You can make a statement, but keep it brief (transcript)

Published February 3rd, 2018

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Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy, what the hell is happening? What is going on? What’s up and what’s going down? What are the haps, what’s the deal, what time is it, and what’s your problem? Whatever it is, whatever your problem, deal or time, this is THIS IS NOT A TEST, and I think I’m Michael Phillips, though I wouldn’t swear to it under oath. Coming to you for the last time from the cozy hamlet of Alhambra, California. Next time I talk to you it will be from the new, to me, hamlet of Monterey Park, California. I’m sure neither of those mean anything to you, so just know I’m moving from one Chinese and Mexican neighborhood in the San Gabriel Valley to an other Chinese and Mexican neighborhood in the San Gabriel Valley.

If you don’t know what or where the San Gabriel Valley is, maybe you’ve heard of Pasadena, the city that has the parade that you watch when you’re hung over every New Year’s day. That’s the San Gabriel Valley. Is it as cool as Hollywood, or Highland Park or Venice? Depends on who you ask, I guess, but I wouldn’t live in Venice now if you paid me, so there’s that. I was a westsider when I came to Los Angeles, but I’ve been cured of that disease. It doesn’t matter where you live in Los Angeles, anyway, it’s still going to take you 30 minutes to get to wherever you’re going. If I leave here and you leave Venice at the same time, and we intend to meet somewhere in between, we’ll both be late. So why deal with the hassles and arrogance and expense of the west side? Not me baby, I’m too precious.

It occurs to me that I talk too fast when I do these things. Like some kind of radio asshole or something. I thought of that when I heard a woman on CBC – that’s the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – and did you know that in Canada a certain percentage of the entertainment on state-run radio and television has to be written, produced, presented, or otherwise contributed to by persons from Canada? If you were wondering why we have Celine Dion, now you know. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad rule, and it probably helps prevent Canada from becoming just a bunch of northern U.S. states. But you have to wonder if manipulating what’s available to people isn’t destructive in the long run.

I don’t know, but I practically grew up in Canada anyway, being from Minnesota, where Winnipeg and Thunder Bay are right across the border, and the people in both places are of the same, shall we say, temperament and share a certain stoic nature that can only come from excessive use of LSD and the consumption of overcooked game birds. But I heard a woman on CBC talking about movies and she talked so fast that I couldn’t figure out how she even had time to think, but then she probably wasn’t thinking, just talking. They play a couple of CBC shows on the local NPR station here in Pasadena, late at night usually – maybe there was a secret deal made to infiltrate American airwaves with Canadian product – and I hear them when I wake up in the middle of the night and come to the kitchen to eat turkey slices on white crackers. See, game birds and white bread. Canada. I chase that with ice water, which just makes me have to get up and go to the bathroom an hour later, but it’s what I do, and I’m too old to quit now.

So yes, a fast talking woman, predicting what’s going to happen in the “Oscar race.” The Oscar race. It’s so funny how much people talk about movies and awards and oh, by the way, all the directors are men. Well, that’s worth talking about, for sure, but if I were a woman I might be more concerned that all the politicians are men. Directors don’t take away your reproductive rights. And I know all the politicians aren’t men, but most of them are, and, in theory anyway, government rules by majority.

Remember back in the 70s though, when movies would come out and you’d see them and you’d think, holy shit! That was amazing! You’d have to remember that, because it doesn’t happen anymore. Just like no one listens to the latest manufactured pop or country or rock download and thinks, holy shit! That’s amazing! No one thinks that because this crap isn’t amazing, it’s crap. It’s white bread without the turkey. It’s wallpaper and the sound of leaf blowers and shopping cart wheels.

But I was talking about talking too fast, so I think I have to slow down. Get close up to the microphone. Make use of what they call “the proximity effect” in the radio world. A world full of idiots and halfwits and people too fat or funny looking to be on television, where they feel they really deserve to be. So they cultivate a smooth, phony sounding voice and talk into microphones and work that proximity effect. Get close, babies, and feel those low frequencies increase. Feel it? Oh, the power, the majesty. When I say radio people are idiots and halfwits, don’t misunderstand me. I include podcasters in there as well.

Joe Frank died on January 15th. Ever hear of him? You should go check out some of his work. Hunt it down like a game bird, it’s worth your while. Joe knew all about the proximity effect, he talked real close, but then, ironically, he manipulated his voice so much that it sounded like he was talking to you from an asteroid belt in outer space. Joe told stories, every one of them complete fiction but played like fact. There was an asteroid belt of electronic music always playing under the stories, and he would have other people acting out different parts. It was almost hallucinatory, the effect, and everyone that you hear on those shitty NPR shows now, you know, with “lab” or “life” or “snap” in the title, they all nicked from Joe. As nickers do though, they only copied the surface things and not the part that made Joe Great.

There’s an old Panasonic clock radio by my bed, a stereo thing that sounded better than a typical clock radio when I bought it, 25 years ago, to listen to Joe Frank’s show on KCRW. I could have listened to it on a big stereo, sitting on the couch and looking at the wall, but there was something about Joe Frank’s show that was so intimate it felt wrong to listen to it with your shoes on, so I would lay in the bed. That clock radio still sits on the little table next to my pillow, but now all I use it for it to wake me up in the morning to go to work, or do something else besides sleeping, which is what I’d always rather be doing than whatever I am doing. Like right now. I love you, but I’d rather be sleeping.

This is going to be brief today, this episode, even if I talk slowly, and it may not make a lot of sense, assuming any of these ever make sense, because I’m still up to my ass in cardboard boxes and packing tape and chaos. I don’t have time for this shit, don’t you see? Well, here we are. And really, it doesn’t matter if this is 5 minutes or 5 hours long, I still have to work down the same list of 20 things that have to be done between me shamelessly exploiting this proximity effect and you hearing it in your ear holes. But still, short. Gotta keep moving, gotta keep shoving things into boxes. You have to be shark like when packing and moving. Unpacking, shit, you can take six months to do that. But this part, the packing part, think: shark. Keep the water moving across your gills or it’s all over.

Remember when I talked about giving away a couch on craigslist? Lo, those 50-some episodes ago? Well when you pack to move you come across a mountain of shit that you want to get rid of, and it won’t all fit in the trash can, so you try to sell it, right? I’m trying to sell a bunch of things on craigslist and eBay, and doing that just reminds me of how many weird and dare I say – stupid – people live in this wonderful world. They take up half your day, and then won’t pay what you agreed to pay, or they ask 30 questions by email, questions that make you have to go measure things, or weigh them or check their auras for negative vibrations, and then they disappear.

The best one so far though is the kid who wanted to pay for a bunch of art supplies with Bitcoin. I don’t use Bitcoin, I never bought any bitcoins because to me it’s just a speculative investment kind of thing, not a currency, like its boosters would like you to believe. In retrospect, of course, we should have all bought a thousand bitcoins when they were $10, but retrospect is for suckers. And I can tell you, Bitcoin is not a currency, I know that first hand now, because the kid intrigued me. I thought, if someone is goofy enough to try to buy something on craigslist using bitcoin, well I have to do that. Don’t I? I have to say yes just to see how that goes. So I set up an account on one of the cryptocurrency exchanges – which is a whole other thing unto itself – and waited for the kid to come over.

When he gets here, the first thing he says to me is, “I have to plug my computer in for a minute, it died on the way over,” so already it’s annoying, but I show him where he can plug in in the garage, because that’s where the stuff he’s buying is, and we’re talking, waiting for his computer to get enough juice to start, and finally it starts up and he is clicking around and says, “I have to do a transfer first from Ethereum to Bitcoin.” That’s two different brands, I guess you’d say, of cryptocurrency, so what he’s telling me is he doesn’t even have $149 worth of one or the other. That’s what he was going to pay me, $149.

There’s a barcode kind of thing, a QR code, those squares with all the other littler black and white squares inside, and you can pull up the QR code for your account, and someone who wants to pay you with Bitcoin can scan that code with their phone, type in an amount, hit a button and it’s done. But the kid, no, I have to email him my Bitcoin address, this long string of letters and numbers, because he can’t scan the QR code, and that takes a few minutes, and then finally, about 20 minutes after he showed up in front of my garage, he says, “There, done,” and he points to a line in a program running on his computer that shows the transaction.

At least I think that’s what it shows, but I’ve never seen that program, and I’ve never tried to take a little fraction of a bitcoin from someone, so really, what do I know. He could be showing me a line in a website he built just to run a Bitcoin con. That sounds cool. I’ll bet there are people who have run Bitcoin cons. “Hey, what is this? Some kind of Bitcoin con?!” Anyway, he says, “Ooookay then, I guess I’ll start taking this stuff to my van…” and since I didn’t want to be a victim of a Bitcoin con, I said, “I don’t know, partner. Slow down there, not yet. Let’s wait for it.” because I have my phone there, and I’m looking at my account, and it still says zero dollars.

So I wait for it to show up in my account. And wait, and wait. 20 minutes go by. 30, 40, and we’re talking and I’m learning all about his life and the art he makes, and he’s pawing through the stuff he bought, ostensibly, and finally I give up and say, “Okay, forget it. Just take it. I can’t wait anymore.” At that point I didn’t care if I ever get the 0.0130 bitcoin. I’ll take the $149 loss just to go in the house and have this be over with. I help him drag the stuff out to his van, then he comes back to get his computer, and finally, after more than an hour, he’s leaving, and he says, “Text me or email me when you get it.” And I’m thinking, sure dude, whatever, just leave with your free stuff, I’m hungry for a corn dog.

But eventually, almost two hours after he sent it, it showed up in my account: 0.013 of a bitcoin. And by the time it got into my account, it was worth $141 and some change. Yes, that’s an $8 loss in two hours, but if you watch the price of Bitcoin, it fluctuates every 20 seconds during the day. For the first couple days I kept looking at the market there and watching the $149 become $153, $146, $140, but that got pretty dull, so now I haven’t looked at it in a week. It may not even be there, for all I know. Or it may be worth a dollar or $500.

It’s all so ridiculous anyway. These arbitrary values we put on things. I’ll keep this 0.013 bitcoin just to say I have it. It’s not enough money to sweat losing, so who cares. But I can’t imagine having thousands or hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars wrapped up in that shit. Imagine losing ten grand in 20 seconds. Or gaining it. It’s not even real money at that point, which is the point, it’s not real money. I guess unless you can convince someone to trade you a bunch of art supplies for it. Otherwise it’s just words and numbers and people going, ‘ooooh,’ or obsessing, or avoiding or plotting against the government. Whichever government.

That’s all this is too though, THIS IS NOT A TEST, so I shouldn’t be too critical. Just words transmitted via numbers and people going, ‘ooooh’ or ‘ahhhh’ or ‘eeehh?’ Okay, here I go, into the big trucks. I may be a little battered or broken when I come out on the other end, but I’ll be here. Will you?