Two years

Several things today, my first work day back from vacation:

I re-upped my hosting agreement. This meant plopping down $200 for the next two years of insane internet hosting fun – something that used to be keenly important to me, but has since waned after I joined IBM Research.

Turns out I joined IBM Research… two years ago.

And, explosively, spasmodically, coincidentally, the last blog post I wrote here was… two years ago.

I have a few things I want to get off my chest, sure.

One is, I think Facebook has killed personal blogging, or at least upped the ante so that people who write really good blogs are really focused about it – meaning there are fewer blogs out there. This is only my perception, of course, I have no hard data to prove this observation. Before Facebook, everyone seemed to have a bloggy place they could jot down some random stuff, or complain about some random stuff, or explain some random stuff, or just fire off a random comment and stuff.

But now? Anyone can do a micro version of any of that on a smart phone, hell, while crossing the street. Writing blog posts are a pain in the ass, especially on a small form factor device like a phone. Reading blog posts are a pain in the ass because who cares after 50 words? Besides, putting up a goofy picture or making wry or gross comments on Facebook gets lots of immediate feedback… as long as you are popular enough to have an audience who’ll react.

So there. My ongoing meh/hate relationship with Facebook. Off my chest. For now.

Another thing: the loss of manners in this country is deplorable. Guilty as charged, from time to time, I am sure, but some behaviors have become appalling.

The fact that it is socially acceptable to turn your face from your interlocutor to scroll on your phone is lamentable. You should be ashamed, but you never will, because it’s now part of the social fabric. The fact that it is socially acceptable to be reading from a phone while walking is not only rude and discourteous, it’s plumb dangerous. Old person rant: when I was being raised, I was taught that one should never read while walking, for the above reasons.

Not to mention texting while driving. Really? It is so widespread, and people who are holding up traffic while smart-phoning actually get irritated if you call them on their behavior.

Vacation was too short. Had to get that off my chest too.


Nostalgia and mixing.

I saw a picture I took in Paris two years ago, a picture of the Pantheon dome with the French flag flying in the foreground. For some reason I was transported back to my little Jimmy self, when I was about 10 or 11.

I used to be passionate about atlases, maps and flags, and when we travelled to Europe to live, I used to pore over the National Geographic Atlas of the World that Mom managed to lug with us. I had a collection of little European flags on sticks, and when extremely bored I tried to imagine allegiances to either the French flag – in case we stayed too long – or the British flag, because the au père that kept tabs on us turned out to be a patriotic right wing opera student from the U.K. I wonder what ever happened to her. She was never very skilled at putting on lipstick, she used too much and it seemed to flake all the time. It was literally frightening.

This might have been stirred up by my listening to the second Blood Sweat and Tears album yesterday, hoping to find some secret mixing tips. You know, the one with ‘Smiling Faces’ and ‘Spinning Wheel’. Or maybe you don’t. In any case, I was disappointed with the studio approach – the sound was kind of bland and under-produced to my discerning, ruined twentyfirst-century ears. I did hear a few old favorite horn riffs though, which may be the source of formative material in my thinking that’s part of what makes the Johnny Blazes horn work I do sound the way it sounds.

I am prepping to confront the next round of creative challenges when we drag the band back in to the studio in about a month. I want to enter the arena better prepared than last time.

There’s another thing nibbling at the corners of my temportal lobe. I’m reading Donald Fagen’s book ‘Eminent Hipsters’, a ropm through his upbringing, thinking, and tour bus journal from a low-budget pass through America he made with Boz Scaggs and Michael McDonald. There’s all sorts of Cold War nostalgia and science fiction galore in that work, which speaks directly to my tail-of-the-boom inner child. Again, hoping for mixing tips or the occasional tidbit of studio wisdom, I’m instead feasting on DF’s steady diet of paranoia and mistrust of the wealthy. It’s good stuff, especially for me, but I get discouraged when I let myself think for even a moment that I am, like Donald, too old to be doing this stuff. So, forget it. Time to keep rocking.

John Winston Lennon

Smell is the sense that triggers the most vivid memories.

The year is 1964, and “Meet the Beatles” sweeps the United States like a fire cleansing a mountain. Even the sleepy village of Painesville, Ohio gets scorched. By summer ’64, little six-year old Jimmy here probably listened to that record a hundred times. A thousand. I wanted to grow my hair long. I wanted a grey collarless suit with black piping. By the fall, I had convinced Mom to get me guitar lessons.

The big store in downtown Painesville was Carlisle’s. It was your classic department store, everything from fashions to appliances, and it was so big that it had a front door on the town square, and a back door that gave out into the parking lot on East Washington Street. Right next door to Carlisle’s was the only music store in town – I think it might have been called Pfabe’s.

Mom marched me in there and rented a nylon-string guitar. It came with a leather strap. She bought the requisite Mel Bay big-note primer and a couple of really thin picks, and I was on my way.

I can still remember the smell of that guitar and its leather strap.

John Winston Lennon, it’s all your fault.

I wanted to play “Tell Me Why”, and all I could coax out of that guitar was a single-note rendition of “Red River Valley”. I wanted to rock “Twist and Shout”, but those flappy nylon strings made El Kabong noises. I tried a G-chord, but my fingers were too small.

The lessons stopped when we moved around, but the influx of Beatles records didn’t until “Let It Be”. I was a Manson-family fearing young teen hippie by then, protesting the war and trying to play drums, and the hot summer riots were only just beginning to recede in the rear view mirror. It was Nixon-time in the U.S, and Kent State lay before us. Paul “quit” the group, and I was just sad, but I can’t say I was surprised. We all knew it – the Beatles were spent.

Years later at parties, if someone asked me “Beatles or Stones” instantly I’d blurt “Beatles!”, as if anyone could ask such a thing. Really.

John, I love you, and I love the guitar the way you do. Every once in a while, I come across a guitar that has that same old deep wooden smell, and I think of you. You’ve taught me so much. How can I ever repay you?

Memoir exercise

Write down 10 turning points in your life.

Here they are in chronological order, outline form:

John F. Kennedy is assassinated. My father dies in a traffic accident about two weeks later.

“Meet the Beatles” is released in the USA. I get a copy as a gift from my Mom.

I memorize every single note of Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue”, left behind by my dad.

We move to Europe just after I turn nine and spend two years there.

At age 19, I get kicked out of college.

I fall in love with my future wife, who one day turns to me and tells me she’s with child. I decide to be the best dad there ever was.

I see my first born come in to this world.

I see my second born come in to this world.


The youngest child moves out.