Memoirs, overturned food carts and new stereo gear (transcript)

Published August 5th, 2017

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Hello hipsters, dipsters and cripsters. How do you explain your whereabouts on the night of the 27th? And how do you explain being here at THIS IS NOT A TEST with me, Michael Phillips? I don’t think there is any explanation. No rational one, anyway. Well, you may not be able to explain it, but I appreciate it, and I’ll try not to let you down. I’ll try not to disappoint you, and instead be incredibly entertaining and insightful. Or at least audible and intelligible and not too drunk. But really, can you be too drunk? Hmm, yeah, I seem to recall that you can. Never mind.

As you may or more likely may not know, I’ve been working on a memoir for about a hundred years. Or it’s more accurate to say that I have not been working on it, which is why it isn’t finished. I mean, it’s finished, the whole story is there, the parts I want to tell, but about half of it needs polishing, punching up, a bit of work, if you dig. Though I’ve been avoiding that bit of work for a long, long time. I really could have knocked this book out in half a year, but procrastinating has given me the advantage of remembering more things that I could add, and generally, just spending a lot of time thinking about the book has made what I’ve written after thinking better, so there’s that. If it makes any sense.

But it’s time to get it out of the way already, polish it off, finish it up, push the fucking bird out of the nest. So to motivate and inspire me on that path, because apparently I’m just like an infant who needs to be motivated, I made up some promotional thingies with the name of the book on them. Or at least what I want the name to be. They’re pretty cool, if I do say so myself, but I’d be spoiling things if I told you what they are right now. When the two parts get here and I put them together, I want to age them too, and I think I hit on a way to do that. It involves a bucket or drum of some kind and a motor that I just mounted to a board tonight.

I don’t know if the motor I have is going to have the moxie for the job, but if not I’ll figure out another way to tumble these things. Yeah, tumble them, like those little rock tumblers you might have had as a kid, only bigger. And without rocks, just plastic and metal banging against itself, like that change you forgot to take out of your pants rattling around in the dryer. If your dryer was about a fifth of its size. The whole Idea and concept are ridiculous, but like I said, if it works it will be really cool and I’ll go into business making new things look old and worn. Like those idiots who sit around gouging up brand new guitars to make them look as if someone has been playing them for 50 years.

And it’s not just the idea of the things and aging them that’s ridiculous, it’s the whole concept of a promotional item for a book that isn’t even finished being written yet. If that’s not stupid, I don’t know what is. But I had the idea, and you know how it is sometimes when you get an idea. You can write your idea down somewhere and never look at it again, or you can immediately try to see if the idea has any legs. I have notebooks full of ideas that I’ll never look at again, but this was one of the “try immediately” type of ideas. And you know, I think maybe having the thing laying here in front of me on my desk will be a constant reminder to get going and get the god damned book wrapped up. A mocking little prick of a motivator. I don’t know, we’ll see. Either way I’ll have 50 things here that will either be great or a waste of time and money. I’m betting on the latter and hoping for the former.

But you have to be able to promote these days. Even if a big publisher puts out your book. They don’t put any money into promotion anymore. The first thing any publisher asks you is what you can do to promote the book. Whatever happened to the publisher helping the author? Isn’t that what they’re for? Apparently not anymore. It seems like they are just printers now, and anyone can print a book. Okay, I’m exaggerating, but not much. Promotion, publicity, hype. It’s all so boring really, in the big picture, but also a little intriguing. I kind of do those things for a living, so I’m always interested in what compels people to buy a thing, whether that thing is a book or a window fan. Or whether including an odd little item along with a review copy of a book is more likely to get the book reviewed.

Because what compels people to buy or read or do anything, like even die in a war for you, what compels them is usually an idea. An idea or thought that sells them the item without them ever realizing that they’ve been sold. The psychology of selling is interesting, like I said, but then there is the big part of me that believes it’s stupid and meaningless. I’m not here – or I should say, I didn’t write a book – to finesse or dupe people into buying it. I wrote it because I think it’s interesting and I’m old enough now to look back without seeming too much like a pretentious twat admiring himself in the mirror.

You still feel that way much of the time when you’re writing about yourself. I mean, unless you’re a narcissist or a politician, or a…well, politicians are narcissists, so that’s really the same thing, but you get the idea. And writing these stories that mostly involve other people has me thinking a lot about how much of it is really my story and how much of it is the story of the people who were around me. I know they’re intertwined, but what is my story anyway? Without everyone else in our lives, do we even exist? Ha. If a guitar player falls in the woods…

I love reading memoirs and biographies and autobiographies, it’s most of what I read, really. The thing I’m writing is a memoir, because it’s not about my entire life, just the musician part. I mean there are a lot of other things mixed in there too, obviously, but an autobiography is more of a chronological retelling of your life and how great you are. A memoir is something you write about one part or aspect of your life and how great you are. So you could write more than one memoir about how great you are, but you can’t write more than one autobiography about how great you are. I know, I’m sorry, but those are the rules.

The rules are stupid, of course, but people who sell books and who are really enthusiastic about books care about things like definitions and rules, so you have to be aware, you know? But I love reading those kinds of things, and I know that they are not accurate. They’re never accurate, they can’t be accurate, because our memories are not accurate. When it comes to biographies or histories of a person or a group or a thing, I like oral histories the best, but they’re still completely inaccurate. In fact they’re even more inaccurate because if one person’s memory is faulty, then 50 people’s memories are 50 times as faulty. Or something. Ask someone who knows about math to figure that out.

You know what an oral history is, it’s a book where a lot of people familiar with the subject are interviewed, and the story is told using quotes from those interviews. A lot of documentaries about musicians are done that way now, you’ve seen them, and maybe you’ve even read some oral histories. I think the idea of an oral history is that if you hear enough people’s take on an event you get a pretty good idea of what really happened by, averaging out, so to speak, everyone’s recollections. But I don’t think that’s what happens.

I just read Roger Steffens oral history of Bob Marley, which is called…So Much Things to Say, and I’ll tell you, I’ve probably read 25 books about Bob Marley and the Wailers, and reading So Much Things to Say didn’t clear up anything. It’s crazy how different everyone’s memories of the same events are. Even important events that, while they’re happening, you know everyone is thinking, “Damn, I have to remember this.” But that’s just because we all experience things differently. You can be in the same room as a band that’s playing, but your experience as a listener is different than the singer’s experience, or the bouncer’s experience or a girl bringing drinks to the tables or anyone else’s experience. We’re all writing our own distinct memories and they rarely line up and create anything resembling truth or reality if we sit down and compare them later.

On top of that, on top of fresh memories being faulty, I’ve heard scientists talk about how remembering something changes the memory, that the act of bringing up the memory, thinking about it, then storing it away again changes it. So every time you remember something, you’re changing that memory. Are you taking it further away from “the truth,” whatever that is? Maybe. It’s always jarring to me to look something up in a notebook or hear it on a tape and have that contemporary evidence contradict what’s in my memory. But for most people there aren’t a lot of tapes or notebooks around, so your memories just become what you want them to be, and ultimately, who you are. So we’re all self-created in that way. Or in every way.

What is the past, anyway? What is memory? If none of our memories can be trusted, and I think it’s pretty clear that’s true, what is the past? What is history? I don’t know. There are only so many “facts” to be had in my memory or in my life. I mean, things happened or they didn’t happen, but it’s not like history has recorded a lot of the events of my life, or any of our lives, unless we gain some kind of notoriety or notoriousness. So when I’m writing a memoir or a blog post or a Tweet about something from my past, what does it even mean? Seems like maybe it’s all just storytelling. In which case, a memoir is just another fiction, and we should probably look at them that way. And I’m not saying that just weasel out of any accountability where my own memoir is concerned. I’ve never accepted any accountability from the start.

Ah, boy, how far does the universe stretch? Is the universe even real? Closer to home, you may have heard about the bearded hipster dufus guy here in Los Angeles who had a run in with a Mexican street vendor dude and tipped over his cart like some kind of dick. You may have heard about it because the street vendor dude recorded the whole thing and the video went all kind of koo koo for CoCo Puffs or koo koo for coconuts viral. If you haven’t seen it or heard about it, the video stars a Los Angeles street corner food vendor, one of the guys who sells fruit or ice cream or corn on the cob or any number of other delicious things, and someone who apparently lives in the neighborhood where the vendor works.

So this guy from the neighborhood, let’s call him Slash because he was wearing a Guns N’ Roses t-shirt, so Slash is talking to the street vendor dude in Spanish, saying, basically, get out of the fucking way, man, so me and my sad girlfriend and even sadder dog can get past. And the vendor is saying, ease up hombre, there’s plenty of room to pass, why you gotta be such a dick, because apparently Slash had hassled this guy several times in the past, which is why the vendor dude was recording the whole thing in the first place.

Anyway, their back and forth argument escalates, as back and forth argument will, and eventually Slash loses his mind and tips over the guy’s cart, and a ton of stuff goes spilling out in to the street, crashing and shattering and rolling and spilling. The vendor dude’s whole livelihood, basically, flowing out into the street. Pretty fucked up, eh? Yeah millions of other people thought so too. Anyway, some say that Slash cut his hand tipping over the cart, or that he was wielding a pink tazer – it’s hard to tell what the fuck is happening, it’s a cell phone video, but one thing for sure is street vendor dude sprayed Slash in the face with some liquid hot sauce, and it was funny to see Slash ripping off his t-shirt to rub the burning liquid out of his eyes and face.

Now the ironic thing here is that Slash is from Argentina, I think. When the Mexican street vendor calls him a racist, because the Mexican dude is much darker than Slash, Slash says, “I can’t be a racist, I’m from Argentina!” Which is absurdly funny in and of itself, but he was just trying to say, I can’t hate you, we’re the same, we’re from the same part of the world. Which is still really stupid, but that’s what Slash said. Anywhoo, I found out about all this because I saw it on Mat Gleason’s Facebook feed, when he shared the video and said Slash was going to be “the most hated man in Los Angeles.” Which set off a million comments – well, not a million, but hundreds – where people started digging up more information about Slash. Apparently his name was already known when Mat posted the video.

Now I think as humans we can all agree that Slash was a real cunt when he tipped over the street vendor’s cart, yeah? He should have his stupid Argentinean ass kicked for that, and in a just and perfect world, 20 Mexican gangsters would have walked around the corner just as he was doing the tipping. They would have schooled him on the fine art of how to behave on the street. But that didn’t happen, so instead we got – the Internet. The Internet and Facebook and Twitter chasing Slash through the virtual streets and fixing up a rope to hang him with. When Internet vigilantes scour the earth digging up personal data and information on a person, it’s called doxing. “Dox” coming from the word documents.

So if you’re ever fortunate enough to get doxed you can expect your name, home address, birth date, family member’s names, employer’s name and address and phone number, your social security number, drivers license number…all of it or part of it, to be publicly posted on the Internet. The amount and depth of information posted depends on who you pissed off. Slash seems to have pissed off Facebook mainly, but his name, home address, girlfriend’s name (she was there in the video with him behaving in an equally idiotic and repulsive way), his employer’s name, address and phone number and Slash’s Facebook page, LinkedIn page and other social media accounts, along with his union affiliations, of all things – all of that was posted within hours of the video going wide.

Now…I am a savage at heart. A savage and a lover and a peacemaker and a warrior. I am all of those things, as most of us are, so I have mixed feelings about things like doxing. I’ve said a million times that I’m glad there wasn’t an Internet when I was 20 years old. Or 16 or 24 or 18 – you get the idea. I did some shady, awful, mean and probably reprehensible things when I was a young man, and I had some idiotic ideas and thoughts, so I’m glad there isn’t some old forgotten blogger-type account out there with my teenage thoughts and ideas stuck on it for all time. That would make me blue. It was nice to live in anonymity, at least as far as the world at large is concerned, and leave the less wonderful things to fade away or be smoothed over by memory.

And you know, I’m glad everyone didn’t have a video camera in their pocket and a worldwide audience at their fingertips, because I know damn well I did some things that, if you uploaded them to Facebook or YouTube or anywhere else, they’d look awful and they’d make me look awful, and all of you cunts would have doxed me and ruined my life. Well, I’m not as awful as I used to be, and I probably wasn’t as awful as I think I was. But I think the question is how much punishment does a person deserve for an awful act? Is tipping over a street vendors cart something your life should be ruined over? It is not. The vendor said he lost about $800, so you should be punished about $800 worth, I figure. Or maybe double that as a penalty for wearing a Guns N’ Roses t-shirt.

But even if it’s $5000 worth of punishment, at least you can scrounge that up, take your hat in your hand and pay it, and everyone will eventually forget about the whole thing. But not so for Slash. He’s fucked, and he’ll be fucked for a long time, years and years, all because he’s a dick and he did something extra-dicklike one day recently. But really, there are so many dicks walking around, if we ruined all of their lives there’d be hardly anyone left out there. And many of them do much more awful things than tipping over a dude’s street food cart. I’m not saying what Slash did was cool, or acceptable, or even human, and I’ll say here and now that seeing it, or seeing the recording of it, really made me want to stick a screwdriver into his neck. But I don’t think the crime fits the scorched earth punishment by vigilante mob that happened. Very few “crimes” deserve lynching. And this wasn’t one of them. And Slash was lynched, make no mistake about that.

On a completely different note, and to continue my long tradition of talking about myself, I got this thing, this stereo component, and it’s something I’ve been looking for for a few years – or more – but I never found a version of it that I thought was worth a damn. It’s a music server, or as Sony calls it, a “Hi-Res Music Player System.” If you’ve been a listener for a while you know what I think of the “high-res” tag when it’s applied to digital music files – it’s hype and snake oil and good old fashioned bullshit, but it also doesn’t really have anything to do with the actual thing here, since this box plays any music files you can copy on to it.

There are 900 or so CDs and LPs here in a big wall-size shelf system, and a high-end TEAC CD player, an old Dual turntable, and the big loud amp and the big loud speakers and together all of those things are marvelous to behold – the music sounds great and all the children of the world are happy. But about five years ago, or maybe more, I don’t know, probably more, I started ripping all the CDs to digital files. Not for playing, but for backup in case a truck drives into the room where the CD wall is, or the front part of the house collapses. The idea then is that I can pop the two hard drives out of the little dock they sit in on my desk and stroll out the door with them. And I’d still have all of our records – and my computer files too, of course.

Now, in reality, would that work? I don’t know, not if the house collapses on top of my desk, but it’s better than no backup. Anyway, the point was, or is, that once I had these lossless backup files of all the records, I started thinking, someone must make a cool thing that you can hook up to your stereo and it will play these files so you can pick any song you own and push a few buttons or turn a few dials and have it playing in a few seconds. Only it turns out no one ever did make such a thing. Oh, they made parts of the ideal box, but no one ever hit the proverbial nail on the head with the right layout, setup, functionality and all that crap, no one ever got it right. And I looked at everything that was out there, for years and years and years. They were all clunky and slow and complicated, and it would be quicker to just find the CD and stick it in the player than it would be to play from most of the music servers out there.

But then came the Sony HAP S1/B, and the clouds parted and the children started singing again and all was right with the world. This fucking thing is exactly what I’ve been imagining, and it’s all right there to fiddle with and push and turn a knob and then, you know, the music comes out. Really a cool thing. And you copy your music files to the box itself, which for me took a long, long, long time, moving 12 1/2 thousand big lossless files, but once they’re moved, the unit automatically picks up any new records that you rip and sucks them up over your home network. Having the files on the box itself also replicates them in another place, so now I have all those records copied in three different places. Which, again, if the house falls down, they’ll just be three different pieces of rubble, but if there’s one thing I know about computer files, it’s that they can be corrupted or lost pretty easily, so if you can back things up in multiple places, do it.

But that’s just technical shit. The really great thing – and I’m sure some of you have been doing this for years and find my enthusiasm tiresome – but the thing that really matters and the really great thing for me is to be able to sit there on the couch with a tablet controlling all the music I own with a few flicks and taps. Playing any song that comes to mind easily and effortlessly. It’s like magic, I’m not kidding. Magic like the Internet used to be before it became a utility. As someone who has been playing records for half a century, I’ve always been looking for the next best way to make it convenient. At first that was cassettes, then it was CDs, then for some people, for most people I guess, it was streaming, and now it’s this. As far as I’m concerned, anyway.

I mean there are stumbling blocks, for sure. Ripping or recording all of your music to digital files can take a long time. A really long time. And most of these things, these music organization programs or hardware, like the Sony, they all organize your music files using metadata, so you have to figure out all of that and sometimes – or a lot of the time – adjust the metadata on your music files to suit your player, and all of that can take days and weeks and months. But really, in the end it’s all worth it. And, side note, if you work with music file metadata, or have a lot of albums that you’re digitizing, check out a program called TagScanner. Some guy in Russia wrote it and it’s the best metadata editor out there. For music files, anyway. I’ll put a link on the site.

So, yeah, I highly recommend the Sony HAP S1. It will make your life more music-y, and we all need that. Anything that makes it more convenient to play music makes people listen to more music, the old iPod and streaming have proved that. And more music can never be a bad thing. It’s not cheap, this thing, it’s a thousand bucks, but what is that? The cost of 60 or 70 CDs? Oh, I know, you don’t buy CDs. So it’s like – what’s a new vinyl LP now? $20? So you can have the Sony for the cost of 50 LPs. Or one and a half iPhones. See, now it doesn’t sound so expensive, does it. Yeah, I know, it’s still expensive. But when you’ve been imagining something for years and then it suddenly appears in front of you, you can’t not buy it.

Well, you can not buy it. I discovered the Sony almost a year ago, but I kept saying: wait, you don’t really need it, and who knows, maybe someone will see how awesome it is and make something even better. But no one did, and then I thought, you know, if I wait too long I’m going to finally go to buy the thing and they’re going to laugh at me and say, “They haven’t made that for a year!” Then I’d have to pay $2000 for a new one still in the box on eBay or something. But I can tell you that even though it’s a lot of money, it’s a great buy, and it’s worth every penny of that thousand dollars. Even if you have to scrimp and save, the scrimping and saving will be worth it. I didn’t mention that it also has a 40 watt amp built in to it. I don’t use that, but you could just plug speakers into the Sony and be good to go, a self-contained music miracle. So there’s that too.

So there you go. Life is short anyway. You should enjoy yourself. If I get hit by a meteor tomorrow I will have enjoyed the Sony for a couple weeks, but that thousand bucks would just be sitting there, doing nothing. Being money. Someone would probably spend it on flowers to stick around my casket, if there was anything left of me after the meteor to stick into a casket. Anyway, you get the point. They’re all just things after all, but things can be helpful and even make your life more enjoyable, so I don’t discount, denigrate, or otherwise put down things too much. Cool things anyway.

Well that’s about enough of the likes of me, I’d say. For fans of chirpwatch, you should know that the chirping is still going strong. It will, I’m now convinced, go on forever, so keep the faith brothers and sisters. See ya.