Un “hurluberlu parmi les « guérilleros »”

French journalist Serge Courrier just emailed me to let me know that his article Drive-in clandestins pour cinéphiles subversifs just came out in news.fr a few days ago. It’s about the Guerilla Drive-In, and since I still use 16MM film instead of DVD players, I’m described as “un hurluberlu”, which as far as I can tell means “screwball“. Hopefully in an awesome Doc Emmett Brown way. After getting described as “un branchouillard” by a French journalist in May, I’m in danger of becoming insufferably full of myself. Yeah, any day now I’ll start being an annoying braggart.

So… did I mention today that my article in Make came out?

page 111!

Page 111: “HOWTO: Make a head-mounted water cannon.” Go buy the magazine, then write in and tell them that they need more stuff in there from hurluberlois branchoillards!

Un “hurluberlu parmi les « guérilleros »”

Look at me! Look at me! OH GOD YOU’RE ALL LOOKING AT ME.

So the webcast story is up at abcnews.com. I’m kind of hypercaffeinated in the audio. You can see the spot here:


It’s funny the mixed feelings you get when as a card-carrying “look at me” blogger, you suddenly get a small dose of for-realz media attention, and suddenly you get all hypocritically embarrased. This isn’t the first time that I’ve wrestled with this important issue.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. Anyhow, the story is really about Anthony, and it looks like he’s getting attention and help out of the whole thing, which is great! Yay, Anthony!

Update: Hey, look, Anthony’s in the Post now!

Look at me! Look at me! OH GOD YOU’RE ALL LOOKING AT ME.

My first PowerPoint slide from now on.

From medicine-show huckster T. P. Kelley’s opening speech:

“You are dying, every man, woman, and child is dying; from the instant you are born you begin to die and the calendar is your executioner. That no man can change or hope to change. It is nature’s law that there is no escape from the individual great finale on the mighty stage of life where each of you is destined to play his farewell performance.

Ponder well my words, then ask yourselves the questions: Is there a logical course to pursue? Is there some way you can delay, and perhaps for years, that final moment before your name is written down by a bony hand in the cold diary of death?

Of course there is, ladies and gentlemen, and that is why I am here. That is why I have traveled over great wastes of stormy seas, to ask that you let me help you to good health, vigor, and a long life, with the aid of the remarkable carton I now hold in my hand.”

My first PowerPoint slide from now on.

When Life’s Rich Tapestry is an acrylic stadium blanket, and it STILL rocks

...though you're just as often the hun on the bottom of the pile.
In the preface to The Philosophy of Right, Hegel wrote that “the owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk”, which in my particular case means that it’s a hell of a lot easier to write about middle-school amazement at brass-busted barbarians on polar bears than it is to write about how being a grownup actually turned out, given that I’m busy, you know… doing it right now. But I’ll try:

So I’ve been reading Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian books, actually for the first time since my childhood reading ran more in the “plucky British youths rallying round the standard” vein. But all the hallmarks of escapist adventure fiction are there: physical prowess of hero, check. Cheerful, sunny disposition of hero, check. Mighty thews and admiration by barbarian princesses, very much check. And, since Howard is the father of modern “sword and sorcery” fiction, sentient lizards and freaky, cackling wizards shooting lightning bolts and whatever, check. Whether you’re reading Henty, Howard, or James Fennimore Cooper, the idea is that you’re following around a Mighty Adventurer, living vicariously through their exploits. This is not limited to one genre, either: as Haim Saban knows well, the most popular themes of children’s television shows are martial arts, transformation, and dinosaurs.

So I grew up a little bit after seeing the chick with the sword on the polar bear, and quickly discovered that crude jokes on big ol’ belt buckles do not, in fact, attract the ladies. At least, not the kind of ladies you meet at Quaker school. And if it did, those buckles certainly were not going to attract them to me (this was pre-omnipresent irony). A couple years more, and I discovered that situations where you flex your mighty thews, grip your two-handed sword, and wade into battle with fifty shambling, hairy Pelishti temple guards are very few and far between, whether literally or figuratively. I mean, I tried it literally: I went to bartending school, learned to ballroom dance, took lots of martial arts and ran a karate studio, and traveled around the country as an evangelist (and learned to juggle and play the banjo, though you’ll notice I didn’t mention those first), and I discovered that first of all, moments where you’re doing something well are rare. And second, even if you’re doing something well, that doesn’t make you a hero. The most you can do in that direction is play the hero for someone else, and if you’re very very lucky and you have strong, supportive adults in your life you won’t spend more than a year or two as a needy, self-centered jerk before you realize that playing a fictional character in real life is really no closer to being a hero than reading about one in a book. (And then, ten years later you’ll have the embarrasing realization that you weren’t fooling that many people anyhow, which is humbling)

Is this the point where I say that being a hero is about changing diapers? No. That’s part of being a dad, which is a different thing than being a hero. Being a husband is also a very different thing than being a hero: my own barbarian princess has never seen me heave an evil wizard off a cliff. In any case, our wedding certificate says “loving and faithful husband” not “lizard-head-lopper.” My point, I guess, is not that I’ve discovered how to be a hero in everyday life. Plus, you know, ick — that would be hugely self-congratulatory. My point is that everyday life did turn out to be very, very different than I imagined it would be as a kid. The problems are different, the challenges are frankly harder, and the rewards are utterly and completely different.

There’s more on this, but as I’m busy living it right now, I’m kind of unable to say anything that sounds like a summary. I can say this: real life is better. Because it’s, you know, real. Also, there are Frazetta moments in real life, it’s just that they’re fewer and farther between than you imagined they were going to be, but also they’re kind of awesome when those Frazetta moments do happen*. It’s just that also you occasionally have Vermeer moments, and Picasso moments, and Van Gogh moments, and now I’m just being facile: but who cares, this is already a double-header blog post about my fascination with a ridiculous liquor ad in summer camp and I find myself totally, oddly, at peace with that.

* I’m not talking about sex, here. Or at least, I’m not talking only about sex. Right now, I’m talking about the Frazetta myth of Big Man Triumphant, where some guy’s got his glower on and you know that he’s about to go Get It Done, whatever it is. That does happen occasionally — though usually it ends up as Big Man Engineering a Compromise to Move the Project Forward. Followed by Big Man Going Home To Wife And Daughter, which delivers the magic in a consistent and amazing way that Big Man Triumphant rarely does. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go listen to some heavy metal and crank out some powerpoint decks!

When Life’s Rich Tapestry is an acrylic stadium blanket, and it STILL rocks

Make: “the brilliant John Young”

Ave Nero!  I mean, Nerd! Nos Qui wedgie-turi te Salutat!
Ahh, what better use of the “General Bragging” category? Yesterday, nerd-clique-captain Phillip Torrone of Make magazine referred to me as… excuse me while I enter a <blockquote> tag to properly set this off:

“…the brilliant John Young.”

Yes, that’s right. Make referred to me as “the brilliant John Young.” [emphasis not mine, those italics just happened, I swear.] “the brilliant John Young.” [seriously, I don’t know what’s happening, that word is just jumping off the page, all by itself.]

That’s going straight on my resume, so now I am one step closer to being in the company of giants.

Make: “the brilliant John Young”

I am become Shiva, stubber of toes

oops: the actual command I used to munge all my files.
You laugh, when you hear the stories of the hunters who freeze to death each year, when you read that they were 100 miles from the nearest road, out there with nothing buth a cheese sandwich and a stadium blanket. “It’s Darwin at work”, you think, and pride yourself YOU’LL never do something as dumb as that.

And then you almost blow your friends’ hand off in college with fireworks, realize the monumentally stupid thing you were doing (throwing roman candle rounds by hand after — dear god — SHORTENING THE FUSES so they’ll go off in midair), and realize the series of small, “stupid with a little ‘s'” decisions that have aggregated into STUPID WITH A CAPITAL S and now you and Matt Foot (the captain of the college baseball team, and the star pitcher) are blinking at each other over Matt’s hand, which is black and smoking but totally unharmed and realizing it’s a good thing he didn’t close his fingers around the HUGE BALL OF STUPIDITY that you managed to arrive at through baby steps that were individually just pretty dumb.

So anyway, I set a shell script loose on my entire www folder, containing ten websites, WITHOUT BACKING IT UP FIRST. Like, AT ALL. “What?” you say. “What kind of an idiot are you?” Well, the kind of idiot that asked his web provider about getting backups started, was told by them that they were developing a new backup prodct, and come back in two months, so I, um… forgot all about it. “Well, schmuck”, the uncharitable among you will say, “how come you didn’t put an archive command in your daily cron jobs, which would have at least backed up everything to a different folder?” Yeah, that would have been a good idea, wouldn’t it? “Well, at least”, say those of you intent on driving it home, “at least why didn’t you FOR CHRISTSAKES BACKUP THE DIRECTORY BEFORE YOU RAN A RECURSIVE, FILE-MODIFYING SHELL SCRIPT ON IT?” Probably because it just didn’t occur to me that gawk would touch binary files as well as text files, and I certainly didn’t expect it to truncate every file in those set of folders to 4096 bytes, which is what happened. (Yes, yes, I KNOW that the reason for backups is because you have to expect the unexpected. Who knew that there would be a half-inch of slow fuse attached to three inches of quickfuse?) So all the HTML files and images on my website (and Kate’s, which I feel REALLY bad about, and is my one real regret), were arbitrarily shortened to 4K.

Many of the image files are in old migration archives that I made at various times, and I can try waking up old, mothballed laptops to find them. [Update: yeah, it turns out that I have a backup from December 2004, which is about two-thirds of my images.]
The text files I can mostly reconstruct from the snapshots taken at archive.org, which will work fairly well since the pages not in my blog have a low rate of change. And all the text in my blogs is fine, since that lives in a mySQL database, not in the filesystem. So the net result is that my blog is mostly okay (just with munged images), but my other project work is pretty badly messed up.

It is oddly cathartic, in a way, though. The Retropod and the Ultimate Water Gun (which were what got most of my traffic) are old news, Internet-tily speaking, and so I’ll be happy to replace those with smaller sites that are mostly about pictures. The Guerilla Drive-In site was tiny, so that’ll be easy to replace. And a lot of the auxiliary content (“all about my trip to Kaiju Big Battel!”) had an enthusiastic “lookit me, lookit me!” tone that I was gradually getting a little uncomfortable with, like I was still walking around in my high school varsity jacket. So I’ll actually be pretty happy to rescue the “lookit me!” stuff, but make it less front-and center. Since today is my (wait for it, wait for it) thirty-fifth birthday (hurrah!), it seems like a pretty good time to turn over a new leaf on the site.

I am become Shiva, stubber of toes

“What, THIS old thing?”

I sincerely don’t want to come across as an utter jerk in this posting where I talk about how nice our house looked for the YWCA Holiday House tour today. Let’s see how I do.

So the nice thing about agreeing to be on a house tour is that it gives you a deadline to do all the things to the house that you haven’t done yet, and would probably forget all about otherwise (put those brass sash locks on the windows, wash the storm doors, and a dozen et ceteras) and you kind of have a good excuse to go overboard on the Christmas decorations without feeling like a total tool (drape the staircase bannister in garland? Hell yes! It’s for the house tour!) Plus, as mentioned before, you can go get your Christmas tree when they’re still unloading the trucks, which was deeply satisfying for my inner child, who knew all along that every hour of delay in going to get the tree was an hour irretrievably wasted.

Plus, the attention is fun — cars started circling the block fifteen minutes before the hour, and at 10:00 sharp, passengers started climbing up the steps and the buses started arriving. Well, there was only one bus, but it still was fun.

The drawback of a house tour is that it’s awkward: “Hello! Good morning! Welcome!”, and then usually a kind of an awkward pause. I mean, it’s your house, so you can’t just start gushing about how great the house is, like a volunteer docent would (“Built in ninenteen-twenty-five, this lovely home has an original natural-gas furnace that probably won’t explode this season, and a rusty T-junction supplying all water that is simply a delight “) But they’re not really regular social visitors, so you don’t ask them about their kids or anything. Fortunately, it was a beautiful day, so there’s that to talk about. And everyone was really kind and had nice things to say, and everyone’s just out to have a good time, anyhow. Tickets to the house tour were twenty-five bucks, and there were ten houses, so I’m pretty confident that we delivered at least two dollars and fifty cents’ worth of holiday cheer. Maybe even three bucks, with Mindy’s lemon and magnolia garland over the dining room archway.

It’s tiring, though, what with all the nervous energy of greeting people all day. Kate stood in the kitchen with a ball of muppet yarn and knit AN ENTIRE SCARF, which accomplishment she can use as fodder if we ever get in a pissing match with horrible jerks: “what, this old thing? Y-e-e-e-esss, I knit this in one day as I was showing my house to busloads of visitors from Maryland, mmm-hmm. Have you seen our furnace?”

“What, THIS old thing?”