May 31, 2005

Oh, the Humanities...

Roger Kimball reports on a call for papers on "the gendered construction of public toilets":

This collection will work from the premise that public toilets, far from being banal or simply functional, are highly charged spaces, shaped by notions of propriety, hygiene and the binary gender division... [T]hey provide a fertile ground for critical work interrogating how conventional assumptions about the body, sexuality, privacy, and technology can be formed in public space and inscribed through design.

Most alarmingly, perhaps, the editors will accept "personal narratives" on the subject.

UPDATE: on the other hand, this one sounds like a fun time.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:48 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Did you know...

...that in Denmark, Lutheran ministers are faith-optional state employees?

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:20 PM

Going Out on a Limb in Eugene

"Slaying President Bush is simply immoral..."

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:06 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

She Seen Me Naked

Here are some more search queries that have led people over here recently. (For all those who find my periodic google contests tedious, all I can say is you're getting off easy in re: me and tediousness.)

I have noticed a category of Seeker I didn't mention the last time around: there are people who seem to use the google search box as a way to confess their secrets. I guess this activity is in the same spirit as this. Google is like the friend you never had. You can tell it anything. It is not there to judge. On the other hand, I doubt its advice will ever be much of a help. But at least it knows how to listen:

i am a girl with sideburns

she seen me naked

he is driving me crazy i am gonna lose it

am falling for him again can't breath

my life is depressing

i love wolves

In addition to those:
Sephiroth ring tones

why do girls have mustaches?

how to pronounce nietszche neitzshe

Is Billie Joe addictive to smoking

What fascist economic policies is arnold schwarzenegger pursuing in california

danny bonaduce without a shirt

Today's winner:
things that could happen if you steal an unauthorized vehicle

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:46 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 29, 2005

As Life Goes on You Get More and More Out of It

As time goes on, you get older. It's kind of obvious, in a way, though people spend a lot of energy trying to evade this logic.

Yet even though time flows as a steady, relentless stream, you don't always notice this occurring as it happens. You have your mind on other things. Then there will be certain abrupt flashes of understanding that seem to come out of the blue, unexpected points in your life where you suddenly realize how much time has been used up since the last time your attention was drawn to the whole time-being-used-up phenomenon. These flashes can be strangely illuminating, and vaguely unpleasant, though for me they usually have more of a whimsical quality. Often, they are brought on by noticing how much younger everyone is in certain situations than than how they looked to you when you used to be one of them.

You've probably heard people talk about this, even if it hasn't happened to you. Someone will visit a university campus and think "wow, they all look like little kids! Is that how I looked when I was a freshman?" Or another will suddenly notice that all the Playboy playmates were born long after she graduated and that when she was their age, they were, like, -2.

Now for everyone who is wondering whether or not I'll get to the point, the answer is "yes," and here it is. I just had one of those moments yesterday.

It went like this: boy, the LaRouchies seem to get younger and younger every year.

It sure seems like it, anyway. A couple of Lyndon LaRouche proselytizers had set up a table by the ATM machine. They looked around twelve. Though I could be wrong about that: for all I know they were graduate students, or maybe even lecturers.

I asked one of them, a guy who looked, dressed, and behaved remarkably like Napoleon Dynamite, how he'd become a LaRouchie.

"Just from reading his stuff," said Napoleon. "I realized that he has been right about everything all along."

He handed me some "literature" (about Dick Cheney being the devil or something) and asked for a donation. I, of course, demurred.

"Do you want the Satan pamphlet back?" I asked.

In answer, Napoleon pointed out that I could quite easily take some money out of the ATM to put in his Lyndon LaRouche coffee can.

Now it seemed to me that if Lyndon L. really was always right about everything, he could have told Napoleon that the chances that I would take money out of the ATM and put it in that coffee can were quite a bit less than zero. I asked if anyone had, in fact, taken money out of the ATM and put it in the Lyndon LaRouche coffee can.

"Not yet," said Napoleon. "But we just got here."

I had my doubts about the coffee can's future. It was kind of hard to imagine a scenario where anyone gave these guys money. Everyone around here already knows Dick Cheney is Satan, after all; they take it as a given. Out here in Oakland, we expect a little more for our spare change.

In the end, Napoleon let me take the Watchtower-like LaRouche-a-zine free of charge. It seemed pretty well-stocked with craziness to me, but then I have a skepticism problem with stuff like that. Maybe one day I'll see the light.

Things sure have changed since I got kicked out of school.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:27 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

May 28, 2005

Oprah is a Hybrid Human

I go over to Rosie O'Donnell's blog every now and again. I'm not sure why. Maybe just to see if she's still doing it. Or maybe just to check: is she still doing the weird poetry slam format? I like to imagine this format being used for typical bloggish posts, like a de-linking ceremony, an acknowledgment of an instalanche, or, best of all, a fisking of something by David Horowitz or Paul Krugman.

It's true; believe me folks, you have no idea of the kind of things I like to imagine.

just my luck
my first instalanche and
was on
my blog does
not rule my life
and i have other things
to do
like making a
living and
putting food on the table

and eating it

thanks for the traffic
it brought down my

so to speak

welcome instapundit
i disagree with glenn on
almost everything
the right wing is my
Enemy and libertarians are
their beards
but he
heh indeed

That wasn't real. I just made it up. But it's a nice dream.

But back to the real Rosie: she spends a lot of her time complaining about how people always talk about how fat she is (which, I admit, would really be a pain.) But there are a lot of other thoughts buzzing around in Rosie's brain. Example:

oprah is a hybrid human
i am sure
decades from now
they will exhumne her remains
and find the dna
of the rest of us
in the future

If you can't quite get your mind around that, the one-line stanza that follows is a help, both on its own as a self-contained tautological piece of Mobius-strip rhetoric, like something from Alice; and as an indication that even Rosie is capable of realizing when her flights of fancy may have gone too far.

And by the way, the title of the piece is "peace out".

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 27, 2005

After Johnny Winter

And now it's time for another installment of Ellie's found diary. (Previous entries: part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4.)

The story so far: Ellie's relationship with Mario has been heading for rough waters, an approaching storm always just on the horizon. She is in a constant state of anxiety, not knowing when the storm will break, but certain that when it breaks, it will be a big one that will leave the leaky, creaky, sinking relationship broken on the rocks at last. Not even her dreams of stardom on the stage can distract her from the sense of impending doom, not for long anyway. All she has is rock and roll, and her love for Mario, which has remained strong, though it has certainly been tested. When Mario reveals his plan, however, it turns out to be the last thing she expected....

(1 - 12 - 75)

You know what happened? Remember 2 days ago, when I said Mario wanted to break up pretty soon? Well that same night, I went over to his house, & we had a big discussion about it. At first I put up a big argument. But then I thought about it, & I wanted break up w/ him right then. But he said no, it wasn't the right time.

What a fucker he is. He's savin it for after Johnny Winter. He wants to see Johnny w/me, then about 2 or 3 weeks after that, LATER. He wants it where he can always be friends, no hard feelings. & above all he don't wanna hurt me. But there's no way he can avoid it. I love him so much. But if he thinks I'm gonna spend the rest of my days waiting for his ass, he's crazy. He said he wants it where he can have another chance. I said no, but then I blew it and & said he'd always have a chance to get me back. But I've been thinkin, and I'm gonna tell him no, cuz he'll just do the same thing again. I'm so fucking confused. I don't know what to do.

I can't stand it I was gonna call it quits last night, but I decided to wait till Tuesday night. (No school Wed.) But Last night I was cold to him (at first) I think he's having 2nd thots, cuz he was so nice & loving to me last night. We went Roller Skating w/Patty & Darrell, Bob, Larry, Frank, Rodell, Dulay, George, etc.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:51 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 26, 2005

On the Shoulders of Giants

Yet another intriguing Craig's List listing, entitled The most powerful collaboration since Lennon and McCartney:

Here are THE two musicians to start looking out for, who have now teamed up to create powerful, epic, all original music. Think Alice In Chains here, think Beatles, etc. They are soon to have their own joint website and are gigging, and being noticed everywhere they go... A&R people should be getting their heads out of the clouds right about now.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:06 AM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

May 20, 2005

John Stuart Mill: Right Wing Nut

Here's another collection of interesting searches that have brought people to this blog.

The searches in this collection fall into four broad categories.

There are those who know what they want, and whose dreams of finding what they want on the internet seem pretty plausible:

a girl with a big ass

monkey with mustache

organic and non organic stuffs you would find in a bag

famous people named claire

There are those who seek illustration or perhaps confirmation of what they probably suspected all along:
John Stuart Mill right wing nut

hugo chavez is a jerk

Some are simple requests for useful lists:
aggravating things about old people

Things you should never do

disadvantages of being a nurse

Most ask questions. The likelihood of such questions being answered definitively by something found through google ranges widely. (My favorite is the last, as it points to an interesting backstory.)
how do you know if it's meant to be

what's the real world like

whats bigger a dwarf or midget

why does everybody want to kick my ass

what it's like in a prison

what kind of jeans does paul jr. where on american chopper

why don't people go to the bathroom in star war movies

hit in jaw what kind of doctor

Today's winner is from category 1. It is, it seems to me, an example of a seeker having been led to the object of his desire with complete accuracy and efficiency:
glib contentless articles

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:49 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Miss Lonelyhearts

I'd never heard this story before: a Church of England vicar gets his book published by a for-women-only specialty division of a publishing house by managing to leave the impression that he is a young, female Muslim of Indian origin. The hoax is discovered, and the book is "disappeared." And the world "loses" a minor literary masterpiece.

It's a great scenario, and I can imagine a pretty good novel could be constructed out of it (if one hasn't already been constructed out of it.)

If Theodore Dalrymple's version is to be believed, the vicar's downfall begins when he agrees to meet a literary agent, exposing his true identity for the first time. Up to that point, he had managed to avoid ever meeting or speaking with anyone involved in his publishing world - that can't have been easy, and would have involved quite a bit of fancy footwork. How did he avoid what must have been repeated requests for a photo, for instance? How did they manage the editing, copy-editing, etc?

My true identity is not nearly so far removed from my public one (though it is a bit removed) but I do know the apprehensive feeling of meeting "your people" for the first time. Maybe I'm projecting a bit here, but I like to think that everyone, at least to a degree, feels like a fraud risking exposure on a daily basis. If not, don't tell me: it makes me feel better to think they do. (My own publisher reportedly exclaimed after meeting me: "wow, he's normal." It was the nicest thing anyone had ever said about me, in a sense, yet somehow I couldn't avoid the feeling that I had failed.) Anyway, he must have really wanted to hook up with the agent, despite the risk. My favorite detail is his explanation for adopting the pseudonym in the first place: he did not want to receive rejection letters in his own name. There's something very touching about that, I think.

I have no idea whether Dalrymple's praise for Down the Road, Worlds Away is warranted, and it's unlikely that I'll ever find out as the book is apparently in limbo, having been erased, pulped, and excised from the literary record. His essay/review did make me want to read it, however. In the process he makes some interesting points about identity, politics, and identity politics. Worth a look.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:18 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

He Will Come Again in Glory to Judge the Living and the Dead, and His Kingdom Will Have No End

Jeremy over at Who Knew? compares the Bill Moyers of yesterday with the Bill Moyers of today. I doubt it "means" much but it's an angle on Moyers I hadn't been aware of.

I'd heard about Moyers's anti-Tomlinson campaign, but I hadn't looked at the essay itself till now. I can't recommend reading the whole thing, but I did enjoy this passage, where Moyers warns his opponents what they may be messing with:

They’ve been after me for years now and I suspect they will be stomping on my grave to make sure I don’t come back from the dead.

I should remind them, however, that one of our boys pulled it off some two thousand years ago -- after the Pharisees, Sadducees and Caesar’s surrogates thought they had shut him up for good.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:13 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 19, 2005

P.S. What am I going to do with myself?

Jenn found this crumpled up love note/cry for help on Valentines Day at the Earth Sciences building at UC Berkeley. (She has generously allowed me to curate the item in exchange for a beverage - thanks Jenn!)

It is written rather sloppily (drunkenly?) on four white post-it style squares of stationary: printed at the top of each page is the legend "IDIOCY"; and at the bottom of each sheet it says "never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups."


I was bewildered when I came home and found you missing/asleep.

I am disaapointed. We should have been enjoying a gay and fantastic time at the bars. In punishment you are entirely obligated to partake in all social activities I choose to partake in. That includes partaking in cooking Ramen


LUAN [? - that's the signature, but it's sloppy and nearly illegible.]

P.S. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO WITH MYSELF? [underlined twice]


Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:45 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

May 18, 2005

Love Fest

In this, this, and a great many other threads, the Democratic Underground crowd salutes George Galloway's courage, strength, and indefatigability.

UPDATE: Some highlights:

I am not kidding, when I heard Galloway today, I felt just like I did when I heard MLK's famous speech. We are witnessing history.

His testimony should be made into a training video for every Dem politician. That is how it's done.

Put up a SHRINE! I'm looking for a kilt and some bagpipes on Ebay! Double G is Da MAN!!!

Can we pursuade Galloway to move here and run for Prez????

I did email a thank you to Mr. Galloway for bringing the truth to the U.S. We sure needed someone to put a smile on our faces.

I did [thank him], and requested a couple of cells so we could clone him!

i love the bloke and hope he inspires some of our own fiery orators!

FURTHER UPDATE, from this thread:
i loved looking into his eyes as he spoke.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:43 PM | Comments (22) | TrackBack

Buzz Per Dollar Ratio

Martin Nisenholtz, senior vice president of digital operations at The New York Times Co., dismisses complaints about the proposed $49.95 fee for accessing NYT "premium" content and proves that he knows his market:

"People think nothing of ordering a $25 martini at the hotel bar -- but pay 50 bucks for archived material at the Times? Oh my God!"

I love the way the Times surrounds a story...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:49 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Barmies of the Night

Norman Mailer, posting on that Huffington thing, wonders whether Isikoff and Newsweek were set up by the US government as part of a Byzantine "counter-espionage" reverse public relations scheme. (I mean "Byzantine" in the figurative sense, though taking it literally would make the theory more interesting and probably just about equally plausible.)

"The toilet," writes Mailer, "is redolent with bad odor." He hasn't lost his touch.

Also on Huffing, this post from one Kathryn Ireland (who is not the famous model, as far as I can tell):

Can anyone tell me, are they going to bring back the draft? I have three sons -- all nearly teenagers -- and am terrified that they will. Why don't they make it that just Republican kids get called up?

UPDATE: sorry - in the excitement I forgot to quote this terrific Mailerism from the same post: "there still resides, however, under my aging novelist's pate a volunteer intelligence agent, sadly manque."

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The west towers rose towards the sky, striking toward heaven...

I don't know what's weirder:

(a) that we have a "national cathedral" in Washington;

or (b) that there's a Darth Vader head carved into the northwest corner of its nave.

(via the Corner.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:51 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Homer's Iliad, based on Homer's The Iliad

Christopher Hitchens on writing and being edited:

I used the word “Promethean” and the [magazine editors] said, “Take that out because people won't know what Promethean means.” I said, “Maybe they won't. I'll cut it out if you give me another synonym for it. You give the words that would stand in for it and I'll change it.” “There doesn't seem to be one,” they said. “No, there isn't, is there?” You either know what “Promethean” means or you don't. If you do, it saves you about 50 words. And if you don't, then you can look it up...

This is an excerpt from an apparently much longer interview from the print version of Stop Smiling. Lots of good stuff there, including a riff on clunky editorial interpolations intended to gloss ostensibly unfamiliar names or terms; and a touching anecdote about Solzhenitsyn being too shy to show up for an appointment with Nabokov.

Nabokov (1899-1977), the Russian-born novelist best-known for his controversial English-language novel Lolita, which has been made into two successful films including one starring British actor Jeremy Irons (of Brideshead Revisited and Lion King fame), really was a bastard.

(via MobyLives.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:24 PM | TrackBack

May 17, 2005

Deepest Secrets of the Darkest Hearts

Anonymous confessions from UC Berkeley students, most of which are quite staggeringly lame.

The one currently at the top:

I'm not really a Republican. I just don't care very much about politics, so I support Bush to piss people off. If I lived in somewhere like Utah I'd be the biggest flaming liberal ever.

To which there is this comment:
yeah same here

kind of

i act much more moderate since i've moved to berkeley

(via Kendra.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:55 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

Shirt Skirt Shoes Tights

This "found" item is a bit hard to describe. The author is attending a conference or meeting of some kind and has made some preparatory notes on a computer-printed page. One side of the page is a print-out of a "thank you for your payment" webpage from AmEx. (The amount is $185.88 - perhaps for the plane ticket: there is an "AA conf#" written on a post-it affixed to the page.) On this page is written:

cute skirts, shirts, shoes, jewelry
Lee's #/Max & Leslie
baby powder & wax
Kendra #

On the other side is printed a schedule of activities, arranged in a grid. The dates run down the left side, and there are four columns: "Team Leader"; "Summarizer-Requires Computer Access"; "Concept Generator"; and "Correspondent-requires computer access".

The idea is clearly to fill in the blank cells with the names of the people handling these roles for the given day, or perhaps with activities or tasks. But instead, our author has used it to plan her daily wardrobe for the event. So she has replaced the categories "Team Leader", "Summarizer", and so forth with these categories: Shirt; Skirt; Shoes; Tights.

Here are the resulting outfits:

Monday, Dec. 12:
brown; pinstripe; red; tights

Tuesday, Dec. 14:
green suede; brown; boots; undershirt & tights

Wednesday, Dec. 15:
denim; dress; boots; undershirt tights

Thursday, Dec. 16:
black sweat; black pants; red; undershirt

Fri. Dec. 17:
spts bra/Tshirt; workout pants; tennis; socks

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:32 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

What's So Great about the Glass Family, Anyway?

They're arguing about J. D. Salinger over here. (via Sheila.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:31 PM | TrackBack

May 16, 2005


You've got to watch your enunciation carefully when you do interviews, otherwise stuff like this can happen:

In a profile of movie director Don Roos last Sunday, David Carr of The New York Times wrote:

"The conventions of Hollywood filmmaking come in for playful treatment in Mr. Roos's films. 'Happy Endings' has a lot of on-screen chapter titles, reminiscent of a silent movie. 'I love porno films, which have a lot of signage in them,' he said." Carr went on to note Roos' ability to "elide porn films."

There was just one problem, as the paper notes in a correction appearing in yesterday's Sunday Arts & Leisure section: "Because of a transcription error" the article about Roos "rendered a word incorrectly in his comment about the use of onscreen titles. ... He said, 'I love foreign films, which have a lot of signage in them' -- not 'porno films.'

Or maybe it was just a case of wishful transcription.

I've never cared much for foreign films myself...

(via Bookslut.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:03 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

"If you agree with John Dewey (and Jurgen Habermas) that democracy depends on a series of institutional arrangements..."

Jesse Walker couldn't make it past the first sentence of this Eric Alterman column about how even if civility in public discourse is important, an exception should probably be made when it comes to Robert Novak.

"Such a lede," he writes, "serves as a wall, an impermeable barrier protecting the remainder of the article from our prying eyes..." Heh, as they say.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:55 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Bearded Belgian Troubadour

A person or persons unknown (but apparently from Belgium) have been arriving at this site trying to find information about the song "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word."

He, or they, weren't too clear on the title at first. "Sorry since to be the heart is world" was tried. So was "sorry seems to be the heart as well," along with several other variations.

My heart swelled with pride when I noticed he finally got it right. Or they - can it really be one guy? Wouldn't he have realized he wasn't going to find much or any actual information on this site by now? But is it conceivable, on the other hand, that scores of Belgians have independently of each other decided to research this song all of a sudden? Maybe it's just some google-ishness I don't understand. Regardless, I prefer to imagine it's a single, determined Belgian with little or no Elton John experience attempting to win back an estranged lover through the power of a touching pop ballad. I'm weird that way. "Oh, Hercule," he imagines her saying. Or maybe his name is Maarten. Her name is Julie, I think, for reasons I'll get to in a moment. "Maybe," says Julie, "we could give it another try..."

Anyhow, and adding credence to my theory, now he is searching for "sorry seems to be the hardest word guitar tabs." Or they are. However you slice it, there's going to be a hell of a French- or Flemish-accented performance at the end of this tunnel. At least I hope so.

I'm sure I'm way off here, but it fleshes out the story to imagine that these recent searches came from that guy as well:

what does the name julie mean

night coughing and choking with massive amounts of phlegm

keeping a guitar string from losing its tune

do girls like beards

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:14 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

A Young Adult novel, huh? Are You Going to Write a Real One Someday?

Tales from the teen fiction ghetto.

(via Bookninja.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Thriller Fodder

He was found soaking wet in the middle of the night, unable to speak and dressed in an expensive dinner suit.

The only real clue to his identity is an astonishing talent for the piano.

The 6ft musician — dubbed The Piano Man — is believed to have suffered a nervous breakdown which has deprived him of his memory and left him unable to communicate except through drawings and a remarkable ability for music.

Two police officers discovered him stumbling along a road near a beach in Sheerness, Kent, during a storm last month. Police said that he was soaked to the skin, possibly from the heavy rain, but his clothes were so drenched that they thought he may have been in the sea...

(via Norm.)

UPDATE: here's more.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:34 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 15, 2005

A Totally New Concept in Munition Propulsion

If you're a fan of the classic educational/promotional film aesthetic, this promo clip for a new experimental centrifuge-ball bearing gun has it all.

(via boingboing.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:40 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

On Not Being able to Stand the Heat and Getting Out of the Kitchen

David Greenberg "subbed" for Daniel Drezner recently, and wrote this interesting essay about his first blogging experience.

Sheila O'Malley has this response:

The essay illuminated for me why I have no interest in blogging about politics anymore. I like to share my opinion, but frankly, it's the COMMENTS I don't want to hear... I think someone actually made this comment on my site once: that it's not those who disagree with you that are annoying, it's those that agree!! Anyway, it's a very interesting topic for me, because I started out as a political blog, mainly, and got a lot of readers that way. But I read what happens on other political blogs - and I do not want to be the host to a party like THAT. I'm not saying that what works for me should work for everyone. I watch other bloggers flourish in that hostile invective environment, they love the dogfight. I don't.

I'm basically in the same boat. Somehow, blogging about politics brings out the worst in everyone. I used to do a lot more political blogging myself; the email and comments could be helpful and illuminating, but there was a lot of contentless invective. In one way, I enjoyed the discussion; but in another I didn't really care all that much, and the nastiness became more and more of a drag. It gets boring. I found myself shying away from posting about political matters, thinking "do I really want to do this?" More and more often, the answer was "no, it's not worth it." I suppose my continual posts on music, "found" items, and random stupid stuff finally drove away the politicos. I didn't do it on purpose, exactly, but that's how it happened. I think it works out better for everyone.

And I'm with Sheila on another thing, too. "Blog credibility" is an inherently hilarious phrase and concept.

UPDATE: just by the way, if you want an example of a typically fruitless "political" comments thread, this is a pretty good one. "The Left" vs. "The Right"! Awesome! (this via Jeremy of Who Knew, whose views on Che Guevara t-shirts are being "discussed.")

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:18 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Toni not Towi

Speaking of found items, remember that box of stuff related to hippie/musician/art dealer Will Spires, c. 1964? Well, Mr. Spires left a comment on that item, and we've exchanged a few emails. I have this idea that it might be fun to interview him about the contents of the box - if that ever happens I'll post it here. He's a good sport about the whole thing, which is nice.

In the meantime, he has answered a few questions in passing:

(a) Jane, Don, Gene, and Toni (not Towi - as I had thought) are all real people, and not his own alter egos. I'd guess Jane is the "J." who wrote the letter from Santa Fe. He is no longer in contact with any of them.

(b) The Pro Arte Gallery, which has such a prominent role in the '64-'65 box, only existed for a few months. It was on the same block as the antiques store, though I'm still a little unclear on the precise location. It was a more or less traditional art space, rather than a "freak scene" or counterculture operation.

(c) he was not drafted.

More to come, perhaps. Watch this space.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Rock N Roll Suicide

Here's another snip of Ellie's found diary, covering January 9th and 10th of 1975. (The "74" in the first entry is her error.)

When we last looked in on Ellie, on January 8th, she was consumed with anxiety over her relationship with Mario, though she referred to him as "Luigi" for some reason. A couple of days later, it appears that her fears were justified. Somehow, I don't see her marrying Mario after all.

(Previous entries are here: part 1; part 2; and part 3.)

(1 - 9 - 74)

Connection - Stones - Rock N Roll Suicide. I wish I could sell my soul for Rock N Roll.

(1 - 10 - 75)

Guess what. I just talked to Mario & he said he wants to break up pretty soon. See!? didn't I tell you he'd wanna split? I'm so fuckin scared. I'm super-down. I wanna cry, but nothing'll come out. How fucked. He thinks after about a yr. we'll be fighting alot, & it'll just be the same old thing. I don't wanna break up with him. My heart is pounding so hard. I thot about doing it to him 1st, but I know I just can't. I know now that I love him for sure. We've been together 7 mos. & 8 days.

Something else happened today, only this is good: I found this ad in the paper. for an audition in a musical review/play. & guess what? I'm auditioning!! I'm so fuckin nervous. In can't wait. This could be my BIG chance... but I'm not really counting on a part. I'm gonna sing "Dream a little Dream of Me"! & "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You". Oh God. I'm so nervous. Everything is comin down on me at once. You watch, I'll either fuck up, or I'll get a part. If I get a part I just go beserk (for sure.) What am I gonna do.

The entry that follows this is one of my favorites, perhaps my favorite piece of found writing I've ever encountered, so stay tuned...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 13, 2005

Blame the Internet

As Bill Quick says, the administrators at this Hercules high school seem a bit less concerned about the welfare of the student who was severely beaten in a four-on-one attack in the boys' bathroom than they are worried that a tape of the incident ended up "on the internet." The principal airily dismisses the incident itself, saying that there will always be fights, and zeroes in on the real cause for alarm: "the issue is the internet." It is in this spirit that the article describes the brutal beating, which left the kid with a cracked jaw, as "an ugly, but ordinary, one-sided fight."

There are, indeed, as the principal indicates, "no rules or laws to keep up with what goes on there [i.e., the internet]." Or as another adminstrator laments: on the internet "kids can do and say anything and there are no laws to stop them." Which is a shame: otherwise, these attackers and their videographer/accomplice would have gotten away with it the old fashioned way.

I have no doubts that "ordinary" is in fact accurate, but it's pretty weird that the school, as it seems, views that as a mitigating, rather than a damning, factor.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:56 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Hit Trafficking

Michael Totten pointed out that my counter only appeared on the main page, and not on individual posts or archive pages, which meant that my "hits" were probably being severely undercounted. I never really thought about it or cared about it that much: I screw up a lot of things in my life for that reason, let me tell you. Anyway, I went ahead and added the counter to the individual posts template, and it sure made a difference. Are there really thousands of people reading this retarded blog every day? Or maybe it's just the same handful of 20 people clicking hundreds of times, on the off chance that something new or vaguely interesting would appear? It's a bit of a stretch, but there it is. Who knows, and who knew? I guess I should post more, or better, or something.

Along with my newly-revealed (and highly improbable) popularity, a greater number of bizarre searches are popping up in the referral log. Here are some from yesterday:

what's the inside of a hearse look like

what's the front side of a girl called

what's pour qua mean

why dont girls like me

Does Billie Joe Armstrong believe in God? Is he Christian?

whats third base sex

nice bakers hats

how amber alert got its name

i want to be skinny

These are all beautiful bits of random, unintended poetry (the best kind.) But today the winner is:
whats an example of irony

There you go.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:56 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

If You're Lucky Enough... be on HarperCollins, there may be a lucrative sitcom cameo in your book's future:

Those who thought a TV show positing Pamela Anderson as a bookseller was a laughable idea have turned out to be right. It’s so laughable, in fact, that the Fox sitcom built around that conceit, Stacked, currently airing Wednesday nights at 9:30/8:30C, is shaping up to be an unexpected hit for the network. Though word of the show’s future won’t be final until after May 19, a Fox rep says its prospects “look good.”

For HarperCollins, which plugs its books on the sitcom each week—the publisher outfits the show’s bookstore set with a rotating library of its titles—a second season of Stacked could yield an even more fruitful partnership: HarperCollins authors may appear for bookstore signings, with the possibility of having their books worked into the show’s storylines.

(via MobyLives.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 08, 2005

When Will They Ever Learn?

Have you seen this movie, Kingdom of Heaven? I'll admit, it's no Troy, but it's still a hoot.

Kingdom of Heaven asks a question that has plagued historians for decades: what would happen if a late 20th-century, secular, agnostic, multiculturalist, progressive, sensitive Hollywood type were to be transported back in time to participate in one of history's grandest spectacles? Could one of the most embarrassing, culturally insensitive chapters of our history be rewritten or perhaps even avoided altogether, through the efforts of one determined, sensitive man who is as open-minded about stuff as we are?

It's a neat idea, and it is arguably needed now more than ever. So Ridley Scott, himself a knight like Walter Scott before him, sets the Wayback for the late 12th Century, and sends a former elf named Legolas back to medieval Jerusalem, just to see if he can single-handedly make the Crusades more palatable to modern sensibilities by forging a caring, mutually-fulfilling Christian-Saracen support network in the Crusader Kingdom.

Legolas has a degree of success, at first. Jerusalem folks, it is agreed, should stick together; Jerusalem folks should all be pals. Mohammedans dance with the infidels' daughters; Crusaders dance with the Saracens' gals. You're OK! No, man, you're OK! You and me are free to be you and me. These kids are all right.

And it might have worked, too, were it not for those meddling Knights Templar. Legolas ladles out prodigious quantities of chicken soup for the soul, and practically does himself an injury trying to buy the world a coke and keep it company, but there's just no way these Knights Templar are ever gonna be Peppers. No way. It only takes a few bad apples to spoil the whole idyllic, culturally tolerant People's Republic of Jerusalem, and these Templars are apples of surpassing badness. So in the end, the butterfly effect is negligible. The wise and gentle Saracens are finally provoked by the diabolical Templars into sacking Jerusalem, despite Legolas's spendidly anachronistic touchy-feely neurotic handwringing. Yet the handwringing does lend the story an otherwise hard-to-identify triumph-of-the-human-spirited-ness and transforms it into a Valuable Lesson for Us Today. As a caption reminds us at the end, the resulting conflict in the Middle East has lasted to this day. Maybe one elf with a time machine can't do it alone, after all. But, maybe, next time, with your help...

There's a long tradition of this sort of thing in movies, of course. Our hero will be the one guy with contemporary sensibilities, brooding and fretting amidst a swarm of depressingly ignorant, unevolved, unprogressive barbarians. He's not sure whether all this conflict is such a hot idea after all. "Maybe there's more to life than wealth and power and glory," the reluctant warrior will say. "After all, what has the minotaur ever done to me?" What he really wants, he realizes, is a more just society, good schools for our kids, funding for the arts, abortions that are safe, legal, and rare, some cage-free eggs, maybe, and the love of one special person who truly loves you for who you are deep down inside. Of course, in order to give love, he realizes, one must be open enough to receive love, which isn't always as easy as it sounds. Above all, he really only wants to be the best parent he can be, even though it's hard to know if you've made the right choices till it's too late. Or that's how it seems sometimes. You need to set boundaries, but you need to give them the freedom to make their own mistakes, even when it hurts. It's a real dilemma. He throws down his weapons, sighs, pats the minotaur on the nose, and trudges off. We know how he feels.

The comparisons to Troy, which recently tried to splash chicken soup for the soul all over the Iliad with similarly amusing results, are inevitable. Yet Kingdom of Heaven looks a lot cooler than Troy, and that's its saving grace. Whether that and the overall sententious mood make the faux-historical silliness more rather than less humorous (and more rather than less annoying) is a matter of temperament. It didn't bother me. I love this kind of thing. I giggled just a little less, I'll say that. But I did giggle. A lot. Like Alan Rickman in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves, another film in the same tradition, Marton Csokas as the Head Templar appears to be the only person involved in KoH who understood the kind of film they were making, and he hams it up in classic mustache-twirling pantomime style. His performance is ridiculously over the top, but it's also the best thing about the movie. Everyone else is trying out-do Jeremy Irons at grim, portentous sighing, lip-pursing, and brow-furrowing. That's kind of funny, too, because it really can't be done. But it lends the whole production a certain Planet of the Apes feel, somehow.

When the smoke has cleared, and Saladin's victorious warriors tramp through the rubble, the disembodied voice of Jerusalem's God-computer rings out. "Strange game, Professor Falken," it says. "The only winning move is not to play." God has learned a valuable lesson. But will we?

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:08 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack

May 06, 2005

I'm not the target audience, but I think I've found some of these...

From the folks hosting MIT's time traveller convention, some tips on how to publicize the event so that people from the future will be able to find out about it:

We need you to help PUBLICIZE the event so that future time travelers will know about the convention and attend. This web page is insufficient; in less than a year it will be taken down when I graduate, and futhermore, the World Wide Web is unlikely to remain in its present form permanently. We need volunteers to publish the details of the convention in enduring forms, so that the time travelers of future millennia will be aware of the convention...

Write the details down on a piece of acid-free paper, and slip them into obscure books in academic libraries! Carve them into a clay tablet! If you write for a newspaper, insert a few details about the convention! Tell your friends, so that word of the convention will be preserved in our oral history! A note: Time travel is a hard problem, and it may not be invented until long after MIT has faded into oblivion. Thus, we ask that you include the latitude/longitude information when you publicize the convention.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:49 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

May 04, 2005

I'd Have to Live the Rest of My Life in Constant Pain

Here's a further excerpt from Ellie's "found" diary. (Part 1, and the general description of the collection of documents, is posted here; and here is part 2.)

With this excerpt arises the first of several tantalizing Ellie-related questions: for some reason, and quite suddenly, the boy referred to as Mario throughout the extant diary is called "Luigi" here. It's abundantly clear that Ellie is talking about the same guy. So is Mario a pseudonym, and "Luigi" merely an equivalent alter-pseudonym? Is it a mistake? Or a deliberate subterfuge? Is the use of pseudonyms an attempt to inveigle prying eyes (like ours?) Is the diary somehow less (or perhaps more) than it appears to be?

I will say that I and everyone else who has seen it has had no doubts that it is genuine, i.e., that it is a portion of the diary of a Bay Area teenage girl, c. 1975. I mean, it's not a draft of somebody's novel or something like that. Yet there is nonetheless a cageyness about Ellie. You can't take her or her writing entirely at face value. As you'll learn as the story continues, Ellie has a rather stormy relationship with her mother, and it may be that she is changing the names to protect the innocent, as they say. The "Mario" figure seems quite genuine and fully-drawn: I mean, I believe he is a real guy, whatever his actual Christian name may have been. So who is he? An Italian-American clearly. Tony, perhaps? Louie? Joey? And is "Ellie" her real name? (I know there is a Mario, a Luigi and an Ellie in Super Mario Brothers, but I really don't think there's a non-coincidental connection.)

Anyway, herewith the excerpt, which concludes the entry for 1-8-75:

I like love writing all this bullshit, cuz I can be totally honest, & not worry about anyone else's opinion. I sound stupid. So fuckin what.

I always said I'd never have kids. But if I married Luigi, I would cuz I'd want to have something after he's gone, & that beautiful child would be part of him/part of me. Shit, there I go again. I'm gonna stop. before I go nuts. But I gotta say this first - I'm scared to marry anyone, cuz I know my husband will probly die before me, & I couldn't stand to be without him. I'd have to live the rest of my life in constant pain, cuz I don't have the guts to kill myself. I wish I did. Or what if it doesn't work out, & he leaves me like my parents. That's fucked. I'm bawling again. I'm so confused. I need a shrink - seriously.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:05 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Right-thinking is the Key

Here's a pretty interesting interview with crusading atheist Richard Dawkins. Like many radical materialists, he affects, for rhetorical purposes, a failure to grasp that when he discusses religious experience and matters of faith he is not talking about the same thing as those who have actually had such experiences. Or maybe the failure is genuine. Despite continually harping upon the virtues of temperate "reason and discussion" among the right-thinking (as opposed to the behavior of those whose child-like brains are infected by the "God virus") he seems a bit hysterical at times. Underneath it though, I found his attempt to locate the silver lining in a spiritually impoverished world to be kind of desperate and just a bit sad.

He also has a crack at analyzing a seemingly complex geo-strategic -political and cultural situation:

My American friends tell me that you [Americans] are slipping towards a theocratic Dark Age. Which is very disagreeable for the very large number of educated, intelligent and right-thinking people in America. Unfortunately, at present, it's slightly outnumbered by the ignorant, uneducated people who voted Bush in...

Bush and bin Laden are really on the same side: the side of faith and violence against the side of reason and discussion. Both have implacable faith that they are right and the other is evil. Each believes that when he dies he is going to heaven. Each believes that if he could kill the other, his path to paradise in the next world would be even swifter. The delusional "next world" is welcome to both of them.

It's all so simple when you're right-thinking...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:26 PM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

The Multiple-Choice Makes the Writing Test Valid

I'm sure it will be commented upon ad nauseam by folks with more energy and insight than I happen to have right now, but I did get a kick out of this article on the new "writing sample" portion of the SAT.

Les Perelman, director of undergraduate writing at MIT, analyzed the graded sample tests and found a correlation between the length of the essays and their scores: "'the longer the essay, the higher the score,' Dr. Perelman said... 'if you graded them based on length without ever reading them, you'd be right over 90% of the time.'"

In fact, Perelman can now grade essays just by glancing at them from a distance:

SAT graders are told to read an essay just once and spend two to three minutes per essay, and Dr. Perelman is now adept at rapid-fire SAT grading. This reporter held up a sample essay far enough away so it could not be read, and he was still able to guess the correct grade by its bulk and shape. "That's a 4," he said. "It looks like a 4."

There is no penalty for incorrect facts. I can see the logic of focusing on the writing itself rather than on factual accuracy. In fact, flagrant, purposeful disregard for facts can be kind of fun, as the official guide for scorers, explaining the essay section's fact-free zone, demonstrates:
Writers may make errors in facts or information that do not affect the quality of their essays. For example, a writer may state... "Anna Karenina," a play by the French author Joseph Conrad, was a very upbeat literary work.' "

Now that's an essay I wouldn't mind spending two or three minutes reading. Especially if I were being paid to do it.

I don't find any of this very outrageous, frankly. I'm always impressed when anyone, child or adult, student or teacher, manages to write a complete grammatical sentence. It happens every now and again. Sometimes it seems as though it's entirely by accident, like winning the lottery. Filling up a whole sheet of paper with such sentences, in any order, is actually a pretty impressive feat. And it's not as if anyone genuinely believes the "writing sample" test evaluates the ability to write well. Sixes for everyone!

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:44 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

OH NO brett you bonehead...

Another little slice of life found in Oakland.

This is written in black ink on a page from a legal pad. Even if SBC wasn't mentioned in the text, I'd know these are the notes of an SBC customer service representative because of the "excellence" theme. I have always loved how the SBC/Pac Bell people always say "good morning, how may I provide excellence today?" (In my inner circle, all customer service reps are routinely referred to as "excellence providers," or "eps" for short. Yeah, I know my inner circle may be just a little retarded, but it's the only inner circle I've got at the moment...)

There are a lot of doodles and phone numbers and confirmation numbers written all over the page. The text:

This guy is insane

[phone number: 510-xxx-1388] (you don't mind 13?)

You sound tired... is it b/c you're moving, or have you been waiting to talk to me a long time?

How can I provide you w/Excellent Service today?


I was a starving student once myself...of course I'm a grandfather now... so that was a few days ago... kinda scary when you think about it...

60 local calls, 8 cents per call after that

DSL - not until 12th, but there is dial up

I don't get a lot of customers calling me back begging to upgrade their landlord's lines... so I won't hold my breath if you don't mind...

... so I won't twist your arm too bad, ok??

8-6 M-F <-- go when DSL is connected

... OH NO brett you bonehead...

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:42 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack