Crown of Trinkets

Friday, March 23, 2001
(written on morning break today)

Hums of the temp slave:

8:20 am: "Veteran's Day Poppy", Captain Beefheart
9:15 am: "5 in 1", Celesteville
9:45 am: "Pretty Persuasion", REM

Working a one-step-above-utter-tedium temp job without the distractions of radio or computer or coworker prattle makes the mind search for something to occupy itself. The songs above are what popped into my head over the first couple hours of the workday. It makes me wonder: what did people doing menial jobs do before there was recorded music? Did they daydream of, say, their mother singing folk songs? More likely: they sang while they hammered or sewed or sorted. I can only imagine howling "it can't make me high, it can only make me cry, yer veternz day poppy" in full Capt. Beefheart yodel form at the front desk of Emanuel Hospital HR.

I don't think I've talked about the most recent Celesteville show. We played once again at It's A Beautiful Pizza (the third time in three months!). I started out moaning a-capella, Jandek style, and then we launched into an untamed version of "Asterism", with flute gasping and audience presumably appalled. I couldn't resist going out into the audience with my Pianica but I should probably keep that to a minimum; that old trick will soon lose its luster. After that, we ran through six songs, most of them songs I hadn't performed live before, and they went pretty well. Amazingly, my guitar hardly went out of tune (I was playing my Hohner Telecaster with its highly questionable tuners instead of the SG, which has been giving me lots of tuning grief again--time to sell it and buy an old Ibanez, I think). The only problem was that my newly-acquired dayglo-yellow Metal Maniac pedal started futzing out on me. I think that was a result of my jumping and careening around, though. Anyway, we closed with a version of Iron Maiden's "Flight of Icarus" that owed a lot to the Anton Maiden version in vocal timbre and to total metal deth in drum playing by Sean, who has shown a wonderful ability to be even more extreme in live performance than I am. He took the snare drum and walked upstairs to the restaurant, where people looked at him and called him "loco". The hippie behind the counter nodded in assent, he says. I tore up my printed lyrics, overblew the flute half to death, and turned off the amplifier. Success! Another group of 25 or so people permanently alienated to the Celesteville Cause!

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(written on lunch break, 3/22/00, but posted just now)

Today I am temping at Emanuel Hospital up in North Portland; almost walking distance, pretty menial filing tasks, a clear waste of time for all concerned but damnation do I need to pay the rent! Right now I am sitting in the cafeteria, which is a pretty bizarre rush of memories since I spent the lion's share of my free hours my senior year of high school slaving away in the cafeteria (or, shall I say, the dishroom) of Meridian Park Hospital, Emanuel's sister in the Legacy system down in beautiful Tualatin, Oregon. Just seeing the used trays in the racks, and the smell of bland hospital food, fills my heart with a weird mixture of nostalgia and dread, as if the creaky dishwasher was reaching across time to drag me back into the steamy stinky greasy dishroom.
Yuk! Just thinking about that makes me think of cleaning off the sheets on which they baked the pork chops. Working there definitely was a big part of my becoming a vegetarian.

Now, of course, I wish I still had free-food privileges--all I brought was a couple carrots and an apple, and one of those soup-cups (couscous). Some overcooked lima beans or a bland vegetarian entree would hit the spot right about now.

My coworker this morning over in the hot basement file room was wearing a Tweety Bird t-shirt. I have come to the realization that I do not care for Tweety Bird. Reasons why:

1) He (if indeed Tweety Bird is a he; I don't believe the show ever specifies a gender for Tweety) does not look like a Bird. He looks like some grotesquely deformed mammal.

2) His image is way overmerchandised, especially in relation to:

3) The fact that Tweety Bird is rarely if ever funny.

4) God bless Mel Blanc's dear departed soul but the Tweety Bird Speech Impediment rubs me all wrong. Consider the tagline "I tawt I taw a puddy tat". I understand his not being able to produce the dental fricative [th] or even the alveolar fricative [s], but being a bird, he should not be able to produce a bilabial [p] since BIRDS DO NOT HAVE LIPS!

5) While I am all for blissful oblivion, it always kind of miffed me to see "cute" Tweety Bird doted upon by Old Lady while the endlessly more clever and appealing Sylvester received no love. Sure, Sylvester was kind of a sneaky bastard and a remorseless carnivore, and I can't say I ever cared too much for his cutesy mini-Sylvester son, but the cat _tried_ and all he ever got was a couple yellow feathers for his trouble. Plus, Sylvester's Speech Impediment and Tagline (thufferin' thuccotath) were way, way, way cooler. Screw that fricative -> stop crap, let's have a fricative -> [theta] party!

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Wednesday, March 21, 2001
My guitar's neck pickup was giving me some trouble, so I took it in to the local wankatorium yesterday to get it replaced. Today I walked down and picked it up. The sales dude said, oh, the low-output pickup you wanted didn't work, so I put a higher-output pickup in there instead. I was suspicious but it sounds okay, surprisingly. At least he didn't charge me any extra. As I was testing the guitar out in the shop this teenage kid who was diddling on an acoustic yelled over to me, "Is that an SG?" Well, of course it is, I said. "Cool, didn't Angus Young play one of these?" Well, of course he did, though not a cheap "Firebrand" like my own. Then the kid asked if he could play the SG. He picked up the guitar and proceeded to play a loud, moderately accurate version of the intro to "Thunderstruck". And though loud classic-rock guitar-store wanking usually sends me into convulsions, there was something beautiful and high-school about that moment. Maybe it's my secret desire to be Angus Young, and my secret past as a pathetic high-school music nerd...

Anyway, I got to thinking about the whole music-store mentality. So many people's idea of a good time is to go into a music store and blast blast blast bad blues-rock or bad heavy metal on whatever huge amplifier they have lying around. If you aren't a musician, I would recommend going into your local Guitar Center on a sunny Saturday afternoon just to sample this phenomenon. It's as if Charles Ives were appropriating bad blues-rock and bad heavy metal instead of marching-band music. (c.f. "Fourth of July")

What do I play in guitar shops when I test out a guitar? Back when I was a bassist it was pretty easy; I'd play riffs from Meringue songs, and I remember one summer when I played a lot of This Kind of Punishment's "The Sleepwalker". But it's weird being older and more self-conscious. In the music-store environment I feel very self-conscious and I play little squiggles and little reserved jazz-type chords instead of doing what my heart desires (full on Arto Lindsay-style guitar-evisceration, or something like that). Some day I will feel confident or ridiculous enough to play something loud, scabrous, and triumphant in the guitar store. And the heavens will be rent in two and the Ragnarok Hammer of Guitar Rock Rock will descend into my hands and Angus Young and I will duck-walk off to the Apocalypse.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2001
My long, long period of unemployment was brought to a sort of California stop (i.e. slow down then proceed) this week by a brief and hazy data-entry temp stint at a trucking company. For hours on end I would stare at a monitor, scanning bills of lading and entering nine-digit number after nine-digit number after nine-digit number. After a couple hours I felt like I needed a bionic wrist and a padded cubicle.

But something kind of nice happened: I rediscovered how to go into a data entry trance. This, mixed with the fact that I was pretty dead tired, put me into a weird state: I felt like I was in one of those glass booths where they blow money all around you and you have thirty seconds to catch as much as possible, only instead of small-denomination bills it was memories that were snaking across my elbows and non-bionic wrists. I was a boy soprano, someone discovering spicy Korean Shin Ramyun ramen for the first time. Etc. All these things sneaked out when there was nothing to distract me except the form of the nine-digit numbers (ooh, the digits in this one are all powers of two, what is the probability of that happening? probably 3/10 to the 9th power, unless you count 1 as a power of two but I digress) and the occasional cubicle-mate chat.

That plus reading "One Hundred Years of Solitude", all about memory, on lunch breaks; I feel like a spelunker crawling through scarcely-remembered caverns in my head and getting really, really lost.

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Sunday, March 11, 2001
Last night the Celesteville/Minmae Commutative Duo Band Phalanx played at the palatial Medicine Hat Gallery up in NE Portland. It was a weird show: both bands played extremely well, I think, but the audience was all there for this big loud rock band "Mentat de Malduit", who Sean and Dan both said sounded a lot like Slint, and the Celesteville Magic was wasted upon the audience, most of whom were playing Chatty Cathy throughout the whole set. A conversation with MdM:

Jake: So what do you guys sound like?
MdM: Oh, we're pretty much a loud rock band.
Jake: You mean like Maiden?
MdM: No, not like Iron Maiden...
Jake: So any idea who you sound like?
MdM: Uh, no, not really.

Next time someone asks you, Mentat de Malduit, you can say "We sound kind of like Slint with a big loud petulant trebly bass sound." That's my free advice! Or you could just say you sound like Iron Maiden, even if you do not. I can appreciate a band that says they sound like Iron Maiden even if they don't sound like Iron Maiden. Celesteville sounds like Iron Maiden.

So anyway, Celesteville started out in the balcony with an acoustic guitar and a ride cymbal, and proceeded to descend the staircase processional-style, singing the song "Asterism". Next show I'd like to have a full-on parade-style processional (think Fellini or something like that). In honor of the occasion, I sang an a cappela, unamplified version of Iron Maiden's "Flight of Icarus". It was great. The two people in the audience who cared were happy.

Sean From Minmae is very good at dealing with hostile audiences; before the show started he read a manifesto and demanded silence. One guy in the audience was whistling; Sean chastened him with "I'd really like it if no-one whistled during this set." The whistler stopped whistling. It was beautiful. The set was nice, too, and I fell into this nice dreamy sort of trance-state behind the drum-kit. It was as if no time passed, and no-one was in the audience, and no songs were being played, and we were floating in the inky darkness of space but really we were just another rock band playing eight songs in the palatial and endless Medicine Hat Gallery.

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Friday, March 09, 2001
Oh lord, the hassle. The powers that be at Tripod saw fit to delete the tapemountain site (for my alleged violations of the "Terms of Service", which I read and which I am quite sure I did not in fact violate; okay, my site did contain an RYL mp3 that used the word "bitch", but it was in reference to dogs and it was an instrumental!) So now I'm moving this site to New Trinket Heaven and we'll see where we go from there. Let me know if you see it: Vexation, vexation, vexation.
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Sunday, March 04, 2001
Another note about today: I got my old Apple //c out of the attic, ostensibly to test out some cheesy old Ultima games before I sell them on a certain auction site. Of course, I happened to find my old favorite game "Space Conquerors" and I set about playing that instead of having a social life tonight.

It's weird to think how much of my life I wasted on that stupid game, now that I play it again; you just do the same thing over and over again. But I guess that's sort of like life, in a lot of ways, plus in this game you get to explore distant planets, drink human blood (only if you're a missionary, though--this game has a pretty screwy cosmology), use the "mate" command (only if you're a "homesteader" and you're trying to produce offspring--you need someone to herd the heffalumps), die in a mineshaft on a planet with an "insidious" or "corrosive" atmosphere, etc. etc.

What's kind of magical about this game in the year 2001 is that I've never seen it mentioned anywhere, ever; not on "retrogames" sites like, say,, or on a Google search; not back in the day in the Apple // press; not in the endless swap-meeting trips of my grad-school years. (My dad bought the disk for 50 cents back in the day at this long-defunct bargain outlet in Fort Dodge, Iowa... apparently it was not a big seller.) This entire universe, as far as I know, is remembered only by me. I filled it with my own fears and my own hopes and my own heffalumps... There's something pretty special about that, no matter how stupid the game actually is.

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Today I got a tape from Scott Jacobson (famous to about five people as a result of his four-track project Ehrlichman, who put out a tape on Unread Recordings), of his new "band" The Sporting Group. One song, a sweet, catchy, likably nerdy homemade pop duet. It is nice to receive something so fresh, tuneful, and earnest. Listening to a really good pop song just recorded is like picking a fresh, ripe peach off a tree, unlike so much pop music these days, which comes off like a can of peaches in heavy, heavy syrup.
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Friday, March 02, 2001
Carfree Cities

I love a good utopian theory, and I do strongly dislike the automobile.

Last night I had to go pay the rent so I got in my car (for the first time in a week!) and drove up to the landlord's place. It was one of the weirdest driving experiences I've ever had--not only were my hands a little unsure what to do with the steering wheel thing, but I was so incredibly distracted that it was as if I were not even there. What the hell was I doing behind the wheel of a Geo Metro egg-shaped death machine in that sort of state?

Admittedly, I'm kind of a space cadet, but it scares me to think that there are routinely lots and lots of other people on the road like that, which is just one of the many reasons why this site is so intriguing.

In related news, I like the idea of planned cities, but they can certainly be used for good or evil. Celesteville (the city in the Babar stories, not the stupid band, hee hee) is an example of a small, walkable city, where the library is at the center of town and everyone has a view of the water. Plus it doesn't hurt to have elephants everywhere. Compare and contrast with Irvine, California, the direct opposite of the city model on this website, where people looked at me funny if I walked a half-mile to the grocery store. What a bizarre place...

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