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

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

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 tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte 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

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

Song listlessness.

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Did you look in the silo? Okay. How about the forge room? No? Then take a look, for crying out loud. Not a moment to spare.

Well, I am proud of myself. It took all weekend, but I pulled together an exhaustive list of all of the songs Big Green has ever written, from our very first days to the present. Yes, I left out the future, but two out of three isn’t bad. Besides, predicting the future is hard. Don’t know if you noticed. That’s why we leave it to people like Kreskin … and Criswell. (You remember Criswell, right? Criswell predicts!)

Trouble is (and there is always trouble here at the abandoned Cheney Hammer Mill) Now that I’ve completed the list, I … well … can’t find it. I would describe it to you, but you probably won’t find it either … unless you have a gift of prophecy, again, like Criswell. Well, I don’t have a mentalist here at the mill. Though it’s fair to say that most of our entourage are mental, in the colloquial sense. My only resource in situations such as this is Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who most assuredly does not have a gift of prophecy, but he does possess some of the finer qualities of a bloodhound when it comes to finding lost things.

Amazing!How do you sniff out a list? Not sure. He took a look around the courtyard. No luck. He did turn up some promising papers in the forge room, but alas, they were forgeries. Another twelve hours of exhaustive search and I will resort to recreating the list from scratch. That part’s easy. Just start from “Sweet Treason” and work your way forward. (That original recording of Sweet Treason is a little scratchy, come to think of it.)

Why am I undertaking this seemingly pointless task? Well … not sure. When you’ve got a lot of songs and even more time on your hands, you try to find ways of busying yourself. Maybe when I finish the list, I’ll just sit in my room and play our entire canon from beginning to end. Probably about 300 songs, but that’s a wild guess.

Oh, excuse me. MARVIN? DID YOU TRY MITCH’S LAB? BE SURE TO WEAR YOUR BLAST SHIELD!

Usual Rubbish

Twang it.

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Okay, so the strings have been changed. Congratulations. Only trouble is, there’s four strings, not six. What is this freaking thing, a banjo? No banjos in my house! Well …. maybe one, but that’s it!

Wow, I guess you caught me laying down the law with Marvin (my personal robot assistant), who has been standing in for my guitar technician over the last week or so. Not a role he was born to play, that’s for sure. His rudimentarily prehensile claws can barely hold on to a guitar let alone change a set of strings. I think this time around, he quit the task at four strings just because it’s so damned impossible. (I gave him Mission Impossible.)

Why would I ask Marvin to change my guitar strings? Well, he should stretch a bit beyond his comfort zone, you know? He’s got to make something of himself one day, and with all of the automation happening throughout our global economy, I’d say he’ll have plenty of opportunities. If Factory tuned to concert pitch.that sounds odd coming out of a confirmed collectivist, just bear in mind – Marvin doesn’t have any material or animal wants or needs. He runs off of a little breeder reactor in his chest cavity. I think it looks like a cake frosting pipe with some arteries painted on the outside – it bobs up and down and makes a noise that recalls to mind a beating heart. (Oh no, wait … that’s an episode of Lost in Space.)

Actually, Marvin has volunteered to serve as the self-driving part of our self-driving car. All we need to do is add the car part. I tried to explain to his tiny brain that the car part is the hard part because it involves substantial cash outlays and various other activities that are difficult to perform when you are “off the grid”, if you catch my meaning. Still, it would put us in the forefront of independent bands if we started traveling about in a van driven by an automaton. This could be our ticket to stardom … or at least start-um. (You have to start somewhere.)

Back to the guitar strings. I am trying to teach myself a few songs on guitar so that I can start busking. Or at least do some virtual busking, as a professional busker, not a hobbyist. (Like I need a hobby, right?) The guitar case will be open, hungry for unwanted coins, at a subway stop near you.

Usual Rubbish

Stage fright.

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I like to play it in C. Mostly because it’s an easy key, okay? You got a problem with easy? Huh? All right then – WE’LL DO IT LIVE!

Whoa, was that mic live? Sorry, everyone. Caught us in the midst of what passes for a band meeting here in Big Green land. (And I don’t mean Canada, which kind of looks like a big Greenland.) As you probably know, everything I say gets transcribed into this blog, so you are truly getting a slice of life here. I obviously don’t do a lot of talking, or this blog would be waaaaay longer. No sir – I just talk for about fifteen minutes, twice a week, and you can read it all here. Hot off the presses!

Okay, that’s a lie. See what happens when I don’t want to talk about something? That “something” is, well, playing live, which is something we don’t do a whole lot anymore. Not saying we won’t do it again, God no. Only, well … we’re a little older than we were forty years ago, and Matt and I are kind of settled in our ways. The mansized tuber has put down roots, and Marvin (my personal robot assistant) doesn’t move as fast as he used to, owing in large measure to rust and loose The hell it is!contacts. (Yes, that’s right, lady robots – he wears contacts.) So it’s not stage fright. More like existential angst.

Funny thing is, when we DID play all the time, we sometimes played other people’s music. And one of those songs was Stage Fright, by The Band. So you could say that the reason we don’t play local clubs and dance halls is Stage Fright, but that would be suggesting that this particular song plays an important role in our repertoire, and we don’t remember how to play it. Yes, I play it in C, but everyone else remembers it in A or D or some other dumbass key. I think I’m right, they think I’m crazy – stalemate! And if that were the only song we play, well … we couldn’t play.

Well, we got that straightened out. Now … on to the Badfinger set. Oh, doctor.