Usual Rubbish

Theme park.

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That’s it, Lincoln. I’m tired of your get-rich-quick schemes. They always end up with trouble. Like that “Civil War” idea you had once. How did THAT turn out?

Damn, I’ll tell you … sometimes I feel like a walking suggestion box. Every time I turn a corner in this cavernous abandoned hammer mill, someone starts pitching ideas to me about what we can do to generate income, filthy lucre, serious bank. Capitalists! All they ever think about is their money. What about MY money? When the hell is someone going to build an economic theory around THAT? If I hear one more hare-brained scheme about starting a theme park based on the history of hammer manufacturing in North America, I’m going to move to another kind of abandoned mill entirely.

That said, this place really would lend itself to being a kind of theme park. They could do a kind of Gaslight Village or something equally fourth-rate – the vintage is about right, construction wise. Or it could be a life-scale model of an early 20th Century factory town, with plastic manikins and some kind of conveyor belt ride that drops you into a vat of molten nickel. (And it would only cost a nickel!) They could have a whole separate section in the courtyard called “Strike Land” where you can walk in circles holding signs that say, “Day’s Work For A Day’s Pay” and “Enough is Enough”. Then half-trained actors dressed as Pinkertons file in and beat the crap out of you. Hey … it’s educational!

Well, maybe NOT like gaslight village.Of course, why should we limit ourselves to the most obvious options? Hell, you could do anything in this barn. Just hang a sign over the front door that reads “Lost in Space Land” and you’ve got a theme park fit for the Robinson Family. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) could take tickets at the door, and Anti-Lincoln could pose as Professor John Robinson, so long as people aren’t expecting the stubble-bearded military dude in the current reboot. So what if John looks like Lincoln? He was modeled on Kennedy … isn’t that close enough?

There I go. Will you just look at me? I’m doing the very thing I admonished my colleagues not to do. I guess now THEY’LL have to find another kind of mill.

Usual Rubbish

Old stock.

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Damn, I always forget how big this place is. Who the hell knew all this junk was in here? I didn’t. Maybe Mitch knew, but he’s in Sao Paolo, noodling around with deadly lasers and the like.

Hi, everyone. Yeah, we’re stumbling upon all kinds of trash/treasure, now that the local realtors have us on our toes. They held an open house here last Sunday, for chrissake. What’s next? Shooting an episode of House Hunters in the courtyard? I mean … is anyone going to want to open a store in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill?

Anyway, back to our find. There’s this little room on the east side of the building. We pulled the lock off with a crowbar and found all these old hammer handles. It looked like Lester Maddox’s closet. (Ask your mother.) That got me thinking: If we could sell the handles, we could pay rent on this place. Then I realized how stupid that idea is. Now, well … I’m fresh out of ideas on how to stay in this squat house without opening a boutique of some kind. Maybe we can get Mitch Macaphee to make decorative candles in his lab. (Preferably the kind that don’t explode.)

Looks like this side of the mill needs a lttle TLCWe could sell old stock out of said boutique. We’ve got hammer handles. There’s also a bunch of old music lying around in various forms. We could sell CDs, but since we only have three full-length releases and a couple of EPs, that would make us a bit like the Scotch Boutique on 70s era Saturday Night Live. (Ask YouTube … or your mother.) I keep digging up old recordings from ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. If people still recorded on cassettes, we could just tape over the tabs and sell those. (Ask your … oh, never mind.)

Okay, so we’re lousy capitalists. What’s new? When I come up with something you’re likely to pay money for, I’ll let you know.

Speaking of old stock, we just dropped another installment of our occasional Ned Trek podcast. It’s another Ned episode knifed out of THIS IS BIG GREEN from a couple of years back – Ned Trek 25: Not The Children One, Please!

Usual Rubbish

Monetizing sloth.

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Leave me alone, Charles. Can’t you see I’m trying to sleep? It’s obvious, for chrissake … I just called you Charles, and I don’t even know anyone by that name. So I must be effing sleeping, right? Charles?

Oh, hi. Fell asleep in my cozy broom closet. We are still in our highly restricted corners of the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill as local venture capitalists eye the joint from stem to stern to see if it has any potential to make them serious bank. (I think there are more opportunities in the stem than in the stern, but I’ll let them find that out for themselves.) It’s like they have glass heads; I can see them picturing some knitting basket of a store, maybe a Hickory Farms … if such a thing still exists. (I remember stealing samples there as a kid. Strange, because I wasn’t even hungry … still, it was a good find.)

So, yeah … they’ll probably sweep us out of here like yesterday’s floor scum in a few months. Unless, that is, we come up with some cash … or Mitch Macaphee comes up with some kind of diabolical invention that will hold them at bay. Maybe a time-warp generator. Maybe a force field. (Even a little, teensy-weensy force field would help.) Maybe a great invisible ruler we can use to whack the invisible hand of the marketplace. Just throwing out a few ideas here. Are you listening, Mitch? Mitch??

A potential buyer visits.Oh, damn … that’s right. Mitch is off to Sao Paolo to attend the bi-annual convention of the International Society for the Purveyors of Mad Science (or ISPMS). I believe they’re giving him some sort of badge this year. (Not sure what it’s for, but it suspiciously glows in the dark.) In any case, we can’t rely on Mitch to keep the capitalist wolf pack at bay here at our besieged hammer mill squat house. We could have Marvin (my personal robot assistant) go out there and try to reason with the developers, but that would just make them laugh and point. We could coax Anti-Lincoln (perhaps with the promise of bourbon) to give one of his famous presidential addresses from the mill’s parapet, but again … pointing and laughing would ensue. (He’s not good.)

Thankfully, it’s a weekend, and I have the option of staying in my broom closet, strumming my unplugged guitar, while the realtor does walk-throughs. “What’s that sound?” the punters will ask, and the realtor will say, “Just the wind in the willows.”

Usual Rubbish

Flying circus.

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No, damn it, I can’t spin a plate on a stick, even if the stick is on my tongue. What the hell do you think I am, a trained seal? This is freaking ridiculous. Get out of my broom closet!

Oh, well … you can see that this blog isn’t driven by our PR people. (This just in: we don’t HAVE any of those.) If we knew more about marketing, I might not admit in public that I was having this discussion with Anti-Lincoln, who is just chock full of “good ideas”. He piped up with a beauty today: that we should diversify our act a bit more. Not entirely rely on music. Put a few dance steps or maybe a couple of skits in the middle or our sets. Or … magic tricks.

I’m thinking that we should have someone – maybe Anti-Lincoln – do all that stuff for us. Why the hell not? If we need to diversify our act, I don’t want to be any part of it. Anti-Lincoln could be our agent or road manager. He could make Marvin (my personal robot assistant) jump through flaming hoops while we’re changing the strings on our various instruments. (Then again, Marvin is our guitar tech, so it would need to be, maybe, Tubey?) I’ll tell you, Marvin would have to jump fast, because I can change the strings on my Roland electric piano in no time flat. (That’s not why I bought it, though – I bought it because I could lift it without groaning.)

Space for rent at the mill.Why the sudden lurch towards random entrepreneurship? Well, we’ve been under a bit of pressure as of late. With the economy picking up a bit, suddenly the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill has become a bit more attractive as a commercial location. Local developers are thinking about gutting it and setting up one of those Mill Malls that pop up around here. (Actually, they can spare themselves the bother of that first step – this place was gutted long ago.) So, yeah, we’re looking for ways to go legit on this property, maybe even start …. gulp … paying property taxes …. or even utilities ….. ooooohhhhhh….

Anyway, that’s why I’m sleeping in a broom closet. We’re ALL sleeping in little spaces now, just to train ourselves for having to share this big barn of a place with people who sell scented candles, overpriced crockery, and weird-ass clothing. (Maybe we can open a used robot store … )

Usual Rubbish

Five gets you ten.

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Remember those ridiculous glasses with the tiny black lenses? Sure you do. And those dumb ass purple sneakers. They were super easy to find because no one besides me wanted to wear them. (Oh, and you could find them in a dark room. I think they were radioactive.)

No, we haven’t converted this into some kind of retro fashion blog. Far from it! We’re just playing a game that’s gotten kind of popular around the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. It’s called Five and Ten. You guess what the other players were doing five years ago, then ten years ago, then fifteen, and so on. Every time you guess correctly, you get five points. The person with the most points by the time everyone has walked away in anger is the winner – they then have to go to the local strip mall and open a Five and Ten store. (The game’s a little too complicated, in my humble opinion.)

I’m actually no fun to play against in this game, because if you ask me what I was doing five years ago, I would have to say that it’s very much the same thing I’m doing right now. Same sort of thing with ten years ago. Now if you say twenty or thirty, I have intelligible answers to that. Twenty? We were working on our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, and I was starting to think about doing this blog. Okay, so that’s MOSTLY like today. No points on that one.

Huh. Old Ben beat me to it.Thirty years ago, I was working for Donald Trump. (Or “Drumph,” in the original Norwegian – Trump’s family comes from that part of Norway that’s called “Germany”.) Well, I was a contractor for him in a sense, playing in a band that performed at Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. I’m not certain, but I think around this time of year in 1988 I was playing the last of three month-long engagements we had at Trump Plaza, in one of the casino-side lounges, playing pretty horrible covers. My big song on that gig was Benny King’s “Stand By Me”. (The front person for that group was a singer named Joanna Lee.) At the end of that particular run, I got fired for losing my voice. (Not by Drumph, but by our manager, though admittedly I wasn’t very well liked in that establishment. Attitudinal issues, I believe.)

You can read all about my exploits as a low-flying road musician by dropping me a message via the comments form and asking me to tell you all about it. How easy is that? Now excuse me – I have to go open another Five and Dime.

Usual Rubbish

Pull!

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That thing shouldn’t be allowed in a residential neighborhood. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Mitch. I don’t want the mayor to send us nasty letters again. Five letters in one week is enough for any abandoned mill-squatter.

Oh, hi. I’m pretending to have just noticed you, looking at the blog post I wrote days ago. (What a giveaway!) We’re having personnel issues again here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, high in the hill country of Central New York, far from the beaten path. It’s my own fault for taking on a mad science advisor. Sure, he helps us get to Neptune and other distant worlds. Sure, he bends time like Superman bends steel bars (i.e. with his bare hands). But the utility ends where the madness begins, and let me tell you something, friends – Mitch Macaphee, our mad science advisor, is as crazy as Jeremy Shaw’s proverbial shithouse rat.

What’s the source of the current eviction order? Well, Mitch heard an internet rumor that a certain Chinese Space Station – the Tiangong 1 – has been sputtering in a decaying orbit for the past few years, neglected by its owners, causing a threat to navigation high above the Earth’s surface. He is now taking it upon himself to defend planet Earth by shooting the sucker out of the sky. Bet you can’t guess how. No, not with a rocket. Nope, not a deadly Edward Teller-style laser. No, not an electron lasso (is that even a thing?). Give up? Me too. I don’t freaking know.

Frankly, this seems a little dicey.All I can tell you, honestly, is that this project has consumed Mitch and our courtyard at the same time. He’s spent the last week building a big howitzer-like monstrosity with a barrel that’s got to be 80 feet long and a control panel with gauges, levers, flashing lights, electrical arcs, and steam whistles. (I think those are just for laughs, frankly.) Mitch refers to the device as his Positron Howitzer, though what that means I cannot tell you. But from what I’ve seen he can zero in on that sputtering space station and plant some kind of projectile in its side in a way that has the potential to ruin its whole day.

Matt wants me to dispatch Marvin (my personal robot assistant) to City Hall with some kind of peace offering – donuts or potato soup, something like that. I don’t know. Those official threats are the only personal letters I receive anymore … I’m a little reluctant to let them go.

Usual Rubbish

Carry that weight.

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What the hell. You mean I can’t just stack the bricks like building blocks? I have to cement them together … with real cement? Jesus, this is harder than I thought. Maybe I’ll do the ditch-digging instead. That sounds easy.

Oh, hi. Just having a little tête-a-tête with my vocational guidance counselor. Sure, I know what you’re thinking – I’m a little long in the tooth to start a new trade, right? Well, if tooth length had anything to do with it, I might try dentistry. No, this is just another of those exercises Big Green runs through from time to time when we’re trying to find our asses with both hands. It’s kind of an experiment in anarcho-syndicalism, but don’t tell the magistrate – it’s only the 10th and we’ve got a dozen demerits already this month.

As you know, Big Green is not a company, not a partnership, not a corporation … not even a non-profit (though we certainly have the financial means to be a non-profit … meaning we don’t make any profit). We are a musical collective, all for one and one for all. So by necessity, we have to share the burden of work that no one particularly likes to do. You know, work that SHOULD be done by a ROBOT if we HAD such a convenience …. MARVIN. Marvin (my personal robot assistant) decided to take a week in the Seychelles. I didn’t know he had the shekels for that little junket, but apparently he’s been saving up.

Is that REALLY how it's done?Okay, so we live in this crumbling hammer mill, see? And it’s mostly made out of bricks and mortar, see? In fact its hey-day was in the 1930s and 40s, when people ended most of their sentences with “see”, see? Nyah. Well, it needs some patching done here and there, and well … I was last pick, just like with the basketball teams in gym class. So it was off to the brickyard to get some of their wares, then back here to start patching, only to return to the brickyard because I forgot to buy cement, then got all the way back before realizing that the bags of concrete I bought were dry powder, not some kind of play-dough like substance. THAT’s when I started thinking about digging those ditches.

Well, there’ s a lot a man like me can do. But most of it involves sleeping. Zzzzzzzzz…..

Usual Rubbish

Light on.

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Okay, commence recording. The light is on, folks. No, not THAT light! That’s the freaking microwave! That just means your burrito is cooked. I mean the production light. Jesus.

Oh, hi. Yeah … we’re working on some more music, but it’s not obvious what exactly we’re working on. Is it an album? An EP? A single? Some throwaway tunes for the podcast? Anyone’s guess. All I know is that the light goes on and I start playing. When it goes out, I stop. Sometimes it flickers on and off, and that makes my job a bit harder. I see that and I drop in a lot of eighth-note rests – it can sound kind of funky if you close your eyes (and your ears, too).

We’ve made something of a habit of recording over the decades. Given that we’re not a performing band at this point, at least not in the conventional sense, recordings pretty much amount to our “performances”. But recording has been a bit of an obsession over the years, from Matt’s reel-to-reel and cassette tapes, to 4-track cassette, to recording in various studios, to acquiring an 8-track Tascam DA-88 deck, then a 16/24-track Roland VS2480 workstation, and now a Cubase system. Hey … we’re archivists. Why fight it?

Is the light on? As part of our THIS IS BIG GREEN February podcast, I included a couple of old numbers drawn from demos. One of those was digitized straight from a standard audio cassette, simply because we never owned the original media it was on – a 2500-ft reel of half-inch audio tape from 1986, probably now nothing more than cinders. The 1981 recording (Silent as a Stone) was taken from a reel-to-reel stereo dub – you can hear the tape (or my playback machine) failing at the end. That song came from a session where we recorded four songs, including one of mine and one of Matt’s. The 1986 version of “Slipping and Sliding” was recorded on an 8-track reel-to-reel machine as part of a 4-song demo; that I only have an audio cassette of.

So here we are again, toiling away on audio artifacts that someone will happen upon years from now and scratch their heads over. Which is pretty much how we find listeners. It’s a process that works on geological time, basically, like making feldspar. (Hmmmm … good idea for an album title. Feldspar … )

Usual Rubbish

Inside February (again)

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Jesus, Marvin. When I told you to release the podcast, I didn’t mean put it on the end of a stick and hold it over your head. I meant “release it” in a more modern, technical sense. Are you sure you’re a robot? Oh, okay. That’s news to you. Whoops.

Well, it appears that Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has learned where his last name came from. Red letter day for him, at least. Me? I have to walk you through a podcast you probably haven’t heard because my mechanical friend thinks the act of dropping an episode is something akin to playing lacrosse. No matter – push on!

Here’s what we have in this month’s THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast:

Ned Trek 36: Grope in the Fold – This installment of our now long-running Ned Trek series (a parody mashup of classic Star Trek, Mr. Ed, and that thing they call the Republican party) commandeers a second-season (1967) script entitled “Wolf in the Fold”. Action includes some first-rate screaming, a gripping courtroom scene, and numerous instances of Mr. Ned telling Perle to shut up. Simply can’t be missed.

Marvin blew it, man.Put The Phone Down – Matt and I sit down for our usual rangy discussion of whatever floats into either of our tiny brains. This month’s random topics include a recap of the Ned Trek episode you just heard; a brief riff on a local meat market and its longstanding sausage-based slogan; Matt’s recollection of a backstage fight between actors playing Buffalo Bill and Jesus Christ in a locally-produced musical back in 1978 or so; Our thoughts on the unusual, perhaps singular, playing style of our late friend and one-time guitarist Tim Walsh; Some news of beavers and sweet potatoes …. and so on.

Song: Two Lines – A Ned Trek / Sulu song from a couple of years ago; one of my personal favorites. Sulu sings of the anguish of only having two lines in any given episode. Chorus features common two-line speeches from Sulu’s role in classic Star Trek.

Song: Silent as a Stone – Deep archive pick. This song long predates our Big Green moniker, but it’s still us. Recorded in the long departed Music Workshop studio in Utica, NY (producer: Bill Scranton) back in 1981, this very weird little number features some of that insane Tim Walsh guitar work Matt and talked about. Head scratcher, but that’s how we sounded in 1981.

Song: It Should’ve Been Me – Closer on our 2013 album Cowboy Scat: Songs in the Key of Rick. Just because.

Song: Don’t Tell Rick – A song we produced after Cowboy Scat. It’s basically a plea to our audience of five not to tell Rick Perry about the album; particularly about the lyric in “It Should’ve Been Me” about playing with his dong. Still working on the video.

Song: Slipping and Sliding – Our cover of a Little Richard number. (Don’t tell Rick!) This is another deep archive pick, from our very first recording as Big Green – a demo tracked at Ned Danison’s brother’s garage studio back in 1986 or so. One of the songs we did in those days.

Peace out.

Usual Rubbish

Fire rockets.

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What do you mean what am I listening to? Music. What the hell do you think? It’s my abandoned storage room. You got a problem with that? You do? Hmmm. Okay.

Well, here we are – another February at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill, and let’s just say things are getting a little slow around the Big Green collective enterprise. For the world is frozen and I have touched the sky. (Wasn’t that almost a Star Trek episode?) ‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky – how about that? Anyway, not much to do this month except catch up on my reading and listen to some tunes. I made the mistake of cranking up some traditional jazz – Lenny Breau, to be exact – and our mad science advisor Mitch Macaphee took exception to that. Not a jazz fan he. I think he’s partial to Wagner. Porter Wagner.

Actually, it’s not just the music that has Mitch acting ornery. He’s been at sixes and sevens ever since that Space-X launch of the “Falcon Heavy” and the subsequent touchdown of its twin booster rockets. I have never seen Mitch so glued to a television set (except that time he Nice ride, Mitch.was cooking up a new kind of super glue and, well, inadvertently glued himself to the television set). I may be going out on a limb, but I think the thing that is sticking in his craw is the notion that another private rocket launch would be so successful. He also has a strange fixation on the Elon Musk space car. I think he wants to hijack that ride and take it to Pluto.

I try to mollify Mitch with my assurances that, though the Falcon Heavy was a huge success, we DID do at least five interstellar tours by virtue of his spacecraft expertise. Sure, we were almost killed about a thousand times and, sure, we were stranded on strange alien worlds for weeks on end, but those are mere footnotes. The REAL story is that we didn’t make a dime on ANY of those tours. THAT’S what’s got ME all worked up. I don’t know what the hell MITCH has to complain about. (Phew. You can see why my effort to reassure Mitch kind of fell flat.)

Okay, so … keep an eye on the hammer mill. If you see the nose cone of a rocket sticking up out of the courtyard, give me a call.