Monday, July 31, 2006

Bloggers, Meet Bert; Bert, The Bloggers

So I said the next post would be more pictures of Big Sur. So I lied.

Not LIED, really. Something else came up. About a year ago, I drove up in the driveway and saw a large, gray-ish shape in the side yard. As I got out of the car, it hopped up and flew alongside the creek, and I recognised it as a large Blue Heron.

It was a brief encounter, but a lovely one all the same. I have always had an affinity for these birds. Not least because they are beautiful, but also because they bring back very fond childhood memories of canoeing on the cold, clear waters of the Ichtucknee River in Florida, where we would often round a bend, sending a flock of four or five great birds off in lumbering, graceful flight. Our bird came back a couple of other times, but I only ever got a glimpse of him.

This year, he came back again. The picture above (the best one I've got so far) is from the first visit he made, wherein he stood around in the yard for the better part of an afternoon and into the evening. He made a couple of small flights, once a few yards to the bank of the creek, and later a few yards across the creek. I thought he might be injured or ill, but he was gone by the next morning, so I figured (hoped) he had been, as the Wifey put it, "Just hanging out, being a bird." The next evening, as I was in washing dishes, our next door neighbor approached our door; the dog jumped up and barked a hello, drawing me to the front of the house. I opened the door, and the neighbor, who had gotten as far as the foot of the steps, said "You should see this."

I went out and stood on the walk, and up on the roof, at the ridge at the front, was the big Blue Heron. I thought to call to Rachelle to bring the camera, then made to go get it myself, when he stepped off the roof and sprung into a lumbering, graceful flight, into the cut, over the yard and across the creek. I wish I'd got as picture of that. Boy, it was lovely.

So the upshot is that, since the Wife won't let me use this as an excuse to start calling this place The Heron House, but prefers me to use the previous nomenclature she dissaproved of, Soggy Bottom Navel Observatory & Proving Grounds, I have decided to name the bird Bert. Bert the Big Blue Heron. I was gonna call him Eric, but I think Bert suits him alot better.

Friday, July 28, 2006

I got pictures of Big Sur.

And that, apparently, is all Blogger will let me upload at one time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


I have a confession to make.

Back in the dark, early days of the internet, I found myself hoping against hope that it was, in fact, not possible to form a community via electronic means. This was largely due to certain elements of the Academic community who were insisting that not only was internet community possible, it was a moral imperative, because of all the great and wonderful things that community could do.


Not that I have anything against community, per se, but I was intimately familiar with the nastiness community can lead to. Oppression, exclusion, punishment and corruption are also byproducts of community. Of course, the Academy will argue that those are aberrations of true community, but that borders on a semantic abstraction. And the very aberrations I was worried about were popping up: hate groups were forming; politicians wanted to use the net to raise money and push "issues" (doncha love it: politicians have "issues"); Slate was launched. Nasty stuff.

The other part of it was that I had this feeling, this creeping, sinking feeling, that the people arguing for internet community were doing so because they wanted to control what that community looked like. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

And I wanted my internet wild. I loved all the weirdo crapola that churned up in the wake of a good surf. I didn't want to suddenly find that the whole thing had been reduced to some sort of cockememe Town Hall Meeting. So I formed the opinion that internet community was not possible.

I don't know that I ever told anyone that, and I don't recall basing any serious argumentation on it. In fact, thinking back on it, all the intellectual arguments I have engaged in regarding electronic communication in some way assumed the inevitability of internet community, that the "community" existed by very dint of the internet existing at all. In fact, the best argument I had against the Academics was right in front of me: to argue for the necessity of internet community is to forget that it already exists. What's that you got behind yer back, bub? Nah, the OTHER hand.

Why does this come up? I guess that I have been thinking about the whole blogging thing. Why do we blog? Why do some people blog for a while and then quit? Why do some disavow the practice and then show back up all of a sudden? Why do others have to switch blogging services in order to escape persecution or abuse?

Community. Same reason some people get pissed off at the Church and go off and form their own sect.

Community. Same reason some of us figure if we got a list of all registered sex offenders in the state our kids are safer on the streets we won't let them play on.

Community. Because some times it feels good to make sure that there are people who believe the same thing you do.

Safety in numbers.

But there is something else about it, too. Something uniquely affirming about the ability to reach out to other people and have them respond as if they know you, people you never met, hundreds or thousands of miles away, and confide problems or offer condolences or give advice or discuss matters material or theoretical. Maybe it's not possible, really, to have that honest-to-there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I transcendence that my sources tell me is the spark of real community. Maybe. But I still think it's real. I think that we can come to know others electronically almost as much as we are ever likely to know them face to face.

I think so. I could be wrong.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The World Has Officially Gone Insane

Organics at the Wal-Mart price.

Hands up all of you who think this sounds like a good thing.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Courage, Camille

One of theings you have to put up with if you are a friend of mine-- or a lover, particularly a Wifey-- is the pehnomenon I will herein call the Sleepargument. That is: I start an argument, in my head, in my sleep, and at some point I become aware that I have engaged someone else in it. Very often this happens when I am on the phone with my pal Chris, whom I called last night to have an argument with him about something he never wrote in his blog. I figure he'll probably forgive me, since he usually does. But I still feel guilty as hell. I mean, now I know I was wrong, but last night I was convinced. On the upside, at least it was an argument about something related to something he wrote in his blog. When I was younger I would wake people up by making completely cogent arguments about things that never happened. One night, for instance, I stopped my brother on his way across my room-- he had to go through my room from his room to get to the bathroom-- to tell him to give it back.

"Give what back?" he asked.

"My animation fluid."

In my argumentative form, I took his inquiry as to what the Hell I was talking about to be a diversion, in order to escape culpability. At some point, before I was actually completely awake, my Dad came out to ask what the hell was going on.

"Doug stole my animation fluid!"

"What? What's 'animation fluid?'" my Dad asked.

At this point, Doug was standing on one leg, and I was only just starting to reach consciousness. "I . . . I . . . I don't know, actually."

Doug went to the bathroom, my Dad stuck around to yell at me for a little while, until it dawned on him that what I had accused Doug of was so absurd that it could only have been the product of my subconscious, and then he told me to go back to sleep and stalked back off to bed. The next day I found my brother in the kitchen in the afternoon and said "Sorry about last night."


"Last night, the argument, sorry."

"Oh," he said, "That's ok, no biggie." (Or something like that, but probably not "No biggie.")

"I thought you were mad at me?"

"No, I just really had to pee. What is animation fluid, anyways."

"I have no idea." And to this day, I still have no idea what the hell I was talking about.

Another thing you'd have to put up with is my abiding love of guitars, and the occasional spontaneous road trip to visit a guitar store.

Back last summer I was casting about for an electric 12 string-- which loyal readers would know I now have aquired-- and I dialed up the dealer lists for DiPinto electric guitars on the internet. There was one in China Grove. The next nearest one was some two and a half hours away. I reasoned that China Grove was just a little past Concord, which is less than an hour away, so off I went.

An hour and a half later I walked in the door of the place, having passed it twice. (The route I had taked to Concord made it just over an hour, and China Grove is a solid half hour farther up the road. But it was a sunny day and I drove the miata with the top down.) It turned out they no longer carried DiPinto's, but they did have an electric 12 string, which I examined and played. Several things about the thing just screamed wrooooooong! On the drive back it occured to me that what I had there was a hybrid. Somebody chopped the neck off an Ovation 12 string and transplanted it onto (I think) an Epiphone hollow body. The pickups didn't seem to match, and I could see where the old screwholes for the pick-up rings were painted over. It just wasn't right, or at least not right for me. On the other hand, it was that kind of shop: on one side they had brand new Alvarez's and Takamines, and on the other side they had used oddities, up to and including an old Danelectro "convertible," which is a thin body acoustic guitar with a lipstick case pickup shoved into the soundhole. (I played it. It sounded the way you should expect an acoustic guitar made by Danelectro to sound.)

The drive home, down through Concord on Highway 29, sucked.

So anyways, today's sojourn was down to Hames Music in Gaffney, SC.

I had gotten out of the house about 11, on the grounds that that way I could run some light errands and get back in before it got really hot out. I had to go put gas in the car, since I had done an inordinate amount of running around last weekend, and, standing at the punp, looking sowth towards I-85, I thought to myself, when was the last time I was at Hames?

Hames is a venerable and famous shop in our area. For as long as I can remember, it's been the place where serious musicians go to get serious instruments, and for years it stood alongside two other stores here in Charlotte-- Reliable Music and McFadyens-- in that capacity. Reliable shut down several years ago, and McFadyen changed locations and stopped being serious before getting bought out by a chain and then finally shut down the one location I was still willing to visit, and rumor has it that they have now filed for bankruptcy. So I jumped on the interstate and headed south.

It was a relatively nasty little drive. Traffic was thick and fast, mostly trucks and SUV's, and I managed to survive it largely by ignoring the posted speed limit. (I actually behaved myself for the most part, although I did get up over 80 a few times in getting out of the way of semis.) It took most of an hour of freeway traveling to get to Gaffney. I got there, jumped off on the Frontage Road, parked, and went in, dawdling just briefly before going up to the second level where the real guitars are. I chatted with the guitar guy, who had recently been to NAM, I played a 2500 buck Alvarez 12, a 680 buck Alvarez 12, a 600 buck Taylor (which sounded exactly the way I would expect a 600 buck Taylor to sound), and a few others. I gawked at instruments made of light woods and dark woods, with contrasting bindings and color-matched inlays. We talked about who was having factories set up in Mexico and Korea, and I got some advice as to whether it was worthwhile tweaking the pick-up set up on my OLP. I told him stories about aquiring the OLP and my Seagull, both actually quite good stories. Eventually the guitar guy had to go make a call, and I realized that it was twenty after one. I had been in the joint for an hour and a half.

So I said goodbye to the guitar guy, bought a pickup ring, stepped out into the midday sun. I got in the Miata and took a meandering way home, avoiding the interstate except for one short stint. By the time I got in it was a quarter of 3.

It was a very good day indeed.

This evening we have a Meet and Eat, which is an event the Mini club does once a month. Essentially, we meet at a restaurant parking lot, park all the Mini's in a long row, wherein they are all cute as hell, and then go in and eat. The establishment chosen for this outing is a joint called The Roasting Company, where they serve rotisserie roasted chicken in various fromats. I'm not usually fond of chicken, a fact derived from having visited a chicken plant in my youth, but they have a dish they call Santa Fe Chili (or have had on all previous visits), which is right up my alley.

All told, I'm a pretty lucky guy.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

And his front, too

So I am back. Actually, I was done with the seasonal gig a week ago, but I had a neice down from Ohio and the other niece over with her, so there were alot of Uncle Jim duties to be performed. Or preformed. Or deformed.


I'm only here to unveil a poem I had been intent on writing for a half a year already, and just got around to writing today because I am home feeling a little under the weather and one of my fellow bloggers (who shall remain nameless) dropped a tid-bit that inspired me, for whatever reason, to get off my duff and write. No, wait. Get on my duff and write. Whatever. Commentary welcome.


Because the lights are bright on broadway, because
The Flat Iron Building juts out of the ground like a gas gauge
Registering empty. Because Central Park springs up
Like something that shouldn’t be there, and then suddenly
Makes sense like a fairy tale halfway along.
You should go to New York.

Because no one is no one now here
Because no one is anyone on these sidewalks to nowhere
Because no one’s going anywhere you’re going
But everyone’s got somewhere they gotta be
Because that one time you catch an eye and a smile
From some stony little New Yorker
You get a charge that runs up your leg and your spine
And takes your breath away.
You should go to New York.

Because you’ll just be walking along and it’ll strike you
That it’s fun watching all those big yellow taxis flock around
And it’s important to eat a hot dog off a cart
Before going in to look at the Renoirs
And it’s an absolute matter of life and death
Getting a pastrami on rye with mustard from Katz’s
On a Thursday night bristling with possibilities.
You should go to New York.

Because when it’s hot, there’s no place hotter
And when it’s cold, there’s no place colder
Because the way the wind whips down the Avenue of the Americas
And makes a hard left at Broadway
Will snatch your breath away and put it right back
In a single, swift stroke.
Because it breaks your heart, and because it makes your heart
Swell with joy.
You should go to New York.

You just should.