<= 2004.03

2004.05 =>

[APRIL 2004.]

batch files for dummies

Never ran across PigeonRank before. Heh.

Math joke: "The number you have dialed is imaginary. Please rotate your phone ninety degrees and try again."

Yup, we're bubbling over with nerd humor this fine morning. Must be all the programming I did last night. The website for my software is up—with screenshots!


persephone rises

Spring cleaning. I don't know what that residue in the sink was, but I got rid of it. You sweep all the accumulated cat hair around here, you have enough to make another cat. A very light, fluffy cat who will waft away on the April breeze.

Haven't had much to say on books lately for the simple reason that I've had no time to read fiction; I'm still finishing up all the extant nonfiction on Guatemala that I could find. The weirdest thing is the American view in the early eighties—I guess it's a result of growing up in the nineties that Communism as a historical force seems so laughable. I'm continually taken aback at how terrified everyone was of Central America going Communist. And then you get Reagan's occasional quotes; flying back from his Central America trip, he tells a reporter how fascinating the visit was. "You'd be amazed," he says, "they're all separate countries." For the next couple days everyone scrambles to figure out whether Reagan had known this before the trip.

Given my general take on picture shows from California, I'm not sure why I find those Flash ads for The Day After Tomorrow so exciting. I think it was hearing about the scene where the American government has to beg Mexico to accept all the refugees fleeing south—that's just rich. Don't know if I'll go so far as to see the movie, though.

No sign of an ice age here. Breezy and blue, with birds. Beneficient birds. I'll bounce off for a beverage, and belles lettres.


on y va

If you put nutmeg in your French toast batter, it turns into amazing Top Secret X-rated French Toast. Well, that's how I'll keep entertained in May.



I really appreciate you folks who seconded my ambivalence about À Bout de Souffle and recommended other French gangster and/or Godard flicks. Bande à Part is on its way; I'll have to twiddle my thumbs until someone releases Le Samouraï on DVD.

In the meantime I recommend Nik's PowerPoint presentation about his tomato (2.7 megs). Your science class makes you grow a tomato, your tomato turns out stunted, you are forced to create a presentation about your stunted tomato in PowerPoint, which of course is directly linked to the decline in critical thinking across the industrialized world—this is what you do. Learn about tomatoes.



This morning another of those beautiful, terrible dreams that serve as unpleasant reminders that yes, one does want to be loved, even if one keeps busy enough to sublimate this desire during the waking hours. That awful moment of rising into consciousness and feeling the dream-emotion drain from the pores in your mind—you cry, beg the jailor for a moment more of liberty before you are locked back into yourself—thinking of the key, each confirms a prison—and there you are in your bed. Warm flesh, fragile bone. As every morning.

So I rolled over, fell back asleep; but of course after that all I could dream about was war. Now I'm going to the post office, bleary and unshaven at midday, to mail off eighty review copies of the record. Always something happening. Something solitary.


no mind

You move to New York, it's only a matter of time before you marry a model. Even if you're Salman Rushdie.

How to take care of your slide rule.


making america safe for angels

If there exists in this world a physical analog to "meta-meat," I suppose it would resemble Animal 57.

ClearPlay (via orangebones) is a content-filtering company whose custom DVD players will automatically remove sex, violence, and profanity from the discs you rent. I guess this means it's now safe to sit down with the kids and watch some porn.

F: Oh, you made it here just in time! I simply can't get the DSL working!
M: No problem, ma'am. If you allow me to step inside, I'll take a look.
F: I'm... very grateful.
M: Yes, let's see here. The problem's with your router.
F: Do all broadband repairmen have such well-toned arms?
M: Union regulations, ma'am. Looks like we need to reconfigure your router to work in promiscuous mode.
F: Your job must be stressful. Your shoulders look so tense.
M: There's a lot of... pressure, yes.
F: Why don't I—
[sudden screen blip]
F: Well! If my router isn't promiscuous enough from now on, I know who to call!
M: That you do, ma'am. That you do.



after 500 years the phoenix consumes itself

If you can read this, congratulations: the new server has successfully propagated its way to you. This site is no longer hosted at a well-intentioned but hapless barn in Iowa, nor at an advertising-riddled behemoth whose customer support makes you feel like a six-year-old. Take a bow, alienwebshop: the little hosting company that you always wanted yet, inexplicably, has been so hard to find.

Same goes for the iowablog: it lives again! (If you can't see iowablog yet, have a delicious Coca-Cola and wait 12 to 24 hours.)

The immediate result is that those comment and search boxes at the top left should finally be working again. Have some fun searching for dirty words; I'm off to do the usual.


dearth day

Happy Earth Day. Enjoy that earth while you got it. I am awfully busy with the computing machines. More for you soon.


moving pictures

I've been busying myself with a long-overdue foray into the New Wave; and by that I mean Truffaut and Godard, not Duran Duran. Les Quatre Cent Coups was excellent—not so sure about À Bout de Souffle. Sure, the editing was interesting, and Jean Seberg is never more endearing than when she's speaking French with an atrocious accent, but after a while those meandering naturalistic speeches start to look like a thin cover for indifference. The French can't just make a gangster movie; they have to get existential about it, and everyone's so damned detached from his or her fate that you have to suspect Godard of being supremely detached from his characters. I don't know if the director playing a novelist who gets interviewed in one scene was supposed to be a stand-in for Godard or what, but after listening to a few of his insufferable pronouncements ("Eroticism is a form of love, and love is a form of eroticism") I wanted to hit him.

Anyway, I'm driving to Seattle today. Last summer Aimee and Matt clued me in that the same nasty bit of Guatemalan history I'm writing about was the subject of an hourlong documentary on PBS, but not having a television and not wanting to pay $250 for a video copy, I was stymied. Turns out they're showing it this afternoon at the University of Washington. Wait long enough and yea, an academy will provide.


the best of intentions

Tell you the truth, I was really out in the other place for three or four days there, spending half the day in bed, eating nothing but salsa, half ready to flee town again—but I've come back around. Didn't want to freak anyone out this time. Cleaning the apartment helped; also eating protein and doing promotional stuff for the record. If you were feeling generous you could always go say something nice about it. Something that isn't just someone else's review of Leonard Cohen's The Future with the song titles changed, damn it.


the right kind of proteins and that good eating flavor

McColough reveals, to our mingled surprise and horror:

Just so you know, my old ad agency did that meat ad. Every floor of our building featured print ads from the days of yore, and for whatever reason, good ol' floor 17 (my floor) was the retro meat ads. Also -- the ad you have on your web site is the least offensive/alarming of all of the retro-meat ads. I'm trying to find examples of what was hanging on our floor, but can't seem to dig them up on the Internet. In the mean time, please enjoy these other ads that our agency produced: [Man-size taste of honest tobacco comes through] [Mighty good makin's]

Ooooh, here you go... [Meat... You're right in liking it]

Leo Burnett's (the agency's founder) theory was to advertise for meat using images of raw meat against a red background. The "red-on-red" theory was supposed to evoke virility (red was later used as the prominent color of Marlboro cigarettes paired w/a cowboy -- again, virility). Anyhow, this was one example of dozens in which explicit images of meat were paired with odd slogans. For more examples, go to [big gallery from the American Meat Institute]

I especially like the one with William Bendix.


our collective mythology


there there, there's no there there

I gave Berkeley my official yes a couple of days ago. Time to take out some massive loans and head for the quote quirky heart of the East Bay (thanks, NYTimes travel). "In these parts, the road to enlightenment is lined with some excellent restaurants." And thank you, Governator, for hiking California's nonresident tuition another few grand. I'll be out of debt when I'm seventy, after forty years' labor in the mines. Better go ahead and take out that silicosis insurance.


your opinion

There's a John Gardner biography out. I do swear by Gardner's books on writing to a large extent, but I don't agree with everything he said; in particular I think he got Donald Barthelme wrong. He obviously admired Barthelme's inventiveness, but gave the following qualification in The Art of Fiction:

All his work, from Snow White to The Dead Father, might be read as, among other things, a tour-de-force study in literary (and visual) technique. His worldview, in all his fiction, is essentially absurdist: Characters struggle with problems that cannot be solved and either accept their fate or struggle on.... One of the things that make his writing interesting is his seemingly limitless ability to manipulate techniques as modes of apprehension. It goes without saying that, for Barthelme, they apprehend nothing: Reality is a place we cannot get to from here.

I might have been more inclined to believe that when the only thing I had read was 60 Stories, though even in that collection there were standouts, like "Miss Mandible And Me" and "The School," that obviously hit deeper nerves. Having now read a couple of novels that bore into sex (Snow White) and death (The Dead Father) and any number of other English 101 themes, I think it's safe to say that there's quite a bit being apprehended here. There isn't even any particular effort to hide the pathos. I can't believe The Dead Father is out of print; everyone should read it. Everyone who has a father.

On a barely related tangent, in my continuing hunt for decent store-bought tortillas I picked up a brand called "Bien Padre." This does not mean "good father"; it means "well father," and thus sounds like a phrase you would use in conversation with a priest. "Bien, padre, ¿dónde está el servicio de caballeros?"



Handful of links today. First is a bit of activism for which I know this site's readers are a natural constituency: the Paul Wellstone Mental Health Equitable Treatment Act. Basically it gets rid of disproportionate limits on mental health treatment under group health plans. Follow the link, email your senators.

At Chapati Mystery, the sepoy fights back.

Elena is a young lady from Kiev who likes to ride her motorbike in the dead zone around Chernobyl. Lots of photographs. Just go see it.


teurer rilke

Blogchain from kidchamp!

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 23.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.

Mine is Rilke's short novel Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge—and no, I am not being pretentious, it was a gift from J.F. to help me learn German and it really was the nearest book sitting on my desk. The sentence in question is "Ich sitze hier in meiner kleinen Stube, ich, Brigge, der achtundzwanzig Jahre alt geworden ist und von dem niemand weiß." After I pause to look up Stube, this translates to "I sit here in my little room, I, Brigge, who is twenty-eight years old and of whom nobody knows." Ouch.

Last night's show was just fine. I guess the Rabbit Hole is a sort of venerable folkie place; like Elliott Smith used to play it back in the day. They had a mural of him on the wall, anwyay. The audience liked our stuff, and then when Al Green came on the jukebox a middle-aged dame who had previously gotten drunk at the David Bowie concert made me dance with her. "Do something funny," she said. So I did one of my funny dance moves, which I have many of. Then she asked what I did for a living, and I said I was writing a book, and she asked what about, and I said "Guatemala," which people respond to much better than "cancer," I must say. But the evening's real find was CART!, the act who followed us: loud as hell and much more interesting than your average local outfit. Sadly their microphones kept shorting out, but even as an instrumental ensemble they worked out well. A Sonic Youth comparison is inevitable, as they have a lady on bass and a couple of singer/guitarists into dissonant, tritone-heavy harmonies and noisy effects—but they're not derivative. It fits. Not even returning home to discover that the cat had vomited copiously on my bed could dampen my spirits.

In a month we have a show at Devil's Point; in the meantime they're playing my CD in the bar, promo-wise. Get that log a-rollin.


what if we gave a party & no one came?

Concert tonight! Problem is, they offered us the show on incredibly short noticve, and I've already been through the narrow roster of people to invite, and everyone's presumably going to trivia night or the David Bowie concert. Um—fuck. If you live in Portland, why not come to the Rabbit Hole tonight? 203 SE Grand Avenue, 8 pm.


dream on

Here is a little fable about guitar repair that may have a moral. If you figure out what it is, please tell me. My first guitar was an Ibanez named Jackie, which I thought was the coolest thing ever in high school (largely because of an inexplicable Joe Satriani phase) and which remained an entirely decent workhorse guitar through college—but when I got a Telecaster a couple of years ago I put Jackie aside. Last month Erik, who is a consummate guitar tweaker in a way that I am not, volunteered to take over Jackie's rehabiliation; he shined up the fretboard, raised the action to get rid of the fret buzz, and yesterday we undertook the replacement of the erratic volume control. Soldering in the new potentiometer went fine, but when I bought it I'd had to make some educated guesses with the guys at the guitar store as to size, so it ended up sticking about an inch out of the guitar. It would have looked very silly when the actual knob was replaced, except that we couldn't even get the knob back on because the old potentiomenter was Japanese, hence metric, while the new one used English units. Imperial units. Whatever they are. Anyway I said no problem, we'll go to the guitar store around the corner, which is open even on Easter Sunday, and get a new knob.

There are currents of music that remain active in guitar stores long after they are erased from the rest of the world. "Yeah, I know him," the dude behind the counter was saying as we walked in; "he opened for Ronnnie James Dio." So I show up with my Underground Nerd Eyeglasses and put the guitar on the counter and get a condescending speech from the dude about how all we need is to clamp the potentiometer with a pair of pliers and use a second nut and washer to recess it back in the guitar's body. All right, fine, I say, and we take the guitar to the Fred Meyer. There aren't any of the right sort of nut, so we just buy a bunch of washers in the hardware aisle. We don't bother to check the size, as they're the biggest washers in the store and surely they will fit over the potentiometer. We get home and discover that they do not fit over the potentiometer. In the meantime we have broken the volume knob in half by trying to cram it on there and have to glue it back together with contact cement.

Fuck this; it's all gone to hell. Time to go to a barbecue. At the barbecue, through a chain of events too complicated to relate, there are some props in the basement from an old Aerosmith video. In said video people take guitars, drumsets, and keyboards, build skateboards out of them, and then trash them. The aftermath is very sad to see: a perfectly nice guitar, obviously bought new (it still has dealer stickers on it), nailed to a piece of plywood and wrecked beyond repair. But: beneath the ruins of the knobs are some pristine nuts and washers, precisely the size we need! We pocket them. That night Jackie is reassembled and sounds better than she has in years. There's a bit of Aerosmith in her now.


twenty ka of corn

Happy Easter! I'm having an Easter egg hunt here, only you have to replace "Easter egg" with "bits of cat litter that the cat has tracked around the house."

One consequence of still having my email address brazenly out for all to see is that I can keep up with the latest trends in spam. Most recently the prescription drug hawkers have started prefacing their emails with extracts from the Code of Hammurabi, I guess to fool the filters. So it's "If the herdsman overlook something, and an accident happen in the stable, then the herdsman is at fault for the accident which he has caused in the stable, and he must compensate the owner for the cattle or sheep," and then "Get yer Cialis here!"


society/screaming skull

Bob Mould's weblog. A lot of it is about professional wrestling.


coors light and maraschino liqueur

It's possible that I've been sleeping so late in order to protect my brain from itself. To wit: woke up early this morning from one of those epic, psyche-scouring dreams whose details I have no desire to recount even on this exhibitionist weblog, going as they do to my neurotic heart. Several women were involved, and the Hopkins line "Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God," and even some Smiths songs; you get the idea. Anyway, after that I was pretty much stripped of all desire to live. There was nothing to do but go back to bed, which I did, woke up again at my usual late hour, felt fine. Here's another day to traverse.


hawk from a handsaw

I lost the key to the padlock on my basement storage unit. This means that I have no access to my guitar and keyboard cases, box of art supplies leaking mineral spirits all over the place, and about 850 copies of my album. I called the locksmith and they said that with Master padlocks there wasn't much to do but cut it off. I'm going to go downstairs now and see if the hasp looks vulnerable to a hacksaw.

James Joyce turns up at writing workshop with the last sentence of The Dead.



I'm getting rid of a couple old pieces of musical equipment that are taking up space. We have a) a Sony turntable, a pretty budget model but certainly adequate if you just want to play a record once in a while; and b) a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder that was quite a decent piece of equipment in its day—I used it to record any and all of the mp3s on this site. Both are a bit dusty and obviously neither is a top-of-the-line unit these days, but they're completely operational and yours if you want them. If no one wants them then I will put them out on Hawthorne with a "Free To Good Home" sign and let the hipsters fight it out.

MineTracker Pro website is up. Get yer software here!


come all ye fair and tender maidens

I put up a quick and dirty Blank White Cards server here. The images were originally scanned for the Seattle Electric Grimmeldeck and so are sort of large, I'm afraid; if you're not on broadband you will probably be frustrated rather than amused, and ought to go check out recipes on foodnetwork.com instead.

Comprehensive blank white cards page here.


enter the dragon

Sorry. First the DNS was broken, like democracy, and then I was lazy. All I've been doing lately is writing at Stumptown, which is officially my new office. I did make it to a police auction the other day. Apparently the cops busted some drug dealer who was an amateur musician and bought a bunch of equipment before his hubris inevitably toppled him. I got a ten-dollar theremin (scroll down) out of the deal; also a Vox wah pedal with the Union Jack painted all over it. When you put the theremin through the wah pedal it meows. The really fancy multitrack recorders and effects processors and soundboards ended up not being sold, once the county got wise to the fact that they could send them to a music store on consignment and make a lot more than by auctioning them to a bunch of locals who were mostly there for the gardening equipment. It's probably for the best that no one tempted me to buy a $2000 digital studio, even at a fraction of the cost. I know, I could resell it on eBay. But I might still feel dirty.


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