MST3K BringBackMST3K Widescreen

The New MST3k? It Stinks!

I got my hands on a pre-release screening of the new Mystery Science Theater episode 1101, and have been watching the newest shows as time allows on Netflix. I was one of the early backers when they launched their comeback campaign (and raised over $6 million clams) so I’ve been following along closely with the relaunch. I’ve gotten 53 email updates, in fact! Their Kickstarter campaign was, and still is now that rewards are being distributed, exemplary in their communications and follow-through.

New Mst3k Cast

I’m trying to watch these new episodes with an upbeat, open mind, and also view it as if I had never seen it before; was the age I was when I discovered the show which was early 20’s; and all sorts of different perspectives to see who it may be trying to click with. Being somewhat of a marketer and having a graduate degree in marketing strategy, I enjoy doing that. It was changed around significantly from the old classic episodes, and the reasons for those changes were deliberate. So I like to try and figure out why and I’m usually close to the bull’s eye. But I’m having a hard time with this so far. There are interviews and podcasts and media available with Joel Hodgson, the creator, about the directions they chose. I love the show, obviously, but ain’t nobody got time for that. I’m not sure “confounding” is the direction they realized they chose, however.

I’m updating this post as I watch more of the new episodes. I’m thinking as with the “classic” episodes, some of them have to grow on you after watching them a few times. Some of the ones I thought were the lamest are now among my favorites, like Girls Town and Prince of Space. Some of the later episodes of season 11 do seem a little better. The cast is looser and the jokes are funnier because the timing is better. But I’m really going to have to focus on these to maintain impartiality between the Mike and Joel episodes and the new Jonah ones.

However, my initial impressions are that the new shows are sort of comedically weak and there’s a lot going on that doesn’t seem to have a purpose or exist for any real reason. The wobbling camera when it’s on Patton and Kinga makes me seasick and plead “why?” Perhaps it was explained and I missed it, but what is it adding? As far as the design of anything goes, that isn’t ideal. The cast? It seems bloated and not really funny in a quirky, spontaneous way. Which is what I enjoyed about the first run, and am not seeing it here. Maybe Jonah isn’t writing a lot of his own lines so they don’t pop out like they would for the originator. And all the people. It’s getting crowded around there. Even the weird voodoo band that plays(The “skeleton crew.” Groan.), with the motorcycle helmets and half-bones on their heads and personal flotation devices, formerly known as life jackets, have 7 members. What kind of accident is that band expecting? Does cutting to them serve a purpose? Is it becoming a late-night talk show? Someone just had a big payroll, which is evident by watching the credits. I’ve never seen so many co-producers and writers and editors since watching some of the MST3k movie credits. The cash sure didn’t go towards impressive computer graphics, though.

I can’t figure out what’s with the bone theme. Used to just be the SOL. Kinga, the bucktoothed lizard-faced girl that I can’t believe was the top choice, has them in her hair, and the set’s designed with them too. As if people that have the technology they supposedly have wear animal scraps as clothing accessories and wall-art? I don’t know how they can rag on cheesy graphics when theirs are even worse. The sets and backdrops are a mish-mosh of hot glue projects that are visually confusing a lot of the time, and lazy at others. Poor animation mixed with bad stop-motion, combined with paper mache models, models built from junk, and backdrops of a bunch of rivets. All deliberate, I realize, and part of the show’s character. But…why, and why so much? It wasn’t a lack of resources. Some people may enjoy all that zaniness, but I prefer to focus on the actors and writing rather than figure out what it was I just watched. Maybe like many MST3k episodes, they age well and the more you see them, the better they become.

I don’t know how they can rag on cheesy graphics when theirs are even worse. The sets and backdrops are a mish-mosh of hot glue projects that are visually confusing a lot of the time, and lazy at others. Poor animation mixed with bad stop-motion, combined with paper mache models, models built from junk, and backdrops of a bunch of rivets. All deliberate, I realize, and part of the show’s character. But…why, and why so much? It wasn’t a lack of resources. Some people may enjoy all that zaniness, but I prefer to focus on the actors and writing rather than figure out what it was I just watched. Maybe like many MST3k episodes, they age well and the more you see them, the better they become.

I’m not sure what Patton Oswalt is supposed to bring to the table except maybe his name, whatever a C-level actor’s name is worth these days, which may be some quality action figures with the nerd crowd. I can’t see or hear him as anything but Doug Heffernan’s loser friend Spence on the King of Queens, which isn’t unlike this character not suprisingly. He’s no Lawrence Olivier. His character here also seems inept and clownish but it isn’t funny because he doesn’t demand respect. He’s just a bag of fail. Har-har. He seems to simply accept his lot as a minion-boob, and that’s the depth of his character. I understand the tragedy of losing his wife before shooting, but if it was a distraction, he should have bowed out.

His boss, Kinga, not surprisingly, isn’t funny at all(I don’t think she’s supposed to be. I hope not, as weird as that would be for a comedy, but she’s not), and her parts don’t add much except contrived subplots. And her appearance, as much as I try not to let it distract me, is weird. She needs a good orthodontist. And she’s prominent in the show, for some reason. I’d guess 99% of the people who like the show are males. Even gay ones I know like it. But females think it’s stupid for the very most part. (Not all of course; I even once dated a girl that liked it as much as I do, so there are a few gems out there.) Yet diversity has crept into the show, for no apparent reason other than what seems like part of a simmering exit strategy, which is to grow the brand and sell out, as they joke in the first episode. I don’t believe that’s a joke. And part of gettings ducks in a row to be bought in Hollywood/Silicon Valley these days is making sure you’re PC. Whether you think that’s hypocritical or not is your call.

And other useless or unnecessary things: the robots popping up and flying around for no apparent reason. Gypsy makes a cameo during episodes by her silhouette descending from the ceiling and cracking a riff, then disappearing. And the joke is never funny. She’s just a strange-looking distraction.  Servo, who I simply can’t get used to with a different voice, flies about like a runaway drone. I’m not sure why Servo wasn’t replaced with a whole new robot since the voice, which are the essence of the characters and most of the show relies on (It’s all we listen to for most of the show) was changed. Dubbed over just like one of the Sandy Frank Japanese monster episodes they make fun of.

Hearing other people riffing on these shows isn’t hard to get used to when they do it well. Jonah does a fairly good job but I miss Trace and Bill’s wild voice-acting though. You’ve got to be good to rely on deadpan. And it seems they pulled back on the sarcasm. (No more sashaying through the sarcasm) Sometimes they now miss getting the improvisational feel of the classic shows. At 46:35 in ep. 3, Time Travelers, Jonah stumbles over his line, for example. Or blow the riff, in my opinion, with things like in Reptilicus/1101 they start singing “Little Red Corvette” when a red Porsche 356 comes onto the screen. Fail. They’ve got to know the geeks that watch this show aren’t going to let that slide.

No one can do impressions, which is a shame. They don’t even try. A lot of the riffs are predictable and obvious, which is sort of lame too. I shouldn’t be able to outriff these guys. They seem to have gone with the “quality in quantity” theory because in some cases it seems they’re racing to see how many riffs they can fit in. Then other times, the clock ticks away. The movies chosen are a good selection of genres they typically rag on: 1960’s teen go-go movies, Japanese monster movies, campy sci-fi, monsters, etc… So at least the cheesy movies are cheesy. Even though a lot of the same names appear across the season as far as directors and studios go. That’s probably because of licensing, or lack of restrictive licensing. Like public domain. Although the movies are indeed cheesy, they aren’t funny-on-their-own cheesy, like many of the duds in the old seasons that could stand on their own for ridiculousness.

MST3k has always been a divisive show; people either are big fans, or they think it’s idiotic. That seems to be the case with a lot of things I like. And when Mystery Science Theater 3000 came out the first time a lot of people just scratched their heads. It’s a hard premise to sell in such a small amount of time. And has become more complicated with the new season. If all you saw was the skits or the intentionally terrible set design and effects, I can’t fault you for thinking it’s infantile. But it reminds me of Calvin & Hobbes in that regard. If nothing else, you have to admit there’s a lot of creativity involved. I hope Joel Hodgson is able to maintain the same control over MST3k that Bill Watterson sought to have with Calvin & Hobbes. Netflix has a reputation for allowing a lot of creative freedom, which is good. And probably explains why they’re having so much success with their original shows. Let’s hope Mystery Science Theater finds the same success.

NOTE: The “It stinks!” part of the title of this is a line from Pod People & Time Travelers. it doesn’t really stink. Much. But the first Season One was really rough around the edges, too.

 

workbench front

How to Build an Awesome Work Bench

Recently I decided that it was time to build myself a workbench in my garage. As the mechanic, groundskeeper, repairman, and scullery maid, I’m constantly digging through piles of tools and junk. Constantly. It’s a waste of life and can frustrate you on some days. I’ve built a couple of simple benches before, and I’ve built elaborate (NOT fine, although that would be awesome if I had the shop) cabinetry and furniture so it wasn’t going to be a difficult project. I designed and built the weird trash can beside the bench, for example, to keep an old hound dog I once had out of the trash. I also discovered some great tips and learned a few things along the way, as I typically do. That’s partly what makes these types of projects fun. Here’s the debriefing:

I started sketching out some ideas, given the limitations, budget(as inexpensive as possible, but not “cheap”) wants, needs, lessons learned from other benches and so on.

my workbench plans
my workbench plans

I measured out space I had available and spent a LONG time trying to decide between a 6, 7 or 8-foot long bench, and 30-36 inches deep. People think deep benches would be great until they have to reach the back of them and discover their arms aren’t tentacles. I also had the problem of hauling my lumber back, because we don’t have a pickup. Just a couple of soccer-mom SUVs that don’t even have roof racks. So I couldn’t just buy several 12-foot-long boards and a bunch of 4×8 sheets in other words. I had to be frugal with my cargo space. Also, as anyone who works with wood knows, estimating projects is an art that requires some creative mathematical logistics. The goal is to have a little scrap as possible left over. (I cringe when I drive by house construction dumpsters piled high with scrap, although contractors are much better these days with lumber being more costly than when I was little. Every kid in the neighborhood had a half-pipe in their driveway courtesy of the new neighbors.) So there were quite a few considerations.

Also, and this was important, I want to be able to disassemble it and move it fairly easily when needed, yet be as solid and heavy as possible. That was a tough one, but I did it. I didn’t want the additional height of casters and didn’t really feel like engineering around that either. Also, the butthead contractor that built this house only put ONE outlet in the garage. That’s insanity. So I also needed to work some electrical magic. The bench needs a lot of outlets. I have an old tablet and great-sounding Klipsch Bluetooth speaker going on the bench (for music mostly, but also internet advice when I get stuck on something) that need juice, plus soldering irons, chargers, glue guns, lights, USB, a little fridge, and a bunch of other power-hungry items. My power tools will be plugged into some other outlets I rigged elsewhere.

In the end, I chose a 72-inch by 30-inch bench top. Six feet. That allowed me to buy 3 sheets of 4x8x1 plywood, and all 2x4x8’s but one, which was a 2x4x10. It also left some good space around it in the garage. 8 feet would have been unnecessarily tight and large. The benefits of those 2 extra feet of length wouldn’t have been worth the extra material costs and resulting mathematics because the whole thing would need reconfiguring. If I remember, the 8 8-foot boards were about $3.50 apiece and not the poorest quality that were about $3; not the best that were about $5. Just plain studs. I had the store make the cuts for me which mostly were the same length except for the longest, which was a cut-to-fit diagonal brace which was of course only a little over six feet long. This saved me a lot of time and gave me square cuts and chops and nice clean ripped plywood that would have been tough for me to get in my garage setup, which I was obviously underway renovating. And it allowed me to fit it all in my vehicle. By the time I reached that point and unloaded it in my garage it was like assembling a kit. And here’s a big reason for that: I bought the legs and shelf supports already made.

workbench front
a better shot of the front of the workbench

I discovered these things which are awesome and were a key to the project. They make sure your bench and shelves are flat and square and that it’s already at the right height. It comes with brackets and pre-drilled holes for the wood, and makes it super-easy to build, and they’re very affordable. I built this entire thing myself with no help, except for the guy that cut the boards at Lowe’s. For the legs and shelf brackets, they were about $65 on Amazon, and money very well-spent.

workbench right
workbench right. note the position of the lightswitch

I wanted a pegboard for my tools to go vertical, plus that space would just be wasted otherwise. My tools laying around in piles and in buckets and hidden all over the place was getting to be a bit too much to keep maintaining my sanity. I shouldn’t be spending 5 minutes looking for one socket. And all my sockets and bits and screws and such were rusting away in 20-year-old plastic deli meat containers. Ridiculous. I decided on upgrading this part because these metal powder-coated enameled boards that are heavy-duty should last a lifetime, and have a lifetime warranty to back that up. I’ve come to hate thin MDF pegboard that frays and breaks and pegs have to be jammed into and is crap. These are like what you’d find in a pro shop. They had a premium price too but considering their lifespan and utility I’ll get out of them, they’re a good value. I bought a rack for my many pliers, which I also recommend as well. A really nice, well-made, helpful product that can go onto the pegboard or sit on the bench. I also got some really cool pegs for them to go with the ones that came with them, and since they’re metal, they’re magnetic, which is nice. I have some cool magnets that’ll work well on this board for clipping and hanging things. The metal pegboards are attached to the back of this bench in 2 ways. (They’re made to mount onto a wall and come with the needed hardware.) At the top, they’re screwed into the above-head shelf through pre-drilled holes, and at the bottom, they’re screwed to a 3x1x6 strip of oak I have across the front of the boards along the length at the back of the bench, which also keeps screws and little things from rolling away, and creates a nice little shelf to put little things out of the way.  I oiled it as well when I was oiling all the oak.

I screwed a strip of steel across the bottom shelf to prevent wear and tear from feet and other things sliding around on that corner and keep the splinters at bay since I have a 1 year old toddling around. The center shelf has a 90 degree angled strip of molding that was stock from another project which was already primed and I painted. It keeps things from rolling off as well and is easily removed if wanted. For the bottom 2 shelves, I used sanded 1-inch plywood. Nothing too special but much nicer than particle board. $23 a sheet if I remember which was a little more than I wanted to spend but since the essence of the bench is the bench top, and to make my life easier and not harder, ultimately it was worth it to me.

left side workbench
workbench left

For the rest of the bench, other than the bench and shelf tops, I use some really clean and nice 8-foot pine studs. I was surprised at how clean and knot-free they were compared to what I found at Home Depot not that long ago. Incidentally, I bought my lumber at Lowe’s. For no other reason than their prices were better and their lots of lumber they each had at the time were way different quality. Lowe’s had far better. Their customer service sucked incredibly though, except for the kid that cut my lumber. But that’s another post.

For the top, I used 1-inch sanded oak veneer plywood. In retrospect that wasn’t the best decision, but it’s no big deal because of how I built the bench. The top isn’t secured down by screws; it doesn’t need to be. So I can change out tops easily if and when I want. I considered using 2 or 3 separate pieces as the top but thought the seams would be too much of an annoyance and could see too many problems developing from that. I hope to eventually find a thick solid top to put on there, like an old door, but that’s going to take some doing. I didn’t want to use MDF because of the aforementioned tearing and total hatred of moisture and I just hate the stuff for most projects. It’s frailty, unnecessary weight and short lifespan aren’t worth the marginal cost savings to me. Finding a piece of solid, natural, heavy wood, at retail, would blow my budget. Oak is hard, heavy and durable and nice to look at to boot. The only and main problem is that the sawmills use micron-thin veneers, so I’ll need to be mindful of tossing a transmission up across it. I oiled the top and the small amount of finishing around the bottom above-head shelf with Danish Oil, natural. Tung oil would also work but I’m out. There’s no reason to do any more than that. It’s a workbench. But the oil will condition the wood and help protect it from the slop and spills that are about to be all over it. It’s also cheap, easy to reapply and easy to find.

There’s a diagonal board to support the top which some people seem to feel is optional. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. And considering you can get a board that’ll work for about 3 bucks, if not free if you don’t mind construction-site dumpster-diving, why wouldn’t you? And even if you don’t want to do the math of figuring the diagonal, or using an online calculator or app, you can still just measure it when needed for the proper fit. It just sits atop the leg brackets and doesn’t even need to be secured. The whole thing is nothing but 90-degree cuts and is a basic project, in fact. But the added strength this gives the top is well-worth any effort needed. The top will likely be sagging otherwise, especially if you live in high-humidity areas like the coastal deep south.

I primed and painted the bench to match the rest as best as possible with leftover primer and some red metallic enamel paint I found on sale at Target of all places for $4, which I have a ton left over that I’m excited to use elsewhere. I obviously have a black and red thing going on just by looking at this very site. Red being my favorite color and black being its natural partner. And just coincidentally, my tools and stuff go perfectly together for the most part. All these drawered containers are already changing my life.

I also installed some cabinet lights above, which are hidden behind a 6-foot oak strip I already had, and put the switch on the right shelf post. I was tempted to use velcro or something other than the screws to just slap the lights up there, but I’m glad I wasn’t lazy. Use the screws, after predrilling. You’ll be glad you did. I plan on covering the wires on the post near the switch once I come up with a good idea for doing that. I secured the wires with some clear little removable clips and the twist ties that came with them. 20 clips did the trick. I ran the wires to the front so they’d be hidden. Initially, I instinctively planned to run them to the back because that’s where the plug is and it seemed natural. But after thinking about it, that made less sense. Just a tip.

For the shelves and shelf brackets, which I had never used before, I learned a few things and didn’t follow directions anyway. I had the guy at Lowe’s cut the plywood I bought for the three main lower bench shelves widthwise first, meaning chopping it short, then ripping it lengthwise afterward. This gave me 3 boards that were exactly the same length and depth, and the exact same length of the workbench, and all perfectly square. So I sandwiched 2 of them for the bottom-top shelf above the bench and just a single 1-inch plywood scrap for the very top shelf, which only has empty containers on it so even if there was a disaster, no one would be brained by putting anvils up there.

A 2-inch thick shelf is pretty sturdy, so I’m confident about it. I’d need to buy 12 more 2x4x6s if I were to build them as intended. I don’t see the benefit in that cost, considering what I’ve got. I put the best-looking face of the oak plywood on the bottom shelf facing the bench. I didn’t oil that part-the underside of the “lower-top” shelf. In retrospect, I wish I had because the oil, again, would have not only conditioned it but also reflected the lights onto the bench well, albeit subtly. But it’s a relatively light color which is why I chose to do that, plus the top will take a beating with stuff being tossed and slip up on it, so it makes sense to use the cheaper plywood for the top of the shelving sandwich. And if anyone’s short enough to see up there, it’s nice looking natural wood.

workbench front again
workbench front

I spent a lot of time planning this out. I wanted to end up with a good bench, which I did, spend as little as possible, which I did(total cost was under $300 total), and not spend months on the project (I built this in a couple of hours, once planned.) Usually the least fun parts, the planning and prep are the most crucial to the end result. They paid dividends in this case for sure, which is why I’m sharing the details.

before-after of workbench
A before/after of my workbench project.

Edit: May 30 – So far I’ve added a 48-inch power strip with surge protector that’s attached with little machine screws and bolts to the base of the pegboard, facing outward, just above the strip of oak along the back. Other than that addition, cleaning up the electrical wires from various tools that I like to have at hand like a Dremel, soldering iron, battery chargers and a glue gun; arranging the pegboard and drawers better and putting a screw on the side to hang my yard stick, I haven’t had to modify anything major so far.

gateful dead 1972 germany

The Shot Heard Round the World

This Grateful Dead show at the Beat Club in Bremen, West Germany, April 21, 1972, was the show that turned me onto the Grateful Dead around 35 years ago. Got on the bus as the hippies say. It’s not even one of their best shows, although certainly one of the most unique on video, and Donna was squawking away, but it didn’t matter. 1972 is one of their top years. And a show with Pigpen and Keith is special. Out of the many keyboardists the Dead have had, Keith Godchaux was my favorite with Bruce Hornsby second. This was one of Pigpen’s last shows.

Where and how I grew up in South Carolina, good music wasn’t exactly easy to come by. I was born a poor black child, you see. Good music anywhere was tough, but especially in a little town of 500 in S.C. To get true alternative music back then, before alternative was mainstream and was actually an alternative to pop instead of being pop, you ordered records from magazines out of New York. My mother, fortunately, saved a big box of 45s from the beach house from the 50s and early 60s, and a stack of LPs that dated back to the late 1800’s I think. Seriously. Inch-thick discs of classical that played at obscure turntable speeds. But what was played mostly on the old Victrola was a lot of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Enrico Caruso, and other opera and country and western selections mostly. My father’s musical reach was the hook from Ray Stevens’ “The Streak,” and that was about it. We had a radio of course but with poor reception of crummy stations, who bothered? If you wanted to buy a record or cassette tape, you had the Record Bar at the mall, which sold mostly the same crap that was on the radio, or the seedy cinder-block building on the other part of town that sold classic rock and some good stuff, but was known more for their vast porn selection than their music. So I only went in there when my dad took me.

I had listened to Jimmy Buffett, James Taylor and the usual South Carolina fare that all my friends listened to, but I also listened to a lot of those old 45s of my mother’s. Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis were two artists whose hits I listened to a lot. All sorts of obscure hits from those decades were in that stack, and a lot of them were fun for a kid to listen to, like “Splish Splash,” etc…but I got a good feeling for the dawn of rock and roll and pre-rock. The Beatles totally saved humanity from some seriously terrible music. Paul Anka? Tiny Tim? Seriously?

And then one day, in the early 1980’s, I saw the cut of “One More Saturday Night” from this show (@30:20 in the video below). I saw it once, my jaw hit the ground, and that was it. Which made sense since VCRs were still a new technology and what you watched was whatever was on one of the 3 stations. But few things have hit me as resolutely as that did. Like Jehovah’s favorite choir. Seeing these guys play such energetic, raw rock and roll and the colorful wild hippie set and such intense and competent musicianship, and I was sold. (You have to think, this was the 1980’s and synth and bubblegum crap music was everywhere. Seeing guys actually playing instruments like that live and sounding so unique, real, musically complex(they have 7 people on stage) and completely awesome was amazing!) The modulation gets the blood pumping, too. Musically it was familiar. A big influence on Jerry Garcia’s guitar playing is obviously Chuck Berry which you can hear in One More Saturday Night and of course his cover of Johnny B. Goode and Promised Land among other songs that leak out the influence from that era like Not Fade Away. Plus Keith’s piano playing, with his runs and trills and ragtime feel was reminiscent of Jerry Lee Lewis. And no racks of stupid synthesizers everywhere like Devo-or far, far worse in the 80’s- but just Keith over on the side banging away at a piano with a bottle of Coke next to him. I still love watching and listening to it, even though musically it’s not their finest version. It’s pretty good though because of the energy. That’s easy to say though when you have a trillion shows under your belt. It’s still great and I still love it like the first time I saw/heard it in fact, if not more because I know the Dead pretty well now.

And before I get a bunch of emails telling me the Grateful Dead are terrible, I realize this is my opinion and they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Their time signatures are non-standard, which a lot of people don’t like, and the nontraditional arrangements are too much for some people as well. Jerry’s style involves coming in just a little late on vocals and guitar every now and then I’ve noticed, which he does on on purpose usually, which also may put some people off very subtly. Or maybe it’s just Donna, or whatever, but save your time and breath; I know it. I’ve heard it before a time or two. Thankfully, we don’t all have to appreciate each others’ music. I mean Slim Whitman was great and all…

I’ve also heard so many of their shows so many times now, I find I can pick out more and more unique information just by listening to them, like a sommelier can tell you about a bottle of wine by taking a sip. and this new sound system I have is revealing some amazing details I’ve never heard, like heaving breaths and picks hitting the strings and new percussion and subtle runs and phrases I’d never picked up on. In some cases entire instruments that you couldn’t hear in the background. It’s like hearing a lot of these shows for the first time again, which is pretty great. Especially with the frequent releases of all their best shows professionally remastered, like Cornell 5/8/77 etc… in really good audio quality.

The Dead’s sound evolved of course from a jug band quickly to rock and roll, and within that the songs and styles were dynamic. Psychedelia to country and western to old spirituals to jazz numbers to everything in between. Even a polka thrown in here and there. It’s partially why they’re the longest enduring band ever. This period in the 70’s was my favorite(minus the horrible disco-Dead with Go to Heaven-style “Street” songs. My least favorite Dead songs are Dancing in the Streets and Shakedown Street. And Looks like Rain.), with the early 80’s and late 60’s right behind. Those were different eras in several ways. The repertoire pivoting each time for one. Different instruments. Different hairstyles even. Lots of stuff. The worst being when they added the MIDI and went digital in the early 90’s. That’s also when the Dead became seriously mainstream and took on a life of its own. Weird to say when they packed a million people into their shows. But the partying and parking lot scene were out of control. It became about nothing but partying and the music was highly secondary. That’s when I stopped going to shows. It goes from novel at first, to distracting, then annoying after a while. I blame MTV, as I do with a lot of the decline of the general quality of the music scene in the US. How hot you were became more important than how good you were musically. That’s a big conversation for another time.

I recently remembered that I used to make the A/V guys at my high school play and replay the “One More Saturday Night” clip for me on Saturdays when I was stuck on campus, because only a few qualified geeks students could hit Play/Stop/Rewind on the highly-technical VCR on the cart in the A/V center. Which was basically the library attic if I also remember right. What made me think of that was how things have changed since those days. I’m watching it now, at my total leisure, on a giant high-def screen on an audiophile-grade sound system. I can’t wait to see what media consumption is like in 30+ more years. I’m sure the guys in the band couldn’t begin to imagine their humble shows would one day be broadcast like they are. Bobby, with the ponytail, turns 70 this year. And he’s the youngest by quite a few years, since he ran off with the band when he was 16. In the decades following this performance, both keyboardists and the guitarist would be dead, the bassist will have a liver transplant and they’ll add another drummer. And make a ton of great music playing a few thousand shows in between, all available at our fingertips.


Spanish lady comes to me, she lays on me this rose…

Grande Galerie

Spring Cleaning in the Autumn of our Lives

My wife and kids are away for Spring Break, as they tend to do each year. My wife’s a teacher, and my youngest is 1-1/2, so their schedules are flexible. They go to Alabama to see family while I stay behind and take care of the aging dog, get some sleep, listen to the Grateful Dead very loudly, and usually clean the house really, really well. This year is no exception, and maybe one for the records for projects. I’ve already replaced the air/fuel sensors in the old Toyota and they’ve been gone less than a day.

Our garage was out of control with “things” and what has been passing as my “workshop” has been a bunch of old bent, rusty metal storage shelves.  Considering the setup I once had that was an enviable, organized and roomy workstation, it becomes frustrating to have to look for a socket or a certain pair of pliers or set of screws/nuts/washers for 15 minutes, sorting through “organized piles” and a bunch of plastic sandwich meat containers. It has become a waste of time/life, annoying, not good for my tools, which I have a lot of and some nice ones I try to maintain, is an eyesore, and so on. So I spent tonight cleaning up the garage in preparation for a serious reorganization.

Along the way, I had to decide what to do with a lot of junk that I realized I’ve been lugging around for nearly 30 years in some cases, and even longer in others. Things I’ve kept for sentimental reasons; because I thought I could make or repair or do something with the item later, and never have; used to use the thing and stopped, but never disposed of it (like a lawnmower and dryer that really need to go); but things that I acquired somehow, and almost subconsciously have been carrying them around with me, very carefully, for many, many years. Decades.

For most people that wouldn’t be much of a big deal. But during the time I’ve accumulated this crap, I’ve lived, and moved among, 7 states. That’s a lot of back and forth and boxes and tape and sore backs. I’ve probably now lived in 20 different houses and crummy apartments. I know I once lived in 11 places in a 10-year span, which was a true nightmare. That’s a lot of packing, unpacking, carefully choosing where to put this stuff in my new place, and then doing it all over again without ever stopping to think of why I’m hauling all this stuff around. Also during that time I’ve had things that mean a lot to me broken, stolen, or just abruptly removed from my life somehow. Every time I’ve moved, something valuable has been broken no matter how careful everyone is. And we used to have 2 cats, now down to one because the male was so terrible, which destroyed a loooong list of my once-nice things. So I’ve had to say goodbye to a lot of meaningful things in my life, so maybe it’s natural as we get older to not mind parting with material possessions as much. Just a theory.

Upcoming project next week: build an appropriate work bench and reorganize the garage to be useful, clean and navigable. I’m using these as a foundation. The reviews were flattering to say the least. And it is a great idea. Just add 2x4s and benchtops/shelves. I’ll be going for the deluxe model, however. It’s going to be pimp-tight as they say, and I’ll post photos upon completion. Here’s a taste of what I’m starting with. It doesn’t look nearly as bad as it really is, but as you can see it’s just piles of rusty tools:

tools and shelves and rust and unorganization

I’ve spent 2 days de-rustifying my tools, which were ruined during a stint of mine in Montgomery Alabama, when I had to use a front porch to store my things underneath. Basically just sitting outside in the dirt and elements. I had nowhere else to put them because of the size and layout of the house and no garage or shed. So at least 50% of my things I’ve collected over the years were ruined; wood, metal, power tools, drill bits, machinery, etc… I’m salvaging the rest using soap and water to clean them all and break the surface tension, then a chemical bath, which I’ve gotten in all my cuts on my hands. Who needs gloves when handling acid? But that should help to not have to replace every single thing at least. Tip: Dust and dirt attract moisture, so keeping tools and wood dust-free in your shop is important. Putting silica packs in your toolboxes will help, or using an old-school wooden toolbox to keep them dry. Not only are quality tools expensive, but they’re a pain to obtain a lot of the time, so save yourself some time and money and maintain them.