(archives & links below)


1979: Albert's (in Omaha) is lit!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

FREE to a good home

Okay, not really. But here's the thing.

I get daily emails from the Mechanical Music Digest, which consist of the day's postings to a diverse group of hobbyists. Their delight is in player pianos, pianolas, band organs, violinolas, music boxes, and even automata. Every so often (and getting oftener) I read about another beloved member of the community who has passed on or gotten too old to keep doing the work, and the collection he or she (usually he) spent years putting together and keeping in order is looking for a home. More often, many homes, as different things go in different directions, possibly including the trash.

As they age out, they wonder where the next generation of people who appreciate this exacting craft will come from. Who will repair the machines? Who will keep the rolls rolling? Their kids, oftentimes, have bemused tolerance for their parents, but no intention of carrying on after them. The faces they see are getting older.

Now, I look around and see young people who love clockwork and gears and steel and brass and polished wood and leather cases, who are interested in the obscure and the outdated and the ingenious. Yes, steampunks and makers. Why wouldn't they want to get in on, and add to, the not-so-secret lore of the mechanical music enthusiasts? What would they bring to the table?

A recent posting at bOINGbOING on a player piano performance drew enthusiastic comments, but my attempts to post something like this message there have simply vanished into space. I used to subscribe to the steampunk community, but apparently allowed that to lapse, and rejoining just to post a glorified want ad seems sort of cheap. But hey, if anybody who reads this felt like reposting it or directing their eyes to my page, I'd love to get the word out.

Pneumatic tubes! Mainsprings! Foot pedals! Escapements! Antique mahogany finish! Burnished metal! Jewel bearings! Ebony and ivory keys! AND when you do it right, MUSIC comes out!

Here's the home page. There are links to years of postings from members, photos, movies, and sound files (midi and mp3), and you can participate by getting a free account and logging in.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Car-Mangled Banner

Oh, say, did you see
On the truck that just passed?
Some poor star-spangled banner
Is waving its last.
With six stripes and nine stars
Threadbare on a stick,
Do they think it's respectful?
It seems kind of sick.
If they can't take good care of
The flag that they wave,
How can they care for the land
Of the free and the brave?

Toon River Anthology, part 10:


Edda and I were kids together
And she bugged and pestered me,
Put things in my desk and gave me wedgies
Until I gave in and loved her.
So we matured to ripe teenhood,
Two geeky musical prodigies.
(She was also a ballet prodigy
As well as several other kinds.)
Love of my life, we were fated for each other.
On that day in Belgium, we clinched it
Under the piano, and on the piano,
And possibly in it. It's hard to be certain,
And I couldn't bring myself to watch the video.
From there, the path of love ran hot and cold,
As did she. I mostly ran hot, but my feet
Sometimes ran cold. At the end
Of a series of misunderstandings,
I humped the question to her, and she said yes.
She was lovely in her gown. She said yes again
When the old nun asked, and the guests blew bubbles
And took pictures and threw birdseed
And we removed to our own love nest.
She was mine at last, and I was hers.
Tenderly, we removed each other's clothes
And looked into our eyes. She smiled
And came to me, and unhinged her jaw.
That's all I remember.