What You Will

Another Burma Shave billboard on the information superhighway. Random thoughts about arts, faith, culture, music, language, literature, and the shortcomings of the Hegelian dialectic. (OK, just kidding about that last bit.)

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Location: Edmonds, Washington, United States

I wonder what goes in this space?


Tag, I'm it

I've been "tagged" by Andy Whitman, who wants me to write on the following topics:

Four jobs I’ve had

Disk jockey. I got this job as a result of one of the greatest displays of grace ever shown to me by another human being. As a young teen, I was nuts about my local contemporary Christian music radio station. I'd stay up all night listening, calling the request line once or twice an hour. Then there was a shakeup. Programming changed, and one of the DJs lost his job. I happened to know his wife, and boy, was she bitter. I listened to her gripe, and then wrote angry letters to Steve, the new station manager. He patiently wrote back and invited me to come talk to him, which I did. I left that meeting still angry, but over the next couple of months I gradually realized that what I felt wasn't righteous indignation, just youthful impetulance. I wrote Steve a letter of apology. Later on, the station advertised for interns, and Steve accepted my application.

I was 15 and a junior in high school, and worked at KSOJ for about a year. Pay was four lousy bucks an hour, which didn't make my dad too happy, but I loved being on the radio. Grew up a little bit, I suppose. Fortunately I never had to deal with the kind of angry listener that I had been. The most important lesson was the one Steve taught me. Thanks again, man.

Cartographic aide, U.S. Geological Survey. My 780 math SAT score got me this job, which I did for a couple of summers after the radio station went off the air. I had also applied for a job at a steakhouse that had singing waiters. The owner said he'd start me as a busboy and work me into a singing waiter job if I performed well. I chose the USGS job, but a couple of days after I started there I got an angry call from the steakhouse owner. Why hadn't I reported to work? Whoops! He thought he'd hired me at the end of the interview. I hadn't realized that.

I stuck with the USGS job; it paid a little better. It involved "photogrammetry" — using a specialized machine to stare at 3-D images of Mars or the Nevada Nuclear Test Site and maneuver a little dot around the landscape at specified elevations, thereby producing a topographical map. To this day I have no idea if I was any good at this; I don't know whether the maps I produced were ever actually used for anything.

Because it was a government job, we had cool things like e-mail, chat, and file transfer protocols on our computer network — in 1986. I didn't see what the big deal was with chat — why not just call someone's extension, or go down the hall and talk in person?

Editor/proofreader/etc. This is my main gig. I've been correcting other people's mistakes since I was 12, when my typographer dad taught me proofreader's marks and started paying me to help in the shop.

Touring musician. I've done this with at least five different musical entities, not counting high school or college. I've been to Vermont in January, Atlanta in July, and many places in between. You might think this is the most fun job of all — and parts of it are, like the part where you actually play the music and get to talk to people about it. But there are often tedium-filled days in a place far from home — and once in a while there's something even worse, like the time I was in Ireland and my wife seriously injured her leg back home, and I couldn't be there to help her. Or the time I threw my back out carrying all my gear from my car to a gig at a coffeehouse in Venice Beach. Or this.

I should add that I worked some food-service jobs in college, and I think it would be a fine idea to require all Americans to do some kind of service job for one year at some point in their young lives. It might help service workers and their customers to treat each other better. I also spent some time working at Drugstore.com just after the dot-com bubble burst, when such companies still had some strange employee perks. One of these was the commercial espresso machine in the kitchen. I learned to pull a fairly decent latté — good enough that my colleagues would place orders with me.

Four TV shows I’m watching

I go slack-jawed and glassy-eyed whenever I'm near a TV, so I try to avoid the things as much as I can. Unfortunately, I recently discovered that full streaming episodes are being placed online.

CBS.com just posted a bunch of episodes from the first two seasons of The Twilight Zone, so I'm working my way through those. When that's done I'll start on the original Star Trek episodes they've posted.

The wife and I enjoy late-night reruns of M*A*S*H, which seem always to be on one channel or another. It wasn't consistently brilliant — there are some dud episodes — but when it was good, it was really good.

I never watched The Muppet Show when it was originally airing. Not once. I grew up without a TV, so that's a partial explanation, but still. I am watching it now, often with my son, and we both find it consistently delightful.

Four places I’ve been

Been lots of places, but the following are among the more exotic destinations where I've gone in order to play music.

Athens, Greece
Tbilisi, Georgia
Clare Island, Ireland
Honolulu, Hawaii

I grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona, and have spent most of my adult life in the Seattle area.

Four musical artists I’m listening to

Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill — There's a new one just out, and I will be listening whenever I get my hands on it. Hard to believe it's been nine years since Live in Seattle.

Flanders & Swann — The greatest British songwriting duo ever. Their producer, George Martin, abandoned them for a couple of schmucks named John and Paul. But what did he know?

Mark Heard — It's not easy to accept the early death of a great talent who never got his due. At least the songs will always be there.

Silly Wizard — Andy M. Stewart has a voice to die for, and his ballads are the equal of anything produced by Scott or Burns or Stevenson. He's worked a bit as a solo artist since the band broke up, and is a living national treasure as far as I'm concerned (but then, I'm not Scottish, so make of that what you will). The Cunningham brothers were an ideal instrumental foil to Stewart's vocal heroics.

This list will change next week.

I am now supposed to tag two others. Let's see: Michael. Jeffrey. Go to it.


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