Monday, July 30, 2007


If you remark as absent my customary sunny disposition, it is because I have been informed by my dentist that I need one, and quite possibly two, root canals.

They drilled away one offending molar last week (a process I can liken only to spending an hour in a dentist's chair having a tooth drilled away -- the experience is sui generis) and put in a temporary crown, but this sumbitch still hurts. The other root canal may be performed on a lower molar over on the other side of my mouth, which has been crowned for years but has been acting up rather hideously of late. While eating, I have two options -- chew on the left and experience pain, or chew on the right and, er, experience pain. This week, I've been eating quite a bit of pudding and yogurt and clear soups.

Wednesday morning, I hike off to the endodontists' (a word of which I'd until now been blissfully unaware) lair to take my punishment like a man.

A couple of tiny positive notes among the torrent of bad news:
  1. I've been given a scrip for some lovely Vicodin. (I like Vicodin real good; I loathe the fact that I need it.)
  2. I welcome with enthusiasm the opportunity to live-blog a root canal procedure. I'm sure the surgeon and I can come to some kind of arrangement where the laptop doesn't get in the way of the hammer and tongs.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Couple of Lazy-Sunday Questions...

...Perhaps rhetorical in nature, who's to say.
  1. Should I be worried that Freddie, at age 14, likes speed-metal and nothing but speed-metal, and is absolutely unimpressed with any music that I attempt to introduce him to? I've tried Zappa, I've tried the Beatles, Led Zep, the Stones -- all stuff he should know about before he specializes down into this ridiculous genre. He's getting to be a pretty fair guitar player, and it disappoints me a bit when I hear a speed-metal workup of the Summer movement of Vivaldi's Four Seasons emanating from his room. Where's the Keef-worship, the giggling helplessly at "Don't Eat the Yellow Snow," the fumbling attempts to play the riff from "Black Dog"?
  2. When zipping through the Washington Post Magazine's crossword puzzle, and your laptop is right there, just sitting doing nothing, is it cheating to tap Sarah McLachlan's name in at Wikipedia to get the name of her 1998 hit, which starts with an A and ends with IA and cannot possibly be "Aria" because "ME_RING" can't possibly be a word? ("Adia," for those of you playing along at home. I'd never heard of it. Not a huge McLachlan fan. Prefer speed-metal.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I Have Never Laughed To the Point of Tears At Technical Documentation...

...Until I read the following in my original Triumph Workshop Manual, Section G8, Regarding the Alignment of the Telescopic Fork Arrangement (you gotta imagine this thing, all set in gorgeous 1964 Gill Sans):
To check the front fork alignment, the front wheel and mudguard must be removed and a spare wheel spindle bolted into position.... Hold the alignment gauge firmly against the fork as shown in Figure G14 and check that the gauge contacts the four corners. If the gauge does not make contact at point A then this indicates that point B is too far forward. To remedy this, slacken off the two middle lug pinch bolts and the stem sleeve pinch bolt and give point C a sharp blow using a hide mallet or a hammer used in conjunction with a soft metal drift....
Translation from pre-EEC British: "If the fuckin' forks ain't fuckin' aligned, take a fuckin' 'ammer an' smack the shit out of 'em until they is. That'll fuckin' show 'em."

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I Don't Wanna Be Here

I used to be in a band, a fairly fierce little three-piece bar-band, called ourselves Scooby Don't. We worked hard to furnish our (mostly unappreciative) audiences with lots of lush three-part harmonies and energetic but disciplined instrumental arrangements. We played music that we liked -- which was probably why audiences tended to yawn and look at their watches when we played. Too much XTC, not enough "In the Midnight Hour," which is what a bar-band audience wants, after all.

(We solved this a couple of falls ago when Xtcfan and I formed The Harridans with Bobby Lightfoot for a single, transcendent evening when we played nothing but great bar-band music for a very appreciative audience indeed. We gotta do that again, and fuckin' soon.)

We used to open with an Andy Partridge number that never got past the demo stage in Andy's output, called "I Don't Wanna Be Here." (We thought it was pretty funny to open a set with a song with that title. The drunks pretty much didn't get the joke. Can't imagine why.) I don't know why Partsy didn't have a huge international smash with it -- it's just hooky as all hell. We took a rather bare-bones demo and fleshed it out for three voices, trying to fill in all the empty spaces with Entertainment Value. I do believe we may have actually done a fairly decent job of it.

The song came back into my consciousness last week -- just earwormed its way in there. I decided I needed to work up the Scooby Don't arrangement for posterity. Of course, being in possession of recording software and gear that only ten years ago would have cost in the tens of thousands of dollars, the temptation to add a few extras was too great to resist, and so I sorta went to town. Nineteen tracks, it finally ended up taking. Having started out on four-track cassette in 1993, to me this seems like the sort of home-recording extravagance that led to the fall of Rome.

I found some bits and pieces for the opening collage at The Freesound Project, some industrial noises, a heartbeat and some human vocalizations that sounded pretty amusing when arranged rhythmically. That's what you hear in the opening moments.

There's something almost sexual about double-tracking your own voice. (Or perhaps the better term is masturbatory?) You sing the thing once, then roll back to the top and sing it as close as you can to exactly the same way again on another track. With your own voice being fed back to you, the singing the second time through is completely effortless, and what you hear is just ungodly great. It's like you just open your mouth and something fantastic just falls out, with no work from you.

The guitar part was lots of fun to track. In GarageBand, I tend to track a naked, uneffected guitar, and only after I'm done playing it do I feed the track to a guitar-amp simulator. You go from Wimpy Twang to Big-Haired Monster with the click of a button. This guitar needed to be really huge, and so I duplicated the track, panned the two tracks hard left and right, and moved one of the recordings an infinitesimally small amount into the past -- I think it was 0.011 of a second. Then I fed the left-hand guitar to a Mesa Boogie amp simulator, and the right to a Marshall. The result, as you will hear, does possess a fairly hefty pair of gonads.

And so, without further ado, I give you...

I Don't Wanna Be Here (pops)

Yes, I Finally Got Around to Reading Last Week's B3TA Newsletter

I don't ordinarily have much patience for online games, but the Real World Racer, a mashup employing a Google Maps API and a loony dedication, is damned compelling.

Enter your starting and ending points, hit Go, and begin to race through the streets past familiar or (your choice) unfamiliar landmarks. I had a ball zooming through the Concrete Canyons of Manhattan at 130 MPH, and the experience of doing doughnuts in the parking lot of West End Motors in Lovettsville gave me no small satisfaction.

Try it! Recapitulate your evening commute! What's it like to race to the grocery store? The teeming streets of Calcutta? The desert wastes of the Gobi! Dodge IEDs in Baghdad! It's fun! The game's creator suggests making vroom-vroom noises while playing, advice I heartily endorse.

(One hint: Nothing too rural; driving through little gray blocks telling you there's no satellite information for this area ain't exactly fascinating.)

(Via the B3TA Newsletter.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Our Fellow Bloggers

As the Sixteenth Most Influential Political Blogger in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia, it occurs to me that it might be worthwhile to take a quick gander at some other political blogs in the neighborhood. Survey the competish.

Sunday's Washington Post carried -- on its front page, no less -- a profile of one Greg Letiecq, who blogs under the bewilderingly infantile monicker Black Velvet Bruce Li.

Mr. Letiecq appears to have been somewhat instrumental in lobbying for a Prince William County ordinance that would set in motion measures to "deny services to illegal immigrants and sharply increase immigration enforcement by police." This ordinance has now been taken up by the Board of Supervisors of my own county of Loudoun, spearheaded by Sup. Eugene Delgaudio, who gives every impression of a man who, when he awakens each morning, immediately ponders what innovation might permit him to behave even more loathsomely than he did yesterday. (Fascinatingly, I attempted to link to an article on this Delgaudio blister in Wikipedia, only to find it had been removed. Not edited, or marked as "controversial." Just gone. Huh. I can only conclude that nothing polite can be said about him. Ah, well. MSM Time.)

I suppose there's nothing quite so depressingly predictable as a pandering local politician in full bay in an election year. But while pointing and shrieking Other! at an almost completely defenseless group in your midst never lost votes among the thick-necked Jocko Homo set, it's something quite different to devote quite a few of your waking hours to this pursuit. This is borderline psychotic behavior.

Not to mention incredibly unhelpful.

The rhetoric coming from both Letiecq and Delgaudio -- and, quite depressingly, echoed in the Letters to the Editor column in the local papers -- is shot through with eye-wateringly blatant racism. "Help Save Manassas," he titles his organization -- as if Manassas were an eighteen-year-old white virgin about to be gang-raped by a ravening horde of vatos locos with machetes and tamale breath. We've heard this kind of rhetoric before, and it never ended pretty.

If Letiecq wants a Prince William County where the police are constrained to demand proof of citizenship at every traffic stop performed on a person suspected of Driving While Brown, if he wants a Northern Virginia where operating a weed-whacker in a public commons is grounds for immediate extradition, that's fine. He's entitled to his opinion.

But I'm entitled to mine, too: Greg Letiecq is a racist, fascist little fuck-chest.

(Umberto Eco article linked to above found at "Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis" by David Niewert, and I highly, highly recommend it.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Three Kinds of Random

The Stoic has dredged up a funny memory involving my own extinguished self. I'll let him tell you about it. (It's Number 3 in his "Eight Random Things" post.)

There is a sign on the wall in our cafeteria at work, above the table where the plastic forks and napkins are dispensed. It says, in a quite offensively nannyish tone, "2006: We used 16,345 napkins per day last year! That's right! Not per week, or per month! PER DAY! 2007: YOU DECIDE!"

In a place that feeds about 5,000 people a day, that works out to something like 3.269 napkins per person, an amount I don't find particularly unreasonable or wasteful. As a Person of Beard, I go through that many eating a cup of yogurt, keeping my mustache presentable.

So I am going to deface this sign. But I haven't decided on quite the proper wording, the mots justes.

I'm wavering between



OOPSIE! THAT WAS ME. SORRIES! (accompanied with a little sad-face emoticon).

What say you?

I was asked by my boss to do an assessment of Stumbleupon, a web tool that directs you to web sites that cater to the interests you declare while signing up to use the product. My employers are contemplating a somewhat similar concept.

I signed up, got the Stumbleupon browser toolbar, checked some boxes indicating some random interests -- you know, music, politics, golf, masturbation. That sort of thing.

Man, did I get hooked fast. I spent all of yesterday and most of this morning clicking "stumble...stumble...stumble...." Goddamned thing's practically psychic! Voodoo ESP! He'p me somebody! I's hip-mo-tized!

(Yeah, yeah, you've been using it since 2003...blah blah. I have a life that frequently doesn't involve the Internet in any way, shape or form -- imagine that!)

One of the first things I "stumbled" upon was The Official God FAQ. That was a giggle.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Talking About the Weather

A fantastically violent thunderstorm blasted into our valley yesterday evening. Golfballs the size of hail battered the roof for a half-hour. The house's gutter system was utterly overpowered, and great gouts of water torrented from the eaves.

Naturally, as pretty much always happens in any weather at all, the power went out, not to return until early this morning. Betty and Freddie were forced out of their teen-caves, the storm having severed their digital and televisual connections to the World of Dreams. They roamed the house, at first bewildered at the blistering son-et-lumière being put on by an angry god, and then, after its passing, moaning of boredom.

We lit candles and a butane lamp and camped out on the screened porch -- a delightfully cool place with all those golfballs melting in the surrounding lawn. We got out the Scrabble board and played a round. (I took some shit for "duvet" -- a double-word score that pretty much wiped the competition flat in the early going. Freddie: "What's a doo-vet?" You won't learn those gems on "World of Warcraft," my young flesh and blood. You might consider an improving work of literature now and then. He said lovingly.)

There arose a slightly unsettling consensus that we were quite enjoying each others' company.

It may just occur to us to pull the plug some more -- that fusebox can be padlocked, you know.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Perhaps the Most Juvenile Thing I've Ever Posted

As I rode home this afternoon, listening to the Don and Mike Show, a caller suggested a game you can play on the highway: You add the word "anal" in front of the car models you see.

Started doing it myself, almost wrapped the damned truck around a pole.

The truck so wrapped would be an Anal Ranger.

My motorbike is an Anal Triumph.

Wonder Woman drives an Anal Pathfinder.

I drove past Anal Explorers, Anal Probes, and Anal Accords, whose drivers may have been mystified by the howls of laughter emanating from my Anal Ranger.

Give it a try, won't you? Live a little!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Eight Random Calumnies Regularly Directed at Me

Miss M. A. Peel has tagged me with this thang. I wouldn't ordinarily do this, but I sat in her apartment in Manhattan a couple of weeks ago and drank her wine at the NewCritics Affair, and it's a longstanding rule with me: Never argue with somebody with great gams. That one's never let me down.

Here are the rules of participation:
  1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
  2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
  3. People who are tagged write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
  4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.
So let's get to it, shall we?
  1. Just because I'm on a diet doesn't mean I can't look at the menu.

  2. I like tits. There, was that so hard?

  3. But I also like asses. Major fan of the female ass. Heart-shaped, rounded, flaunted in jeans, demure and prissy in a bouncy-flouncy skirt, leading upward to a deliciously nipped waist and downward to Big Trouble. Hommina-hommina-hommina, do I like asses. Don't know why the gals loathe the VPLs so much; they just help with shape and definition. Just suggestin'. Mm-M!

  4. Feet hold a shameful fascination for me. Summer, the time of open-toed sandals, graceful mules and lovely strappy things, is a particularly sweaty thing. I was in a routine bidness meeting the other day, and I was seated next to a graphic designer of particularly toothsome profile. Brazilian kid, 24 if she's a day. I looked down and noticed she was wearing a pair of mules -- and was destroyed for the rest of the meeting. Couldn't think straight. Eyes just kept wandering under the table.... Yesterday, she told me, eyes shining, that she'd just learned she was expecting her first child. Oh, the guilt!

  5. A graceful neck is a wonder to behold. Wonder Woman's got the most fabulously willowy neck and throat, and sometimes when I watch her concentrating on something, that don't-bother-me-I'm-busy look on her face, I just watch the angles of her neck, the way her hairline meets her ears, and just want to sneak in and nuzzle.

  6. You gotta give some credit to the female back. Once again, my own natural-born wife has a gorgeous back, beautifully V-shaped, long and slender, leading from a delightful waist to shoulders you could really cry on if you were so inclined. Natural gallantry prevents me from going further, but there are Certain Views....

  7. Thighs. Yes. Thighs. Nothin' wrong with a nice pair of thighs.

  8. There's something fairly wonderful about a gracefully turned calf. And how many calves have you turned, Jingo? Oh, dozens. Easy. They moo a little and look resentful, but if you're working in tandem with a well trained Border Collie they'll turn left, or right, or whichever direction you want. Not particularly intelligent creatures, calves. Pliant. Moo.
Eight people? Crap, I don't think I even know eight people. Maybe The Stoic. Yeah, he'll enjoy the livin' fuck out of this. Kevin Wolf? Have you been tagged yet? Ah! The Viscount! Nope. Crap. Already tagged. Blue Wren! Gotcha, honey!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A Shitty Little Southern Jail

Saturday, our local government held an open house at the Loudoun County Adult Correctional Facility (better known to the euphemistically uninclined as the County Jail). This august building in the center of Leesburg is about to be razed for a parking lot -- one suspects that having such a remnant of Jim Crow (built in the 1950s) lowering over what has now come to be known as Old Town Leesburg, a place of tony law offices, brewpubs and antique shops, may have had a slightly depressing effect on tourism. The new jail stands at the edge of town by the airport, well out of sight of those with Mad Money to spend on restaurants and tchotchkes.

Of course, we Jingos couldn't possibly stay away.

Here's the view of the back of the jail taken from the monumentally depressing Exercise Ground. The picture doesn't show it, but it's surrounded by chain-link fence and razor wire and signs that warned of dire consequences for that inmate so bold as to try to speak to passersby in the street. (Freddie impressed me mightily with his observation that the chain-link was so tight that you couldn't get a foothold if you tried.)

Sadness just drips from the walls of this place. I'm not a religious person, but I am a firm believer in Karma, and this place was just rancid with it. I couldn't help running Prison Movie Scenarios around in my head as I wandered the halls -- Cool Hand Luke, The Shawshank Redemption, Sullivan's Travels -- and realizing that even those gritty movies failed completely to convey the banal, routine moral squalor of this place.

Clearly, the Authorities had invited us in -- make it a family affair! -- to give parents the opportunity to impress on their children the horrors that await them if they stray from the Straight and Narrow. And indeed, many families with impressionable youngsters were there for that very purpose. I believe my own brood, being well beyond that age where they could possibly be (or, indeed, need to be) Scared Straight, took a rather different lesson from the day.

Here's the first sight inside the prison walls. It's an old church pew, modified for drunks. Yes, those are seat-belts built into the structure of the seats. I can't help but wonder if the attending gendarmes weren't just a little amused by the thought of a church-pew so modified.

Here's what they call a day-room. There were about eight of them through the building. The cells to the right remained open during sunlight hours to allow about 14 prisoners to mill about aimlessly, talking tough and, fuck, I don't know, raping each other. We found checker-boards, Monopoly boards, and the like still stored stuffed between the bars.

Although the Authorities had done their best to sluice away the unpleasantness for the guests, these rooms still emitted a fairly strong smell of urine and desperation.

I began to be fascinated by the remnants still left on the cell walls, unstripped by the cleaning crews. The object below appears to be some kind of scorekeeping system, but for what game I'm mystified. Still, you can see from the date at the top of the scoresheet how recently these cells had been occupied.

Oh: The glue used to hold the paper to the wall?


What the hell else are you going to use?

The everyday workings of the jail being described by the tour guides (deputies on overtime, chests puffing with pride at the the ennobling work they undertook) quickly lost any fascination for me. But what really begin to capture my imagination was the graffiti on the walls of the cells.

Here's one from the womens' section of the jail...

Much of the graffiti was rather unprepossessing -- lots of Bible verses, poorly executed religious iconography: Yeah, Sparky, tell Jesus how sorry you are you got hammered and smacked your (probably richly deserving) sister-in-law with a tire iron. That'll help.

But in among the dross there were some seriously affecting bits of work. At first I thought the author of the following was a Captain Beefheart aficionado in durance vile: Titled Spandex Enormity, this one had some real punch and drive:

I Googled "Spandex Enormity" and was disappointed to find it was actually a heavy-metal lyric the poor goober had scribbled on the wall in his boredom and desperation. (A lyric from a band who took Rage Against the Machine to task for selling out, but still...) There were scores of others in the same hand in that cell. I was disappointed to find I hadn't actually discovered a really-o, truly-o Prison Poet. Damn you, Norman Mailer!

Toothpaste seemed to be the medium of choice among the Displaced Latino School:

Lots of Gang Sign. Oh, lots of Gang Sign. But this one stood out for it care in execution. Somebody had a lot of time on his hands:

Don't ask me what the Star of David means. You'll have to ask somebody else.

Here's a particularly ingenious bit of improvisation:

A prisoner, staring at the same bit of peeled plaster for eighteen hours a day, sees a duck -- and pounces!

As I said, the religious iconography was mostly amateurish and mundane, but this one showed some real artistic moxie:

Careful grayscale fading done probably with saliva and a fingertip. Over hours. Beautiful.

Wonder Woman (a studio art major and no mean critic of art) and I both agreed that this one was the prize-winner. If you had to describe it for a catalog, under "Medium" it would say, "Fingernail on Latex Paint." It's simply scratched into the jamb of a cell. But for composition, rendering skill and emotional affect, I give this one a major rave:

After this discovery, we got the fuck out of there as fast as we could, vowing never to drink alcohol, smoke crack, open a meth lab or beat each other with found objects ever again.

And you know what? So far, we've kept our word.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Deer Hunting with Jesus

Tuesday, I had an opportunity to sit for a good long spell in a desolate, Nowheresville parking lot on Leesburg, Virginia's south end. The lot was shared by a plumbing-supply shop and a gas station, and the only comfortable spot to sit was atop a pile of gravel under a tree.

Luckily, I had a brand-spanking-fresh copy of Joe Bageant's new book, Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War, to occupy my time. I was only a couple of pages into it, Joe's lucid, funny, and immeasurably passionate voice beginning to convince me once again that I'm not insane for thinking that the United States is headed for Fecal Matter Creek in a leaky Rubbermaid shitbucket from Winchester.

(Well, first, I checked to see if my name was in the Acknowledgments, as Joe'd promised it would be -- a-yep, right there, listed along with King of Zembla as a "plain intelligent and aware soul out there on the Net who took the time to connect with a curmudgeon writer because, well, similar minds run in the same gutter," stroke stroke...)

I am lucky enough to have Joe's home number in my cellphone contacts. I don't bug him much, just the occasional howdy when he's not in Belize fomenting class warfare. But I decided there on Page Two, somewhere around "[Winchester, Va.] is solidly fundamentalist Christian and conservative, steeped in the gloomy ultra-Protestant notion that man is an evil, worthless thing from birth and goes downhill from there," that Joe needed a good bothering at exactly that minute.

My luck was working. Joe was home, between publicity interviews for the book, and glad to hear from me. We chewed the fat for a bit (excellent fat, fresh-killed venison), talking of this and that.

The plumbing-supply shop door opened, and a man stepped out who could easily be one of Joe's working-poor subjects. Huge proletarian mustache, plastic gimme cap crowning wispy gray hair, hollow alcoholic's eyes, working-stiff clothes greasy with plumber's putty and machine oil. He took me in, long-haired yuppie in a white polo shirt and Frye boots (forgot the pants that day), and then he cracked a smile when he saw the book I was holding.

"Deer Hunting with Jesus! I like the idea!" he said with a phlegmy laugh. I smiled back, unable to come up with any rejoinder, whipsawed by the whistlingly weird circumstance of being on the phone with the author of that ironic title at that exact moment. Thinking back, I couldn't tell if the guy got the joke, or whether he was interpreting it literally as a religious deerstalker's guide. I have seen weirder things on the shelves at my local market. Well, see, there you go.

Kwitcher self-satisfied namedropping, you social-climbing cocksucker, how's the book?

If you're familiar with Joe's online essays, you'll know. It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry. The subject is America's working poor, the "mutt people," the people who cause liberals to shake their heads in frustration and bewilderment because they so constantly and consistently vote against their own economic and political interests. Joe explains why this is, through a whole slew of real-life examples from his home town of Winchester. Their stories are both heartbreaking and viciously, ironically funny.

Just about every page evinces a righteous "right on!" Here's one of my favorite passages so far:
"The people" like cheap gas. They like chasing post-Thanksgiving Day Christmas sales. And if fascism comes, they will like that too if the cost of gas isn't too high and Comcast comes through with a twenty-four-hour NFL channel.

That is the American hologram. That is the peculiar illusion we live within, the illusion that holds us together, makes us alike, yet tells each of us that we are unique. And it will remain in force until the whole shiteree comes down around our heads. Working people do not deny reality. They create it from the depths of their perverse ignorance, even as the so-called left speaks in non-sequiturs and wonders why it cannot gain any political traction. Meanwhile, for the people, it is football and NASCAR and a republic free from married queers and trigger locks on guns. That's what they voted for -- an armed and moral republic. And that's what we get when we stand by and watch the humanity get hammered out of our fellow citizens, letting them be worked cheap and farmed like a human crop for profit.
The book is full of these powerful passages, genuine anger that dates back to a time when the Left actually stood for poor people, rather than aggrieved interest groups. This is what Joe drives at again and again: Liberalism must make itself stand for these people again, must defend their interests, and not, as I've seen time and time again among the very people I know, dismiss them as booger-eatin' sister-fuckers.