Wednesday, May 26, 2004

A confidential Memorandum



To: Randy Hessian
CC: Rita Pontiff, Gerald Neilsen, Bruce
From: Stan Broditch
Date: 5/26/2004
Re: Coil malfunctions on the DK-4900J

Randy –

As you may know, the DK-4900J has been “on the fritz” for the past week or so. As you
know, DK-4900J is vital to the continued viability of Toho Fob & Retooling, LLP. It is the artful application of the DK-4900J, particularly of the trench pod, by Toho technicians that has sustained our unimpeachable reputation for precision that has made us the “go to guys” for so many clients in the Tri-Valley area.

A technician from an outside vendor (ManTrope Services) was subsequently called in to service the DK-4900J. In inspecting the DK-4900J, the technician found the cause of the malfunction, a musty film adhered to the primary coils. The tacky quality of the film had caused the coils to stick together and in some areas, actually telescope into themselves. He also noted the smell of hot dog water.

Needless to say, this is alarming.

In investigating the cause of the appearance of the substance, I made some inquiries with the technicians on shift at the moment (Francis and Deke) as to who had been seen in and around the coil manifold. Francis then volunteered that you, Randy, had be taking your lunch directly below the manifold, often locking the door behind you.

This in itself is direct conflict with the primary safety protocols as posted in the self same area (the manifold area) as I have described above

Deke went on to mention (please do not be angry with Francis and Deke, as they are good fellow who only want what’s best for Toho Fob & Retool, LLP) that he heard what sounded like whimpering and sobbing coming from the chamber soon after seeing you enter the chamber with a large duffel.

Randy, for your safety, and for the very viability of this company that employees so many honest, wonderful people, please refrain from engaging the coils.

Normally, an infraction of this magnitude would be cause for immediate dismissal. However, in light of your recent misunderstanding with your bunkmate Blaine, and the obvious emotional distress you are in, management has endeavored to take a more enlightened approach. We forgive you, and will only be placing this is your HR file (see: Form #239-6603-323b “Extraprotocol: Equipment Manipulation”). Note that cost of replacing the coils will be docked from your pay incrementally until repayment.

That said, the DK-4900J is not a toy, nor is it a replacement for healthy human relationships. I would have thought the problem last summer with the ScamperPro V would have served as an object lesson in the futility of human/machine interface.



Friday, May 21, 2004

Robert Plant.

Robert Plant, the golden god, has hay fever. Either sinus feels like a tea kettle erupting -- the heat and dust of the Central Valley are like flares being shot off into his nostrils.

Even with the windows in the rental car sealed, those vicious bastard particles plunge deep into his wooly head and start raping the membranes. Snot flows like magma. His eyes look like stigmata, or at least nasty open paper cuts, as he parks the Chrysler LeBaron in the parking lot of the Ceres Holiday Inn Express. He flew all night to land in San Francisco a little past day-break, then drove straight, stopping once to shove scrambled eggs around in some blank rock-tour restaurant.

During the drive, he listened to a Calypso CD he just picked up -- old Mighty Sparrow stuff. He's careful to avoid the radio these days. In flipping through the stations, he risks a hall of mirrors effect; certain three-note snippets are enough to send his face into a scarlet burn.

Fuck the Sun, he says. Fuck the heat of the shitty, productive, agricultural Central California sun. It's so unlike the Santa Barbara, Malibu cocaine fried egg sun of his first set down in California, so eager to please the skin with a tattoo of warmth. 1970? '71? Anyway, it was before Big Log, before Honey Drippers, before rediscovering the more elusive pleasures of tannic acid and fine bone.

His curly hair looks like spun polyester as it catches that late-morning sun. At his age, this hair looks stupid, like a hopelessly dim waitress in some wretched beach egg house in Orange County. It's now clear the dignity in old age that he had hoped for even as he mainlined Southern Comfort, post-orgy, is now permanently hamstrung by the bane of Bozo hair. Maybe he'll go crew cut like Picasso.

He lurches through the tarry parking lot, looking at the flat stinking fields, clutching an overnight bag. The AC slaps him as he steps into the stucco lobby.

At the counter: "Errr...hullo. The name is Ron Head." His assistant books him under "Ron Head". He's not fooling anyone, of course, when he pulls out the AMEX black card with his name embossed on it: R. Plant.

Using only the first initial is, of course, a lame play for anonymity. He's fucking Robert Plant, all right. He can't even wear fucking sunglasses, because it will just make him look even more like Robert Plant.

More than once, someone on the Ceres Holiday Inn Express staff has offered him weed, an offer to "party", and most embarrassingly, a halting request to go "bro out" in downtown Manteca made by a shivering teenage bellhop. (He's often wondered: what is it about Zep that attracts sallow teens with wispy man-boy moustaches? Did they not see we were fucking serious as cancer, working our fucking asses off like men? We hung out with BRITT FUCKING ECKLUND.)

The pose is of course a formality now, just a fillip to his celebrity and the general lack of celebrity in these parts. Hotels are the portals by which men and rock stars mingle, and tradition dictates that name of the Rock Star remains unspoken, even if the town population couldn't muster up a good crowd for John Philip Sousa under the band shell, much less work itself into a true locust frenzy. Anyway, the town tends toward older farmers and migrant workers. Not the Zep demographic.

The manager was expecting him, and in lieu of a penthouse, she offers up a room overlooking a tepid willow and the shaded west-facing parking lot. She also arranges for a selection of magazines chosen at random from the local 7-11 to be fanned across his bed to greet him when he arrive, AC blasting.

He enters the room, throws his bag down, and turns on the TV. He immediately gets the chills.

His daughter, Rachel, is working a half-day today, as she does every time he visits. She's a large-animal vet with a successful practice here in the Central Valley. He's proud of her, and after bloody-well paying for her stay at UC Davis, he has every right to be. Of course, raising her wasn't something he took an enormous role in, other than the steady infusion of cash and an occasional discreet side trips on tour and incognito vacations in secluded bungalows in one of the tax-shelter republics that bead the azure waters of the world.

Rachel's mother was always friendly in person, but she always firm, even bloody minded, about his obligations.

She had been a light during a particularly dark night in Denver, the night Bonham took an axe to a local herbalist's prized signed baseball bat. Bonham's rages sometimes fucked up the band's social plans and medicinal procurements to no end. Of course, plans never fell through, they just got more expensive. Rachel's mother waited outside the bus, like they all did, but the way she spoke to him managed cut enough through the murk of violence that hung over the hotel that night that he still could remember their conversation with some clarity decades later.

A year later, a friendly personal letter, a photo, a detailed budgetary plan (focused, impressively, entirely on the comfort and future of the newly born daughter) and a shorter, less friendly missive on the letterhead of a law firm that his solicitor assured him was not to be trifled with.

His money paid for braces, horse lessons, clothes, college, and the establishment of a veterinary clinic. Now it pays for the yearly weekend in the Central Valley, to visit his secret grandkids, barbecue with the secret son in-law and go water-skiing. But, fuck, his sinuses pay for it, every bloody time.

(NOTE: A concerned member of the firm of Winklle, Farr and Gallagher has been kind enough to point out this story may cause me to be sued for liable. This is a work of fiction. Mr. Plant does not, to my knowledge, have a secret daughter, son-in-law, or grandchild, living in Ceres, CA, or any other place. To my knowledge, Mr. Plant may very well like his hair as it is, and may enjoy listening to Led Zep songs on the radio. I don't know. Mr. Plant may have never ingested any illicit substances for all I know. Mr. Plant may or may not have frequented any nation that might claim azure waters as one of its feature. Again, this is FICTION, pure and simple. SPECULATION if you will. I do not claim to have any knowledge of Mr. Plant's habits, relationships, travel preferences, or sinus conditions. Mr. Plant may or may not be a fan of Calypso. I don't know. How could I? I'm just writing a story here, a work of fiction. In fact, as a post-modern excercise, may I suggest to my readers to treat any mention of ROBERT PLANT as a stand-in for WOODY HERMAN and any mention of LED ZEPPELIN as a stand-in for THE THUNDERING HERD. Or any other band member/band combination of your choice, as long as those persons are dead and/or spurious. Thank you.)

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Thursday, May 20, 2004

Dot Matrix printers, metronomes, Kiss, Jingles and the visual pleasures of Judas Priest

Yesterday, I ordered a strange, hopefully good CD, to whit: [The User]: Symphony #2 for dot matrix printers .

The User is a couple of Canadian “sound sculptors” (eeeew) managed to put together a piece performed entirely by old stinky dot matrix printers on the appropriately titled Symphony #2 for Dot Matrix Printers. Yes, believe it or not, these two composed enough text files to automate 14 dot matrix printers, much like the ones used to print giant “Happy Birthday Baby Grunt” banners on many sheets of computer paper, the kind with the Panzer treads on the side.

Granted, the concept seems limited, but I’ve heard snippets online and it's surprisingly harmonious. The thing that drives me kookoo thinking about is how they worked out the sequencing. It’s purely TEXT DRIVEN. They aren’t using sequencers, they are using they’re using word processing documents as punch cards, or more precisely, piano rolls.


I’m a sucker for tinkerer composers, though.

Take for example, Gyorgi Ligeti, the mad Hungarian responsible for the madness inducing Lux Aeterna (the creepy massed choral piece that launched a million bad acid trips during 2001: A Space Odyssey), also did a fun little ditty that plays in the same space as The User (stupid name, by the way). Poème symphonique, for 100 metronomes, 10 performers & 1 conductor is as loopy as it sounds. 10 dudes wind up 100 metronomes, set them at different speeds, and at the conductor’s cue, pop the collective clutches then stalk out of the room in silence. I am not sure if they are wearing tuxes. The piece ends when all the metronomes have died.

The effect would be a chaotic lump of ticking, literally winding down to a slow steady stutter of clicking, then silence. I guess technically this is an easier piece to pull off than the dot matrix dealie, since it’s process oriented versus orchestrated. BUT IT’S STILL FUCKED UP.

Probably closer to the printer piece is the work of Conlon Nancarrow. He’s a dead 20th century American composer that was endlessly vexed by the limitation of human musicians. He wanted tempo, more tempo, goddamn it, and banana fingered Homo Sapiens couldn’t HANDLE IT, RIGHT? So, taking matters into his own temporally limited hands, he turned to the only thing capable of doing what in his mind needed to get done: the player piano. Pre-preset Rhumba, this is what one did if one were to create machine music and didn’t have the necessary square footage to accommodate a vacuum-tube monstrosity. Some weirdos were of course futzing about with sine-waves and tape loops those day, but Conlon was a sucker for a nice melody, albeit one played at infernally whacked out time signatures.

Nancarrow managed to punch out 50 of these Etudes. The resulting pieces are actually very pretty, with a sort of Earl Hines feel to them. Earl Hines with severe aphasia.


After all this pointless meander, I’d like to turn to a startling realization I had yesterday walking home from the bus stop: Beth by Kiss is the dumbest song in the world.

For those not in the know, Beth is a song written by the cute member of Kiss, Kitty Cat (or Pussy) Peter Cris. This problematic on a superficial level as Peter Cris is of course the drummer. Drummers drum. Venturing beyond the drums has historically proved disasterous, if not for the drummer in question, then for the listening public, viz Phil Collins, Don Henley, the lyrical content of the entire oeuvre of the Ayn Rand gospel group, Rush, all of which was written by the braided rat-tail drummer Neil Pert.

So, acknowledging this historically deadly deficit, let’s turn our attention to the song content itself. Beth is about a guy who has to stay late at work. That’s it. The song is his keening wail of longing to his homebound wife/girlfriend, presumably over the phone:

“Beth I hear you calling/
But I can’t come home right now.
Me and the boys are playing/
But we just can’t find the sound.
Just a few more hours/
and I’ll be right home to you/
I think I hear them calling.
Oh, Beth, what can I do?
Oh, Beth, what can I do?”

So, here’s Peter, evidently working on some collaborative project with his peers, who suddenly freaks out because he’s going to be couple of hours late. He rushes to get on the phone with his wife to tell her (as he should). While he’s on the phone, Ace Frehley, no doubt wanting to leave as soon as possible himself, gives him a “Uh, Peter…” and points at his fantastically futurist space man watch. Pete then panics and starts blubbering: “They’re making me go back now. BETH! BETH, WHAT CAN I DO?”

The song goes on to talk about how their house just aint a home, mainly because his job as a drummer in a heavy metal band requires him to occasionally stay at the studio til eight to really get “Love Gun” in a place that all the guys feel good about.

I don’t want to get into the whole damn song, but the lyrics are written in such a way that makes it seem like a one sided conversation, the implication being that Peter Kitty Cat Man is filling up their voicemail inbox with this pathetic mewling. Meanwhile, Beth is no doubt doing her own thing as she should. Go Beth. And leave this clinging loser. (And if she leaves him, you just know he’s going to move into Gene Simmons’ place. “Vat did you need her for, anyways. You are Peter Cris, man. Stop with the blubbering already. I’m gonna get you laid, bubby.”)

Honestly, Beth could very well be a new puppy Peter has brought home to make his barely furnished crap split level ranch in Topanga Canyon a little less shotgun suckingly lonely. He’s yelling into the phone, hoping that wee Beth will here him over the Radio Shack answering machine’s tinny speaker. Meanwhile Beth has found some old M&Ms left over from an orgy, and is now squirting cake batter all over Cat Man’s Italian leather sofa.

Jesus. Either way, Peter Cris deserves our pity.


One more short bit about stupid lyrics. This time it’s a jingle for Ford Trucks. (I like easy targets. I can shoot them from the cab of my Ford Truck.

The commercial in question involves some New Country dolt yodeling about who his truck is an extension of his ethics:

“I’m a Ford Truck man.
That’s all I drive!
I don’t have no boundaries!
I don’t compromise!”

I don’t have (any) boundaries. I don’t compromise. I (greg) would say someone without boundaries is pretty much someone who compromises a lot, while someone who never compromises would have a very narrow definition of standards and thus, boundaries. Just a thought.

Returning to matters Heavy Metal, two of my favorite album covers are the duo that pretty much define Judas Priest’s commercial metal sound of the early eighties. I’m talking about of course, Screaming for Venegeance and Defenders of the Faith.

Why do I like ‘em? They are of course, on many levels, crap. But I appreciate how they take animals-of-prey-as-mechanical-dealers-of-violent-death theme you might see on a Dio album and some how make it cheery, almost Yellow Submariney. It’s like a collaboration between Peter Max and Boris Vallejo. And really, how rad would that be?

Considering the absolute dreck that the other giant in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Iron Maiden, saw fit to package themselves with.

Uh. Yuck. Of course, Judas Priest were always a little more fun than Iron Maiden. More in the mold of AC/DC than Anton LeVay.

That’s it for now. Kiss my ass.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Oh, yea, oh yea, oh yea. A blog.

Hiya, toots. You look like a daisy spotted with dew. Really.

This is a blog, my blog, Bastard of Art and Commerce. I'm not entirely sure what will be posted here, but as I am comfortable with ambiguity, that is no big deal. Getting older does that to one.

I suspect there will things posted, as well as comments. Prob'ly about books I'm reading, fresh annoyances creeping into my purvue, that sort of offal.

With that, uh, lemme go think up some vapid ponderings.

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