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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything

Excuse me, did you say "42"? Because 42 is so last week. I have discovered the answer to life, the universe, and everything, and it's a lot more useful and comprehensible than 42.

My wife was accosted in the supermarket parking lot by some ill-mannered brigands, otherwise known as female high school students. Don't get me wrong; people are more mannerly and friendly in Maine than in other places I have known. But there are many interactions between persons that have been bent by circumstance. One thing used to mean one thing, and now means another. The form of the thing remains, but it's reflected in a dirty funhouse mirror.

That is to say: a dirty mirror in a funhouse, not a mirror in a dirty funhouse. A dirty funhouse sounds like fun to my ear. Upon reflection, I've been in a dirty funhouse before. It was fun. Walmart is not fun, but it is dirty. It's installed dirty, I think. All the surfaces look drear on day one. The sky was lowering and the occasional urban jellyfish was buoyed on the breeze pregnant with rain, and ...

Sorry, I turned into David Foster Wallace there for a minute. Anyway, the old trouble and strife needed provisions, and she had to pass the portals of Dante's Always Low Prices and Common Denominator Warehouse to get them. That was the precise moment that she was waylaid, when she was girding her loins and shrugging from a low-rent blow from an existential god unseen -- the exact moment we discovered the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. The students sauntered up to my wife, and importunately asked if she would like to buy a candy bar to send a kid to camp.

My wife is very quiet and reserved. She smiles a lot, but she doesn't talk very much. I have always depended on her steadiness, because I am mercurial. I wonder if there is anyone in this world who has anything bad to say about her, other than she chooses husbands in lighting not suitable for buying off-brand bales of hay. Anyway, she was caught somewhat unawares, and didn't have a moment to parse what she said carefully for its effect. She just asked, more or less politely, "Why would I want to do that?"

They backed up like people who had opened a mummy's tomb and heard Egyptian being spoken. It was as unanswerable as a tax bill.

Don't you see? Can't you see it? It's the answer to everything. It's the Swiss army knife of life, with the little can-opener dongle on it, except instead of opening cans it opens universes. If everyone would answer 99 percent of the questions put to them every day with, "Why would I want to do that?", the world would be a better place. Not just for the questioner. All manner of mischief would fold up and die and I wouldn't get messages from Nigerian princelings anymore because every offer to send a million dollars tax-free would be met with, "Why would I want to do that?"

I recognized it like a lost friend. It's the phrase I've been thinking but not saying, morning, noon and night, for years on end, whenever anyone asks me anything about anything. It is my default position for everything, I've just never uttered it.

Why would I want to do that?

Look at it. It's a daisy. It's magnificent. No, really try it out. Try it right now. It works on everything.

"For only five dollars more a month, you can add over 250 channels of television programming to your monthly Internet bill."
"Why would I want to do that?"

"If you act now, you'll receive a free coupon that will allow you to take the whole family to Disneyland!"
"Why would I want to do that?"

"This new button on YouTube lets you autoplay all the videos in the right-hand column!"
"Why would I want to do that?"

"Sign up for Facebook and find your friends. Create an account to start sharing photos and updates with people you know!"
"Why would I want to do that?"

"You can read the New York Times on your smartphone for free!"
"Why would I want to do that?"

"For only $200, you can have an Amazon Echo device that will let you use voice activation to stream music from a smartphone app wirelessly!"
"Why would I want to do that?"

" You can donate $3 of your federal tax to go to the Presidential Election Campaign Fund"

"Why..."
"Why..."

It was there that my slogan failed the ultimate test of life, the universe, and everything. Because it had to be modified in this one instance, it was not universal, and with the modification, the phrase reads and sounds less lyrical to the ear:

"Why in the name of Honore de Balzac would I want to do that you buttmunch dillhole *deep breath* me cago en la leche *deep breath* yela'an sabe'a jad lak *deep breath* nide muchin shr ega da wukwei *deep breath* krisnera zhazh tan vred *deep breath*. Now piss into a transformer."

It just doesn't roll off the tongue. Back to the drawing board.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Take Four



Well, that's the swinginest version of Take Five I've heard since breakfast. It's like the third-best version of the song except all the ones that are better. It's performed by the Mighty Typhoons. They appear to be a wedding band from Amsterdam that wish they were half as cool as my two sons.


I think the MIghty Typhoons did manage to get halfway to being as cool as Unorganized Hancock, which is more than most can claim. The drummer was only 10 when they made this video, and he has a tie that adjusts on his neck using a zipper. It's hard to compete with zipper-tie awesomeness.

Fun fact: I've ridden in about 75 percent of the non-dragster cars in this video, including the T-Bird and the Corvette convertibles.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Days of Ruddy Noses


That's Rocky Gresset and some guy that owns a dog house playing a Henry Mancini/Johnny Mercer song.

Funny to think of what becomes a jazz standard. The Days of Wine and Roses was pretty predictable, but lots of other less predictable things make it into Real Books, or Fake Books, or whatever they call the bootleg books of songs that might be needed on a General Business bandstand.

I'm not in the business anymore, but I notice things. The Beatles have a bunch of things that trad jazz bands don't turn their nose up at anymore. Stevie Wonder songs, quite a bit, too. It's Not Easy Being Green, originally sung by Kermit the Frog is another one you might not see coming. Hell, Wichita Lineman gets murdered by naugahyde-and-well-drink assassins as often as Autumn Leaves. Honestly, would you expect My Favorite Things to become a jazz standard? I would, but I'm strange.

A good song is a cupcake, not a wedding cake. 


Monday, June 22, 2015

Building a Wattle and Daub Shelter for Dummies



Of course "For Dummies" is my idea of a joke. Despite what you've heard, no one was allowed to be a dummy when shelter like this was in vogue. If you can afford to have a smartphone in your pocket, you're allowed to be as dumb as you please. You can believe almost anything about the natural or intellectual world and get away with it. You can think panthers are cute and cuddly if you want,  or that living in a state of nature is a lark, or commendable in some way.

I'm more from the Rose Sayer school of philosophy: Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above. 

The only mistake this fellow made that I noticed was using wattle to reinforce the smoke shelf in his little chimney. The people he's copying would have gotten a flat stone from the river for that, and then continued on up the chimney with daub. The temperature right at the smoke shelf in a chimney goes way above 1000 degrees. The wood inside the daub will first become pyrolized, and then ignite at very low temperatures if the daub fails. He could have made a  bow drill to chafe his sticks to make a fire faster, but I subtract only style points for that. 

I'll let you in on a dirty little secret: Your wood-framed home isn't really much more complicated than this hut. If your house is 100 years old or so, the interior walls are wooden lath with plaster applied to it. The plaster is a form of daub, and it's keyed into the wattle -- the lath -- by smooshing it through the cracks, same as this. Gypsum drywall has replaced wattle and daub for interior surfaces, but it's still basically the same crap. Gypsum is just a fancy kind of dried mud, and the paper faces of the drywall sheets are the wattle, even made out of the same stuff -- they're just ground up and reconstituted into paper.

Only pole barns are made by putting vertical members into holes in the ground to frame walls now, but the fellow's little platform bed is basically the first floor framing in a regular house, designed to get you up off the dirt in the "cellar." Almost all roofing shingles work in the same way as his leaves and bark, simply overlapping the row below it to shed water. I've nailed shingles over skip sheathing in the same way. If you split boards out of logs you could put clapboards on that shed and it would be at home in any number of cul-de-sacs I could mention, waiting for the vinyl siding salesman to come along. If the fellow with the uneven tan and all the bug bites had made bricks instead of pottery with that mud, even the wolf couldn't blow his little shelter down.

I'm often amazed at how little the average person knows about they house they live in. It's a very simple machine, really. All the complexity that's been added to it has generally made it worse. Although I like window screens a great deal, I must admit.

(Thanks to reader, commenter, and stalwart supporter of Unorganized Hancock Chasmatic for sending that one along)

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Bone Shaker. The Bike, I Mean


You keep that up, dude, you won't be able to stop a pig in a ginnel. 

Barnes!
Who's the Brit cycling ninny
That's a sex machine to all the hinny?
(Barnes!)
You're damn right
Who is the man
That would risk a dunch for a Black and Tan?
(Barnes!)
Can ya dig it?
Who's the cat that won't cop out
When there's dibble all about?
(Barnes!)
Right on
You see this cat Barnes is a workyticket
(Shut your mouth)
But I'm talkin' about Barnes
(Then we can dig it)
He's a antwacky man
And no one understands him but a gadgie
(Martin Barnes)

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Had It Been Another Day I Might Have Looked the Other Way


Unorganized Hancock playing the Beatles I've Just Seen a Face.

The imp drummer drops his stick at 0:30. If I didn't tell you, would you have noticed? He never falters. Never hesitates. He reaches for another and keeps going. He's not wearing his jacket, which means this is from the end of the show. He'd been going like that for an hour and a half already. His hands are sweaty and his little arms are tired.

The Heir bangs that tune out like a pro. That's a dumb thing to say on my part. He is a pro, I guess. Or would be, if there was a place to be a pro at. He does a lot of singing in one night. In a larger band, someone else takes a turn. All he has to help him is a twelve-year-old drummer. He must be a Wallenda. If you miss, there is nothing much to catch you. 

The boys are performing at the 4th of July festivites here in Rumford, Maine.


[Update: Many thanks to Kathleen M. from Connecticut for her constant support of our boys via our tipjar. It is much appreciated]

[Up-Update: Many thanks to Bob B. from Chicago for his generous support of my boys using the tipjar. He's a longtime friend of Sippican Cottage, and says he might visit someday. I advise coming in the summer, Bob. It's really pleasant, and it sometimes lasts for a whole week]

[Further Update: Many thanks to Kurt H. from Ohio for his generous hit on the boys' PayPal button. It is very much appreciated.]