Saturday, July 18, 2015

TAM, Tyvek, and tent issues with Annabelle

I has the sads today, but it's an unjustified, self-pitying case thereof, only because I can't do absolutely everything and be everywhere I want to.

I'm not attending The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas this year, for various reasons – none of which is not wishing to do so. I'm good with the decision, but at the same time I'm looking at the pics of my dear skeptical pals yukking it up there, and I wish I was among them. I hadn't planned to attend TAM again until 2017, since next year at this time I'll be deep in the Sierras, but now I'm toying with the notion of nipping away from the hike for four or five days to hit next year's TAM... intriguing.

It's especially grievous in that this year may be the last one in which James "The Amazing" Randi will be present. He's such a sweet, brilliant fellow and the sharpest 80-something dude you will ever meet. The skeptical movement has its problems, but Randi represents the original idea of dispatching nonsense in a wry, intelligent and accessible fashion. Plus he made my glass of water disappear that time and it wasn't just amazing, but yeah, totally magic.

There's something vaguely primal about wishing to participate in your tribe's rituals, and feeling slightly diminished for not doing so and affirming one's status with the herd. But in the overall scheme of things, it's just a matter of entitled Little Lord Fauntleroy (me) not being able to do absolutely every little thing he wants to. So I have to stay in Arcata and have different fun, boo-hoo. Anyway, I think I need a break from the skeptical world... I'll get into that some other time.

Among the enjoyable tasks I had this week – not counting working on a delicious mini-scooplet for next week's paper, bwahaha – was cutting out the footprint for my tent. It's a Eureka Spitfire that I bought last year when I wasn't thinking about ultraight backpacking. But at two pounds, 12 ounces, it's kindalight and a hell of a lot cheaper than buying a new tent. 

I'd like to get one that uses the trekking poles I'll be bringing anyway, thus saving the weight of tent poles, like the one pound, 14 ounce Big Agnes Scout Plus UL2. But I still have to buy a backpack and sleeping system plus other newfangled items, so for now I'll stick with the Spitfire (even though I hate the annoying exclamation points all over the rain fly).
The Spitfire, with rain fly attached and Tyvek to be marked. 
Rather than shell out the $40 or so for a nylon ground sheet that weighs five ounces, I bought a sheet of Tyvek for $16 that weighs "nothing," plus some grommets, set up the Spitfire over it and drew an outline. This activity of course drew the interest of the cats, who had to conduct kitty investigations. Then when I got inside, of course Annabelle trundled over to hang out. Anyway, I have some Tyvek left over to make a hiking wallet. There are some cool designs and how-to's for that on YouTube. It's about as close as I'll ever get to bushcraft.

Annabelle tries out the tent as a hound house. 
I wound up with a 2.8 ounce tent footprint, so my whole shelter rig is under three pounds. I guess that's OK, but my pack's base weight is already up to 11 pounds even without a sleeping bag (or maybe a quilt). I'm finding that, just as the hardcore ultralighters preach, all the little ouncey items really are adding up to pounds, so what I'm doing is listing all the things that I'd like to bring on the equipment spreadsheet, whether I own them yet or not. Once I see the total weight, which will be too high, I'll start trimming away items based on cost/benefit, want/need. I see these hale and hardy 23-year-olds complaining about lugging weight and sending things home, so it's probably wise to err on the side of lightness.
The finished ground sheet/footprint. Hopefully it will protect the tent floor and help keep my sleeping pad from popping while I'm in the sharp and rocky desert. 

Two other things I wanted and needed are a couple of books. The Pacific Crest Trailside Reader, edited by Rees Hughes and Corey Lee Lewis, available at Northtown Books, $19.95. Looks like a delicious and inspiring read. I also ordered and will soon receive Yogi's PCT Handbook, $40 through Yogi's Books, which I understand is an essential planning resource.

Nine months and one week out, the PCT prep mission continues.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Well, this is new... again

I abandoned my Zappa blog what, six years ago? That was when I stopped doing my Zappa's Grubby Chamber show on KHUM.

My life has changed a lot since then, but it's still basically the same – working at the newspaper, enjoying Arcata and all my little hobbies and interests.

Though still fond of Frank and all who sail in him, I've added some fresh obsessions to occupy my brainpan. Rather than start a new blog to document them, it occurred to me that Crush All Boxes is not just good advice, but a suitable platform for other things 'n' stuff.

Miraculously, I was able to log right on and start cleaning up all the crap spam comments that have accumulated over the years. I'll be reformatting the blog too, but there's no big hurry.

My initial plan for this new/old blog is to talk about my preparation for next year's planned Pacific Crest Trail hike. I'm hiking from Campo at the Mexican border to Ashland, Ore. That's 1,726 miles over four months. It starts next April.

I'm incredibly fortunate to work at the Mad River Union, where my co-workers are letting me go away for this extended period and yet remain technically employed. Thanks, guys and gals.

As we all know, planning a trip can be as much fun as taking it, and since this one requires extensive and meticulous prep, it's quite absorbing. Even though it's roughly 10 months out, there's so much to do that I do feel a sense of urgency. Every day I try to do some little something.

I'll be sharing my plans, posing questions and once the hike starts, posting updates here. I'll also be sharing my imbecilic opinions on things, plus blurbettes about my hobbies and interests.

So, welcome back, me.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Zappatude – September 11, 2009

This has nothing to do with the week's theme. I just like looking at it.

What I've noticed over my Frank Zappa-liking career is that the same things you and I adore about him are what normal people don't – that is, if they know anything about him at all other than his kids' funny names.

The sheer imagination and freedom of expression in Zappa music must overwhelm musical tastes calibrated to narrower bandwidth. The blistering, dissonant guitar, rhythmic complexity, weird textures, wacky topics and all that naughty, naughty talk.

At the core of Frank's formidable armamentarium of sounds and ideas is his attitude. That's what animates everything, from his most intoxicating guitar solo to his most caustic appraisal of human nature, it's the Zappatude that makes it all possible. It's what really closes the deal between Frank and his devotees.

It's doubtful though, that as close as we may feel to what he's saying during various moments of his music, any of us has really taken in the whole of Frank's vision. But when we get it, we really get it.

So that's what it'll be Friday night when I sit in for Scatch: songs laden with Frank Zappaness. Engorged, even.

I always feel compelled to start the show with something that Chas's blues audience can vibe with, so a good, attitudey song for that purpose will be "Nig Biz." Then something else, and something else... and whatever you request.

We'll foment Frankitude for the Sept. 11, 2009 Zen Through Zappa's Grubby Chamber.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

To Pretend That You Are Stoopid – June 12, 2009

A random relic from a foamcore promotional
display for Tinseltown Rebellion.


Frank, unlike those of his contemporaries who were also ultra-competent at their craft, never shied away from sheer, relatively unbridled stupidity. He embraced his inner dunce, parodied stupidity, celebrated and condemned it and – thankfully for us – leveraged it for massive musical reward.

I can't see Weather Report or Return To Forever ever lowering themselves to play "A Little Green Rosetta" or "No Not Now." Why would they, when they can be noodling at 392 miles per hour in 17/9? Only... Frank could do that too, and did, but he also obtained acute enjoyment factors from doing stupid music (I mean that in the best sense of the term).

Of course Frank never did anything genuinely stupid. He couldn't help himself. There's cleverness bombs riddled throughout his most retardated repertoire. Have you ever seen a simulated child's drawing in a TV commercial? Sorry, you can always tell an adult made it. The one element of his music Frank couldn't seem to control was resisting the temptation to imbue even the most dopey ditty with brainy fun.

Hats off, by the way, to Pat Metheny, who doesn't suffer from the "elite muso syndrome" that afflicts so many of his fellow hyper-advanced jazzmen. (Tsk tsk; it's such a tragedy to lose someone to Seriousness.) If you haven't heard "Forward March" off First Circle, all I can say is, it's really stupid and also Zappa-worthy, and that's the highest compliment of all in the musical kingdom. I'll play "Forward March" on the June 12 show.

And our world famous/infuriating Friends of Frank segment will also feature the dumb/dumber doings of the likes of Mike Keneally, Steve Vai, Russ Stedman and... wait for it... Frank Fucking Sinatra.

I swear to god, if there's any artist that annoys – no, offends me the most it's Old Blue Mouth. I'd gladly listen to Bobby Goldsboro's oeuvre over and over with low-voltage shocks being applied to my gen-pack for all eternity than listen to Artanis and his asinine croonings. I depise Sinatra and his "wine" voice more than anyone in show biz. Except maybe John Wayne and David Broder. But the Chairman of the Board fucked up big time on a b-side, and you're going to hear it. If you know the backstory, feel free to share once you hear this masterpiece. Again, that'll be during Friends of Frank in the second hour.

So that's the deal: Stupidity Supreme on the June 12 Zen Through Zappa's Grubby Chamber.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Addie & Her Band – June 2, 2009

There are some scintillating discussions going on, as always, over at the ever-entertaining Kill Ugly Radio. It's the best dang Frank blog in the Zappasphere, at least in my booklet. It's my home base for Zappa buzz.

I've been participating in one particular thread, "Conversations with Jimmy Carl Black", and some of my acrid expectorations might benefit from visual aids. Below are two.

The top item is a handbill/flyer/poster for the Grandmothers show in Hayward, Calif. on Halloween, 1980. The one below that is a scan of the '80 Tour Book, which includes what are apparently the original – and much more explicit – lyrics to "We're Turning Again." Click to enlarge.

If you read through that comment thread, you'll see why these items are relevant.

What I want to know is, how do I contact Addie & her Band?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Spaces – May 29, 2009

How many times have I heard some muso supremo espouse the notion that, in so many words, "music is about spaces – not the notes, but the spaces between them."

Really? To me, it's about notes. Lots and lots of big fat delicious loud notes. But then I like car chase moves and robot-battle TV shows too (didn't Ahmet host one of those?).

Obviously, as with visual art, music involves use of positive and negative space. And there is plenty of both in Zappa music. So, in my never-ending quest to run Frank music through ever more abstruse conceptual continuity filters, on this week's Zen Through Zappa's Grubby Chamber, we'll enjoy cuts that include one or both of two functions:

• Somewhere within the song, there are no notes being played. There might be hangover decay from the last notes, but technically, there is complete cessation of activity, or

• There's a whole lotta air going on.

Well, there you have it. Spaces, gaps and air, plus your requests on this week's Zen Through Zappa's Grubby Chamber.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

How Frank Zappa helped transcend class differences, avert mob justice and apprehend the drunken dipshit who whizzed in our elevator – March 7, 2009

Why did it hurt when this guy peed?

Some of you may know that the tango, which is not a very popular dance anymore, was at one time reputed to be a dance of unbridled passion. You may also know that I write the Police Log for the Arcata Eye newspaper.

The coplog has gained some well-earned disrepute for its rhetorical excesses, which sometimes work and sometimes don't. Any creative writer (or musician or painter for that matter) can attest that there are times when the muse is present and others when you have to fall back on mere technique.

Maybe it's the water, mama, maybe it's the tea. Or maybe it's the fact that there was incidental Zappa content to an item I was writing up this morning that made me go off on a big old tangent. Actually it was probably just that I experienced the incident – a relatively minor one of some boozed-out schlub pissing in the elevator at the building I work in. I'd like to point out that despite this infraction, he's probably a very nice young man on some level, his mom probably loves him and that one day, he'll make a fine loyal plastic robot for a world that doesn't care.

So I had a grand time writing this thing this morning (with coffee as my sole trendy chemical amusement aid). That doesn't necessarily mean that it will be any fun to read, in fact getting through the grating grandiloquence and annoying alliteration will probably be work for most people. But like Frank always said, if two or three people get it, it's worth everyone else not.
• Tuesday, February 17 2:55 p.m. When the elevator doors opened on the fourth floor of an historic Plaza storehouse, a baked, boozed or both young man clad in today’s exciting falling-down-pants fashion was, unfortunately, observed peeing in the corner as he slumped against the wall of the lift.

As he struggled with the daunting logistics of zipping up, the potted pisser undertook a half-hearted psyops effort intended to distance himself from culpability for the still-spreading pool of urine rapidly overtaking the elevator’s floor. “That’s gross... mmgmshnhff, man... like, mmffgmmn,” he slurred with unconvincing moral outrage in fluent dipshitese, as though the shimmering sewage had been unleashed by some other drunken schlub and he just happened to be standing in it with his Johnson deployed.

As the door opened on the second floor (the lobby of which was full of little kids running around and eating ice cream during their President’s Week school break), a crisply attired and well-groomed young woman began to enter, but was warded away from the tepid tidepool by the well-meaning witness, lest she befoul her footwear in the piquant pee-puddle.

Meanwhile, the confused culprit mounted a low-velocity getaway effort which was hampered somewhat by distracting technical difficulties with his zipper and with maintaining fashionably sub-nominal trouser elevation. Staggering down the hall and then stumbling down the stairs as the witness described him to the police via cell phone, the saggy-clad lad first offered to bash the witness’s fucking head in, then proceeded eastbound through an alley and then on a northbound course through the Plaza.

With police on the way, the enervated elevator effluator struggled mightily to shed outer layers of clothing so as to confound the description phoned in to police, though the newly exposed underlayers were just as easily described real-time to the APD dispatcher, who relayed the info to the officer en route.

Approaching a gaggle of goodtime gadabouts at the Plaza’s center, the low-effort liquifier motioned back to the persistent pursuer, painting him as an oppressor or stalker of some sort (“That mo-fo’s following me!”), perhaps hoping to rouse the rabble to a street-justicey intervention that would cut off the chase.

However, what the wee-wee wanderer wasn’t aware of was that, as fate would have it, the crimefighting cop-caller and the putative Plazoid posse had already set aside both class and lifestyle differences and male-bonded in deep and lasting fashion in days past over matters of profound common musical interest.

In spotting the vigilant witness that fleeing pee-boy had pointed out, the agglomerated idlers recognized him and began bellowing with animated glee and bursting into song, even.

they howled, invoking selected titles of the musical titan’s masterworks in spontaneous joy. “Dinah-Moe Humm! Suzy Creamcheese!” the Zappaphile ’Zoids howled, dancing in circles, riffing on air guitars and high-fiving the self-appointed central scrutinizer’s free right hand as he passed by, while he continued tracking the fleeing pissant’s journey via cell phone with the other. (Had the drippy dimbulb ever attained sufficient musical erudition to appreciate the broad-ranging and eclectic repertoire of Frank Zappa, he might have joined in the lyrical merriment with an ironic excerpt from “Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?” off Joe’s Garage, but alas, it was not to be.)

As the urinary incompetent meandered toward Tavern Row, police cars closed in, eventually encircling him at Ninth and H streets. On asking the witness and suspect what had happened, an officer’s investigation was interrupted by a cameo player in the drainage drama: an emaciated, prematurely wizened-looking traveler who had tagged along from the Plaza’s center. Volunteering to “mediate” the situation with his abundant spare time, the diminutive diplomat was sternly commanded to mind his own business by the officer. At this, the uninvited sprite dutifully reversed direction to rejoin his colleagues, still cavorting ’neath the stolid flanks of a battered Plaza statue.

Meanwhile, bladder boy continued to claim that he was the wronged party, sitting on the curb and sputtering out a spittle-flecked legal analysis to the effect that the witness’s reporting of his hoist-moistening misdeed was “illegal” and by extension, presumably inadmissible. Police weren’t swayed by the pro-bonehead legal advice from the curbside witness stand, and the vitiated varlet was soon in shackles, being chauffeured to a steel-and-concrete facility featuring more-than-ample modern conveniences to accommodate any further waste disposal imperatives, assuming the percolating poltroon can master the elusive intricacies of mechanical operation of the flush handle, which may be a leap of faith. There, he was booked on a public drunkenness charge.

The witness then returned to the storehouse with the intention of eradicating the fetid pool from the elevator, but a business there inexplicably refused to loan him their mop and bucket. This reversal was all the excuse the sewage Samaritan needed to give up on that distasteful chore and go about the non-urine related business which had been interrupted 10 minutes previous and four floors up, relevant passages from certain special songs still swirling through the canyons of his mind. Knirps for moisture.
Yes, this actually will appear in a community newspaper Wednesday, March 11, 2009.