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June 20 1998, Saturday


Gone insane from the pain
But they surely know
For whom the bell tolls.


hoah, old-school Metallica being played on a mainstream Shenandoah Valley rock and roll station, how the times have changed! I don't seem to recall Metallica being touted as one of the "best classics of today" back in 1985. It just demonstrates what a slippery slope we've been on since MTV first started mixing in "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with the Janet Jackson.

What's next, Fugazi perhaps? I guess not; a band has to bend over at some point if they want to make it to mainstream airplay.
Which brings up a point that occurred to me today. Do they still have mandatory pep rallies in high schools in this advanced industrial superpower of ours? You'd think that after that Nirvana video, where the alienation and bad taste of school-sanctioned fascistic ceremony were all conclusively and scathingly ridiculed, no one would have the audacity to organize a pep rally ever again. But "Smells Like Teen Spirit" came out five years after I graduated from high school, and I've been out of the high school scene. I have a feeling, though, that nothing's really changed from the days when I chose to sit with the bad boys in the office in preference to being deafened by the frighteningly organized chanting of my suddenly podlike classmates. That these tortures I remember so vividly probably still persist is all for the best, I guess. Without a little resistance and oppression we never really become complete human beings.
Not to say I'd like to live in a genuine fascist state; too much oppression has the desired effect of hurting the arts. I don't think artists and poets had time to work with their inspirations back in Hitler's Germany; they were too busy building hidden rooms in their cellars.
OBSERVATIONS about popular music currently being played on rock and roll radio:

  • Pearl Jam's "Wish List" - I really hate to knock Pearl Jam, they're always such an obvious target, but the reference to a Camaro hood in this song is, to me, an atrocity (for some inexplicable reason). Other than the virtures of its simplistic lyrical structure, the song is not so great to begin with, but that one line drags the whole thing down to very near dreadful.

  • I still hate the blues, no matter who plays 'em. My Dad, on the other hand, has recently developed a fancy for an evening blues show on Public Radio. He was hanging out with me in the Shaque this evening and various popular 90s rock and roll was playing. He asked if it was an obscure college radio station, and I said no, that it was just a regular commercial rock and roll station. He was surprised, saying the music (much of it with distinct punk rock, hip-hop, techno, industrial and speed-metal influences) was actually pretty good. Even he, virtually the anti-student of popular culture, a man who could be said to have lived under an anti-cultural rock since he got back from World War II, has noticed that rock and roll has undergone a shift here in the 90s.

  • Credit where credit is due: That new Aerosmith song with the Middle Eastern sound is actually pretty impressive (better than anything they've done since "Dream On"), though there's another Aerosmith song out there that is always enough to motivate me to change the station.

  • Dave Matthews is irritating, especially this latest album, and not just because he comes from Charlottesville and gets his coffee at Higher Grounds. "Don't drink the water" indeed, you've never lived here at Muellers' Mountain.


his morning my Dad woke me up bright and early so I could help him buy a new toilet tank valve-floater subsystem. We drove in his 1969 Chevy pickup to the Lowes Hardware at the base of Betsy Bell in Staunton. The whole way, of course, we passed by all kinds of horrendous projects designed to expand the infra-structure of the proud Mother City of the Shenandoah. The worst of these is the Southern Loop, designed to connect I-81 with US-250 in a curved trajectory south of Staunton. The ongoing construction is currently chewing an enormous brown gash through farms, forests and fields as it crosses VA-252 (Middlebrook Road) and VA-613. Everything the Virginia Department of Transportation does is unnecessarily over-engineered and hideous. In the course of an earlier widening of once-picturesque Middlebrook Road, somehow VDOT found a way to build roads on both sides of the miraculously still-treelined Lewis Creek, trapping what nature remains in what amounts to a median strip. Artists, poets, gay boys and people with taste never make it far in highway engineering school.

Of course, then there's Lowes Hardware itself. I've mentioned before how Lowes moves every three or four years in a game of tag with equally-mobile Walmart. Normally this entails digging some new notch in a mountain and leaving behind a vast empty building that eventually succumbs to a mysterious fire. It seems like it would be more worthwhile for them to operate out of a circus tent. My Dad brought up the point that the real crime lies in the fact that, under local ordinances, it's actually more economical for corporations to chew into virgin hillsides than it is for them to recycle the many existing abandoned buildings and flatland in already developed areas.

And then, as a distraction from their many misdeeds, these corporations, with embarrassing fanfare (covered on the front page of the abetting local newspaper), give donations to charity that, if I were to give proportionally, would amount to a nickle. Such is the way of business here in Redneckistan.


n Lowes, we waded in among the many other shoppers. It's unusual for me to be in the presence of so many older, unhealthy people. Shopping in Charlottesville, you usually find a good proportion of the people you meet youthful and attractive.

Back at the house, I spent a lot of time installing the new mechanism in the toilet. The task was more difficult than it would have been anywhere else. Among other problems was the fact that a good two inches of stream sediments had accumulated in the bottom of the tank, and much of this had to be scooped out before I could proceed with the installation. But when I was done, it worked well. I went off to take a nap; I'd stayed up late last night.


ne of the activities that took up much of my time this evening was installing WIN32S on a Packard Bell laptop loaned to me for the upcoming road trip. It's probably the machine I'll actually end up taking, since it's smaller and more powerful than the laptop I had been using. I needed to have WIN32S to run the digital camera software, but the installation was an utter nightmare, since the WIN32S installation wouldn't run correctly unless an earlier version of WIN32S was actually installed and running, so I had to download the earlier version off the web first.

By the way, someone wrote me last night asking if I add these little technological bits just to spice up my usual tales of social decadence and tussin-enhanced mayhem. He thought I was entirely making them up, imagining me to be, in actuality, technologically inept. (What made him suspicious was my using diodes as resistors, a bit of resourcefulness he mistook for foolishness.) If only it were so. I don't really think this technologic stuff makes very good reading, but I want people to have an idea of the machines and struggles therewith that underlie the operations here at Musings of the Gus.


  guess I'm giving my liver a little vacation. I hear they respond well to rest and are one of the most regenerative organs in the body. I haven't had any alcohol since Tuesday, perhaps the longest alcohol-free span of my post-high school life. Interestingly, I don't feel any strong motivation to drink in the deliberate absence of a social life. I think my being surrounded by people all the time is what drove me to drink so much only a few short weeks ago. This drinking came to be sort of a habit, a habit with inertia. It was kind of fun being drunk on vodkatea all day by myself at Nancy Firedrake's place, but it also seemed just a bit unnecessary.


one year ago
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