Saturday, June 30, 2007

A Mirror Of Memory

Memory is fallible at worst, imprecise at best.

"Did I really say that?"

"Look how young he looks in that picture!"

"I don't recall..."

"That's not the way I remember it."

History, it has often been said, is written by the victors, it may consist of memories, as in oral traditions, its basis may be in various forms of documentation, all subject to interpretation. There are even movements to deny certain aspects of recent history, such as the Holocaust and other mass exterminations by the Nazi regime during World War II. These people have their own agendas and beliefs which supersede any rational considerations.

Sometimes, however, a little bit of the past emerges: photographs in a yellowed, crumbling scrapbook, a veteran's scrapbook of his travels during the war, with two pages of pictures simply labeled "Dachau Prison Camp". In the course of my employment I often deal with images of a disturbing nature- forensics, medical records and accidents. With the Internet, images of all sorts are available to everyone- but these are often scanned from copies of copies, or otherwise re-imaged. But there is something about an original photo that gives the viewer an unmatched sense of immediacy. These were contact prints from roll film, on paper that was pressed against film that was there. With information from other clippings in the book, I checked out the veteran's story; it all matched.

All the books and articles in the world, while necessary, are hard-pressed to match a little silver and gelatin coated piece of paper from sixty-two years ago. This wasn't the first such private archive I've dealt with, and there are many others.




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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Lesbians Taking Over The World, Revisited

Perusing the site meter lately has shown a pronounced uptick of interest in the topic "lesbians taking over." The link was to this post by the international media celebrity, Little Miss Loopy, over two years ago. Usually such anomalies are caused by a headline, or perhaps a pop song. There have been over two dozen inquiries in the last week alone, with no discernible media influence. And if Lesbians are taking over, how is their power made manifest? Ellen Degeneres? Rosie O'Donnell? Famous, to be sure, but hardly powerful. Condelezza Rice? After the fiasco of her recent Mideast diplomacy trip , she could hardly be considered powerful either. Nancy Pelosi, an Italian grandmother, is definitely out of the question.

Hillary? She had sex with a man at least once, does that disqualify her? I think that we'd have heard about any of her same-sex dalliances by now.

And she isn't president.

Yet.

UPDATE: Fox News "Personality" Bill O'Reilly came up with this "Factiod" in his show last week. A single incident of women beating up a guy (who was a member of a rival gang) caught on a surveillance camera in Washington D.C. was the apparent start of this nonsense. It doesn't look like Hillary in the video. So there is absolutely nothing at all to the whole business!




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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Ugly House

Built without style, planning or aesthetics. A cobbled together mish-mash of lumber, each distinct section of a different vintage. Or, as I call it, home. We bought the place on a very limited budget, having two small children who needed a proper yard and access to parks and schools. It was close to being a trash house, the recently divorced woman who lived there couldn't quite manage a small dog (we filled a dumpster with soiled carpet!), much less a house. Every aspect of it was substandard, the plumbing was almost Roman (including a "drum-trap", illegal for over thirty years!) all the remodeling was slap-dash, but it was big enough, and in a good neighborhood. Over time, it has slowly been renewed; with four of the twelve rooms finished, and the others nearly so, now even the outside is approaching a sense of "unification." I had never known it to be anything other than an "old dog" of a house, or rather, with its six additions, a "Frankenstein's monster."

In my recent siding project I was stripping some of the shingles from the second floor, above the front porch, when this detail came to light:



At one time, six score years ago, someone had built a house, with design elements, a cozy cottage (it was half of its current size) decorated and painted, not exactly a Victorian mansion, but a structure pleasing to the eye, with proper proportions and a sense of completeness. When I have finished I hope that my work will be as comely as that of that unknown artisan, who worked so many years ago.




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Monday, June 25, 2007

"Milk is for the Kitty..."

...said the cat.

I got your message. If this is the end, I understand. Nothing lasts forever, I appreciate what was done- true art, without guile or ulterior purpose.

Sometimes things just click, no further analysis or explanation is needed.

Loved the beret, the freckles and the purse.

Loved the bow, the tartan plaid skirt, the waffle stompers.

Loved the way you unlocked the doors, doors I didn't know existed.

Loved the grimace most of all.

"Milk, declared Sharon, is for the tea!"




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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread

The phone call was not good news. It concerned a relative who had been in a grain elevator accident.

The food we eat, most of it, involves some risks to the workers who cultivate, harvest, process or handle it. Whether it is an accident with a piece of machinery, exposure to toxic chemicals, inherently dangerous work (i.e., commercial fishing), or just being worn down from years of toil; somebody is always putting their life on the line so that we can eat better than the kings of old.

Perhaps this may be a compelling reason for saying grace at dinner.

The funeral is Saturday.




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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Hacker - Another Treasured Childhood Memory

Phlegm, and plenty of it. My dad was a heavy smoker. His bouts of hacking were truly impressive, and went on for hours. Thankfully, he quit when I was about six. I remember picking up a pack of his Pall Malls and carefully examining the heraldry on its crimson wrapper. Its crinkly cellophane, the silver foil inner sleeve, the seductive aroma of the tobacco within- all these sensations are as fresh to me today as they were then. I was a smoker myself in high school, quitting was relatively easy when I did it with the intent of establishing my non-conformity.

I've been working outside a lot these days, fixing the house siding and trim (coming along nicely, thank you), and I find myself within earshot of the neighbors for a good deal of the day. I've already mentioned the Mighty Ducks; the guy that feeds them (a twenty-something with tattoos, piercings and a goatee) is a hacker as well. The same type as my dad, with the same guttural urrrp-hack that my father perfected. All day long, every 4 or 5 minutes.

Should I say something? He's not the type for chit-chat, and my countenance is somewhat stern; might he be packing heat and take it the wrong way? He's young enough to still have the classic excuses- "a touch of bronchitis" "allergies" "getting over a cold"; I really don't have the inclination to get involved in any debates these days, much less pointless ones.




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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Green Lake - A Cherished Childhood Memory

                

It may be fair to assume that one does not live in the nicest part of town when your nearest nature area contains a 10 acre chemical dump. Such was the case in my idyllic childhood where, a few blocks from my house, a lake of caustic lime (sodium hydroxide) existed for many years- a by-product of an air-reduction plant manufacturing industrial gases for welding and other uses. We children were warned to stay away from the pond; with its eerie cyan-green hue and stifling odor, we didn't need to be warned twice. A lot of people threw old tires into it, after a while it looked as if it was a "tire farm" - tires of various sizes looking as if they were emerging from a primeval ooze. If there had been a lot of rain, the lake was big, if it had been dry, the lake bed was exposed- a gooey mess of chemistry, said to cause severe burns if left on the skin for any length of time. There were also pipes of super concentrated chemicals; they ran right into the river.

This is where we liked to play.

If you were careful, you could walk all around this pit on the firmer areas (wear boots just in case) somewhat similar to walking on another planet, or so we imagined. There were no fences, only a rusting warning sign. I sometimes think that no one had a lick of sense in those days. A photo of mine depicting this mess ended up on the front page of the local newspaper, a lot of tsk-tsking was done and the pit was eventually cleared, the lime used to treat fields that had become too acidic. Lord knows where the tires ended up. They built a freeway over the whole area, so now this place is completely obliterated.

A child can imagine his own paradise out of next to nothing, if he has to.




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Monday, June 18, 2007

Arty Party

Friday night found the Weaver and me attending the preview party of the Picasso and American Art exhibit at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. These parties have become  de rigeur  for the artistic elite of Minnesota, but they let us in anyway. Lots of people (four thousand tickets sold); a chance for people to dress up and get some culture in the process.

The show itself featured a couple of dozen lesser Picassos juxtaposed with some American heavyweights who were influenced by The Master: Wilheim de Kooning, Max Weber, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Jackson Pollock and others. there was even a Man Ray- fun to experience a seldom seen painting of his. The older stuff in the show was all quite dingy- whether they were painted that way or were just in the need of a cleaning, I don't know but I suspect the former. The Pollocks were the great surprise here, eight or nine major works, with strong Picasso influences, from a period of his just before the big "splatter paintings." Really impressive. The show was heavy on the testosterone; these were macho men in a macho time. Picasso's genitals made their mandatory appearance, as well as Lichtenstein's pop art nudes; a little Georgia O'Keefe would have been a nice change of pace (although she was hardly a Picasso disciple- but we did catch her in the regular collection.)

                

The party was fun too! A light mist on the large patios made for a magic atmosphere; there were just as many people under the elements as were under the canopies.

                

There was some couple action going on as well- with the city lights for a backdrop, what could be more romantic? Singles were also present in full force; many young women had underwear (and more) trying to escape from within the confines of their chic cocktail dresses (sorry, no pictures). All the while a band played (techno, of course) as the wine flowed like water and a splendid time was had by all.




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Friday, June 15, 2007

My First Date

Eighth grade.

Deborah had beautiful skin and bad eyes. For some unknown reason (unknown to me then), I thought that if I would walk home with her and carry her books (corny, but true!) she would be my girlfriend, and someday, perhaps, she would even kiss me. I was a little greaser (this was pre-Beatles- when a little dab of Brylcreem would do ya) and growing out of my clothes about every three weeks. She was kind enough to indulge me, we'd sit on the back porch and talk and until her mother would arrive home from work. After a couple of months of this, and it was getting too cold to sit outside, I suggested that we could go to a movie together. She had to ask her mother.

Her mother said yes. She lived about a half a mile from the cinema, so transportation was not a problem. The Great Escape, a Steve McQueen action thriller was playing, war movies were OK, Doris Day-Rock Hudson sex farces were not. We settled in to our seats, popcorn and candy and a "Bubble-Up" soft drink between us (two straws!), and began to watch. There was one little problem. The movie was too good! We were both mesmerized, she was from a sheltered family and I don't think she had see anything quite like it. We held hands, and she gripped mine tightly when Steve McQueen jumped the barbed wire fences on his stolen motorcycle (he did his own stunts.) I don't remember anything after the date, I would have remembered if we ever did kiss.

Soon after that, Deborah told me her mother didn't think we should see each other so much. I got the hint. Years later, in high school, when she asked me to the Sadie Hawkins (girl-asks-boy) dance I said no, and she cried. There were a lot of things that I didn't understand then.

I did see her at one of our class reunions, 20 years later. Still the same beautiful skin, although she now had contacts for her eyes. We were with our families (another mind blower) but we did get a chance to talk- nothing big, no hard feelings either way. Later, when we were all leaving the park, I saw her verbally chastising her husband, it looked like a routine. There but for the grace of God go I, etc.,

No kiss then, either.




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Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Mighty Ducks

           

My neighbors. The Mighty Ducks. Champions of the world. Always there in their yard, greeting me with a friendly "Quack Quack" every time they see me. Now that it is warm you can even hear them late at night- talking quietly between themselves, rustling among the tall grass. There are some other critters that live on the other side of the fence: dogs, cats, reptiles, humans, etc., but only the Mighty Ducks are sociable. This is their third year, growing up from cute fuzzy ducklings; now they're so big that even the dogs won't mess with them. Graceful, poised and beautiful (it's from all that preening, you see.)

I simply must have them over for my next pool party.




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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mr. Polsfuss



Last week contained the 92nd birthday anniversary of Lester Polsfuss. Lester is a musician of some success; as would be expected, his days of topping the charts were many years ago (although he recently released a Grammy Award winning CD.) He was also responsible for many improvements in the design of musical instruments and recording apparatus (The Smithsonian wants his home studio.) In the Nineteen thirties, he played country music by day (see photo above) and jammed with all the top jazz musicians at night. He has performed with Nat Cole, Bing Crosby (#1 hit), Chet Atkins (another Grammy award), Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton and many, many guitarists, most of whom will gladly admit that they've stolen freely from his vast array of signature licks.

But Lester's greatest contribution is to Pop Music. His songs were fun. They had outlandish arrangements, were almost novelty tunes at times, but were always founded on a deep, joyous musical understanding. Lester always enjoys meeting with fans and is often found playing at the Iridium, a Jazz club in New York City, as he did Monday. I didn't get the chance to be there, but then I've already got his autograph.

In fact, I've got two of them, but one is on the headstock of one of my guitars:
Les Paul




Comments: 8


Monday, June 11, 2007

A Scary Time With Mr. Book

So I've been seeing this guy quite a bit lately- it's not like that, it's just that me and my pal Mac have been doing a lot of things together, fun stuff. Mac has access to places all around the world, parts of the world I've only read about in the past. Mac makes it happen... until last week.

Mac shut down. He wouldn't do the things we used to do together. His face was a blank, and if pressed, all he could do was let out a faint chiming sound. I knew what to do, however. I brought him back home. I figured if he was with his "family" they could check him out and see that he could be brought back to life. 10 months old is way too young to die.

I handed him over to one of his own last Saturday, holding back tears, I whimpered; "He isn't gone for good, is he?"
"We'll call you" he grimly smiled; I was downcast.

Tonight I got a call, Mac was back! Better than ever, with some new tricks, and ready to get to work. I drove over and picked him up, held him close and sang this song:


Ooh! I got him
Back in my arms again
Right by my side
I got him back in my arms again
So satisfied

Ooh! I'm satisfied yeah
So satisfied*


Welcome home, Mac Book.


*Back in My Arms Again words by Holland/Dozier/Holland




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Sunday, June 10, 2007

Papist Parade

           Papist Parade
Imagine my surprise yesterday when I spotted the local Catholic Church having mid-day parade down my side street! The Holy Men were in front, of course, with their vestments and icons, (the high priest sheltered by a little awning), incense-censer swinging altar boys, followed by the humbler folk, with sad faces, singing hymns. My imagination immediately went into overdrive- perhaps they were on a mission to ferret out and destroy any "secular humanists" or other such heathen vermin (pagans, Unitarians, Flippists,etc.) they might find. Perhaps the "Anoka Inquistion" had already started and I was the first up for a heresy trial? They did eventually pass, but I was left in an uneasy peace.

Now of course they probably meant no harm. But what did they really mean by this unprecedented action? To inspire others to embrace their faith? To establish 6th Avenue as a station of the cross? To make me feel as if I were living in a third world country, with superstition and ritual dominating over reason and science? Today a golden cross, tomorrow a flaming one? Was it meant to be like the neighborhood 'parades' in Northern Ireland, designed to instill fear and provoke violence? Or was it masterminded by the new Pope, in a show of strength?
This was not an innocent testimony of faith. This was an act of intimidation, Un-American and reactionary. The New Dark Ages begin NOW.

~Flippism is the Key, May 29th 2005


Those fun-loving Catholics were at it again, parading in our neighborhood, showing the pagans who really owns the streets. We're not yet at the sectarian violence stage- thank goodness the inquisition hasn't re-started but the message of intimidation was clear enough for this non-believer. I missed seeing Father Ed in this year's parade, however.




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Friday, June 08, 2007

Domestic Mysteries - I

The model name of my washing machine is Ultimate II. The Ultimate I has no doubt been renamed "Penultimate?"




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Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Machine Stops

In an example of exquisite timing, my computer died after the last post. Irregular posting for the next week or so...




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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Real Steve Jobs and the Future of Everything

If you haven't already done so, check out these ads for the soon to be released Apple iPhone. It may or may not become a commercial success, but it is already a big, long overdue step in user interface design. Note: I didn't mention computer interface. Certainly the device is based on a digital computer, synchronized with the internet (more computers) and handles digital information. But what this thing does (if it works as well as it looks) is finally liberate the input device from a keyboard or buttons. The interface mimics buttons, but because it is just a screen, it can be reconfigured to do anything (it's what the Newton wanted to be)

It is no coincidence that Apple came out with the Apple TV earlier this year. That product is not yet fully realized, but will be soon. In two years the US will change its method of broadcast television, effectively destroying the old system. What Steve Jobs is aware of, and not talking about yet, is that this is a opportunity to put together a bunch of existing technologies into a system which will be greater than the sum of its parts. (He did that once already, with the iPod, which is really just one part of a system- iTunes.)

Imagine this: It is the not too distant future. You are sitting at home, in your media center with your display/monitor. It is connected with satellite or cable, the internet (including movies on demand), a hard drive or some other way to store media of all sorts, even your home utilities/security/appliances. All of these things (with the exception of movies on demand) are possible now. You could, with great effort, assemble this system, have about a dozen boxes, scores of cables, and a coffee-table full of remotes.

Or you could have two things, a Mac TV (with monitor) and the iPhone. You wouldn't even need a personal computer! An elegant small device you could take with you, helping you throughout the day, and at home it would also integrate a suite of "intelligent appliances."

Stunning.
For a more technical treatment check this out.

And for a different perspective, you should read this.




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Monday, June 04, 2007

The Auction

There was an auction in our neighborhood last weekend. Evidently our town is still considered rural enough to host an occasional auction in the yard. When we first moved here, 24 years ago, auctions were quite the deal- with real antiques, vintage clothing and lifetimes of collecting all going for the highest bidder. Now, with the advent of eBay, rapacious antique dealers and The Antiques Road Show on television, the chance of finding any real treasures is slim to none:

              

The auctioneer was good, 200 words per minute, with humorous bantering between the lots. There just wasn't anything of value to sell! The duck decoys in this bucket were plastic, with what little finish they possessed flaking off:

              

...at least they were already in trash buckets, saving someone the chore of putting them where they belong!

Then I saw a sad lot of fishing gear sharing a box with a ironic iron garden sign:

              

I couldn't help but think of Lennon's lines:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...
- John Lennon


"...$3 going once, going twice, SOLD! Lot number 42 to bidder 112..."




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Saturday, June 02, 2007

Twinkle On, Little Stars

The heavens were ablaze, millions of stars shining, each a different hue. We had found a way to touch each other, star to star, and then we sang. The music of the spheres, no doubt about it, and it was good. It was as if there was no night, and in the day we stars shone just as brightly.

How long did it last? Years and years, so it seemed, or was it only a few months? Then a few stars flickered, but it was nothing- just something in the eye. We carried on, laughing, flirting, sharing our joys and our sorrows. More stars were twinkling now, some had gone out altogether. Still, there were millions- although they didn't seem to shine so brightly as they had done before.

And then all the stars were twinkling. Many went out for good. The night was dark again, with only a few steadfast beacons to reckon by. Old favorites disappeared, and were not replaced. Had it only been a beautiful dream?

At last, the time came for my own star to flicker, and then die out. It was quiet then, all right if you were tired of the noise. In my solitude a single candle burned. I snuffed it, and in anger the snit reproachfully glared red at me, then died.

In the darkness a childhood rhyme came to me:
Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are?
Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky
When the blazing sun is gone, when he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light, twinkle, twinkle all the night.
Then the traveller in the dark, thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go, if you did not twinkle so.
In the dark blue sky you keep, and often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye, 'till the sun is in the sky.
As your bright and tiny spark lights the traveller in the dark,
Though I know not what you are - twinkle, twinkle little star.


Twinkle on, little stars,
and when you are able,
shine brightly down on me,
I was once as bright as the sun.




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Friday, June 01, 2007

B.P.



   Jay's Longhorn Bar was one of the primary focal points of the Minneapolis Punk-Rock scene in the late 70's. It was a place where The Replacements and Husker Dü would emerge as musical forces. How the band I was working with, The Explodo Boys, got a gig there was always completely beyond my understanding. We were playing 60's style blue-eyed soul, with a little older rock, some New Orleans tunes and a few jazzy instrumentals thrown in. Nevertheless we had a mid-week gig, starting on a Wednesday. It was the only place we ever got heckled. The bouncer, a black man named Jerome, dug us however. One of our more ambitious numbers was a James Brown medley, three of the Godfather of Soul's best dance tunes, ending with Papa's got a brand new bag. We had a singer who could do it right. Jerome asked him if he would play it again Thursday as he had some friends who might like to hear it.

   The next night, at the start of the third set, I sensed a group of people standing right behind my position at the sound board. Jerome's friends were there. I was about to turn around and say hello when the band started with the JB tunes. Our singer was beside himself that night, the band never sounded better. We didn't get heckled that night. After the song was over Jerome's friends left.

   Later on, we found out they were from bands called Flyte Tyme and Grand Central, two black groups that were later to merge into one calledThe Time. There was a shorter, younger guy there as well. The next time I saw them was at the movies. The film was Purple Rain.

   The Explodos lasted another year, fizzling out due to the usual reasons. We managed to win The Minnesota Music Awards "Critics Choice" as the best band of 1979- the week after we broke up! Jerome Benton's friends- Terry Lewis, Jimmy Jam, Morris Day, Jesse Johnson and others put out gold and platinum records, Lewis and Jimmy Jam would go on to produce platinum records for Janet Jackson and many others. The next year Prince debuted, and he won most of the Minnesota music awards for several years after that.

   The history of the Minnesota music scene was divided here:

   B.P.= Before Prince

   A.P.= After Prince




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