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August 27th, 2006

thingmaker

I had a productive work day Saturday, followed by a meal at San Miguel in McKinney, a restaurant at which the man who seats one shake's one's hand and calls one "amigo", the pollo al carbon serves steaming hot within moments, and the Diet Coke flows freely.

I listened to the net version of the radio program which played one of my mixes last night, impressed, as ever, with how much better other artists can mix than I can. I don't see myself as a remixer in the most basic sense, anyway, but as a hobbyist who likes to manipulate sound samples in search of curious experiences.

A kind soul at the Freesound Project (a wonderful place where people donate sounds to the public) pointed out to me a twenty dollar "junior theremin" kit which is commercially available. I'm taken with the idea, but I have not run a soldering iron in decades. Perhaps I should offer to my friend gregw that I will buy two theremin kits if he will solder both together and send me back one. For some reason, that phrasing is completely cool, while "give you twenty dollars to solder this together" is completely crass. On the other hand, with a soldering iron, capacitors, and cheap electronic musical toys, one can engage in circuit bending, the creation of odd-sounding musical devices from common toys. I love the way that old-time capacitors do weird things, like store energy on time delays for no discernible reason. I wonder, though, if I really need one more device which involves working with heated mildly toxic metals in an environment in which routine absent-mindedness leads to fire.

On a similar note, I marvel when I recall what toys people played with in my 1960s childhood. A thing called the Thingmaker included a high pressure non-insulated pressure cooker, for, of all things, baking plastic molds. It was like a living, breathing toxic waste factory, complete with unsafe-at-any-speed radiating heat. No easy-bake-oven light bulbs at work here--this was an industrial plastics plant. Woodburning, of course, was already starting to lose its vogue, but the notion that I, as a twelve year old, had something capable of burning virtually anything with a touch is awe-inspiring. Of course, in the days of my pre-teen years, airplane model glue came in a form that was remarkably addictive, giving rise, ultimately, to social problems and Ramones songs.
I never sniffed glue, but anyone working with it understood intimately the principle. Finally, they "fixed" glue so that it smelled like non-addictive oranges.

Last night I did not go for my walk until ten p.m. There's something fun about circling the little neighborhood park pond in the deep-dark, with its lighted fountain throwing up billows of water.
When the Arkansas fellow in me was not reflecting on the likely quality of the catfishing, if only bait were at hand, I could not help but pause and marvel at the lighted water, and the illuminated steeple of the Mormon church next door. This is a thing, too, I would have done as a boy--this reverie. I do it still, boyishly.

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