Happy new year! To my two RSS subscribers, mom and dad, and NSA monitors: sorry for the lack of creative output here of late. Hopefully more to come on this week’s trip, plus my thoughts on a great panel discussion I saw last month at MIT on “The Snowden Affair” and the deep state.
Entering the Cathedral of Rock in middle age
Today’s theme is Music Appreciation in Adult Life. I have been overall pretty lucky during this phase, which has had a few recent notable concert outings, but one of the few things I miss about my younger self is the freedom to get totally into music. My most intense moment ever of Listening To Music was in September 1990, when I rushed in, all After-School Special-like, with the new Jane’s Addiction CD “Ritual de lo Habitual” to my buddy Bart’s room to reveal to him and Pat the epic song “Three Days.” This wasn’t exactly a Maxell speakers-blowing-my-long-hair situation, but listening to the 10-minute song was as close to pure musical epiphany as I’ve experienced. Before DFW described it in “Infinite Jest,” this was the entertainment that left me closest to a slack-jawed state of pure aesthetic pleasure.
If you haven’t ever heard the song, I hesitate to recommend you listen to it except in the right circumstances. [If you’re ready…here it is] Years passed when I didn’t even have the Ritual CD in my collection. Some vague stirring last year led me to buy it off iTunes, and I realized that the album is now being distributed with a live version of “Three Days.” I have fantastic memories of seeing Jane’s live at the Fitchburg, Mass. ice rink in Spring 1991 and going all maenad-moshpit-nutso during “Three Days,” but the live recordings just don’t capture the Rock Cathedral majesty of the studio version.
But even if a portal to the temple had been open these past few years, I wouldn’t have had too many opportunities to utter the password and enter. I can listen to short post-punk blasts, like Savages’ stuff, during my daily commute and feel momentarily transported (har har) from the no-eye-contact row of fellow T riders around me. But getting truly into Three Days on the D line probably violates public transit community norms around keeping your cool and keeping your biz out of people’s faces. And at home, we are in the oft-bemoaned fallen state of listening to music only through an iPod dock. Nice to have the music at hand, but the sound isn’t going to swallow you up. And my daughters are super sensitive even to my head nodding to music, let alone the thrashing-of-phantom-hair craziness that Three Days risks inducing. Very little tolerance for Dad acting out.
My man Pat stepped in with karmic timing to remedy this situation by sending me his original, 21 year old CD with the studio version of Three Days. And just yesterday I had the rare opportunity to really listen to it while flying to LAX to join my program’s faculty and students on a factory visit. And it was totally amazing. The succession of time changes, unabashedly Heavy guitar buildups and tribalesque drumming all link to Perry’s theme of transcendence—“ALL NOW WITH WINGS”—in a way that completely works for me. Like I said, don’t try this at home unless your partner/kids/parents are either not around or willing to suspend their belief that you are a Cool Cat for 10 minutes and 18 seconds.
Three days of operations excellence
Having nothing to do with the “Three Days” iconography of amor a trois featuring Jesus and two Marys, I’m about to start spending three days with my MIT program’s students during our annual tour of our partner companies’ factories / sites across the US. The students showed their fortitude by getting to their first stop, GM in Detroit, not by flying (b/c the big storm we had cancelled all flights) but by renting minivans and driving through the night! You may recall Detroit was at -11 degrees F with crazy wind and snow, making them surely the only group of 50 people trying like crazy to get TO Detroit that week. Anyway, they then saw Nike headquarters and waffle-sole manufacturing in Oregon, and the Boeing 737 and widebody plants in the Seattle area. The GM/Boeing leg of the trip was what I joined two years ago, and it was a fantastic introduction to manufacturing factories for someone whose heart is normally in writing ephemera like the preceding paragraphs.
This year I am joining the group for three stops:
Today we got to see the Amazon fulfillment center in San Bernardino, CA. Our program’s toolkit around lean manufacturing and operations has had a major impact on Amazon’s growth, in that one of our grads, Jeff Wilke, is the #2 or #3 guy at Amazon and brought a background in chemical manufacturing to the company about 15 years ago. He saw their warehouses as factories, drove the application of lean principles etc. (sorry, I know I have no business saying “lean manufacturing” but bear with me) and allowed them to become the drone-delivery behemoth we know today. Of particular interest at the San Bernardino site is how it represents Amazon’s growing role in local economic development, with Gov. Jerry Brown praising the jobs they are bringing to a really poor area at the same time that Amazon agreed to start collecting local sales tax for CA purchases. Plus we got to see the Amazon Fresh distribution center, one of three sites from which Amazon does grocery delivery (the others are SF and Seattle).
Then, following a bus ride from San Bernardino to Tucson (just got here…it took 7+ hours), we’ll tour the Raytheon missile factory, home of the Tomahawk, Patriot, Sidewinder, and other names that periodically emerge through the news of the last decades’ wars to remind us of the risks/benefits of stand-off warfare. Our non-US citizens in the group unfortunately are not allowed into the site and will have to watch “Top Gun” at a remote location instead. I lived in Tucson from age 3 months to 5 years, and hope to at least wave to the students at my alma mater, Camp Adventure Pre-school.
Weather permitting, we will then get to fly to the next stop, Austin, Texas, where we will see Dell Computer. Michael Dell has taken the time each of the last few years to meet with us as we start our day in Round Rock, and this year should be an especially interesting conversation since he managed to take the company private.