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Monthly Archives: May 2014

The end of the Age of Plastic.

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Nice seeing you again.

I haven’t been writing much lately because I’ve been struggling with depression and discontent and a bunch of other shit I’m not gonna air out to the general public. (I’ve read several great first-person blog posts about what depression feels like. This won’t be one of them.)

I decided a good cleaning out and life-scrubbing might be one thing I could do to feel better.

And as part of that, I finally went to my small storage room this afternoon and cleaned out two big cardboard boxes full of cassettes. They’re all in the trash now, on their way to the landfill.

I feel momentarily bad because, while the tape boxes are probably recyclable, the tapes themselves are not. I’m sure I’m spitting a big indigestible wad into whatever hole in the ground the township uses to dispose of its unwanted matter. But, what other option is there for a 21st century schizoid man?

tapes018

It occurs to me that some future civilization will probably be able to reproduce the contents of trashed cassette tapes, thenceforth to learn a great deal about life in the late 20th century.

My guess is they won’t bother, though. Future scientists will be too busy trying to keep themselves alive to spend time on unearthed relics. The imperative of filtering mercury, piss and petroleum distillates out of the “drinking water” will outweigh the importance of restoring Grant and Michelle’s 4Ever Love Mix ’91.

(This is why I don’t believe in cryonics. Do you truly think the people living on whatever colossally fucked version of Earth is still circling the sun in the year 2400 are really gonna want to spend time reviving and curing their cancer-wracked ancestors? Those living at that point will envy the dead, not revive them. But, I digress.)

Going through these cassettes brought me back to the hours of time I spent bent over record players making them, mostly in the house where I lived during high school and college.

It was a useful reminder that all our labors are doomed to obsolescence and failure over time.

(You don’t need to go see the half-buried Sphinx to learn this. A trip to the basement will suffice. Look on my labours, garbageman, and despair.)

Some of these tapes dated back to middle school, more than a quarter-century ago. Some of them kept me company in the ’83 Nissan Pulsar I used to drive in high school.

Many of them contained music that was once very dear to me — and, in a few cases, still is. We’re talking about some truly seminal stuff in the development of yours truly.

But, the sun has set on the cassette format, at least in my house. Some of this music I still own on LP. Others, I have bought on CD or downloaded in MP3 form.

The hard fact is, no matter how much I love the music on these tapes, I’m just never gonna listen to it in cassette format again. To tell myself otherwise is just clinging to the past.

A lot of old friends with a lot of stories just went into the trash. So they don’t go untold or unrecognized, I’ll tell them now:

– At least two different tapes with the Stones’ Beggars Banquet. Mick Jagger singing “Stray Cat Blues” was just about the baddest, filthiest shit going when I was 14, and I listened to it at every opportunity.

– At least two copies of Appetite for Destruction, complete with robot-rape scene on the inside cover. Neither copy was ever mine, since I only owned the album on used CD.

– The tape my high-school band director gave me because he wanted me to learn the song on it for a school concert … which I promptly dubbed over with Aerosmith’s Rocks on one side and Draw The Line on the other.

(From the stable platform of grown-up maturity I say: Eat it, Ned.)

– The early tape mixes I made off the radio when my tastes were just waking up, back around 1986. (The one in front of me as I type this ranges from “Get Off Of My Cloud,” to Howlin’ Wolf, to “Life’s Been Good,” to “A Day In The Life.” Ah, to be 12 and have the radio present new, unknown treasures to me daily.)

– A tape with Jeff Beck’s Truth on one side and the Ramones’ first album on the other, made probably circa 1987 by a good friend who’d gotten into them both and shared the goodness, however scattershot it looks now.

– An official made-by-Columbia-Records copy of Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks that I just flat-out found somewhere — like, by the side of the road once.

I wouldn’t have bought it because the friend who introduced me to Jeff Beck and the Ramones gave me a copy of Blood on the Tracks as a high school graduation present, telling me it was a soundtrack to breakups yet to come. He was a smart son-of-a-bitch.

Yeah, I took pix with the biscuit camera, because it was there.

Yeah, I took pix with the biscuit camera, because it was there.

– A tape of Miles Davis’ final studio album, Doo-Bop, picked out of a Boston-area bargain bin by college-age me. I liked it OK then; not sure what I’d think now.

yeah, I took pix with the biscuit camera, because it was there.

– The Vinnie Vincent Invasion tape I picked up as a joke out of an on-campus free-bin during an art-school graduation in Rhode Island. (Sample lyric: “She gives the right amount of pleasure / She blisters my love zone.”)

– Tapes my friends made me over the years with tunes they wanted to turn me on to — everything from Elton John to Queens of the Stone Age. (Thank you, friends. You turned my ears more than I ever let you know.)

– The tape with the Grateful Dead’s Workingman’s Dead on one side and the Rolling Stones’ 12×5 on the other. Two of the earliest LPs I ever owned; both still in my collection a quarter-century later; both indispensable in their own ways.

– The tape of KISS: Alive! I put on my battered old boombox just a few years ago, it seems, when I was painting large chunks of my house. (Probably closer to a decade ago than I care to imagine.)

KISS Alive!

I wrote a blog post some time ago about the weird combinations of albums I sometimes threw onto both sides of a 90-minute tape.

See, I’d buy a bunch of albums at a time. And I’d throw the best onto tape so I could have them with me at all times, regardless of whether they made stylistic sense together or not.

Some of the unlikely bedfellows that are en route to the trash (and I have tape-case labels to prove all this, at least until my son takes out the trash next Monday night):

– Roxy Music, Flesh and Blood, and Alice Cooper, Killer

– Iggy and the Stooges, Raw Power, and Yes, The Yes Album

– Sly and the Family Stone, There’s a Riot Goin’ On, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers, Over-Nite Sensation

– The Clash, London Calling, and Free, Fire and Water. (My high school bass teacher, who died too young, turned me on to the latter. These are two damned good albums, even if they go together like … well, fire and water.)

– Bob Dylan, Desire, and Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here

– Talking Heads, Fear of Music, and Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Lick My Decals Off Baby

– James Brown, Live at the Apollo, and Elvis Costello and the Attractions’ Blood and Chocolate

– Joni Mitchell, The Hissing of Summer Lawns, and the New York Philharmonic playing Charles Ives’ Symphony No. 2. (To be honest, I didn’t listen to the Ives much; but, five points to my folks for having it in their LP collection, and a point-and-a-half to me for dubbing it.)

– Santana, Abraxas, and Bob Marley and the Wailers, Catch A Fire, with the Bay City Rollers as filler

(This reminds me of a disagreement I had with my older brother back in high school. He would leave the last minute-and-a-half of his tapes empty, because he hated to have a song get cut off. I was a sucker for hooks, even if they got interrupted, so I’d fill every single last second of recordable tape on my cassettes.)

– Steely Dan, Katy Lied, and Deep Purple, Burn

– Funkadelic, Maggot Brain, and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, Weasels Ripped My Flesh (two distinctly different bastions of American individuality, circa 1971)

I didn’t throw out every single tape in the two boxes.

Anything involving my high school and college bands got kept. (If I played on it, I kept it.)

So did some of the tapes of me on the air at Boston University’s radio station, and some of the tapes of my friend at St. Bonaventure University’s radio station who played songs by my high-school band.

And the stolen cassette of Zappa/Mothers tunes that permanently warped my brain when I was in fourth grade survives for another day. (I’ve told that story before.)

The rest of it is gone; and bless it.

It helped Younger Kurt through all the stuff that an average American male dealt with between 1985 and, oh, 2005 or so.

It deserves a kinder fate; but, such is not the way of life.

The fate awaiting Older Kurt will probably not be any kinder, if that’s any consolation. But we’re not there quite yet.

For now, we will hit Rewind once more in our memory … let the music go backward a prudent distance … and enjoy it again.

“What is a word? You tell me. I don’t know.”

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I have no idea who the Strumbellas are, but I love their spirit.

If you haven’t already done so — and I’m guessing you haven’t — click here to get to the Canadian alt-country band’s website.

Then click Band and watch the brief (six minutes or so) video about the development of one of their songs.

This is absolutely priceless on several levels:

– The way the other people in the band react when the singer-songwriter turns in a new song with a big and obvious mistake.

– The singer-songwriter’s own response to that mistake.

– The way they eventually rescue the song through good old-fashioned, live-in-the-studio feeling it out.

Also, at the risk of sounding like a condescending American, there’s a wonderful down-to-earth Canadianness that pervades this video.

These guys (and woman) have no rock-star pretensions. They’re just regular folks (including a Ph.D. student in literature, which is wonderful in and of itself ) who happen to play in a band.

And when life throws them an unexpected curve, they all react in their own ways and then come together to save the moment.

It’s charming, and winning, and maybe a little goofy in spots. So go watch it already.

The ghosts of Saturday.

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I finally got to go into Martin Tower today.

My three regular readers might remember Martin Tower from this November 2012 post, which is still one of the most popular things I’ve ever posted here.

Martin Tower is the tallest building in the Lehigh Valley. It was the headquarters of Bethlehem Steel Corp. from 1972 until sometime in the early 2000s, when the Steel went bankrupt and closed up shop.

For the most part, the property has been empty ever since. Nowadays it comes to life only two weeks each summer as a satellite parking lot for Musikfest, Bethlehem’s annual music festival.

The tower and its low-slung two-story annex sit locked and moldering, waiting for some economic-development equivalent of a prince’s kiss to bring them back to life — or, more likely, for a wrecker’s implosion to erase them.

The building isn’t open to the public. But the Lehigh Valley’s tourism organization talked the current owners into opening up the grounds and first floor today for an InstaMeet.

Apparently, an InstaMeet is a public gathering where people take pix and post them on Instagram, and everyone looks at each other’s pictures. I don’t use Instagram but I went anyway, armed with my Kodak point-and-shoot. (Kodak and the Steel have a few things in common, I think, so it seemed like an appropriate camera to use.)

Even in decay, Martin Tower retains some of the gravitas it once had as the headquarters of a major American corporation.

As I walked around, I couldn’t help but think of my own workplace — also a Fortune 500 company whose headquarters tower building is locally well-known.

My company’s doing OK right now, as far as I know. But the people who staffed Martin Tower probably felt that way too, once. In their welcoming first-floor entrance, I saw our welcoming first-floor entrance; in their empty conference room, I saw our full one.

I wished for a couple of minutes that I could truck everyone from my company over to Martin Tower.

We could all walk around the first floor for a while in silence, reflecting on how little it takes to get from where we are to where they are, and what we have to do to steer clear.

It would be a team-building exercise better than any ever cooked up by some jargon-spewing consultant.

(I’m even thinking of making one of my Martin Tower pictures the background on my work monitor, replacing this picture. An ever-present reminder to keep my eye on the ball wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.)

Speaking of pictures, you probably want to see those more than you want to read any more of my words.

So here’s what the aging, more-or-less-abandoned headquarters of a former Fortune 500 company looks like:

Not sure what was learned at the Learning Center.

Not sure what was learned at the Learning Center. Boarded-up windows and overgrown funk are common around the annex.

These windows in the annex wish passers-by happy holidays year-round. Or at least they would if there were any passers-by.

These windows in the annex wish passers-by happy holidays year-round. Or at least they would if there were any passers-by.

"TO ENTER OR EGRESS BLDG. ... STATE NAME, SYMBOL AND NUMBER." God bless corporate America in all its pomposity.

“TO ENTER OR EGRESS BLDG. … STATE NAME, SYMBOL AND NUMBER.” God bless corporate America in all its pomposity.

Another view of the annex.

Another view of the annex.

The trees on the heavily landscaped property are doing wonderfully in the absence of human companionship.

The trees on the heavily landscaped property are doing wonderfully in the absence of human companionship.

In the lobby.

In the lobby.

To think the titans of industry once discussed their golf games, their wayward sons and their secretaries' curves in this very space.

To think the titans of industry once discussed their golf games, their wayward sons and their secretaries’ curves in this very space.

A foam cake sits waiting for gaiety.

A foam cake sits waiting for gaiety.

A fair amount of space on the first floor was once given over to corporate libraries, apparently. The shelves are bare now.

A fair amount of space on the first floor was once given over to corporate libraries, apparently. The shelves are bare now.

In the library. Those are dead bugs. Loads and loads of 'em.

In the library. Those are dead bugs. Loads and loads of ’em.

Also in the library. It's safe to assume that's asbestos.

Also in the library. It’s safe to assume that’s asbestos.

Exterior graffiti, as seen from the interior.

Exterior graffiti, as seen from the interior.

Denuded trees at the end of one hallway. The sign on the doors says something like, "Doors must remain closed due to cold air draft from unheated annex."

Denuded trees at the end of one hallway. The sign on the doors says something like, “Doors must remain closed due to cold air draft from unheated annex.”

Turn around at the door that must stay closed, and this is what you see. The high ceilings and open wood give you some idea of the design flavor of the first floor.

Turn around at the door that must stay closed, and this is what you see. The high ceilings and open wood give you some idea of the design flavor of the first floor.

A woman in the men's room? The Steel bigwigs would have had a conniption over that. Alas, they don't get a say any more. (The bathroom was totally dark; my flash revealed it to be boringly regular. Not a gilded tap or Italian-marble loo in sight. Of course, this one was for the public.)

A woman in the men’s room? The Steel bigwigs would have had a conniption over that. Alas, they don’t get a say any more. (The bathroom was totally dark; my flash revealed it to be boringly regular. Not a gilded tap or Italian-marble loo in sight.)

Some of my fellow explorers. The Steel's old boys wouldn't have appreciated guys in baseball caps leaning against their polished wood, either.

Some of my fellow explorers. The Steel’s old boys wouldn’t have appreciated guys in baseball caps leaning against their polished wood, either.

More of my fellow travelers. Note peeling ceiling-paint.

More of my fellow travelers. Note peeling ceiling-paint.

I don't remember what I&SM stands for (guessing the S and M are "steel manufacturing?") This is the January 1990 issue.

I don’t remember what I&SM stands for (guessing the S and M are “steel manufacturing?”) This is the January 1990 issue.

No decaying rodent carcasses, but I did find this former balloon. Forensic testing failed to reveal how long it had been dead.

No decaying rodent carcasses, but I did find this former balloon. Forensic testing failed to reveal how long it had been dead.

Another library shot, with a ghost in the stacks.

Another library shot, with a ghost in the stacks.

The stopped clock behind the receptionist's desk (which is still stocked with visitor passes and an old Gateway desktop computer, among other things.)

The stopped clock behind the receptionist’s desk (which is still stocked with visitor passes and an old Gateway desktop computer, among other things.)

Outside the main entrance, a teenage girl was posing for a glamor shot atop the old Steel I-beam logo. Just another reminder that the things held sacred in times of success become only curiosities after failure.

Outside the main entrance, a teenage girl was posing for a glamor shot atop the old Steel I-beam logo. Just another reminder that the things held sacred in times of success become only curiosities after failure.

There's no "I" in Bethlehem Steel. There's not much of anything else in Bethlehem Steel nowadays, either.

There’s no “I” in Bethlehem Steel. There’s not much of anything else in Bethlehem Steel nowadays, either.

The Kubrickian monolith in full.

The Kubrickian monolith in full.

Coming soon: Nengo Flow.

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Every week, the stars come and go at the corner of Eighth and Chew.

There’s not much on that particular street corner (we’re in Allentown, Pa., just to set the scene.)

Just a couple of businesses — a secondhand furniture shop on one corner, a little Latino grocery on the other, something unremarkable across the street.

I pass the grocery most mornings on my way to work, and I usually turn my head to see it. That’s because it always has a series of concert posters out front, advertising the latest Latino music stars coming to the Lehigh Valley.

On the corner.

On the corner.

The wall is never bare; there are always two or three shows being promoted.

It’s an education for me to look at the artists, who are all totally unknown to me.

Some of them are young bucks in baseball caps and chains. Others appear to be suavely dressed young lovermen.

Still others are comfortably dressed and older. I imagine they’re like the George Strait figures or something — the venerable elders. Or, at least, they’re performers who appeal to an older, more sedate crowd that isn’t too old to go out on a Saturday night.

People (sigh) more or less my age.

elchavacrop

(Sadly hidden behind the mailbox above is one Nengo Flow, a Puerto Rican reggaeton performer whose tunes include “El Sex.” He’ll be at the Maingate nightclub, over near the Allentown Fairgrounds, on May 25. Remember: 18 to party, 21 to drink.)

I don’t go to these shows, but I like seeing any and all evidence that the Valley has an active music scene.

I like seeing anything that teaches me at least a little bit about cultures I am unfamiliar with.

I like sizing up the expressions and poses of the guys (pretty sure they’re always guys) on the posters. Are they party-bangers? Smooth operators?

Look at Antony Santos above: He’s wearing a suit, but he seems to have a little glint in his eye. Party-guy who matured into a suave crooner? Dunno the real backstory, but it’s fun to write my own.

I’m led to believe the little grocery store sells tickets to the shows, too, which I find charming. None of that Ticketmaster nonsense or those $8.50 handling fees. Just go in, buy yourself a cold bottle of cane-sugar soda, and ask at the counter for dos para El Chaval.

Wonder who will be up there next week?

 

Five For The Record: Judy Collins, “Cook With Honey.”

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The return of an occasional feature in which I pick something I like, and force myself to explain five reasons why.

Today’s subject: Hippie-ish first single from popular folksinger’s album True Dreams and Other Stories. Written by singer Valerie Carter. Minor Top 40 hit (No. 32) in early 1973.

And here’s why I like it:

1. It’s happy and homey. The Great Commune Dream was pretty much shot by ’73, I think, but the Back-To-The-Land Ideal was not.

And this song makes me think of some family — or maybe a group of ’em — up in Vermont somewhere, shearing their own sheep and spinning their own fabric and eating whole-grain muffins and generally living in an idyllic self-sufficient granite-ribbed world where Pontiac Catalinas dare not tread.

That’s not my dream in life, particularly; but it is all charming and cozy and hearth-fired, and a pleasant thing to come across in three-minute doses on pop radio.

2. No, it’s neither happy nor homey. My perception of the song depends on whether White Kurt or Black Kurt is in control when I listen; and my darker interpretations are at least as entertaining as my lighter ones.

The preternatural calmness in Collins’s voice, and the way she keeps switching from “I” to “we” on the chorus, suggests that she’s part of a chorus of center-parted Stepford Hippie farm wives dedicated to organic cooking for the Greater Good. (Whaddya suppose they put in that “sweet wine before dinner”?)

Less absurdly, I also imagine her narrator as a woman who ditched the plasticity of suburbia and family life for some sort of rural communal ideal … only to find out that she still spends eight goddamned hours a day cooking, cleaning and doing laundry.

3. Two great chords, three great minutes. The best songs aren’t always the simplest, but there’s a pretty good correlation there. You don’t need a single chord change to write a classic pop song, if you’re creative enough. (“Everyday People” says hi.)

“Cook With Honey” consists of two chords. No bridge, no modulation up, just two chords, strummed all day. (The Internet says Gmaj7 and D, if you’re scoring at home.)

Easy enough for every first-grade teacher in San Rafael to strum and sing to her kids during gather-’round-the-rug time. And what’s so wrong with that?

Edit: On further listening, it appears that a third chord makes a brief, furtive appearance near the end of the flute solo. But its presence is easily enough omitted or ignored.

4. Is that … a double-entendre? It must be Black Kurt who hears, “Finding favor with your neighbor / Well, it can be so fine” and thinks of Seventies-style wife-swapping. Hubba hubba.

OK, that’s probably a misread on my part. That line’s probably a totally straight-faced paean to going across the way to meet a new neighbor with an apple pie and a smile … just as the entire song’s an ode to generosity, neighborliness and home cooking.

Doesn’t mean I can’t throw it the side-eye, though. Especially when Collins asks, “Tell me, how’s your appetite / For some sweet love?”

5. Hey, a new (old) tune! Seems clear that White Kurt and Black Kurt are fighting for control of this entry. Well, they can both agree on Point Number Five.

I came across “Cook With Honey” some years ago while listening to a satellite radio rebroadcast of a Casey Kasem American Top 40 show. I had no recollection of the song at all. It was a surprise, and (excuse the cliche) a fairly sweet one.

I’m enough of a pop-music junkie to know most of the stuff I encounter on ’70s satellite radio, usually within the first 30 seconds. So, it’s a rare pleasure to come across a buried nugget — a song that is unknown to me and yet not totally obscure.

I haven’t heard the song much at all since then, either. So it still has that refreshing cinnamony air of a fresh muffin … er, I mean, of an out-of-the-ordinary pop surprise.

Little league.

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Adapted – nay, shamelessly stolen – from a Twitter conversation earlier today.

Two vaguely related thoughts from another day in corporate America …

– Someone with lots of time and no sense of importance should find out which Major League Baseball teams are most represented among America’s Little Leagues, and which are least represented.

Are there 3,000 Little League Yankees teams afoot in the land, but only 300 Little League Marlins teams?

And while we’re at it, let’s make it historical. How has the balance changed in the 30 years since I played Little League, and for what reasons?

A Twitter friend suggests that the popularity of team names is probably linked to playoff performance. By his logic, America is home to a lot fewer Little League Royals teams today than it was in 1984, when the major-league Royals were still good.

I think other factors might be involved as well. For instance, if you’re in one of those leagues that issues a different-colored shirt to every team, there are only so many big-league teams that wear orange. That probably guarantees the Orioles, Mets and Marlins a share of the Little League action that they wouldn’t otherwise merit.

(Unless you’re in some candy-ass league where they give you an orange shirt and tell you you’re the Dodgers, in which case I pity you.)

– I decided today that, when somebody hands me a winning lottery ticket and makes me a billionaire, I’m going to do two things:

a) Open a taqueria.

b) Sponsor a Little League team through said taqueria.

I never played in a league where the teams took sponsor’s names, but I know such things exist.

And in other leagues, the teams take the names of big-league teams, but carry the sponsor’s name on the jersey somewhere.

That’s my new shining vision for today: To be sitting on some uncomfortable backless metal bleachers, beaming with pride George Steinbrenner never knew, while I watch the Skip’s Taqueria Blue Jays take the field.

That sounds like terrific fun.

A half-baked idea.

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The biscuit camera is an unreliable, untrustworthy, underperforming piece of trash-plastic … and I am suddenly gripped with an urge to get to know it better.

Cute, innit?

Cute, innit?

Photography is an interest of mine that I’ve never much talked about here. That’s because I have no formal training, and thus do not think of myself as a serious shooter whose pix are worthy of consideration.

I have a varied arsenal of mostly secondhand cameras, everything from digital point-and-shoots to film SLRs to plastic Fisher-Price kids’ models. I like getting out there and seeing what I can do with them, welcoming quirky stuff like grain, lens flare and oversaturated color.

(Yes, I know these things are not “quirky.” They are the crutches of countless amateur photographers who think they have a Vision but don’t have any skills. I don’t care; I like them.)

I don’t remember why I bought my biscuit camera four years ago. Thought it was cute, I guess. It was digital, of course, so there were no film developing costs. And it was small, so I figured I could take it anywhere and have fun with it.

Or maybe I was gripped with momentary delusions of being a Japanese schoolgirl. Happens to the best of us.

Fuuvi, the camera’s manufacturer, is Japanese, and I’m led to believe Japanese teens make up the camera’s principal target market. (It wonders me they don’t have access to better cameras.)

My first love affair with the biscuit ended after maybe a year or so. It was fun sometimes, but its quirks drove me nuts:

– You can set it to take 25 pix at “higher quality” — an extremely slippery term, in biscuit-land — or 99 pix at absurdly low quality.

The absurdly low-quality pix aren’t good enough to be weird or fun; they’re just absurdly low-quality.

The higher-quality pix can be fun. But if you only get 25 of them, that robs you of the shoot-everything-and-sort-it-out-later mindset that lends a lot of the pleasure to digital shooting.

– If the battery runs out in mid-shoot, the biscuit loses all your shots.

– The controls and settings are not all easily grasped, and the manual is in Japanese.

– Computers don’t recognize the biscuit as an external storage device, which means you need software to get the pictures off the camera.

A few years ago, I cleared the software off my PC to make room for something else. In my messy basement, I didn’t think I’d ever find it again.

But I did … and, now that I’m able to download the pictures again, I thought it was time to resuscitate the biscuit. It didn’t quite feel like I did everything I could do with it last time.

Expect a couple more blog-posts with muddy, pixelated photos, then, before I give up again and fling the sucker across the room.

I like this one; it looks almost painted to me.

I like this one; it looks almost painted to me.

Anyone want some hot sauce?

Anyone want some hot sauce?

Someone left the park out in the rain, and now it's melting.

Someone left the park out in the rain, and now it’s melting.

The shadowy, impressionistic figures in black are ballplayers warming up.

The shadowy, impressionistic figures in black are ballplayers warming up.