Life of A Salesman

From a newsgroup post dated October 17, 2007:

Elsewhere there’s a discussion of a very annoyingly condescending salesclerk someone dealt with recently; I remarked there that such salespeople are fools, because you sell more stuff with flattery than condescension.

Which reminded me of an incident, lo these many years ago, which I didn’t post there because it wasn’t relevant, so I’m posting it here. Not that it’s relevant here, either, but it’s my newsgroup, so I can post it anyway.

I was in the audio department somewhere, I think at Circuit City, considering whether to replace all or part of the stereo system I bought back in 1973. I was chatting with a salesman, who was doing a pretty good job of ingratiating himself without being pushy or condescending, and I had explained that I maybe wanted to upgrade my twenty-year-old system.

He asked what I had.

“A Sansui 661 receiver,” I said.

He nodded. “A decent unit in its day,” he said, “but you can do better. What have you got for speakers?”

“MicroAcoustic FRM-1s,” I said.

“Well, you aren’t going to replace those,” he said. “There isn’t anything better.”

Whereupon he managed to flatter me immensely, and impress me with his knowledge, at the same time he lost the sale. He was the first salesman I’d met since 1975 who’d ever heard of the MicroAcoustic FRM-1, and if he said that no one had improved on it, I believed him, so I didn’t buy new speakers.

I did spend a pleasant half-hour chatting about audio equipment with him, though.

Spellbound

From a newsgroup post dated August 18, 2007:

I am sometimes amazed by what words various spellcheckers don’t recognize.

The built-in spellchecker in Eudora, for example, doesn’t recognize “internet” or “website” or pretty much any other words describing the technology it works with. It does recognize lots of names, such as Rome, Venice, and Lawrence, but not Evans.

And I have just noticed that the dictionary in WordPerfect 10 doesn’t recognize “whores.”

That doesn’t seem like a very obscure word to me.

The electronic version of Boggle I sometimes play allows you to add words to its dictionary easily, so it now recognizes a lot more than when I got it, but I still sometimes hit peculiar lapses. And then there are the obscenities — straight out of the box it didn’t acknowledge “fuck” or “shit,” which isn’t surprising for a game aimed at kids and which I’m sure was deliberate, but it did recognize “shite” and “cunt.”

How odd.

Trailer Park

(All new!)

So we saw “The Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2” Monday afternoon (and had a lovely time, thanks). It has long been my custom to assess the trailers accompanying any movie we see in the theater, so here we go:

There were eight trailers. This is excessive. It hasn’t been that long since five was the norm.

“Transformers: The Last Knight” looks big and loud and stupid. I am so not interested.

The remake of “The Mummy” does not look very promising, either. Both these first two trailers were so loud that I was beginning to worry the whole feature would be unpleasant and ear-tiring, but fortunately that did not turn out to be the case.

“Spider-Man: Homecoming” was the first trailer that was not just a barrage of noise and CGI. It had moments of character, bits of humor, and generally lots of stuff to indicate that the film is not just a noisefest and lightshow. I expect to see and enjoy this one.

“Alien: Covenant”… I dunno. It looks better than the last couple of Alien movies, but that’s saying depressingly little. I think I’ll pass.

“Dunkirk”: It’s a war movie. It looks as if it’s a well-made one, with some good characters, but I’m not much on war movies these days (with exceptions for superhero war movies). If the word of mouth sings enough hosannas, I might check it out.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” looks pretty good, and I still plan on seeing every feature in the series. It would take a real stinker to make me stop. The three prequels were building up a significant amount of suckage, but the Disney takeover has cleansed my palate and renewed my enthusiasm.

The trailer for “Thor: Ragnarok” has a little more CGI than I really wanted, but the line “I know him from work!” sold me — I wanna see it. In general, the Thor series has not been at the top of my Marvel list (not that they suck, they just aren’t as good as some of the others), but this one has promise.

And finally, the next Pirates of the Caribbean film — does it even have a definite title yet? — capped off the previews. I regret to say that even though I loved the first one and it’s always a delight to watch Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, I think the series has outlasted its sell-by date. Zombie sharks are one of those ideas that sounds great in a late-night conversation but should probably not actually be used.

All in all, it was a very loud set of trailers.

Word of the Day

From a newsgroup post dated March 5, 2007:

Grummytumbles.

I’m not sure whether it was my sister Jody or my mother who came up with that; it’s a spoonerism for “tummy grumbles,” of course, and means a digestive upset that’s inconvenient but doesn’t reach the level of vomiting or full-scale diarrhea.

When I started to think about posting this I was quite sure it was Jody’s word, but the more I think about it, the more I think it was Mother’s. I don’t suppose it matters, since they’re both long dead.

It came to mind… well, yesterday I finished off a package of bacon that had been in the refrigerator for awhile. I think from now on I’ll make it a rule: If bacon smells funny, don’t cook and eat it.

The All-New Tennessee Waltz

An all-new post! (Well, sorta; it’s an edited version of something I’d posted on a private BBS.)

So we’re back from our spring vacation, which was riding along with friends as they visited Tennessee.

To explain a bit: we’ve gotten in the habit of traveling with our friends Jim and Susan on our less-elaborate trips that don’t have any special purpose beyond getting out of town for awhile. The mechanics vary, but in this case they made pretty much all the arrangements because they have a big ol’ car they bought specifically for road trips (I’m not sure whether it’s officially a truck, SUV, or station wagon, but it seats six adults comfortably and still has room for a cooler and some luggage) and an AirBnB account. Julie and Susan did most of the planning; Susan did most of the driving.

So last Saturday we got picked up disgustingly early and drove to Knoxville, where some of our former neighbors now live. (Jim and Susan, Sam and Sandy, and Julie and I, all lived in the same part of Gaithersburg, and our kids grew up together to some extent; Jim and Sam were leaders in Julian’s Boy Scout troop. None of us live in Gaithersburg anymore.) We stayed with Sam and Sandy for two nights, driving around the Great Smoky Mountains in between. Visited Gatlinburg and Cherokee NC, saw the damage from the recent forest fire, visited the world’s largest knife store.

Monday we moved on from Knoxville to Nashville, our final destination, where Sandy had booked a house overlooking the river a little northeast of the city, in Madison, TN. I’m not sure whether Madison is part of Nashville or a suburb, actually. Anyway, it was a great rental, with two comfy bedrooms (and a third we didn’t use because it didn’t look as comfy), a deck and balcony overlooking the Cumberland River, and lots of other amenities, including a cat named Bolt. Jim and Susan had never had a cat, so they weren’t sure how to deal with him, but he was a pretty friendly and cooperative animal.

We didn’t know until we got there, but the house is apparently owned by a moderately successful singer/songwriter who rents it out when she’s not in Nashville — which is often, since she tours a lot. The day we arrived she was leaving for somewhere else entirely. (Mexico, according to her webpage.)

So we spent a few days in and around Nashville, seeing the sights and hearing the sounds. Toured the Ryman Auditorium and the Hermitage and the Country Music Hall of Fame, saw Studio B where all RCA’s Nashville artists of the ’50s and ’60s recorded (e.g., Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, etc.), went honky-tonking on Lower Broadway, took a boat ride on the General Jackson, saw the Grand Ole Opry, visited the Johnny Cash Museum, etc.

The one thing we’d meant to do that we missed, due to sloppy scheduling, was eating at the Bluebird Cafe. Oh, well.

The weather in Knoxville was horrible, with rain that sometimes worked up to torrential; the weather in Nashville was mostly great, but that rain meant the Cumberland River was running very high — by the time we left, it was twelve feet above flood stage. The downtown riverside promenade was under a foot or two of water. Fortunately, the area is accustomed to this — no damage is going to occur until you get maybe 20 feet above flood stage. (In 2010 a flood crested at 42 feet. That was bad. Lots of places have stuff about how they rebuilt.) It did mean the General Jackson couldn’t do their regular route because the water was too high to fit safely under some bridges, so we didn’t see downtown from the water.

Our rented deck gave us a good view of the river, as I mentioned, and looking at the trees on the far bank we saw that the river rose a lot just while we were there.

And Saturday we left early and came home, where I’m trying to catch up on everything, and here we are.

That’s Not Catchy, That’s Sick!

From a newsgroup post dated June 24, 2006:

(From a thread about why so many songs are about really unhealthy relationships…)

Got one stuck in my head today —

“Get down now baby, let your boss man see
If you can howl just like a dog for me.
Black leather is my favorite game
And you will learn how to scream my name…”

“Ball Crusher”
from the album STEPPENWOLF 7

So what really twisted pop songs can you guys think of?

Here are a few of my favorites:

“Every Breath You Take”
“Possession”
“In Your Room”
“Obsession”
“How Do I Make You”

Those are all stalker songs, more or less; then there’s stuff like Grace Slick’s “Silver Spoon,” about cannibalism.

Damn near anything by the Bloodhound Gang would qualify, I suppose. “Yummy Down On This” and “The Ballad of Chasey Lane” seem especially lurid.

Crossovers That Shouldn’t Happen

Newsgroup post dated April 23, 2006:

In another group there’s a thread about the Andrew Lloyd Webber version of “The Phantom of the Opera,” which I’ve been reading with some attention because of my own recent viewing of the 1925 movie.

The subject line, however, has somehow gotten truncated to “The Phantom of the O,” and just now I suddenly found myself imagining a blending of “The Phantom of the Opera” and “The Story of O,” which would actually be very easy to do…

Linguistic Theory

Originally posted to sff.people.lwe on March 23, 2006:

I have a theory — not a very serious one — that languages are optimized for specific uses. German’s good for giving orders, Italian’s good for singing, Spanish is good for gossiping, English is good for explaining.

And Mandarin Chinese is good for arguing.

Any comments? Suggestions for other languages?

Take Cover

Newsgroup post, March 4, 2005:

So I’m messin’ around with iTunes, which I downloaded ages ago but have yet to actually buy anything from, and I start poking through the Yardbirds’ catalog, and play a sample from “Train Kept a’Rollin’.”

The Aerosmith cover is way better.

Which got me thinking about how often a cover version is better than the original. Not that often, certainly — most covers suck — but when it happens it can be pretty cool.

Aerosmith’s version of “Train Kept a’Rollin’ kicks ass, for example. Or consider Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” which is vastly superior to the original.

And then there are the covers that are so different that you can’t really compare them, like the Cardigans’ version of the Black Sabbath song “Iron Man.”

But there are borderline cases, too. Is Pat Benatar’s cover of “Wuthering Heights” as good as the Kate Bush original? What about the remixed Bush version?

Bands that deserved better than they got

Again from an old newsgroup post, dated November 7, 2004. I went through a period of mild obsession with this subject — bands that I thought produced great music that nobody else seemed to have heard of. I wanted other people to name unknown bands they loved, so I could check them out and maybe add them to my own collection.

Nobody did, except the late Bud Webster, who provided too long a list for me to deal with; this was my response:

Okay, that didn’t work. Bud dumped a whole list on us (and he may be right about every single one of them, since I’ve never heard any of them), and no one else said much of anything. Let’s try it again, with rules.

You can only name bands that had at least one album released on a major label.

You cannot name bands that had an album go platinum — the Knack is not eligible, for example. (And they cut their own throats with their inept second album, anyway — they didn’t deserve better.)

You cannot name more than three bands, so choose carefully.

Any band listed must not merely have been neglected, but must have been good enough to deserve national fame and fortune; as an arbitrary cut-off, they must be unquestionably superior to Green Day in musical ability.

And a band that only had one or two good songs doesn’t count, no matter how good those one or two are — call this the Romeo Void rule.

So, again — I’m starting off with Grace Pool, a stupendously good alternative band that put out two albums before finally breaking up in 1992. They had the misfortune to come from the same town as 10,000 Maniacs and to have a female lead singer, so they were seen, completely incorrectly, as a Maniacs imitator. They were, in my humble opinion, far superior to 10,000 Maniacs.

And there’s Divinyls, considered a one-hit wonder in the U.S. even though “I Touch Myself” is just an average cut for them. I’m told they did make it big in Australia.

So what have you got?