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

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

Jump time.

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Time to crank out another number? Right, then. One … two … one, two, three, fo… What? Wait for what? Oh, right. We need to pick a song. My bad.

Well, obviously we’re a little out of practice. It’s been a while since Big Green performed in these parts, and while we don’t have any plans to set up at the local gin mill and run through the ’93 set list (just like the old days, Steve), we could do with a little rehearsal time. A friend once told me that rehearsal is just a crutch for cats who can’t blow. (No, he didn’t wear sunglasses and a tam.) I like to think he had a point. It makes me feel better about doing nothing, and doing nothing is nothing if it isn’t fun.

Not to say that we’re dead idle – far from it. This week we’re recording the next episode of Ned Trek. We’re also working on the songs for our Christmas Extravaganza, rummaging through our big burlap sack of old Xmas songs that was the genesis of our first album, 2000 Years To Christmas, in 1999. Yessir, I remember back in ’02, when the pump broke down and we had to haul water from the brook all the way uphill to our little log lean-to in Sri Lanka. Then there was the time that old Barney the mule lost a shoe in the middle of winter sowing. Hard times. Yep. (Yep.)

A bit spare.Thankfully, life is a lot simpler now. We have Marvin (my personal robot assistant) haul all of our water from the brook. Except now, unlike then, we have indoor plumbing (our lean-to was very old-school), so Marvin just dumps the water into the cistern and we tap it. Modern conveniences! When Marvin’s batteries run a little low, we ask Anti-Lincoln to do it, and he always says no. We still ask, though. Everybody pulls his own weight around here. Everybody except the mansized tuber, who needs a little help. But what the hell – he’s a freaking plant. Can’t expect him to grow arms and legs and start jumping around anytime soon. (Or can we …. ?)

Well, I’ve wandered a bit. The bottom line is that we’re dusting off a few of the Christmas songs Matt wrote decades ago – ones that didn’t end up on 2000 Years To Christmas – and recording them properly for the first time ever (i.e. not on a borrowed 4-track cassette deck). Again, modern conveniences, utilized for our mutual benefit. It’s a crazy little thing called civilization.

Usual Rubbish

Summer’s end.

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Here comes the sun … and there it goes, right over the back of the mill. Must be autumn. This place is like freaking Stonehenge – you can set your watch to the movement of the shadows.

Well, the season passing doesn’t mean much around here. I’ll be honest: we of Big Green never went in for summer activities in a big way, so the warm months are just about keeping out of the sun and wearing open newspapers on your head like a tent. Unless you’re Matt, of course, who wears a hat and spends half of his life out amongst the wild critters, rain or shine, snow or hail, you name it. The rest of us? We all busy ourselves with indoor activities, like bending pretzels and juggling priceless objets d’art. (That last one we don’t do a real lot. Like, well … never.)

It’s hard to keep track of what our entourage is doing in any given season. Some are more active than others. Anti-Lincoln, for instance, had and idea for a discount retail business. He was going to plant it right next door to Dollar General and call the store Quarter Colonel. His business plan was to undercut the competition – everything in Dollar General is a buck; everything in Quarter Colonel would be a quarter. The cash registers were ringing in his Four score and seven blue light specials agohead like the bells of St. Mary. I know Lincoln had a reputation, perhaps apocryphal, of being a humble, frugal man of simple tastes, so true to form, his anti-matter self is the exact opposite. He’s going to OWN north central Little Falls, NY …. OWN IT!

Marvin (my personal robot assistant) has been busy these waning weeks of summer. He’s mostly been checking his way through my to-do list. Hey … don’t look at me like that. What would YOU do if YOU had a personal robot assistant? At least I’m not sending him out to some local small business to earn money for my ass. Though he was working for a time at a five and dime. (His boss was Mr. Magee). I don’t think I have to tell you how that turned out.

So, bring on the fall, people. We’ve got a pack of songs ready to record. Let’s track this mother! Ya-ho, ta-ho.

Usual Rubbish

Missing pieces.

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This tape recorder has that Leroy Brown kind of problem. You know … it looks like a jigsaw puzzle with a couple of pieces gone. Guess it must have been messin’ with the wife of a jealous dehumidifier.

All right, well, it’s no secret that Big Green has a technology problem or two, even with an in-house mad science advisor like Mitch Macaphee. Our machines are aging, our circuits are frayed, our relays are frosted, and the electric bill’s unpaid. (That was an accidental rhyme, by the way.) Most of our recording devices have at least one tooth missing. I’ve got an Evil Twin direct box that needs surgery. Our VS2480 deck has finally been retired for a system that’s maybe six years newer (i.e. only nine years old).

Hey … if you’re a real band, that shouldn’t matter, right? Got a second-hand guitar and a panama hat? Start busking. Got a broken-down upright piano that’s barely upright? Grab a tin cup and start pounding those dusty keys. That’s the musician’s work ethic. Not super popular around here, I must say. We make music without much of a thought to monetizing it. God no – that’s Anti-Lincoln’s job. We just put our heads down in the studio. Old antimatter Abe sits in the den and moves the numbers around. Occasionally they add up to something edible.

I think I see what the problem is...Speaking of missing pieces, our podcast, THIS IS BIG GREEN, is massively overdue. The reason/excuse? Well … we produced eight songs, mixed seven, and thought we were freaking done. Matt was plugging the show together and, well … there was this gaping hole where a Nixon song should go. So it’s back to the mixing board with us, and the June episode is now turning into the September episode. But people … think of it. Eight new songs, written on the fly and recorded from scratch … on a new (to us) recording system, no less! Add to that some chasing around after falcons and the usual summer distractions, and you’ve got an abysmally late podcast. But, hopefully, it will be one for the books. (Eight new songs, people.)

I think that brings our Ned Trek catalog up to about 70 tracks. Christ on a bike. There’s got to be an album in there somewhere, right?

Usual Rubbish

Rubbish in.

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Anybody seen my tuning fork? No, damn it, THAT’S not it. That’s my tuning spoon. I said fork, you moron. This …. place!

Oh, yeah … hi out there. I’m just attempting to replace a string on a second hand guitar that’s been lying around the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill since before we started squatting inside this big old drafty barn of a place. In as much as Big Green is a collectivist institution by nature, we make use of what resources avail themselves, utilizing only what we need to accomplish a mutually agreed-upon task, then replacing the surplus in such a way as to benefit all. Yes, we’re all equal here. Except, of course, anti-Lincoln. Fuck that guy!

Why am I restringing an old, abandoned guitar? Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’m doing it with used strings. We’re scraping the bottom of the stewpot here, folks – I won’t make any bones about it. (Typically, what you find at the bottom of the pot is not so much bones as sinew and fat, but I’ll leave that right there.) That’s what you have to do when you’re Big Green, you know. We thrive on privation. We bask in the glow of our obscurity. When gravity says come down here, we go up there. When we look in the mirror, we know that we’re the opposite of Dude, what did you DO to this thing?what we see looking back at us.

What does all this mean? Well, I’m gonna’ tell ya’. We still haven’t finished our podcast, that’s what. The machinery is moving pretty slowly these days, folks. Matt’s got his hands full with his various nature-focused responsibilities, tracking peregrine falcons, tending the beavers, and writing up stats for The Kingbird. And me, well … I saw a bunny in the yard. And there was some other junk. And I listened to a video clip on my phone. Uh … I got nothing. Rubbish in, rubbish out, right?

Sure, I know, it’s been four months since our last show; it’s in the works, and we’re mixing the songs right now. One …. more .. hurdle. Keep your eyes open and your mouths agape. Expect a delivery … soonish.

Usual Rubbish

Make it spin.

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Where’s the summer podcast? I don’t freaking know. Must have left it in my other pants. What am I, Kreskin? Maybe. I hear HE has more than one pair of pants.

You see, here’s the problem with living in the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. (And I should add here, it’s not the ONLY problem.) It’s goddamn hard to stay on a schedule. You can set up your little wall calendar or get one of those day planners at the stationery store. (Personally, I prefer stores that move around, like food trucks. Mmmmmm …. food trucks ….) Or you can vault bravely forward into the 21st Century and set your schedule on some phone app. Well, we’ve got none of that here. Nothing like it. Anti-Lincoln puts a mark on the wall every morning, but frankly, after a decade of that, it just looks like patterned wallpaper.

I guess what I’m saying is that we haven’t posted a new THIS IS BIG GREEN podcast in four months because, well, we lost count of the days. And days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and what the hell – here we are. That’s very nearly the truth, but like everything around here, it’s more complicated than that. The current episode of Ned Trek is a musical, so we’re in production – STILL – on I think seven songs. (Like I said, I lost count.) A couple of them have been mixed. I’m still working on rhythm tracks for the rest. We’re testing out a new system, and that’s been a bit of a process. Our tops won’t spin. Hey … just GET OFF MY BACK!

Really made your mark, didn't you?That wasn’t for you. There was a carpenter ant on my back. I’ve never been able to understand why they are named for something that is almost the precise antithesis of what they do for a living – namely, eat your house alive. (Carpenters, last I looked, build you house alive.) It’s another example of what we call the “Pelican Cove Principle” – naming things for either (1) something completely inappropriate to the thing named, or (2) something you destroyed to build the thing. For example: Pelican Cove was a tony bedroom community that had no pelicans and no cove, so it complied with principle (1). Then there’s Applewood Drive back in my hometown – a road built through an ancient stand of heirloom apple trees which were, of course, ripped out to make room for McMansions. You get the idea.

Well, there you go – I wasted another morning, didn’t I? That’s why we’re so far behind. Back to the basement with me.

Usual Rubbish

Dig it.

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Well, if we needed storage space, it would be a good thing. Honest, Abe – where are you going to find enough junk to make it worthwhile? We can’t even afford shoes, for chrissake.

Oh, hi. Yeah, I’ve been having a little conversation with Antimatter Lincoln about an idea he cooked up this week. Let me see if I can explain. With the help of Mitch Macaphee’s Particle Beam Generatorâ„¢, we now have a tunnel to the center of the Earth in our basement. The downside of that, of course, is that it has the potential to act as a volcanic vent, sending an ocean of magma up from the planet’s chewy center and wreaking havoc on our entire community. (Also, it tends to whistle as the world turns.) What’s the upside of having Earth’s biggest hole? We’re still working on that.

Antimatter Lincoln piped up with a suggestion that we put shelving units around the walls of the hole and use it to store nick knacks, junk, souvenirs, and sporting trophies. Capital idea, except that we don’t have any of those things, particularly the trophies. Besides, when that thing blows its stack, it would burn our non-existent valuables to a cinder. And again, we live in an abandoned hammer mill. There’s plenty of room for Antimatter Lincoln’s imaginary possessions. The simple fact that they are imaginary – i.e., mental impressions only, not objects external to his fevered brain – suggests that he can have an infinite number of them and never have to worry about where to keep them all.

Fun!Right, so … what to do with that hole. We did bring Marvin (my personal robot assistant) up from the flames of hell this past week, after having lowered him down the well on an impromptu reconnaissance mission. He had little to report, though apparently he saw openings in the tunnel walls that led to large caverns underground. It’s possible that, for all his trouble, Mitch just built us a back door to Howe Caverns. I suppose NOW we’ll be getting busloads of middle school kids parked out in front of the mill, waiting for a chance to take the underground boat ride or step on the quartz heart-shaped platform where some crazy-ass couples chose to have their weddings.

Ah, memories. If you have a good use for the world’s biggest hole, just email them to us with the subject line: “World’s Biggest Hole”. We’ll know just what you’re talking about.

Usual Rubbish

Audio dynamite.

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Yeah, turn the bass drum up a little in my headphone mix. Yeah, that’s enough. That’s good. Okay, dial it back … Too loud. STOP!! Christ on a bike. Can’t you turn a knob in a direction other than clockwise? No? Okay. Good to know.

As you may have surmised, we have resorted to using Marvin (my personal robot assistant) as a sound engineer in the makeshift studio we maintain at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill. Not the optimal choice, I admit, but hey, look – we only have two hands. Actually, between us, we have four, but – and this is important – WE’RE USING ALL FOUR OF THEM. I thought Marvin, being a robot, might be a bit more precise in his manipulations of various sound parameters, but it appears that Mitch Macaphee (our mad science advisor) cut a few corners when he put Marvin together. His wrist joints only turn one way, it turns out. What the fuck.

Hey, did any of you hear something?When you are effectively a pop duo … and I think Matt and I constitute the duo part, at least … you need to rely on others sometimes to do some of the heavy lifting. Marvin can do some stuff. I’ve gotten Antimatter Lincoln to shake a tambourine more than once – that’s about his speed. The man-sized tuber is pretty good at holding things up, like a table.  These are all things we would otherwise have to do ourselves, so it’s not like I’m ungrateful. But man … a shred of musical ability would come in handy right about now.

Then there’s such a thing as too much help. Yes, I’m talking about Mitch. This one song we were working on, we wanted a colossal bass drum sound. Mitch said he could do better than our superannuated effects boxes, so we said go ahead, knock yourself out. The next morning, I’m awakened by this earth-shattering BOOM and the whole mill is shaking like a jello mold. Out in the courtyard, there’s a smoking crater where the tool shed once stood. There were about seven mics set up around the crater. I guess Mitch was thinking surround sound.

It took about a year to live that down. (We still get calls from the codes department.) So hey, now I’m careful when I ask for help.