fun hogs

There was an article this morning about a young guy dying trying to duplicate a YouTube stunt that some other young guys filmed pulling off in Utah.

It used to be that we never had the chance to call anything crazy or dangerous that we did a “YouTube stunt”.  It was just something goofy that stayed in the same small group…bragging rights on a small scale…”remember when Robert climbed the crane?  Good gosh…I was scared…”.

Now, you if do something crazy and film it there’s a chance that 17 million people will see it.

That’s a lot of potential peer pressure…it used to be bad with just a small group egging each other on…imagine what it would be like to have 17 million people saying “dooooo itttttt!!!! you go, boyeeeee”.

Here’s the original YouTube video….

Read the comments…there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of sympathy for the young kid who died.  Apparently, he misjudged the length of the rope he’d need and bottomed out when he jumped.

This video makes it look so fun…with the cool soundtrack and all….that it almost makes me want to do it with a good length of clothesline…and I’m afraid of heights.

Here’s a “making of” video of the stunt….

Watching this, it makes me wonder if the kid who tried it and wasn’t successful had a chance to watch this video?

The thing about something like this is that the ropes that climbers use are called “dynamic ropes” because they stretch.  The ropes stretch…they stretch so that in the event of a climbing fall, some of the shock is taken out of hitting the end of the rope length….and unless you’re planning for it, I could see where somebody could hit the ground on a long pendulum like this.

Listen to the comments at the end of the “making of video”…the guys are talking about people doing the stunt after seeing the YouTube video.

Thankfully, the folks that I hung out with didn’t have access to any videos of other people doing crazy things.

The fun hogs had enough imagination to get into as much trouble as they could handle without that kind of help.

(A short post script…did anyone else expect a soda can to ‘splode at some point?)



waging heavy peace….talking to Neil Young

waging heavy peaceI just finished reading “Waging Heavy Peace”, by Neil Young.

I suspect that it’s the closest I’ll ever get to sitting down and having a real conversation with him.








This is a stream of consciousness “memoir”…ruminations on his past and his current life and projects that feels like one of those conversations that you can pick up anytime…like I expected to be able to say, “now…where were we before you left to plug in your electric car?”.

I’ve always had a strong interest in Neil Young’s music.  He always seemed to be willing to do whatever it took to move forward as an artist….even if the results weren’t as commercial as some of his more successful projects. I had a lot of respect for him as an artist because of both the quality and humor of his music…and the integrity that I saw in his artistic choices.

This book opened up his life and let me see that there was a lot more than just his music to admire.

The book jumps around a lot….early days to present…and, like the long walks he talks about enjoying taking on his ranch, covers a lot of ground.

He talks about his family and his environmental projects.  He talks about friends he’s had and friends he’s lost.  He talks quite a bit about his music and the people he made it with….but this book isn’t just a musical memoir…it is about his thoughts about his life and his place in the world.

I’ve read other reviews that complained that he talked too much about his cars, or his train collection, or anything else in the book that wasn’t music related…but it just made him seem like a complete and more interesting person to me.  I don’t know why we expect any of our artists to be monochromatic personalities…it’s all the side interests that make them who they are…and let them make interesting art because of all the idiosyncrasies.

Neil Youngimage from the


I’m listening to “Live at Massey Hall 1971” on Grooveshark as I’m writing this….it’s interesting to remember how young all those guys were when they were making this music.  It really was a while ago.

Neil Young has a lot to remember…but this book is a good reminder that he’s got a lot going on in the present, too.

the best thing for a child

My little boy and I both woke up early this morning.

I get up early every morning, but this morning I had some company.

When I get up with Nate, my day is different in a good way.  We have some juice and I brew up some coffee for me…and we usually have something to eat, too.

When he asked for a yogurt, I realized that we’d already accomplished something good in his short life.

When he asked, he said “please”…and when I brought him his yogurt, he said “thank you”.

That’s not so earth-shaking a thing in a lot of people’s eyes…but it’s a pretty big deal if you think about what it does for a child and his or her future.

To give a child the ability to honestly express courtesy and gratitude for the things that people do for them sets them up for a lifetime of being appreciated in return by the people doing them the kindness.

Manners are a big deal.  More than anything…more than socioeconomic factors, or physical strength, or the ability to play the banjo really well…to be able to say “please” and “thank you” covers a lot of good ground.

Nate doesn’t understand what a salad fork is at this point…or when to bow….or why he’d need to cross a t….but I was proud and pleased that he knew how to be polite.

It is a pleasure to get up early with him while everyone else is sleeping.

hot white sidewalks

firewalking ceremony  in china

I used Google Earth to take a look at our old house in San Jose the other day.

It was a normal looking little house…I think my father told me that in 1963 he bought it for 27,000 dollars.

Last time I checked, it sold for close to a million.

That’s not the real point to this story…but it’s just another illustration of how things change.  Nothing stays the same….and that’s a good thing.  It would be a pretty boring world if they did.

Looking at our old house, I started thinking about playing in the backyard.  I was 10 when we moved away from California….so my memories of space and scale are those of a little child…but it’s surprising how strong those memories are even now.

We had a backyard that was fenced in with redwood fencing….tall fencing that the kids in the neighborhood used to use like a trespass highway…like some nascent neutral zone that we could walk up on and never touch other people’s property (unless it was the low hanging fruit on their fruit trees).

The backyard of the house on Frolic Way was like a manicured jungle…grass and rose bushes and lemon trees and mud for GI Joe crawl fests…and a small plastic swimming pool for when it got hot.

When it got hot, the white sidewalk became a griddle.  Fire walking without the coals, a test of impending manhood….a rite of passage to make it into the house to claim the popsicle that was waiting inside.

I remember that we had a window of opportunity…step out of the pool, run down the hot sidewalk, and  try to make it to a shady spot before the water on our feet disappeared.  It was a “don’t look back” kind of situation…if you looked back to see the evaporating footprints on the white fire, you were a goner for sure.  I don’t remember any of us turning into a pillar of salt…but I do remember jumping in place and wondering how the ground could be so hot.

I don’t know why I’d want to…but a couple of days ago, I started to think of how this was a good theological moment to “wax spiritual” over.

My life has been a steady stream of jumping out of the pool to test just how hot the sidewalk really was.  I knew it would burn me…but until the coolness dissipated…until my feet were bone dry…I always forgot how it felt to be out on my own.

I’d go running back to the pool…wheeeeee…jump in and get cooled off for a while…and then start thinking about those delicious apples…I mean popsicles…that I knew I could reach if I just slid that chair over to the freezer.  Pretty soon, I was out of the pool again….running up the alabaster oven…turning to look at my footsteps evaporating in the sun…calling out, “God!!!  Where’d you go?”

I think devotion should be more than just seeking a response to need.

I think there has to be something more behind it than calling out to be cooled off when things get too hot.

You know, though…I do like popsicles…and the pool was always there before.  I can make it back.

I’m sure of it.

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the video store had boxes that frayed

video storeOne of the surest signs of “maturity” is starting to reminisce.

I think when a person is young, they’re too busy running around and in the moment to spend too much time looking back.

Get some years under your belt and you’ve got a bigger pool of memories to pull from.

Maybe it’s like a reverse picture of Dorian Gray…the memories pull us down to a place we don’t want to go…age us prematurely..I don’t really know.

The thing about my memory is that it’s kind of like I’m falling down a mineshaft…bouncing from side to side with each new thought…until eventually I land on the bottom and settle on one of the thoughts that more often than not turns out to be kind of strange and inconsequential.

Right now I’m thinking about video stores.

Video stores?  With all the important things going on in the world, I settle on video stores.  Why?

Well….back in the day, why, that was really living…why, I remember when Jimmy John used to pull up in his ’71 Charger and honk his horn just for a laugh…

Just kidding, the memories aren’t going to take that strange a turn.

No…I was thinking about video stores…and then I got to thinking about record stores…and then I got to thinking about the mercantile with its penny candy and those movies you could watch for a penny if you were willing to turn the crank and watch the cards flip over….


I really was thinking about video stores…and going in to spend/waste time picking up VHS boxes to flip them over and read the back.

If it’s that hard to make up my mind, why didn’t I ever clue in that maybe there were better ways to spend my time than flipping video boxes?

The thing about video stores….and the thing about a lot of the ways we used to purchase media like records or movies…is that it was such a tactile thing.  Those boxes were solid and clunky…you knew you were getting a “thing” when you went to pick out a movie.

It was a pretty social thing, too…maybe by default but you couldn’t help but engage occasionally with the other folks wasting time trying to decide on which movie they’d get that evening.

I love streaming movies on Netflix…it’s a movie lover’s dream to have a bunch of movies to call up at will….but I couldn’t help but think that it was a lot like going to the video store…a small percentage of decent movies and a whole lot of weirdness that I’ve never heard of before…and lots of time wasted because it was so hard to figure out which was “least crummy”.

“I’m here…I’ve got to pick something out…”

Now, so much is internal and isolated…we sit at a terminal to Skype,  or pick out a movie…read the news…order a blender….buy our books….reserve our books at the library….write a blog about sitting at a computer doing the things that used to take us out in the world…


The video store was such a diversion from “real life” …it was such a squandering of my time (and of all the folk’s time who were waiting on me to make up my mind) …but in retrospect…to reminisce….looking back at it all now…it was pretty much the most interactive media experience that I’ll probably have for the rest of my life.

But…with a few clicks of my mouse, I’ll add another something to my queue and forget that I ever had to stand in line to rent that Jackie Chan VHS for the third time because I couldn’t remember that I didn’t enjoy it the first two times.

Maybe that’s another kindness of aging…you forget what you’ve spent so much time reminiscing over.

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it’s what we watch

Children’s programming is where it’s at.

At least, it seems to be where we’re at these days.

Luckily, a lot of it is pretty entertaining…so when our three-year old becomes obsessed with a show, it helps that it’s watchable.

The weird thing about it all is that much of the time we know more about what’s happening with the rescue bots than we do with what they’re doing in our government to rescue us from the fiscal cliff.  You know what you know….we are surrounded by transforming robots and television shows about transforming robots.

I’ve mentioned it before…but I sure do wish I had stock in  the company that thought up the idea of having a bunch of toy robots that need other robots to be complete…and then maybe the robots that complete the robots that needed the robots to be complete need robots themselves to both look good and feel complete.  Lots of need….lots of buying if you can’t escape fueling the robot need.

What a bunch of needy little toys.

But it is kind of cool, really….”now this one turns into what ?  A fire truck? That’s pretty cool”.

I wonder sometimes if the really good lesson here is just learning how to appreciate…and how to stop living for myself so completely.

It’s a good thing to be able to enjoy what other people enjoy…even if you’d sometimes not watch the same show about the same robots for the 10th time.

flat on the bottom

Stopped to talk to a buddy who’s refurbishing an old house on his property.

He’s using a lot of red oak tongue and groove paneling that he had milled from some lumber that he had drying out for a couple of years…using some hickory that was in the same pile of rough sawn, too.  It looks great.

I asked him how it was going..and he mentioned that he had to take a break to fix his lawnmower.

“I’ve got to fix that tire….it went flat on the bottom”.

Flat on the bottom…ahhh, I love that.

I’ve mentioned before that most of how we find life is just a matter of perspective…one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor….and this is a really nice example of that.

Sometimes, I don’t know that I’m supposed to feel bad until someone reminds me.  “Don’t you know?  It’s just not fair…you should do something about it.”

Well…life isn’t fair, things aren’t equal, some folks have it better, you never really get a break….etc., etc., etc.  Alright already…I get it.

But, like that t-shirt said…Life is G….

Makes me think of a story that I heard that I really liked about a Mexican fisherman….

An American investment banker was at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.  Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna.  The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Mexican replied, “only a little while.”

The American then asked why didn’t he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Mexican said he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.

The American then asked, “but what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siestas with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine, and play guitar with my amigos.  I have a full and busy life.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you.  You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat.  With the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.  Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery.  You would control the product, processing, and distribution.  You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually New York City, where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15 – 20 years.”

“But what then?” Asked the Mexican.

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part.  When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions!”

“Millions – then what?”

The American said, “Then you would retire.  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siestas with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

That’s a hard thing to accomplish if you’re already skirting close to the side giving the fisherman advice …to make the move to a sustainable retirement… without working at making the move to a sustainable retirement….that’s a hard thing to figure out.

When work and life are so intertwined that where one starts and the other ends is impossible to measure…how do you arrive at that destination?  How do you make what you love your livelihood?  Or is it just a question of figuring out how to love what you do for a living?

And who wants to “jump ship” when you’ve got a good thing going?  No matter how nice the island in the distance seems with its palm trees swaying and all the coconut milk you can drink, on the ship you get to suck limes and never worry about getting scurvy.  And I think people respect that decision.  It is expected and to be respected that when someone asks you, “howzit goin’ ?” you can say, “pretty good…I’m still sucking a lot of limes…”

Sucking limes…flat on the bottom…I guess in the end we all just kind of muddle through and watch the days zoom past.

in the details


van halenOne of the legends of rock, and one that I never really understood, was the request that Van Halen put into their concert rider that asked that a bowl of M&Ms be placed in their dressing room that contained no brown colored M&Ms.

What a “rock star moment” that must have been for them….to be able to throw your weight around with a crazy request like that.

What’s next?  Teal colored fur boas and personal hovercraft?

Recently, though, I found out the reason for the request.

Van Halen reasoned that with all the things that could go wrong when a concert promoter was preparing for their show, that the M&M request might be a good indicator of how attentive to detail the promoter was.

If they could handle a bowl without brown, maybe they’d do a good job of hanging the dangerous rigging or making sure that all the electrical needs were handled correctly and safely.

brown m&ms

It turns out it wasn’t just an unreasonable rock star request…there was a real method behind the madness.

The phrase “God is in the Details” is used so much that it’s become almost a cliche at this point.  We don’t pay attention to the thought like we might because we hear it so often…but it’s true….it’s the details that matter in the end.

And…the hard part is knowing what details are going to make a difference.

We can become enamored of surface details…making sure that the cuff links are polished and that we’re wearing the right brand of watch…to the point where we are willing to let the important details fall by the wayside.

At least we can look fabulous as we drop down into bankruptcy.

I think about all this stuff a lot better than I execute it.  If I can’t figure out what might be important in the detail area, maybe I can just adopt the scatter shot approach and cover a couple of the important ones by worrying about handling all the details, no matter how mundane or ineffectual they might be.

No grand observations or conclusions here (move along folks…nothing to see here)…just a new appreciation for what might lay under the surface of a request like “no brown M&Ms, please”.

how does it feel

How do you suppose it would feel to be flying high off the success of one of your most popular albums ever…an album released during the singer songwriter renaissance of the early 1970’s…and then be told by your record company that they’d lost the follow-up album that probably would have pushed you over into even greater artistic and commercial triumph?

I don’t know how that would have felt.  It’s really kind of hard to say unless you’d lived it yourself.

That’s what happened to Eric Andersen back in the early years of the 70’s.

He’d released Blue River…the album that featured this song as the title track…had great success with it only to be told that the followup album had been lost.

My introduction to him was the album that he recorded and released in the mid 70’s…an album called Be True to You…that contained much of the lost album that he re-recorded after the original album was reported lost.

The lost album was finally found and released in 1991 and titled Stages: the Lost Album.

This guy is one of the great folk singers of the 60’s and 70’s…worth checking out both for his music and for the story of a great potential derailed by record company error.


just look it up

I remember going to the library and if I couldn’t find anything about what I was looking for in the old card catalog , I’d go to the well-worn set of World Book or Encyclopedia Britannica encyclopedias  and try to find the information I needed there.

Holy Smokes, the world has changed.

I’m doing some car repair and it really helps to be able to look up a video about how to pull off the repair.

Usually, what I find is completely helpful.  There’s going to be something in most of the videos that I can use to get the job done.

Sometimes it’s just wading through a lot of weirdness.

Like this video…talking about stiff u-joints and Humphrey Bogart…what’s that about?  Sometimes it’s a lot more fun to run up against the weird element than it is to go right to the pertinent information.

We’ve had all this information for just long enough that we are starting to take it for granted…we are able to take it for granted.

I remember changing out one of the two Volkswagen bus carburetors in the 1972 bus I owned at the time in our driveway in Marietta.

It was sleeting and I didn’t know what tools I should try to get together.  The engine bay is small on those old buses…and by the time they figured out that a bigger, more complicated engine was a good idea, the space to work was even more limited.

It was cramped…it was cold…but I got it out and put the junk yard replacement carburetor in and it fired right up.


I didn’t have the option of “looking it up”.  I just muddled through and it worked.


Having access to these YouTube videos is kind of like having a cell phone/satellite phone/GPS on a Himalayan expedition…it changes the experience somehow when you have someone else figuring it all out for you…or you can call someone if it all goes downhill.

It is cool to be able to look stuff up.  I enjoy being able to find out how to do stuff and the visual is a good way for me to see how it’s done.

I just remember how it felt to be out in the cold and figuring it out for myself.