When calling proximate to nature
Throughout Yosemite National Park, as in many forests and parks, the garbage pails are locked tight. It takes opposable thumbs, and a reasonable amount of literacy, and an ability to follow instructions in order to get the darn things open, lest bears and other fierce if less mythical creatures become tempted regularly into human habitats. At the entrance to this local hotel, you might think a similar concern about undesired visits was on someone’s mind when the front entrance’s doorbell was installed. You don’t just press the large button to register your presence. You must first flick a separate switch to the “on” position, and then not only press but hold the red button to speak. You must then, as with walkie talkies, release the button in order to listen for a reply. Worth noting is that this hotel has a fairly international clientele, and yet the instructions appear solely in English. (Japanese visitors lacking English skills might feel particularly put off, assuming they recognize the Aiphone intercom device as a product of their own country, all the more so because someone decided the thing required that aftermarket switch hack.) Fortunately for those arriving befuddled in the middle of the night, knocking remains a universal language.
The opening of Tentacle
Spot a newly arrived novel at the library, Tentacle by Rita Indiana (originally La mucama de Omicunlé). Read the back cover. Kind words from The Observer and The Guardian, one comparing the author to Kathy Acker (“with a tighter narrative grip”). Maybe I’ll dig this. Read the first sentence. Off to a good start, to say the least.
Translated by Achy Obejas.
[ Also tagged science-fiction
Reading a location
Riddle me this: When is up down and down up? One answer that I hadn’t previously considered: When someone didn’t take the time to properly sort out the wiring of a pair of doorbells on a small multi-unit residence.
Judging by the relative wear on the metal and the paint overlay seen here, it’s likely that the lower button is the original and that the top button was added during a subdivision at some point. Swapping the natural correlative locations of the buttons certainly wasn’t anyone’s purposeful intention, so the handwritten corrections must have been an afterthought, like the subdivision itself.
It’s interesting that street addresses aren’t provided, just “down” and “up,” not A and B, or two consecutive numbers. Whoever visits this building is expected to know, in advance, who lives on the top floor, and who lives below. Visitors for whom Chinese is their primary language are provided a helpful translation in simplified characters. The simplification keeps the characters singular, but as a non-speaker I am left to wonder if they contain additional meaning. If nothing else, they fit the limited space better than less-simple Chinese would have, and clearly better than does the English, which here has been bent to fit the confines. What I also don’t know is if the Chinese lettering exhibits the limits of constraints that are evident in the English.
Then comes the question of which came first, the Chinese or the English. I like to think the Chinese was there first, and the new inhabitants deciphered the text, realized the benefit of the labels, and added an English translation thereof. Having moved to a predominantly Chinese neighborhood, the new tenants immediately had to learn some of the language. Alternately, perhaps the Chinese inhabitants came later, and were led to imagine that labeling apartments “down” and “up” was just what people here did, and they added their translation so as to follow the perceived local norms.
Of many, at Perfect Circuit in Burbank
In Los Angeles for the long weekend on a project, I finally had a chance to visit Perfect Circuit for the first time. Perfect Circuit is one of the best synthesizer (and related) retail outfits in America, with superior mail-order service, excellent videos (on YouTube, where they blessedly employ limited voiceovers, letting the music do the talking), and most importantly a wide-ranging and deep stock of equipment (plus books and other merchandise). Much of that equipment is on view and available for fiddling with inside the nondescript corner storefront operation (which doubles as a warehouse) in Burbank. There are large table tops loaded with gadgets, a small wall of effects pedals, and several massive (well, massive to me with my modest little rig) modular-synth setups. And that’s just the main room. There’s a smaller secondary room of equipment, and another room dedicated to vinyl releases. The place is also deceptively quiet, because everyone walks around with a pair of headphones, jacks in, and plays.
But before you get to turn any of those knobs, or slide any of those faders, or push any of those buttons, there is a more important button you need to push: The door to Perfect Circuit is locked during business hours. There’s a doorbell out front that you need to press. And for all the noise you may generate once you’ve entered, the single sweetest sequence of sounds you are likely to experience during your visit is the combination of that doorbell registering your presence, followed by the click of the door when it is unlocked.
(Side note: If you’re in the area, the carnitas at Taqueria El Tapatio on W Victory Blvd are smoky and delicious.)
[ Also tagged gadget, modular