Update on The Fiat Spider Project

As I’ve previously shared on this blog, I like cars.  Especially old British and Italian convertibles.  Last July, after a lifetime of reading car magazines and drawing pictures of them, I finally got my hands on my first one.  The reasons behind the long delay are not interesting.  Suffice it to say, it’s been a fun year.  Here’s an update.

Arrival.

July 2, 2016: I purchased a blue 1978 Fiat 124 Spider for $300 off of Craigslist.  The body was fairly sound, except for the floor and driver’s side front inner fender.  The engine was running, but the vehicle was not drivable.

The Blue Spider as I took delivery in July 2016.
The Blue Spider back in the 1990’s, before the bad times.

As you can see from the pics, it wasn’t completely trashed, but a closer look revealed the that car had been sitting out in the elements, without protection, for a long time.

A plant should not be growing next to the driver’s seat.

I got it home and started educating myself about restoring cars as well as stripping the car down to see what I had gotten myself into.

The first things I did were to remove the interior and clean a lot of the acorns, dirt, and other accumulated debris from the vehicle.  I discovered a lot of holes and rust and things that just were not salvagable.  This was a car that needed a LOT of love.

Acorns. Friggin’ acorns…

Also took out the engine and transmission and started learning things.

Is this going to work?
Yes!

I bought some books and took a remedial welding class and bought a bunch of equipment to get going with restoration, taking it fairly slowly.  It wasn’t long before another old Spider came up on Craigslist for $200 and I grabbed that one too, thinking it would be a parts donor for the first one.  There were things I didn’t like about the second Spider, namely that it was brown and had an automatic transmission (yuck) but the nice thing was that between the two cars I had enough solid metal and good parts to make one complete Spider and the combined cost in actual cars was only $500.

The Brown Spider arrives.
Not bad, but, not as pretty as the Blue Spider and cursed with an automatic transmission… Why????

Time has passed and during that time I have tinkered, and read, and learned, and practiced welding on scrap, and done small things but I haven’t really made serious progress, in large part due to the fact that I couldn’t decide on a good course to pursue.

Patiently waiting.

It wasn’t wasted time.  In the least year I’ve learned a ton about fabricating, sandblasting, welding, electrolytic rust removal, english wheels, engines, electrical systems, and more.

“Spooge Tank”
Before…
… and after!

I even bought a perfectly functional 1969 Triumph Spitfire to drive when I’m not messing with the Spiders or reading books about cars.

“Hi Mr. Spider, you’re not looking so good. Are you ever coming out of the hospital?”

I think I’ve finally figured out my strategy to get this restoration well and truly underway.  I thought I was restoring the Blue, but now I realize I’m actually going to be restoring the Brown but with an awful lot of the Blue involved.  The Brown Spider is in fundamentally better condition than the Blue as far as the soundness of the frame is concerned, but it has more rust and damage to the visible body panels (at least one of which is just plain missing).  The structural components are sound, floor is solid, all wheels are attached to good metal.  The Blue is the reverse.  It looks better from the outside but has more rot inside.  The Brown has a cracked windshield, the Blue is fine.  The Brown has a convertible top in decent condition, the Blue does not.  You get the picture.  It’s taken me some time to sort all of this out and make a plan, but here’s where I’ve landed.  I’m combining the two cars like this:

Body: Brown Spider with contributions of sheet metal from Blue Spider but ultimately stripped bare and repainted (probably black)

Windshield: Blue Spider

Convertible Top: Brown Spider

Engine: Brown Spider

Transmission and Rear Diff: Blue Spider

Wheels: Brown Spider (those Cromodora “Iron Cross” alloy wheels are worth more than I paid for the car)

Mirrors, handles, interior bits: A mix, but mostly Blue Spider, because I like the look of the earlier trim pieces more

So far so good on all of that, but until last night I had no idea what I was going to do about the interior.  I needed both front and rear seats, and also carpeting and door panels and all of that good stuff.  Tonight I got a big piece of that puzzle when I purchased a set of red Fiat Spider seats (front and rear) in very good condition from a Craigslist seller for $400, with some carpet included.  The lighting is weird in these pics and makes the seats look more brownish but they are actually a burgundy red and in fine condition.

It’s so weird for there to be seats…
The Brown is about to get a whole lot of work done.

Now, for the first time, I can envision how to proceed towards having an actual, drivable, restored car.  I can see the plan.  I feel like I’m getting close to having accumulated enough confidence, tooling, and education to start tackling the restoration in earnest, at least insofar as I should be able to begin making positive progress instead of the stripping and researching I’ve mostly done to this point.  In this next year I will be making serious progress on this thing.  It has taken me a while to start to feel like that is possible but now I can see the path.  The real work begins.

And when I can’t stands no more, I can always take a break and go drive my Triumph.  🙂

This doesn’t suck.

 

Donald Trump: Cult Leader?

I grew up in a cult.  I spent much of my adult life in a cult.  My family is still in the cult I grew up in.  So, I write from some experience.  I have asked myself if my particular experiences have colored my perceptions or led my thinking astray on the subject I am writing about here, and I’m certain that I have a bias shaped by those experiences, but I also think I am in a good position as a former cult member to recognize cult thinking, cult indoctrination, propaganda techniques, and psychological manipulation in action.  I don’t see them often but when I do, I recognize them immediately.  People under the influence of a cult are unable to see it, but once you know what to look for, it’s not difficult.  As the current American political race has progressed, it has become more and more clear to me that what we are witnessing is the rise of a cult leader and I’m seeing people I know and love fall under the sway of this leader, and I want to take a moment, pull back the curtain, and talk about what is happening with one Mr. Donald Trump.

The American political system has always been a battle between two major parties and a few minor ones vying for scraps around the edges.  Politicians from the Democratic and Republican party have been more or less charismatic, more or less powerful, more of less corrupt, and this is normal.  Politics as usual.  The last couple of decades have seen the rise of an organized propaganda machine for the Republican party, built on a combination of radio talk shows, web sites, and the sun around which it all orbits: Fox News.  There is Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Alex Jones, Sarah Palin, etc., etc….  the list of major right-wing celebrities is long.  Of course there are left-wing political entertainment celebs as well, (Bill Maher, Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart) but the list is much shorter.  There is a perfectly good reason for this.  The majority of Americans currently identify as left-wing or center-left in their political positions. Propaganda is intended to sway people into a particular belief system.  You don’t need to use it if most of the people already believe.  

That is not the only reason, however.  The fact is that the left-wing of American politics is a fairly diverse place, ideologically and culturally.  The right is a predominantly white, Christian, narrowly defined perspective, and the left is a little more anarchic.  Propaganda on behalf of diversity, free thought, and multiculturalism is basically an oxymoron.  If you were to use a religious analogy, the political right is more like the fundamentalist Baptists and the political left is more like Unitarian Universalism.  Centralized message control is a feature of authoritarian, fundamentalist, systems, not free flowing, diverse systems.  So, mostly, the rise of the propaganda network has happened on the right.  

A clarification in terms might be a good idea here.  The word “propaganda” is important to understand. Propaganda is NOT a message.  Propaganda is a technique.  It is a way of communicating that is designed to short-circuit critical thought and instill messages at an emotional level.  To bypass the intellect and go straight for the gut.  Propaganda can promote a political, religious, corporate or personal message.  It consists of a collection of manipulative communication techniques that, when used effectively, can make a person buy a product they can’t afford, hate a person they do not know, believe a false claim, stick with a company that mistreats them, even kill others or themselves.  

When I refer to the rise of a propaganda network in right-wing media outlets, I do not mean to say that conservative political principles or ideas are propaganda, I mean to say that several propaganda communication techniques have become commonplace.  In his book “A Chronology and Glossary of Propaganda in the United States” author Richard Alan Nelson defines propaganda as:

“a systematic form of purposeful persuasion that attempts to influence the emotions, attitudes, opinions, and actions of specified target audiences for ideological, political or commercial purposes through the controlled transmission of one-sided messages (which may or may not be factual) via mass and direct media channels. A propaganda organization employs propagandists who engage in propagandism—the applied creation and distribution of such forms of persuasion.”

For many years, Americans got most of their news from network television programs on ABC, NBC, and CBS, which strove for neutral and balanced reportage.  Then cable news became big business and Australian mogul Rupert Murdock decided there was money in a less neutral approach, Fox News was born, and now we are living in a world that has been influenced by this right-wing media propaganda machine for a couple of decades.  The effects this has had on our politics, our culture, and our standing in the world are a very interesting topic on their own, but I want to focus on one in particular.  The groundwork has been laid for the rise of a cult leader.

See, the odd thing about the propaganda network that has been operating so successfully (making lots of people very rich) has been that it hasn’t operated on behalf of any one individual.  Unlike some propaganda which often seeks to empower and glorify one specific leader, the right-wing media sphere has operated more or less as a platform to disseminate ideas that help rich people stay rich.  The oil and coal industries spread misinformation about climate change so that people will keep burning fossil fuels, religious leaders keep the contributions coming in by connecting American exceptionalism, guns, and scripture in a way that may not make a lot of sense, but let’s them buy new jets, and each individual Beck or Hannity or Palin sells their new books.  It’s a market.  It operates on fear, uncertainty, and emotional (not rational) thought.  But until now, it has been nearly impossible to point to any one person and say that they had risen to the level of a leader of their own cult.  Maybe Alex Jones, maybe Glenn Beck, almost certainly those two qualify, but their influence has been more limited.  

But now we have Trump.

In the book “Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion” (Pratkanis, Aronson, 1991) there is a chapter entitled “How to Become a Cult Leader” and I know of no better read on the subject of what Donald Trump has done, even though it was written 25 years ago.  The chapter begins with a brief discussion of a well-known religious cult, the cult of the Reverend Jim Jones.  His followers in Guyana at a location known as Jonestown, were induced to commit mass suicide by drinking cyanide laced Kool-Aid because they were convinced they were going to be attacked and killed by the American government.  914 people, many of them children, believed him and died.  The authors go on to describe other seemingly bizarre cult behaviors but then they say this:

“Although they may seem mysterious, the persuasion tactics of cults are nothing more or less than the same basic propaganda tactics that we have seen throughout this book. Cults simply use these techniques in a much more systematic and complete manner than we are accustomed to. Simply because the end result is dramatic and bizarre does not require that the means to get there be mystifying. Indeed, in case any of you would like to be a cult leader, we can list seven mundane but nonetheless “proven-effective” tactics for creating and maintaining a cult.”

Here is the list of proven effective tactics:

  1. Create your own social reality
  2. Create an in-group and an out-group (aka “a granfalloon”)
  3. Create commitment through dissonance reduction
    1. People become more and more committed by taking gradual steps.  For example, a religion may gain a convert by an initially attractive message delivered by a charismatic leader, followed by a small donation, which then escalates to a tithe, then perhaps changes in social ties, dress, language, until eventually the convert is so committed to the cult that they will do almost anything asked and believe almost anything the leader says.  This is how Jim Jones got 914 people to kill themselves.  It is a gradual spiral of commitment. 
  4. Establish the leader’s credibility and attractiveness
  5. Send members out to proselytize the unredeemed
  6. Distract members from thinking “undesirable” thoughts
  7. Fixate member’s visions on a phantom

Not all cult leaders use all of these tactics to the same degree, but there is a strong tendency to use a combination of these techniques.  As I mentioned earlier, I was in a religion that I, and most sociologists, consider to be a cult, the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  To a large degree, the Witnesses use all of these tactics.  They have a closed social system that strongly encourages all information and thinking to be filtered by or delivered through the Watchtower Society.  They view themselves as having The Truth and everybody else as being “The World”.  Item 3 takes a little more explaining but the process of gradual commitment is what every Witness is trained to do when they go door to door.  The Watchtower Society discusses their founder and current leadership using scriptures and glowing prose.  Witnesses are famous for preaching and door knocking.  Witnesses are discouraged from free thought and finally, Witnesses are constantly told to focus on Armageddon and the end of the world.  

Some cults are very extreme and happen very fast.  The Nazi Party, Scientology, and Jonestown are good examples.  Sometimes religions or movements morph into cults over time, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which started as a relatively normal bible study group.  The point is, cult organizations follow certain patterns and you can see them happening right now in the Trump campaign and this is something new.  We have had an affiliated group of propagandists, spreading fear and conspiracy in order to make money or defend moneyed interests, but to see one individual take such a prominent role and start to use these tactics seems new to me.

First, item: Create your own social reality.  This first step towards cultdom involves restricting information flow and the groundwork has been laid not by Trump, but by Fox News and their affiliates.  Some cults practice information control through geographical isolation, with members forced to live on a “compound” and cut off from the outside world, but that is hardly the easiest way to have a large scale cult.  Age of Propaganda says “it is much more practical to teach members self censorship by labeling everything that is not “of the cult” as “of the devil.”  We can see this at work in the media messaging of the right wing with their demonization of the “main stream media” and their dismissal of media outlets, newspapers, websites, and television channels that don’t consistently support their ideological positions.  Many news sources have traditionally tried to represent competing arguments and positions without intentional bias.  This has been considered to be good journalistic practice.  However, outlets like Fox News have intentional bias and routinely demean and dismiss news outlets that represent multiple positions or competing positions as being part of a liberal conspiracy and therefore reinforce and encourage allegiance to themselves as the sole source of reliable information.  Consumers who are thinking for themselves will attempt to compensate for editorial bias by getting their news from multiple sources.  Myself, I will read or watch news coverage from all sources, including Fox, and also from international sources, in order to try to get a more complete picture of an important event.  There are many, however, who only subscribe to and interact with a small number of very consistently biased media outlets and therefore they begin to believe that they are well-informed and that people in general concur with their views.  This is an illusion but it is one component of having a shared social reality.  People in “the bubble” of the approved media sources will have similar views of certain topics, words, and ideas that may not actually be accurate, but are consistent.  

This selective information flow leads to step two of creating a social reality: a cult’s eye view of the world.  This is “picture of the world is then used by members to interpret all events and happenings. For example, Jim Jones taught that there is a constant threat of nuclear war and that the world is full of racism. To be prepared to live in this evil world, one must be ready to die. Suicide practice drills were conducted to prepare members for the inevitable attack on the Temple by this evil world.”  The Watchtower Society promotes the idea that the world is in “the last days”, Armageddon is coming soon, and Satan is behind the world’s governments.  Thanks to the mainstreaming of conspiracy theories via right-wing media outlets, there has emerged a relatively consistent right wing “worldview” in which a handful of powerful liberal monetary elites (generally presumed to be Jewish) have colluded to manipulate things to undermine American sovereignty and create a “New World Order”.  Hillary Clinton is allegedly working with them, according to Trump.  They have promoted the hoax (probably originated by the Chinese government) of global climate change because it weakens American business interests.  The homosexual agenda, pro-choice movement, and the rest of the liberalization of Western culture is a premeditated and coordinated attack on Christianity intended to undermine White Anglo-Saxon Protestant European culture.  I could go on.  And on.  And on.  The world we live in, with globalization and multiculturalism and massive technological, scientific, and cultural changes, cannot simply be changing due to the march of human progress and the growth of science and ideas, it must be a conspiracy or a plot against Conservative American Values.  That is the narrative that makes sense.  The War on Christmas.  Anti-Islamic sentiment.  Anti-immigration sentiment.  Hatred of Clinton.  It all seems to “connect” somehow.  If you think I’m exaggerating, watch or listen to some right wing media.  Glenn Beck will happily pull out a giant blackboard and draw out all the connections.  Alex Jones will tell you all about how Obama is not only secretly a Muslim and not born in America, but also that he’s gay and Michelle is a transgender man named Michael, and the Rothschild’s and Illuminati control it all, and evolution is a lie and climate change too, and the conspiracy is coming for your guns.

Most of this reads as sheer insanity to people who are not in the social reality inhabited by right wing adherents.  If you exercise critical thought and judgment and keep a balanced intake of a variety of media sources and listen to people and family and friends from across the political and religious spectrums, you will not arrive at these conclusions or see these patterns.  But if you filter out everything but these sources, it makes perfect sense that Hillary Clinton is an evil puppet of the NWO and white genocide is nigh.  Step one of creating a cult, in other words, was accomplished and underway and Trump simply had to blow the right dog whistle to have people throng to him.  This is how he won the nomination, but also limits his ability to grow his base.  Most of America is not already primed to join the cult but enough are that Trump was able to take over.  This particular aspect of the Trump cult phenomenon does have strong parallels to the rise of Hitler in Germany.

Let’s look at the second item: creating a “granfalloon” or an in group/out group situation.  The word “granfalloon” was coined by writer Kurt Vonnegut in the book Cat’s Cradle and it means “a group of people who affect a shared identity or purpose, but whose mutual association is actually meaningless”.  Examples: people who feel connected to each other because they all attended the same school or support the same football team or come from the same state or country.  In truth, none of these similarities tells an individual anything about the personality, trustworthiness, or value of another person, but humans are remarkably susceptible to the granfalloon technique.  This is “a method of persuasion in which individuals are encouraged to identify with a particular granfalloon or social group. The pressure to identify with a group is meant as a method of securing the individual’s loyalty and commitment through adoption of the group’s symbols, rituals, and beliefs.” (source: Wikipedia)

There was a famous study by a British social psychologist named Henri Tajfel who found that strangers would form groups on the basis of completely inconsequential, completely random, criteria.  For example, in one study, participants were split into groups based on coin tosses and then asking questions about the people from the In and Out groups.  It turned out, that people had strong positive associations with their fellow participants who had shared their coin toss result and negative associations with those who did not.

This site: http://www.simplypsychology.org/social-identity-theory.html has the following summary:

“Social identity is a person’s sense of who they are based on their group membership(s).

Tajfel (1979) proposed that the groups (e.g. social class, family, football team etc.) which people belonged to were an important source of pride and self-esteem. Groups give us a sense of social identity: a sense of belonging to the social world.

In order to increase our self-image we enhance the status of the group to which we belong. For example, England is the best country in the world!  We can also increase our self-image by discriminating and holding prejudice views against the out group (the group we don’t belong to). For example, the Americans, French etc. are a bunch of losers!

Therefore, we divided the world into “them” and “us” based through a process of social categorization (i.e. we put people into social groups).

This is known as in-group (us) and out-group (them).  Social identity theory states that the in-group will discriminate against the out-group to enhance their self-image.

The central hypothesis of social identity theory is that group members of an in-group will seek to find negative aspects of an out-group, thus enhancing their self-image.

Prejudiced views between cultures may result in racism; in its extreme forms, racism may result in genocide, such as occurred in Germany with the Jews, in Rwanda between the Hutus and Tutsis and, more recently, in the former Yugoslavia between the Bosnians and Serbs.

Henri Tajfel proposed that stereotyping (i.e. putting people into groups and categories) is based on a normal cognitive process: the tendency to group things together. In doing so we tend to exaggerate:

1. the differences between groups

2. the similarities of things in the same group.

We categorize people in the same way. We see the group to which we belong (the in-group) as being different from the others (the out-group), and members of the same group as being more similar than they are. Social categorization is one explanation for prejudice attitudes (i.e. “them” and “us” mentality) which leads to in-groups and out-groups.

Examples of In-groups – Out-groups

o Northern Ireland: Catholics – Protestants

o Rwanda: Hutus and Tutsis

o Yugoslavia: the Bosnians and Serbs

o Germany: Jews and the Nazis

o Politics: Labor and the Conservatives

o Football: Liverpool and Man Utd

o Gender: Males and Females

o Social Class: Middle and Working Classes”

Donald Trump did not invent the in/out division, but has exploited it, magnified it, and promoted it.  From encouraging violence towards dissenters at his rallies, promoting ethnic and cultural separation and division, and telling his followers that they are part of a special “Movement” and that the whole world is “rigged” against them and “just doesn’t get it” and they are united because they are on the Inside, he has been promoting this concept from his very first day as a candidate.  The social reality inhabited by Trump supporters involves a lot of other people who are “In” and who are reinforcing the concept to each other that a Clinton win would be the end of America, that Islam will take over, that China will bankrupt us, and that it’s all according to a planned conspiracy.  They are happy to be in The Movement and don’t understand why everybody else can’t see The Truth about “Them”.

As we move deeper into the political campaign, we see more of number three: create commitment through dissonance reduction.  If you don’t know the word “dissonance”, it’s defined as “a lack of agreement or harmony between people or things”.  In the world of cults, this is both about getting everybody to “tow the line” among themselves but also get’s into cognitive dissonance, where an individual has conflicting or competing thoughts in their own minds.  Removing dissonance is a vital step in getting people to be more committed to a cause.  AOP says:

“After making an initial commitment one does not feel comfortable reneging on the deal. To justify the sensibility of the initial commitment, the member is often willing to do more and then still more-to make increasingly demanding commitments. In this way, the resolution of dissonance and maintenance of one’s self-image as honoring commitments form a powerful rationalization trap.”

Getting followers to yell together, to hold to the same group standards, maybe dress alike, talk alike, think alike, requires people to commit more and more fully to a worldview and part of that is learning to resolve contradictions or conflicts in a way that keep you in the cult.  Initially Trump may have needed people to listen to his speeches, but he has asked more of them over time.  More money, more time, but most obviously, a deeper commitment to his message and The Donald even as his behavior has become less and less defensible.  People who would never have supported somebody who bragged about sexually assaulting women, are so committed to his worldview and message, that they have to defend it or risk admitting that they made a mistake.  To resolve the dissonance for themselves, they have to lower their own standards, demonize Clinton instead, or convince themselves it’s not true.  They will judge and reject family and friends who don’t see that Donald Will Make America Great Again because they would rather talk to people who agree with them.  Similarly, they learn to reject facts and counter-arguments and even make up “facts” of their own rather than admit that there may be other ways of looking at things.  Thinking for yourself, holding contradictory opinions, these are hard things to do when you have a candidate who says he is “the only one” who gets it, who peppers every other sentence with “believe me” and who encourages supporters to use violence against protesters.

Number 4: establish the credibility and attractiveness of the leader.  If there are two major themes to Trump’s campaign, they are the theme of “us vs. them” (granfalloon technique) and the myth of The Donald.  So rich, so successful, so smart, such a ladies man, big hands, big penis, powerful, gold plated… never in my experience has an American politician worked harder to tell the world how amazing and awesome and sexy and smart and wordy and long-fingered he is.  Oh, and rich.  Did we forget that?  Only The Donald can save you.  Only Him.

The next item: send members out to proselytize the unredeemed.  Trump has rallies, hats, Twitter, Facebook, the media, etc, etc, and like all politicians he wants people to share and post and promote his message.  And of course, promotion of a candidate is par for the course in political campaigns, but there is something slightly deeper going on with Trump.  He is promoting argument and division.  He has encouraged his followers to sometimes “rough ’em up a little”.  Why?  Why ask others to carry your message, even when you will not persuade anybody to agree?  AOP says: “Perhaps just as important, proselytizing can ensure that members are constantly engaged in self-sell, or self-generated persuasion”  Arguing on social media or at a doorstep rarely changes a mind, but it often DOES reinforce the beliefs of the people arguing.  Good cult leaders promote the idea of their followers spreading the word even if it results in few new converts.  It builds up loyalty in the followers you currently have.

The sixth item, “distract members from thinking undesirable thoughts” is a retention tactic that is particularly powerful when bad news hits a campaign, and Trump has proven adept at it.  The tactic is “one of preventing further close scrutiny and thought about the merits of membership. This can be done by teaching that any “disagreeable thought” is evil and from the devil. For example, if a member doubts a leader’s command or starts to wonder about the merits of a particular theological point, he or she is counseled that this is “out of the Lord” or “from Satan” and should be rebuked”.

The examples given in the AOP quote in the previous paragraph are religious in nature, but think about Trumps response to the Access Hollywood Billy Bush tape.  Many Trump followers were shocked to hear him brag about his ability to grab women “by the pussy” and kiss them without their consent and get away with it because he was “a star”.  They may have wanted to abandon Trump, especially if they themselves are moral and religious people.  Trump responded to the video by distraction aimed at keeping his followers from thinking about the problem.  ‘Look over here!  Bill Clinton is accused of affairs with these women!’ or “it’s just locker room talk” and finally, “it’s all lies, lies, lies, they have it in for me”.  Like all cult leaders, Trump wants you to see his positive attributes (wealthy, ???) while being distracted away from anything that might make you question him.

Trump is a master of “shooting the messenger”.  He routinely launches personal criticisms of individual journalists, and dismisses entire newspapers, and television outlets as being garbage if they say anything about him that he doesn’t like.  Nobody is safe, not even Fox News.  Not even fellow Republicans.  If somebody publishes his tax returns and they look bad for Trump, he will say the newspaper is evil and threaten lawsuits.  He will not address the contents of the tax returns.  His standard practice for diffusing criticism is to attack the person or outlet doing the criticizing and encourage his followers to do the same.  

Finally, we come to the culmination of the recipe, the final piece that differentiates a cult leader from a normal politician.  Normal politicians try to appeal to a wide range of voters, they worry about the demographics of their constituency, they promote their policies and ideas, and they debate over tactics and strategies to solve problems.  Cult leaders claim to be the only solution to the world’s problems, because they are so special, they promote limited, heavily filtered, information consumption among their followers, they promote the idea that there is an Us and a Them, they foster division and, therefore, allegiance, they deepen the commitment of their followers with carefully chosen tactics and they do everything they can to keep their followers from thinking any unapproved or undesirable thoughts.  And to make that all seem worthwhile, they fixate their followers on to a phantom promise, a golden goal, a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

In the case of Trump, it’s right on the hat.  Make America Great Again.  The America Trump decries is a crime-ridden, powerless, poverty ridden, country overrun by immigrants and Muslims and terrorists and other non-White, non-European, people.  And he tells his people that he will return us to a halcyon time, a time of Prosperity, Law and Order, Safety, and Greatness.  It’s going to be so great, believe Him.  Trump doesn’t back this up with a solid plan other than to build a wall and trust in Him.  He is the only one.  He can restore America to the paradise it was before liberals and gays and blacks and Jews and hispanics and Muslims and all the rest brought it to wrack and ruin.  Only The Donald.  Only Trump.  America can once again be a shining city on a hill, fortified by walls, where little white children can grow up, safe from the terrorists and globalization.  It’s a phantom in more ways than one.  First, the paradise America he seems to remember never really existed in the first place.  Our world has always been complex.  There has never been an Eden or a Golden Age.  But, we can use selective memory and information filtering to make it appear that there was some better, simpler, time.  Facts be damned.  The other way this is a phantom is that the world He claims He will bring about is impossible.  The forces of globalization and multiculturalism, the impact of technology and communications networks, these are not reversible and no Great Wall of America can stem these tides.  Donald’s wall and Donald’s amazing powers of negotiation are not going to bring manufacturing jobs back to Detroit.  Trump’s vision of the future relies on magical thinking.  But the phantom only needs to seem real long enough for him to get elected.  If it dissipates months after the election, he can just keep their attention on other things.  He will have already acquired the power he seeks, it will no longer matter to him.  And for those of us not under his influence, we may like the world as it already is.  We may already think America is great because of the very things he decries.  We may love having greater diversity and freedom and multiculturalism and global opportunity.  But then again, we aren’t wearing his red hats.

Nobody ought to be surprised that a man who has made his entire life out of representing his own name as a brand and using persuasion techniques would build his political power via cult leadership tactics.  I heard Dilbert creator Scott Adams in a recent interview explain how he had studied persuasion techniques and it was so obvious that Trump was using them that he personally believed Trump was almost certain to win the election.  He believed it didn’t particularly matter what Trumps policy positions were, it was simply the case that most people have poor defenses against being manipulated by these tactics.

Fortunately for America, unfortunately for Trump, his advertising and political ground game have been poor.  He has made some errors strategically in getting his message out, thinking that what works at his rallies will work with people who are not already under his sway.  He has not been very good at step 3, commitment via dissonance reduction, where the larger populace is concerned.  The 10% of the population who are hardcore believers in Him will do anything he asks, but the other 90% are still mostly free of his Believe Me influence.  It doesn’t hurt that he has been caught on tape bragging about committing sexual assault either.  I’ve thought all along that there was a natural limit to how many people he could get to support him, and I think he has hit it, and it’s not enough to win the election.  He will almost certainly lose.  But it is very likely that this won’t end here.

The propaganda machine has been at work so long, Americans don’t even realize it anymore.  They no longer remember a time when news outlets strove to minimize or eliminate bias.  They no longer consider it a bad idea to restrict their information intake to one or two narrowly filtered channels.  Red V. Blue has become a part of the culture, with two different sets of facts and worldviews.  The situation that Trump has capitalized on to build his cult will still exist if he almost certainly loses on election day.  What’s worse, Trump and his followers will still be there and that will be the time that they will be the most dangerous.

In the early 1800’s, a man named William Miller became interested in Biblical symbolism and prophecy.  He became convinced that the Bible predicted a date for the end of the world, October 22, 1844.  He gained a following and they became known as Millerites.  When the day came and went, it was known as The Great Disappointment.  You would think that would be the end of the story, but you would be wrong.  He went back, recalculated, moved the date to 1845, failed again.  Then things got really interesting.  Many left his movement, but other sects of Christianity arose from the ashes of the Great Disappointment by reinterpreting the events in such a way as to continue to believe they had been correct.  The exercise in using rationalization to reduce cognitive dissonance gave rise to the Advent church, the Seventh Day Adventist church, and ultimately, the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  The Ba’hai faith also believes Miller was right.  Once a person is committed to the message of a cult leader, it is very difficult for them to give it up.  If the Perfect Leader fails, there are a number of rationalizations to fall back on.  The Leader didn’t actually fail, he succeeded in some other way.  The Leader was persecuted and thwarted by his enemies and must be vindicated.  The Leader is only experiencing a temporary setback and will return if we are only patient and have faith.  When/if Trump loses the presidency, his cult leader status and his power will decrease overall, media coverage will decrease, his brand will suffer, but his core adherents, his most loyal followers, will continue.  They will accept the claim that the election was rigged.  They will embrace his messianic language he has already begun to use about himself, suffering slings and arrows on their behalf.  It will serve as evidence for them that liberals are evil, America is going to hell, the conspiracy is real, etc.  What he has unleashed, what he has given direction and voice to, will still be haunting this country for decades, long after candidate Trump is gone.  New cult leaders will recognize what he recognized, that there is a large, powerful, easily manipulated segment of our population that are just ripe for the picking and will be hungry for a new savior.  

I would love for this entire thing to be wrong, but I fear I may be right.  The Cult of Trump may fail at the ballot box, but it won’t be over, this is just the beginning.  Wait until his True Believers suffer their Great Disappointment.

My Traditional Fall Illness

I am writing on this, my birthday, from the place I generally find myself in August/September…  Laid up sick in bed with a respiratory illness.  Since the first time I fell ill with pneumonia as a teenager until today, I have found that most years I get one serious lung infection a year, complete with fevers, body aches, secondary infections, coughing, lungs filling up with fluid, the works.  It’s not a normal cold or flu, it’s something that starts with allergies and asthma and then I pick up some sort of virus and within a few days I also pick up a bacterial infection, and it’s generally only when I have a fever in the 103+ range and find myself unable to breathe that a doctor is wiling to bestow upon me antibiotics, which unerringly clear the whole mess up in less than 24 hours.  

I’m currently running a 100.5 fever on the fifth day of being sick.  It’s my birthday.  I’m bored.  I’m annoyed.  I’m angry.

The thing I don’t get, is why do I have to go through this almost every year?  It’s the most predictable pattern in the world.  I have experienced this at least 20 times.  It’s like clockwork.  And yet, I always go in, I tell them about my history, they tell me that it’s probably a virus and they can’t do anything, I come back a couple days later on the verge of death, and then they give me the fucking antibiotics and I get better after needlessly suffering for a week.  .I need to find a lung/allergy/asthmaspecialist or something.  You would think that with my history any doctor with half a brain in their head would immediately put me on antibiotics to keep me from getting the secondary infection that I enviably get.  

It’s not like I don’t take precautions.  I have a whole regime of drugs and things that I do.  Every third year or so I am successful keeping it at bay.  This year isn’t looking like one of the successful years.  

Cars

Most of my friends probably don’t think of me as a car guy.  I don’t have a Chevy belt buckle.  I don’t have a NASCAR hat.  I don’t have many of the identifying characteristics of the American Car Guy.  Hell, I don’t even drive a particularly interesting car.  But the thing is, I’m a car guy.

It started long before I could drive.  Maybe kindergarten or first grade.  It started with model cars.   Specifically, a glueless
“snap together” model of a Camaro Z28  not unlike the one pictured in the lower left hand corner here:

101_0324_zpsd524gggf

My dad wasn’t particularly car obsessed.  He had a sweet ’71 Chevelle that he sold shortly after he and my mom got married.  He also had a ’53 Chevy at one point that he used to tow his boat (not considered collectible at the time, just old) but cars weren’t his thing.  Cars were more the interest of my Uncle Steve.  Steve had a room in his basement filled with model cars and he talked about cars and loved cars with a passion.  I thought that was the coolest thing ever.  Uncle Steve, for what it’s worth, is my kinda guy in many other ways as well.

Anyhow, I got this Camaro model, then my mom broke it one day by accident and she bought me a new one.  The new one involved glue and paint and I botched the job pretty bad, but I enjoyed it and I started buying more model cars.  I still have a half dozen kits in the basement and every few months I take one out and I paint a couple pieces and I glue a couple more and every few years I finish a model car.  I have three that I’ve built in the last decade.  Not exactly prolific, but I enjoy it.

When I was old enough to start thinking about cars as things to drive rather than things to build, I started reading car magazines.  It was in the pages of Automobile that I first heard of the band They Might Be Giants (http://www.museumofidiots.com/john/articles/880100automobilemagazine.html).  I also started drawing my own cars, learning to draw my favorite cars, collecting Hot Wheels cars, and invented a board game based on toy cars, dice, racing, and automobile collecting.

I developed a love of Formula 1 racing without ever seeing a race.  I read about the races.  I looked at the pictures.  I loved the black and gold John Player Special Lotus cars and the Ferraris, always the Ferraris.  The Testarossa.  The 308.  The GTO.  The F40.  The Mondial.  It really didn’t matter what Ferrari it was, I just loved them.

I also started obsessing over anything designed by an Italian coachbuilder.  Pininfarina. Bertone. Italdesign Giugiaro. Ghia.  And the classic designs.  The Lamborghini Miura.  The DeTomaso Pantera.  The Maserati Bora.  The Ferrari 250 GTO.

In real life, however, I have never owned cool cars.  My automotive history (only including cars I have personally owned) is as follows:

1977 Ford Granada
1977 Ford Granada
1977 Ford LTD II
1977 Ford LTD II Wagon
1979 VW Rabbit
1979 VW Rabbit
1992 Pontiac Sunbird
1992 Pontiac Sunbird
1995 Plymouth Neon
1995 Plymouth Neon
1979 Honda Civic CVCC
1979 Honda Civic CVCC
2000 Volkswagen New Beetle
2000 Volkswagen New Beetle
2007 Volkswagen Jetta
2007 Volkswagen Jetta
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2009 Volkswagen Tiguan
2013 Mazda 3
2013 Mazda 3

Every few years, I’ve bought a practical car.  Usually a four door.  It’s how I was raised from my Jehovah’s Witness background.  Cars were utilitarian and generally had to be capable of carrying five adult Jehovah’s Witnesses door to door on Saturday mornings.  The closest I ever came to a sports car was the ’07 Jetta.  It was a 2.0 liter turbo, six speed manual transmission, 200hp, 0-60 times in the sub-7s range, red…  I traded it in for my current ’09 Tiguan.  Bought the Mazda for Esther.  The point is, these are not Ferraris.

I still love cars.  My XBox library consists of about 70% racing games.  I have watched every Formula 1 race in the last 5 years.  And now, finally, after all these years, I have actually bought a cool car.  It’s a 1978 Fiat 124 Spider.  Acquired for $300 on Craigslist.

In a perfect world, all restored to it’s former glory, it would look something like this:

A clean, shiny, 1978 Fiat 124 Spider
A clean, shiny, 1978 Fiat 124 Spider

But it currently looks like this:

My '78 Spider
My ’78 Spider

It doesn’t run, it needs to be restored from the ground up, but it’s pretty.  It’s Italian.  It’s impractical.

I’ve never restored a car before.  I’ve never rebuilt an engine or a transmission.  I’ve never welded body panels.  But I’ve now started to do all those things.

Since acquiring the Fiat, I’ve done the following:

  • removed the hood, trunk, interior, exhaust, drive shaft, and lots of engine bits in preparation for pulling the engine out
  • bought books on the Spider and auto restoration and read them
  • bought cheap tools on Craigslist to do things to the Fiat
  • bought a second Fiat Spider to be a parts donor
My 1980 Spider
My 1980 Spider

The way this all started (other than the lifelong car obsession) was that I heard about a book called “Build Your Own Sports Car for £250 and Race It” that takes the reader step-by-step through building a clone of a Lotus 7.

Build Your Own Sports Car
Build Your Own Sports Car

I love the Lotus 7.  I’ve wanted to build a Lotus 7 for as long as I can remember.  And this book seemed to make it possible, accessible, basically like making a model car but bigger.  I was thinking I wanted to do this and then Esther said, “Why don’t you buy a car that needs restoration and practice on that so you can learn how to do this stuff before you try to build a car from scratch?”

That seemed like a good idea.  So, I started looking on Craigslist for a sub-$500 project car.  I was looking for something 1960’s-1970’s, preferably a roadster, preferably European.  I found the Fiat.  I’ve loved the looks of the Fiat 124 Spider since I was a kid.  When it came up for $300, I bit.

I have not yet driven a Fiat Spider unless you count sitting in the 1980 Spider as it coasted backward off the trailer it arrived on and steering it into the garage.  I have a list a mile long of the work that I need to do to restore the ’78.  But I’m loving every minute of this.  I have two big model cars to play with.  Someday, one or both of them will contribute to my motoring pleasure.  In the meantime, I have the XBox.

Three Listens #1: Angst Is Fucking Boring (Single) by Ghost Army

Welcome to a new thing I hope to do, I’m gonna call it Three Listens.  Here’s the rules.  I find some new music from some local band, I give their stuff three listens and document my responses to each listen and them summarize it up with a review at the tail end.  Might be a single, an EP, an LP, but I will give it three solid listens.  The philosophy behind listening three times is as to give the music a chance to do it’s thing.  On first listen everything is new, layers may or may not be immediately apparent, some songs may underwhelm while others may seem better than they are.  On a second listen the landscape should be known, the song should feel familiar.  If it doesn’t that means it didn’t really register the first time, which might not be so awesome.  But a second listen let’s you experience the song without the analysis that sometimes happens during the initial listen.  Listen number three is really necessary to form an opinion of the song.  If there is more there, you’ll want a fourth, fifth, infinity listens…  If I don’t want to hear it again after three, it’s probably not working for me.

Why did I pick this particular song to start?  Because it’s the most recent new single release of a local band that has dropped into my lap but it dropped into my lap because, full disclosure, I’m friends with a member of the band.  If this was a disqualifying situation in which I should recuse myself, I would, but that would seriously undermine this little feature because I know a lot of people who are in bands in the Twin Cities area.  

So who is Ghost Army?  Ghost Army (aka “Go Starmie!” for you Misty-loving Pokemon nerds) is a trio with the requisite social media linkage located here (BandcampFacebook).  Membership currently consists of sex machine Gus Watkins (drums, vox), copulation contraption Merritt Benton (bass), and cuddle bot Chad Stanley (guitar, vox).  They’ve been around, serving the local psychedelic math punk TC music needs, since at least spring of 2012 and were last heard in recorded format on a split EP with Blood Cookie back in ’13.  I have just downloaded the first single from the upcoming Sleepywood Dojo album.  It is called “Angst Is Fucking Boring”.  Let’s check it out, shall we?

Listen #1:

Opening guitars have a great tone, really reminding me of this one King Crimson song from the mid-70’s, but that’s clearly not what we’re going for here, stylistically.  The overall thing I’m feeling here so far is that this song has some balls.  Double-tracked vocals, “you are not the archetype or allegory”, cerebral lyrical content paired with aggressive guitars and pounding drums.  This is working for me.  Anthemic middle section.  I feel like I want to pay more attention to the lyrics on second listen.  I just caught a nice little nod to MBV near the end there and we’re tailing off with some interesting guitar noises.  Clocked in at 4:19 but felt shorter, which is good.  First impressions are positive.  Good vibe, not ornate and overly complicated, nothing twee or precious, not crawling up it’s own ass, just coming out and saying something meaningful and using some great guitars and impassioned vocals and solid drumming to do it.  

Listen #2:

Hadn’t noticed the layer of guitar noise going under the opening riff the first listen.  I like that, adds some menace.  Really listening to the lyrics this time.  Serious ambiguity going here.  Alluding to something without spelling it out, could apply to a lot of things and even though I have ideas what that might be I like that it’s not spelled out.  Lyrics should be open to interpretation and reapplication.  Just before the MBV nod at the end there is some sort of talking I can’t make it.  Not lyrics per se but a nice little bit of randomness that feels significant.  Listen #2 set me up for a desire to hear it one more time. Fortunately, I can do that…

Listen #3:

Still haven’t figured out what the opening guitar is triggering in my brain but really I don’t think I care.  I can already tell that this is going to wear very well.  I am envisioning hearing this at a show, beer in hand, singing along, involuntarily moving legs, arms, head, and heart along to the music.  This would translate well live.  I have no doubt of that. Dammit, coming up on the end.  That 4:19 goes by too fast.  It’s like that fucking Excalibur roller coaster at Valleyfair.  A great ride, big drop, twists and turns, speed, sound, fury, and then the lap bar rises and you’re standing up and somewhat shakily exiting the ride with a smile on your face.

So…  Summary…

“Angst Is Fucking Boring” is not boring.  It’s a well-crafted, tightly executed, kick in the ears that has something for your brain, something for your gut, and something for the rest of you.  It bodes extremely well for the rest of the Sleepywood Dojo release and it has accomplished the purpose intended, namely, to excite interest in the band and their upcoming release.

The Pokemon trainer in each and every one of us should be looking forward to that drop.   I’m gonna go ahead and recommend you give it three listens yourself, feel free to cuss and discuss in the comments.

CD Release party deets and dates and tix are here:  http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2532356

Most nights I set an optimistically early alarm.  I don’t know why I always think the following morning will be THE MORNING that I will wake up an hour or two earlier, take advantage of morning peace and quiet, have a cup of coffee, finish a thing or two, maybe do some writing, perhaps even exercise.  I always assume tomorrow I will do it and today… I did.  Woot!  So here I am, sitting in my new command and control center, continuing my preparations for the work ahead, the work of 2016.

What is the work of 2016?

Music.  Music is the thing.  That and getting my life back into a semblance of normalcy after a significant level of change and disruption in 2015.  

One of the things Rhett and I used to do back in The Lavone days was The Naming of the Album.  We would decide we wanted to record a new album and the first thing we would do was give it a name.  This had a certain logic to it, in retrospect.  First, it allowed us to refer to it before it existed.  “I wrote a new song for We Don’t Exist, do you want to hear it?”  That sort of thing.  Second, it gave the project a sort of life of it’s own.  It’s such a little thing, but having a name meant there was an album, even if it hadn’t been recorded yet.  It was like a vacuum had been created and we now had to fill it.  I don’t know how other musicians do it, but this is the way I am used to.  I figure it’s equally possible that I could just say “I’m working on a new album” and record arbitrary songs until I had enough of them and then give it a name, but that doesn’t feel right somehow.

When I look back on the albums I’ve recorded, and those I’ve started recording but abandoned for one reason or another, I feel all sorts of different emotions.  Back in The Lavone days for every Psychotrauma, We Don’t Exist, or Isotope we recorded, there was a Gorgeous, Blues for Disillusioned Rabbis, From Margaret With Regrets or Eat a Speech that fell by the wayside.  On my own there have been several false starts as well.  Phantom VII, The Universal Thump, I Sleep With My Hands In Fists, The Low-Res Record, one could even argue that the completed but never released The Message Will Be Kept falls into this category.  Titles of projects begun in earnest but never properly completed.  Kinda sad but also kinda promising.  Like there is an alternate universe timeline somewhere in which those albums exist.  There is also an element of nervousness associated with launching new projects because of the awareness that not all things begun are completed.

For the last year or so I have had an idea for an album in my head.  It has a title and I’ve been chipping away at it.  This may sound silly, but I haven’t got the music for it yet.  I have some, a few pieces, and I know they are right, but the rest hasn’t come to me.  I’ve been fighting with so many things, home, work, time, myself, and I haven’t been able to do the digging necessary to find the songs yet.  But there is a title.  In fact, there are three projects I have planned for this year and I’m going to commit them to writing here to make them exist just a little bit more in the world.

Firstly… Back in December 2014 I released a short EP called The Coal Room EP.  It was modest in ambition, to say the least.  The goal was to record a straight up acoustic album with two mics, live performances, and very little overdubbing.  And to do most of it in a single recording session.  It worked out nicely.  I already had the idea in my mind for my new “big album” when I recorded it.  I envisioned it as the first in a series of EPs, each recorded with a different set of constraints or parameters.  For reasons that will be obvious in a minute here, I eventually started thinking of this series as the Wolf Pup EPs.  I’m planning a series of at least four.  None longer than 20 minutes.  Wolf Pup #1 was The Coal Room EP.  Wolf Pup #2 is going be called New Old Stock and will be another single recording session project, but electric, and recorded on 4-track.  I plan to track it sometime in the next month.  I’d already have started on it except I’m still getting studio room A configured for recording.  

As you can see in this panorama, there is a lot to this room.  From left to right we have the stereo, and a kitchenette behind it (you can’t see it, but there is a microwave and sink and coffee and stuff), then we see where it opens up out into the rest of the house (passing through video game central), and near the hanging acoustic guitar, there is the writing desk.

Continuing the sweep the right we have some guitars and amps and a small storage closet and file cabinet, and then in the way back we have the music desk.

Continuing on from there, we have a massive wall of books and then the drums…  Honestly, I don’t know what to do with the drums at the moment.  They are eventually moving out to studio room B (for Barn) but at the moment they are just kinda piled up.  I plan to assemble them, tune them, and set them up out in my shop for the time being because the shop already has heat, unlike the barn.  Maybe I’ll just move them when I’m going to record drums and leave them the rest of the time.  I dunno.  Or I’ll get some mesh heads and triggers.  Or I will just play spoons instead.  Meh.  Drums.  

In all seriousness, though, I do want to get some triggers.  And maybe some mesh heads.  And definitely spoons.

Anyhow, I digress.  The room is pretty much physically setup.  All the furniture is in place, the electrical things are generally plugged in.  The Internet works.  The configuration is pretty solid.  It’s got a nice vibe.  I’m still working on unpacking a few more things and updating software and generally doing table setting and maintenance.  Next I’ll start working on testing signal chains, microphones, acoustics, blah blah blah.  Basically trying to figure out how best to work with my current configuration of gear and room and the like.  Also, I will start digging through my notebooks and voice memos and the rest to figure out what ideas and snippets I have thrown down that I have forgotten about that can be grown into new material.  Oh so much to do…  And all of it FUN.

I’m intentionally burying the lead here…

So, Wolf Pups.  Those are a thing.  1 down, 1 planned, 2 more intended after that.  No set time line.  But why are they called Wolf Pups?  In a second…

The next thing I think is going to happen is recording an RPM Challenge album with Michael Heuer and Ben Ortega over a weekend.  That will obviously take place in February (it’s RPM after all), but I don’t know if it’s one weekend, two weekends, one weekend plus other stuff at our respective homes, or if they whole thing will not happen.  The three of us have never worked on anything together before.  Ought to be sweet.

Then there is the Big Album.  I’ve been mentally kicking this around for almost two years now.  The title is The Wolf Is At The Door, Let’s Invite Him Inside, It’s Getting Cold Out There.  Hence the lead up EPs being called Wolf Pups.  I’ve recorded a number of songs for The Wolf so far but I’m being super picky and rejecting most of them.  I don’t care how long it takes, I want this to be the album I have always wanted to record.  And it will be if I’m patient and persistent.  

When I look back over my recording career, certain things stand out as work I’m proud of.  A handful of early Lavone tracks, most of The Frog’s Cheeseburger Poodleskirt album, a song or two from the later Lavone era.  Since ’04 and the solo thing I have really felt hit or miss about my work.  I like most of The Context, Bo Redoubt, and Louder Longer Lobster (which are kind of a trio), but there is a lot of forgettable stuff between ’07-’12 until I did Blood and Scotch/Valentine, which I still love deeply.  Since then I felt like A Man Could Get Tired and The Coal Room were solid and had their moments, but didn’t quite hit the level I want to hit.  That’s what The Wolf is supposed to do.  That’s my goal.  

I read that Kevin Shields didn’t record an album after Loveless for decades because he never wanted to make anything that wasn’t at least as good or better.  I love that ethic.  It’s like the opposite of Ryan Adams approach to just keep cranking stuff out.  It’s been a few years since I made something that I was really proud of.  OK, so, I have an album name, a couple actually, and I have a place to make these albums, mostly, so I’m going to be out of excuses shortly.  And that’s a good thing.  New music is coming.  Hello 2016.

Last night I spent some quality time in my music room downstairs and decided to really get it tidy.  This involved moving several boxes of things that still need to be unpacked into closets, but the end result was satisfying and I got to spend some time feeding potato chips and lasagna to the dogs while listening to vinyl with my feet up.  Nice.

The room features a kitchenette area with a sink, microwave, and coffee maker, a dedicated writing desk with a manual typewriter, a massive bookcase covering a 20+ foot wall, and a mixing/listening/recording/computer desk corner consisting of two Macs, a Windows PC, a bunch of screens (including a 23-inch multi-touch), two pairs of near-field reference monitors, MIDI controllers, a RAID backup, Blu-Ray burner, and multiple audio recording interfaces.  Oh and some guitars, amps, drums, art supplies, assorted other musical instruments, a stereo with a turntable and a 400-disc CD changer…  And my wood record bin filled with vinyl.  All my microphones.  And games.  And puzzles.  And electronics soldering and tinkering stuff.  And a banjo.  We’re talking about a Music Room here.  The next room over has all the old video game consoles and stuff.  If there is an advantage to being a tech hoarder, it’s that once you have the space to plug it all in, you can give yourself a lot of options to play with.  I still have a Palm Tungsten down there.  It works and everything.

Last night was the first night it really seemed to be taking on a usable shape.  I’ve been down there, sorting through cables and wall warts and unpacking boxes and testing things and moving things around since we moved in last November.  Everytime I go down there I mean to do something like, oh I don’t know, write a song or practice piano or tune the drums, and I wind up digging through boxes instead.  But now I can use the room for things.  One more annoying moving task closer to completion.

This morning I popped awake at about 5:15 and felt weird, kinda wired and too alert.  Now I’m on the bus and I’m really hot and slightly nauseous.  I think it’s the driving.  We’re doing a lot of stopping and starting and stopping and it’s making me car sick.  Oh good…  Downtown…  Can’t wait to get off this bus and get some fresh 3 degree air…