As we move to the end of June, this weekend was supposed to have highs near 100 degrees. However, the Mighty Saharan Dust Cloud (TM pending) has served as a sort of parasol for the Carolinas and Gulf Coast, holding temperatures about ten degrees under that. All the same, I’m thankful for the air conditioner as I lurk down here in the den.
And the air conditioner gave us a bit of a start a couple of nights ago. I don’t really know why, but I had an urge to check our mechanical room before going to bed on Thursday evening, at which point I found a sizable and expanding puddle. I grabbed a bunch of towels (ignoring, for some reason, the wetvac sitting in that very room — I never claimed to be good at this) and began to soak things up. My next step was to holler for Mrs. M, who is good at this kind of thing, and she deduced that there was a blockage in the line that carries condensation out of the house.
So we got things cleaned up and got to bed a bit after one. We took turns getting up at two-hour intervals to make sure we weren’t flooding. I had better luck than she did — or more accurately, she found a way to run a line from the pump to our crawlspace (a/k/a the Dead Hobo Smokehouse & Curing Room). This meant that while she had a mess to clean up at two, I didn’t at four.
I left a message at our HVAC people’s phone, and the repairman came out bright and early, running a new line and providing us with a more permanent version of Mrs. M’s fix. Since we happened to have plenty of tubing, there wasn’t even a materials charge, and I’m once again thriving in cool, dry conditions — just like many viruses.
For the first time in a few years, I watched an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 last night. It was from the original run with Joel Hodgson, and it reminded me that Joel was probably my favorite of the hosts. Part of that may be because I discovered the show during his run, and part may be because in the show’s early years, there was more low-hanging fruit in terms of Grade-Z movies to parody. But I also think Hodgson brought a kind of goofy sweetness and sincerity that reminds us why in comedy duos, the straight man usually got the big end of a 60/40 split. I think I’ll watch another one tonight.
One of the more interesting entertainment companies these days is Numero Records, based in Chicago. They specialize in compilations that are a obscure, off the beam, or otherwise odd. I have a few of them, including the Bonehead compilation I mentioned last time. Obviously, this puts them in my wheelhouse. However, I find myself particularly interested in some of the conceits under which Numero has worked lately.
The first edition of the Warfaring Strangers series (itself a play of Numero’s Wayfaring Strangers folk collection) came with a D&D-themed board game, with players in the roles of the assorted bands on the compilation. You can still get the game separately, but it’s the pop-cultural understanding that makes it special for me.
Similarly, the company’s new release is a compilation of downbeat mid-60s jangle and low-key teenbeat, not necessarily remarkable in itself — I certainly have a large number of CDs fitting the bill. But Numero has built a mythos around this collection. They have imagined that all the acts attended the same high school (the fictitious “Louis Wayne Moody High”, and the music is the soundtrack to the Class of 1967’s yearbook. By looking at the yearbook, listening to the music, and reading the various “student inscriptions”, apparently one can solve a murder mystery: “What happened to Cheryl?“
Numero refers to these items as its “Cabinet of Curiosities” series, and I think it’s a remarkable development, in that it encourages us to think of albums as albums, as coherent works of art, rather than the playlist model that may be themed, but that always comes to us as a list of discrete units. So good for Numero — I hope they can keep this going.
And I’m going to close this installment with a track from yet another of the Cabinet of Curiosities that I listened to yesterday. The Numero folks posited a nonexistent film, a 1964 desert neo-noir. The imaginary film is entitled You’re Not From Around Here, and they’ve presented us with its soundtrack album. First, the “trailer.”
And here’s a track from the “soundtrack.” Dick Campbell was a songwriter (he composed the backing music for Ken Nordine’s Colors album, for example) who released a folk-rock album in 1966 meant to cash in on Bob Dylan’s recent success (and using many of the same backing musicians.) This track predates that album, and it sounds so much of a time and place that it approaches the objective correlative. Listen to it, and you’re driving across the Southwest while newspapers mention the sending of “advisors” to Vietnam. Here’s “Like the Wind That’s Free.”
See you soon!