Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

appropriate tech
Arduino μcontrollers
Backwoods Home
Fractal antenna

fun social media stuff

(nobody does!)

Like my brownhouse:
   social engineers
Friday, August 14 1998

t around 4pm, Matt Rogers came over with his friend Vanessa, the sexually-confused girl who digs computers. We then set out in the Dodge Dart on a dumpster diving run at various computer retailers in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area. Most of the businesses were still open and we were in a sober, non-confrontational mindset, so we found ourselves easily discouraged by such people as employees on cigarette breaks. I'm sure they couldn't care less.

We hit lots of places, and though many of the dumpsters were full, there was little of any value. One place had lots of stripped tower cases, and we got a couple of those, along with an old 80 Megabyte 5.25 inch MFM hard drive. At Computer Medic, the place where a white man in a shirt and tie ran us off, we picked up some old power supplies and obsolete ISA cards. At Matt Roger's ISP ( we actually went into the front door (where they operate a computer store) to bother them about some CGI scripts he needs for a conferencing system. We stopped at Vanessa's place in Ypsilanti to consult a phone book for more options, then hit a another computer store without even finding their dumpster. We wound up at the Fleetwood on Liberty Street in Ann Arbor, where I ate a cheeseburger. Amazingly enough, Matt and I scored two coffee refills each, an indication (according to Matt) that we're rising in the Fleetwood customer hierarchy.

From left: Matt Rogers, Vanessa and I in the Dodge Dart on a dumpster diving mission.

Matt and Vanessa consult the phone book on the hood of my Dart in front of Vanessa's house in Ypsilanti.


ack at Kim's place, she told us the harrowing tale of being at Mother's house during a fire this afternoon. A massive series of laundry loads evidently overtaxed he dryer, whose ventilation system had been somewhat impacted by a recent wave of construction. A fire started in the wall and smoke filled the building. The ladder trucks, rescue squad and police all showed up to contain the disaster. Along with losses to clothes and structural damage, there was also substantial smoke damage. As you can imagine, Mother didn't take this very well.

Conversation turned to the subject of one of Kim's boring friends, who had emailed her a long dull account of what could have been a very interesting story: the retail sex scene in Cuba. The other day he'd told Kim about it over the phone and she'd kept trying to leaven his monotonous monologue with questions such as "But did you get your cock sucked?" which he would completely ignore. Kim read some of the email out loud to demonstrate the miserable lack of story-telling ability and the pumped-up sense of self-worth. Matt and especially Vanessa concurred completely, enthusiastically hooting out the problems they were having with it. But then Vanessa launched into her own oral version of the same thing: dense, dull spoken prose without the slightest gap left for response but with the expectation of plenty of "uh huhs" and "yeahs" from the audience. Finally Kim had to bluntly interrupt her just to make a necessary phone call.

Matt and Vanessa headed back to Ypsilanti to clean up and possibly meet again on the town later tonight.


here was a lot going on tonight, and social butterflies that we are, we'd be sure to going to most of it. The first place we'd be hitting would be the Fourth Street Gallery, the closest thing Ann Arbor has to Charlottesville's Downtown Artspace. But of course in Ann Arbor anything demonstrating freshness and vitality is perennially under threat of being bought up and made over into yet another trendy restaurant or Roth IRA investment conglomerate headquarters. (Ultimately, as I've said before, a city that doesn't preserve and support its art scene is as flawed as one that converts its parks into parking lots.)

First, though, Kim and I downed various vodka drinks and headed over to Spunky Lisa's place for beers and lentil soup. But when we got there we were in such an inexplicable hurry that we didn't actually eat anything and beerwise, we split a bottle or something weak like that. We set off on foot for the Fourth Street Gallery. By now our contingent consisted of Spunky Lisa, Josh, two of their friends, Kim and me.

The Fourth Street gallery tonight looked to be a convergence of the entire Ann Arbor alternative youth scene. Out in front were all the facial-tattooed, mohawked and hair-dyed gutterpunk types I always see on the University of Michigan Diag. Along with them was an equally-scruffy group of drum-toting hippies. They were there to be near the crowd within, but had no money and no intention of actually going inside.

We went into the gallery, to the back room where the show was happening. A bored alternachick was collecting $2 mandatory "donations" at the door, but no band was playing. Since tonight's show was "all ages" (no booze and no I.D. checks), the audience was comprised mostly of alternayouths: boys with very short hair, wallet chains and sneakers and girls with big pants or shiny pants and (for the most part) wholesome youthful straightedge shyness. Some of the kids, especially the older ones, looked decidedly emo, with thick-rimmed glasses and tight patterned shirts purchased from a thrift store or overpriced retro boutique.

Kim thought it would be best if we all went and got a drink somewhere before the show, since we'd all be getting uncomfortably sober shortly. Lisa led the way to a bar a block away and we six went in past the casually-dressed lounge/piano act in the front to a table in the smoky dimly-lit back. The bar used to be a gay dive known as "The Flame" but now it's a cigar, martini and piano swing place catering to an older, wealthier, mostly heterosexual clientele. We all ordered booze (to order beer would have been like ordering a cheeseburger at a kosher deli), but since Kim wasn't enjoying the deliberately fabricated ambience at all, she and I split after only one round.


ack at the Fourth Street Gallery, we found Matt Rogers all by himself. Vanessa had decided to stay home tonight, thereby eliminating in one stroke countless cringe-inducing incidents. Kim and I joined Matt in the front row and the show began.

The first band had a distinctly East Coast (DC-Dischord Records) hardcore sound, the kind I associate with straight edge emo kids, the very kind who gathered in front of the stage. But unlike true emo kids, these got into the music physically, jumping up and down and dancing around. Still, there was absolutely no moshing. I am always on the lookout for geographic trends in youth culture and its underlying music scene, and this was the first I'd seen of East Coast influences.

The next band took an innovative approach to band layout, putting the drummer out in front with his back to the audience, with the guitarists and keyboards in back facing the audience. This allowed for eye contact between all the band members, perhaps enabling the incredible musical tightness they demonstrated. They were fast and rhythmically complex, but so precise as to remind me of techno. There was no singing. The chords and rhythm seemed calculated to induce a highly emotional response in the listener. I was impressed.

The final part of the show was two bands playing an interlaced set, going back and forth in almost a competitive manner song by song. To the left was the band we'd come to see, the Triggers, a peppy old-school rock and roll act that reminded me (for whatever reason) of Elvis Costello, though they were faster and more addictively danceable. I think the Elvis Costello impression came with the lead singer, who had that emo-retro thing going on (with considerably more stage charisma and considerably less hardcore influence). His bass-playing sidekick reminded me of my old Oberlin musician chum, Erik Von Rippy, but with the wild crazy eyes of Geoff Robinson, my freshman roommate in Oberlin. They were good, but it wasn't my favourite form of music. I more preferred the overwrought emotions and modern emo/grunge-influenced musical structures of the other band. What a strange group they were: an enormously fat bass player who limped around stage and sung with an absolutely dreadful voice, a skinny little red headed boy1 on guitar, another shy skinny boy on another guitar (also singing in a a dreadful voice), and some nondescript dude playing drums not especially well. They looked to be a rag-tag ensemble of social rejects who had decided to fight back with rock and roll. I'm sure the suffering expressed in their unintelligible croaked lyrics was completely heart-felt and sincere. I never danced, though both Matt and Kim did briefly. I sat there on the chairs feeling kind of funny. It was the first time in years I'd strongly felt that it would be inappropriate to follow the urge to nonverbally flirt with random attractive women. I was holding Kim's hand, being the married man.


y the time Matt Rogers, Kim and I made it to "the Slutty Girls Party"2 down on South 5th Street I was pretty sober. But the keg there was Oberon (the Kalamazoo Microbrew) and joints were in abundant circulation. Since my only connection to the scene there was Kim (and later Spunky Lisa & Josh), I had to make sure Kim handed me a joint if I really wanted to smoke. When I told her of my sudden pot-smoking desire, she found me a pretty long remnant of a joint hidden in the detritus on the coffee table. That sucker got me pretty messed up.

I guess the so called "Slutty Girls" weren't as drunk as they were Tuesday Night, because they didn't seem to find my calling them "Slutty Girls" especially amusing. Sadly, that was the only way I knew them.

Kim was being rather the social butterfly type. She knew lots of people and flitted about the party chatting and even dancing with them. It was good that she saw the need to circulate and she had people with whom to interact. I've had girlfriends in the past who liked to be clingy at parties and I know clingy couples (Matthew Hart and Angela come to mind). Party clinginess is definitely not a good thing. The whole idea of a party is to meet people and hang out with old friends. Lovers have lots of time to cling, why do it at parties unless there's a message to convey? And I don't like to be a part of any such messages. Of course, Matt saw things differently. He interpreted Kim's party independence as some sort of loss of control on my part. He said something irritatingly misinformed, "I think you've met your match Gus; Kim's got her own friends and she's not a pushover like Wacky Jen." This indicated two highly ignorant notions on his part: one, that I wanted Kim to pay attention to me only and two, that somehow Wacky Jen has no independence or assertiveness or social connections without me. I've already addressed the first notion, so allow me to address the second. Matt supposedly reads these musings, and suddenly I wonder if perhaps I've not been writing very clearly these past six months. Has it not been stated repeatedly here that Wacky Jen knows absolutely everyone in the town of Charlottesville, that people routinely fall madly in love with her and even write songs about her? Have I not said that Wacky Jen is a genius in her ability (and desire) to engineer social structures? In Ann Arbor she obviously had far fewer connections, but even here there was abundant evidence of her talents and outgoing charm. Sometimes Matt Rogers is very astute, but it seems that just as often I want to punch him for his dumb-headed and unshakeable assumptions.

I ended up hanging out for a time with Spunky Lisa, Josh, Kim and some random white guy. I was rather stoned and bubbling over with enthusiastic discourse on god knows what. Every now and then I'd catch myself and shut up, just to give someone else a chance. But I was so energized I just wanted to jabber. Every now and then I'd realize (in my standard pot-induced-paranoid-kind-of-way) that I wasn't budgeting enough eye contact to Kim or perhaps too much to Lisa and I'd compensate in some way that immediately struck me as far too obvious.

Lisa hatched a plan to go to another party, one equipped with a hot tub. "We can have another nudist party!" she enthused. The problem was "What to do about Matt Rogers?" We obviously couldn't bring him along since it would generate too much tension (what with the Josh-Matt romantic rivalry). It was certainly something Matt would want to avoid as much as the rest of us, but it wasn't an easy situation to adequately explain in the allotted time frame. So Kim(a social engineer in the Wacky Jen style) decided to take Matt into the living room (where the music was) and introduce him to a girl she knew. When they got to talking and it seemed Matt was content to stay at the party, we bid him adieu and headed on to the "hot tub party."


ut when we got to the "hot tub party," no one was there save for one lonely guy sleeping on a couch. He woke up when we scratched on the door and even told Josh we could use the hot tub, but Kim didn't want to. She could sense we weren't really welcome at such a late hour. So we ended up over at Josh's parents house raiding the liquor cabinet. Josh unearthed some exquisite old orange liqueur which we sat around sipping whilst talking. I found myself having to rein-in alcohol-induced flights of arrogance.

Back at her place, Kim and I walked Sophie before retiring to bed, and I made a rather indecent display of myself on Wall Street.

1You don't see many red headed boys, did you ever notice? I think they rarely survive high school for some reason. I know lots of red headed girls though. [back]

2These were the girls we'd met at the Bird of Paradise on Tuesday Night. [back]

one year ago

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