycling for free at The New Mexican (where I was paid for editing) just to get it in the paper; and have been blogging gratis for longer than I can prove (the archives back at the old home place date to 1992).
But it seems Williams is after something a little deeper than the product of a guy who is interested primarily in keeping the old editorial muscles loose by jotting down whatever comes to mind, just for the hell of it, without interference from editors, publishers or advertisers. Though precisely what that something is, the story never quite says.
There is chin music aplenty, however. Long form. Rationality. Nourishment. Holistic. The one thing that seems certain is that whatever it is that Williams wants to sell, he is not willing to buy.
Sounds irrational to me, even assholistic. Hey, yo, Williams! I got your long-form nourishment right here, pal.
Never, that’s how often. Unless you happened to be in the audience last night as the “This American Life” host chatted amiably with a packed house at the Pikes Peak Center in Bibleburg.
Glass was recounting a back-in-the-day mishap at NPR that let the C-word through and onto the air, an oh-shit moment good for an FCC fine of a quarter-mil’ per station. Seems a board jockey who was a little slow on the trigger missed the target, instead bleeping a subsequent word, which caused an authority figure to ring up to inquire acidly what word did get bleeped, since “cocksucker” seemed to have become acceptable on-air usage.
The late, lamented George Carlin would have been proud, as Glass also deployed “fuck” (which apparently slipped into our local airwaves during a chat with someone at Radio Colorado College; “dick,” which the lawyers got all hard over while TAL was preparing to air a story in which an interviewee used it as a synonym for “jerk”; and “turd,” which actually appeared in an early David Sedaris bit, but could never make it on-air today thanks to a tightened federal leash, courtesy of Janet Jackson’s loosened bodice.
Sedaris reworked the piece as a poem, claiming that would make it art and thus inviolable, but the feds disagreed, so Glass played it for us from the stage. I ’bout shit myself laughing.
If you’ve never seen Ira Glass in person, I urge you to do so at your very next opportunity. The man has a gift for gab that any Irishman would envy.
He said his parents were “the only Jews who didn’t like public radio,” and had hoped their son would become a doctor, “because … well, we’re Jews.”
When TAL was in its larval stage, Glass said, the idea was to “take the whiff of broccoli” out of the standard NPR news model.
And all these years later, he said, the staff is still focused on those stories that hit them like a bolt of lightning, which doesn’t always happen; a lot of seemingly great ideas never make it to the air.
But that’s part of the job, because to get hit by lightning, Glass explained, “you have to spend a lot of time walking around in the rain.”
I’ve been reading a little poetry of an evening, much of it from the collection “The Poetry of Zen,” compiled by J.P. Seaton and Sam Hamill, and recently stumbled across a couple works that, alas, confirm my suspicions that the assholistic Reign of the Morons Charles P. Pierce has been following so assiduously is nothing new.
The first is “Bad Government,” from T’ang dynasty poet and painter Kuan Hsiu (832-912):
Sleet and rain, as if the pot were boiling.
Winds whack like the crack of an axe.
An old man, an old old man,
at sunset, crept into my hut.
He sighed. He sighed as if to himself,
“These rulers, so cruel. Why, tell me
why they must steal till we starve,
then slice the skin from our bones?
For a song from some beauty,
they’ll go back on sworn words;
for a song from some tart,
they’ll tear down our huts;
for a sweet song or two,
they’ll slaughter ten thousand like me,
like you. Weep as you will,
let your hair turn white,
let your whole clan go hungry . . .
no good wind will blow,
no gentle breeze
Lord Locust Plague and Baron Bandit Bug,
one east, one west, one north, one south.
The second is an untitled piece from the mythical Han Shan, an eighth-century Chinese construct I first heard of via Jack Kerouac in “The Dharma Bums”:
I stand here and watch the people of this world:
all against one and one against all,
angry, arguing, plotting and scheming.
Then one day, suddenly, they die.
And each gets one plot of ground:
four feet wide, six feet long.
If you can scheme your way out of that plot,
I’ll set the stone that immortalizes your name.
While listening to “The Blue Plate Special” on Radio Colorado College this afternoon on the way back from Whole Paycheck it struck me that what the world needs right this minute is another First World white-guy blues band.
I’ve even got the name and everything.
Broke Dick O’Dawg and the Gnawin’ Profits.
I don’t think the flute is gonna cut it, though. Never shoulda pawned m’gee-tar. I tell ya, sometimes I feel like I been tied to the whippin’ post.
I haven’t been on a bike of any type for a week — a terrorist wasp nailed me in my left ankle during a hike last Wednesday, the sonofabitch swelled up to the size and shade of a ruby-red Texas grapefruit (the ankle, not the terrorist wasp), and I have whiled away the hours since full of Benadryl and bad ideas, trying to get a metric shit-ton of work done with my shoeless left leg propped up on a box.
And the weather has been picture-postcard, Chamber of Commerce, fall-in-Colorado perfect, too.
I did get out for a short while today. The ankle looks more or less like an ankle again, rather than a botulistic bratwurst, and I needed to shoot a bit of HD video for an online review of the Co-Motion Divide Rohloff, having just wrapped production on a Jones video. So I spazzed around in Palmer Park for an hour, playing Quentin Ferrentino with a couple of dusty old Hero 3 Black Editions.
The Adventure Cyclist gang and I met with the GoPro people at Interbike, but only editor Mike Deme walked away with one of the new Hero 3+ dinguses, though I thought I batted my eyelashes most fetchingly at the product guy. Bitch.
So I had to make do with obsolete technology in my latest projects, and as usual it is the little people — you, the viewing public — who must suffer.
Still, that makes two videos in two days. Stick that in your hobbit-pipe and smoke it, Peter Jackson.