It’s Christopher Lee. Saruman.
Metal guitarist and vocalist.
As weeks go, I’d just as soon forget this last one ever happened.
This is true for any number of reasons, not the least of which is losing Dave Brubeck. Personally, though, this past week reaffirmed my suspicions that I’m officially working my ass into the ground again–a bit of a known problem for me. Also, it confirmed that I’m a disruptive motherfucker.
I’d like to think I’ve passed into the acceptance phase of life wherein I quietly realize shit’s always going to annoy the hell out of me and that the majority of men are content to lead lives of what used to be quiet desperation, but these days turns out to be pretty loud, shrill and annoying desperation.
I’d like to think that, but apparently, I can’t. I don’t like leaving things alone.
If there’s a productive outlet for this sort of thing, it’s making things that are different. Companies, bicycles, whatever. But I can think of a lot of unproductive outlets that’d be a hell of a lot more fun. For better or more likely worse, I’m pretty sure I’m operating in 5/4 time, but I promise it’s not just to be complicated. It’s because it sounds better to me.
My oh my. So much going on today. As I write this, it’s 10:45pm, November 26th, Cyber Monday, and my ecomm day job is currently showing 936 orders received today. That’s sort of a new record. I may in fact be experiencing a panic attack just thinking about it.
Yes, I’m pretty sure that was a panic attack.
I came home from Cyber Monday madness only to start my night job, wherein the first thing I did was make a button. What do you think?
Then, briefly, the idea that Anonymous may have kept Karl Rove from stealing the last election flickered across my conscious, and I must admit I hoped this was true.
Then I put some time into emailing a guy about a prototype bicycle frame and let him know that, yes, I think 27.5-inch wheels and 161.7mm of travel seem just about right.
Much work still to do after that, when, somewhere in the midst of a bunch of corporate Facebookalating, I noticed an email from Twitter. I’m normally programmed to ignore Twitter emails, but this one was from the Canootervalve Twitter account I never use. It was to inform me that Billy Cobham had started following me. Billy Cobham is a legendary jazz drummer and composer. He’s this Billy Cobham.
While this was just some sort of accident on his part, I spent the next hour or so of work partially pondering the ramifications. Him following me meant I could actually send
Billy Mr. Cobham a message.
With great power comes great responsibility.
Probably, I should not have even done it, but I’d seen him perform once, and it was life-changing. Not in that “I mean this figuratively” way, but in more of a “actually changed my freakin’ life” sort of way. Hell, I’ve read interviews with this man that caused me to rethink my life (his interview in Modern Drummer back in the ’80s where he extolled the virtues of a slower, more deliberate European pace, particularly when it comes to eating dinner).
Now that my one son is becoming increasingly involved in playing the drums, I couldn’t help it. I sent a message to Mr. Cobham–under 140 characters–just to let him know I had the honor of seeing him play once, and hoped my son could see him as well.
What else can one type, given an opportunity like this? Personally, I could have Mick Jagger’s cell phone number on speed dial, and I’d never call it. Having Beyonce’s private email address would mean nothing to me. But this was really something. After a very, very long and frantic Cyber Monday filled with pace and panic, this small moment meant a great deal to me.
I was up at four this morning to start a turkey. That’s high noon in London, England, a place that I’m increasingly convinced makes Portland look pretty normal by comparison.
Case in point, this London-based site dedicated to “bike taxidermy.” It seems completely impossible that Portland didn’t come up with this first. In fact, I have my suspicions.
But then yesterday I received an email from my boss that included only a single link. This is what happened when I opened that link:
Yes, that just happened. What’s more, since he first brought it to my attention (thank you!), they’ve sold another 27 or so on their way to a goal of one thousand. Personally, I suspect they’ll do it, if only because they’re featuring a horse mask in their video, and horse masks are the hotness right now. Like London.
So come on, Portland! Let’s get off our asses and start selling nose ring mustaches that look like tiny handlebars, or crowd funding a DIY home kit that lets you build your own 2,000 square foot house out of used inner tubes.
Tomorrow, I mean. Today’s just for turkey.
I’ll be away most of this week, catching up on a bunch of work and taking a small vacation. We’re driving up to Seattle to see Rush. That means me, the wife, and all three kids. I’m aware that taking seven-year-olds to a full-on virtuosity nerd-fest likely to drift dangerously close the three hour mark is pure madness, but I figured what the hell. Geddy, Alex and Neil aren’t going to play forever, and my hope is that taking the kids to see Rush play will mean never having to endure “Big Time Rush” or any other mediocre pop-rocking bullshit around the house. Like them or not, these guys have chops.
Besides, this is one of those ridiculous stories that might get passed on from generation to generation. Ideally, long after Rush is gone, and I’m gone, the kids can sit around and say things like, “Remember when Mom and Dad took us to see Rush in Seattle?” and “What the hell was up with that?”
I’m pretty sure I hate Pinterest. Yes, I know a bunch of hip programmers are busily trying to make all the fonts on the site even bigger, and realistically, there’s probably a greater chance of monetizing Pinterest than there is a lot of other social media platforms, but Pinterest has been around for a while now, and it’s still all bruschetta and washed out pictures of cars people who don’t know anything about cars think are cool.
But it’s worse than that. In aggregate, the stuff that Pinterest has come to stand for gives me the willies.
I mention this because I set up a Pinterest account for a company last night, and the choices you see above were the first options Pinterest offered for building an interest profile. The remaining choices were:
The “Products” category’s icon was a photo of one of those aesthetically repugnant and horribly uncomfortable-looking chairs that’s pretty much a replica of aesthetically repugnant and horribly uncomfortable-looking chairs one found in public libraries in the ’70s. Poorer quality versions of those now apparently sell for upwards of $2000.
The “Sports” category included the obligatory football image, yet here–surrounded as it is by humiliated, little dogs and children dressed in home-made shark costumes–even “football” is somehow disconnected from anything even vaguely football. If you really liked football, you’d be terrified to click this, because you just know it’s going to unleash a bunch of Tim Tebow shit.
My mission involves looking for some cycling-related stuff, and I’ve been down this road before, creating Pinterest accounts for cycling companies. It pretty much always goes the same way. I’d hoped maybe that had changed, but no. Plenty of social media experts could claim I just don’t understand the platform. I’ll admit there’s much I can still learn about social media, if they’re willing to admit they get paid to convince people they need to use Pinterest.
Meanwhile, so I’m trying to make this account. At this point Pinterest has emailed to confirm my email account. I’m already choosing from crappy interest options with overpriced chair icons, but clicking the “verify email” link in the email opens yet another Pinterest tab on my browser, where it proceeds to try to build a profile for me and fails endlessly.
I am not a professional programmer at a hip and heavily trending company, but does it not occur to anyone that letting people go directly on to creating an account in a browser and simultaneously sending them an email about creating the account they’re already using could cause problems? For a while, I let Pinterest #2 struggle to “build a feed,” secretly hoping it would come up with better options than the crap I’d seen so far, but of course it was hopelessly locked in a permafail and just kept refreshing my browser tab to waste resources until I finally put it out of its misery.
So back in the original Pinterest tab with the crappy options, I hold my nose and select “Sports,” “Products,” and “Outdoors” and hit the “Follow People” button.
What I get is indescribably bad.
I’m not even kidding. I refuse to describe the things Pinterest shows me, or even think about them ever again.
My options for vetoing the mighty Pinterest algorithm hell-bent on making all of us soul-less “product-liking” shells is precisely this: nothing.
That’s right. I have to accept these horrible people and their “boards.” And this is where you see the monetization that’s so eluded Facebook already baked into Pinterest. Sure, you can delete all of these wretched collections of crap, but only after seeing them–and for most people, anxious to just start seeing stuff on their screen, some of those curated boards of indescribable garbage will hang around a long time. It’s sort of diabolical, really. Pinterest really, really wants to know what you’re interested in, so that it can show you mostly pale, overly commoditized shadows of those things. It’s raw, unadulterated consumerism, traipsing around in vintage dresses.
Sure, Pinterest is about “discovery” and “sharing,” two things I hate, but it’s also just weird. At its worst Facebook can make you lose faith in humanity, but the dialogues it creates are also genuinely meaningful. I don’t think that’s true of Pinterest.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m warming to it. My soul’s as cumbersome as anybody’s, and I long to just covet photos of speedboats, fancy mustaches and “football” (OK, so one photo I wasn’t able to avoid seeing had a photo of a football player sitting next to a lion–there, I hope you’re happy.) Time to start pinning.
Just breaking my duck and cover for brief post today. Turns out, people in the Northwest really like fireworks. I mean, I thought my rednecks back home in PA liked themselves some fireworks, but there’s not really any comparison. Fireworks are not only legal here; they seem to be mandatory.
Here’s just 30 seconds of life on my back porch in the subdivision last night. Keep in mind this was shot on July third. They’ve been at this all week, and this is all just shit average Joes launch from their decks and driveways here, I guess to catch each others houses on fire.
I’m still acclimating. Hope to see everybody on the 5th.
Still traveling. I survived half of Nebraska, all of Wyoming and a little Utah yesterday. Waiting for a fully loaded twenty-six foot Penske rental truck to chug slowly one barren Wyoming pass after another offered ample time for reflection. For me, the road has never held that sense of Kerouacian wonder. While I don’t mind traveling, I tend to find a lot less magic out there, and a lot more bullshit.
The problem with driving across the country is that you don’t see the country. What you see is a kind of uninspired, public restroom version of the United States, complete with faded Ted Nugent ads on diesel pumps, endless combinations of rest stop Kentucky Taco Huts, and a general lack of basic human decency.
Few things crush the soul like those torx bolts they use to build toilet stalls in public restrooms, for example–the ones with the extra little metal bit right in the middle.
As commentaries on our society go, this one says, “We tried switching to a more unusual torx bolt, but too many people still dismantled the walls while taking a dump.”
More than anything, what gets me about travel is all the meaningless visual debris you can’t help but soak in on a trip like this. That image at the top of this post, for instance: why are there skiers on the paper towel dispensers on gas pump islands at rest stops in Indiana? If you’re somebody who can’t help but try to find meaning in things, a trip across the country isn’t easy. The sheer volume of words and images completely removed from any meaning or even significance can be pretty overwhelming. After a while, you start to think the same Snapple bottles are following you from one convenience store cooler to the next.
My daughter is pretty amazing. I know every daughter everywhere is amazing, but in this case I mean pretty specifically amazing. When she was still very small, I used to take her for short drives on the gravel roads through the state park around our house to help her fall asleep, and for some reason (she was born on Shakespeare’s birthday) I taught her the “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy from Hamlet. She memorized up to “and by a sleep to say we end the heartache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to” and could recite it on her own with decent inflection, somehow, despite the deadpan delivery of my recitals. To die. To sleep. No more. She was a year old.
That same year the only babysitter we ever had who smoked (and always left the butts floating in the toilet) was taking my daughter on a walk on the dirt roads by our home and asked who lived in one of the neighbor’s houses.
“I don’t know,” my daughter told her, looking at little wooden sign in front of the house. “Says ‘Meyers.'”
On the phone the other day she told me that the teachers in pre-school used to annoy her a little, because they had these books you could look at while listening to headphones that read you the story, and the teachers would keep telling her to put the headphones back on making her turn the page when the beep went off, even though she hadn’t finished reading the page yet.
When you read that much, you end up a little precocious, a little wonderfully unique.
It’s been almost two months since I’ve seen my daughter, and I know moving here will be a big change for her, but the Northwest keeps doing things to cheer me up. Things that remind me of her.
About a week ago I was washing what’s left of my car when I noticed a potato, still in perfectly good shape, positioned with almost mathematical precision in the corner of the car wash bay–in the photo above, I’ve moved it a little to get enough light on it for the photo. I don’t know what about a perfectly good potato carefully positioned in a car wash bay should make me think of my daughter, but it did. She’d turned twelve a week after I left home, and she’s particularly intrigued by Portland’s “weird” factor.
Imagiine how overjoyed I was, then, to be putting my phone away after taking the potato photo to find a full-grown person riding into the same car wash bay on one of those tiny superbikes, like this:
Despite a bunch of obvious other ways around, including not going into a bay at all, which would have been quicker, he chose to ride right past me and then, worried he might’ve been intruding, stopped, flipped open the visor of his helmet, and said, “Is it OK to come through here?”
How could I explain how happy I was to see him?
Daughter, it really is pretty weird here, and pretty wonderful.
OK, Portland. No cars. I get it. Please don’t hurt me.
For the second time this week, somebody tried to drive into what’s left of my poor Subaru, and this time–unless there’s some custom here of making left hand turns from “right turn only” lanes–you can’t blame the out-of-state driver.
Seriously, somebody needs to let me know how many Radiohead-inspired cerebro-trios from the 1900s do you have around here, because I’m running out of quarter panels on my car.
So I’m sitting at a light in a lane with straight ahead arrow. To my right is a Toyota Rav 4 sitting in a lane with a right turn only arrow. Light changes. I go straight. He goes left. What the fuck?
Fortunately, I now drive like a goddamn ninja, figuring at any minute a bicycle could crash through my window, or a reunited R.E.M. could come at me in a tanker truck, so you didn’t get me this time, Portland. Eyes in the back of my head.
I understand now why everyone rides a bicycle here. It’s because driving is just too risky. Impressive as it is, the large and ever-increasing percentage of those commuting by bicycle in Portland is partially the result of the rapid extinction of hapless drivers. At this rate, in two years the only people left to have accidents will be the triathletes.