3-28-03, 2:12 PM -

Did you know that Willard Scott was the first Ronald McDonald? See, it's things like that that make life interesting.

Writin' at work, know I'm not supposed to, doing it anyway. It's a lovely day outside my office window here in downtown Brooklyn, where the big blue mortgage folders flock like pigeons around the windowsill and the cast iron radiator just below it.

They've just shown me how to set up my voicemail in the Bigass Bank phone system, which is never a good sign. Don't want no part of that customer service thing, I'll tell you what. I like it here in the land of computers and headphones. Stick a neural shunt in my head and let me dissolve into the virtual world, but please don't make me talk to humans about this shit.

These brokers expect a modicum of concern about their precious files, Pete help 'em. Me & the computer, though, we have an understanding. It doesn't give a rat's ass about my enthusiasm, productivity, or dedication. All it wants are numbers and letters. I respect that, and in return, I only ask an occasional peek at my email and weather.com.

I wasn't actually planning to be here today. The big theory was that I would call in sick so that I could take final lead vocals on the last two songs left to mix, thereby completing the mixing process this weekend. As it turns out, I AM sick. Got a nasty sore throat last night, and the ick army 'liberated' my nose first thing this morning, so that pretty much kaiboshes the vocals.

I have been known to believe in Pete the Almighty, and as such I can't help wondering if I might need to take a hint here. Okay, okay, no lying. I'll record 'em some evening next week. I just don't like taking vocals when our neighbors are home. One has to be free to experiment (and potentially screw it up), and I always envision someone wincing out in the hall as I attempt a note my throat may never have heard of before. I probably need to quit with the self-consciousness and realize that this is friggin' New York.

And speaking of wincing...

I just heard this woman on WNYC speaking in rapturous tones about a collaboration between the Chieftains and Van Morrison, after which the track was played. Now, I like the Chieftains. They're very good at what they do. But why they felt the need to add the sound of yaks mating in the pale moonlight, I have not a clue.

Listening to modern Van Morrison is like hearing your drunken uncle crank up the karaoke machine at a family picnic. Van Morrison is like Mick Jagger's slow-witted brother. He is to Mick like Jimmie is to Stevie Ray. He sounds like a man who's heard Ray Charles described but has never actually listened to his music. He sounds, quite simply, like yakfuck.

Now, I realize that it's not generally kosher for one vocalist to slander another, but I find my stupefication too great to remain silent. What IS the DEAL with Van Morrison? Brown-Eyed Girl, fine. Moondance, fine. But his stature as anything higher than maybe Joe Cocker is beyond comprehension.

Some may point out an apparent inconsistency in my huge estimation of a croaker like Tom Waits and my revulsion at Mr. Morrison. But if Van could write songs like Tom can, I'd probably forgive him. And it sounds crazy, but there really is a thin line between earthy grit and yakfuck, and I'm afraid Van just stomps right over it like a...well, like your drunken uncle at a picnic. Yeesh.


Given my rather limited daily mental involvement with the mortgage industry, I have increasingly turned to radio for lobe stimulation (sexy, no?). The radio landscape in NYC is rather varied, and refreshingly free of Country-Pop (A.K.A., The Whore Of Babylon). The options lean a little too heavily toward hip-hop and Latin Cheese-Rock, but one might expect Honky McWhitebread to reach that conclusion.

The reception is a bit limited in our building, but here's a rough breakdown of the New York radio I can receive:

2 college stations (which unfortunately SUCK)

3 Latin Cheese Pop stations (Aiee, aiee!!!)

3 Hip-Hop stations (I know, eventually I'll succumb)

3 public talk radio stations (a Petesend for me)

2 Jazz stations (Hate 'em...where's the melody? God, I'm a Philistine)

2 Classical stations (ain't got the patience...get to the chorus. Ug. Grunt.)

2 Top 40 Pop stations (teen pop fascinates me a little, dunno why. Nostalgia or senility?)

1 Classic Rock station (sometimes you just gotta hear "Stairway" just one more time)

1 Oldies station (hit & miss, just like the '50s...'cause you know, I was THERE...)

1 Lite Rock station (fat Luther Vandross AND skinny Luther Vandross)

1 Contemporary Christian station (God loves crappy '80s synths, apparently)

1 Smooth Jazz station (I may complain, but give me Jazz over Smooth Jazz any day)

1 Hard Rock station (the famous KROQ, home of Howard Stern)

1 Techno station (boom-cht, boom-cht, boom-cht, boom-cht...)

The real revelation to me was WBAI, the most pinko-commie-liberal station you ever laid ears on. I mean, really. After spending so many years in the Land of Rush Limbaugh, I was rather shocked and awed to hear such goings-on. Anti-war 24-7, these people are not fucking around. It's an entirely different radio universe.

Which is the thing about New York radio. If you listen to it for long enough, you tend to forget that the rest of the country exists. WNYC profiles modern composers and the literary avant-garde as if somebody actually gives a shit. The fact that not one, but TWO modern jazz stations can prosper right next to each other on the dial is freaky like a mofo.

I remember when I was doing events at Bigass Books & Music in Fort Worth, our home office up north used to send these esoteric authors and expect me to draw a crowd for them. Meanwhile the Cat Who Solves the Mystery And Rescues the Young Trial Lawyer books were flying out the door with copies of Garth's latest.

I knew I had to say something when their idea of a Regional Interest event was a guy who'd written an epic poem about the Alamo. Yes, an epic poem. Like The Iliad. In Fort Worth, Texas, I'm supposed to get people to buy an epic poem. I knew better. I booked Elmer Kelton, San Angelo western author, hat & all, and the people piled in. If he put in some cats, there'd be no stopping him.

All this is to say that I spend a good deal of time nowadays feeling like an uncultured lout. Because not only have I never heard of the stuff that gets played up here, but I can't stand it. Something I would assume to be TUNING turns out to be Exploration of the Senses in Postwar Sumatra.

What I've found is that it doesn't matter what the thing sounds like. You just need a good story. If people think they're hearing the migration of the Great Crinkled Sea Turtle, they'll overlook the fact that the violinist just dropped his bow on the flautist's steak quesadilla, creating a moist palette of highly artistic squish not heard since Coltrane tried to suck a burrito up through his horn.

So now I've reconciled myself to neanderthalia. Thankfully the Nerd Rock field is wide open for trendsetting.

Anyhow, there's good news on many fronts this week. BLOG has arrived fully functional, despite the best efforts of Airborne Express to beat the hell out of it, so now we've got a new computer. Well, new-ish. Hurrah!! Kudos to my friend Nancy for cranking up the defibrillator and pushing me & Wifely out of the 1994 technological ghetto.

This auspicious development means that I'll be able to post some music on the website soon. I know I keep promising to run that flag up the pole, but now I've got some wherewithal to inflate that balloon, mixed metaphors notwithstanding.

There will also be some new website content, which I've been extremely lax about. I've started a War Page. With all of the radio commentation I've subjected myself to in the last few weeks, I have reached the reluctant conclusion that there are people in the world far more qualified to analyze war & its meaning than me. Scary, but true.

Because I'm a weird fuck, I've started the page with Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most decorated Marines of all time. He left the service in 1931 and became a widely respected peace activist, but I mostly like him because his name's 'Smedley'. Plus I've put in some comments from George Galloway, a rather outspoken member of the British Parliament. More to come.

Finally, to mark the conclusion of Women's History Month, I offer you the history of the vibrator, which is actually more fascinating than you might think.

Gotta get back to work now, the bank's cranky eastern European harpy of a Vice President is screeching at my boss about something. Time to make with the headphones. Hope they've finished tuning that ukelele.



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