September 28, 2005

The Punk Detectives

With very little to go on (the Amazon flap-copy description, this review w/excerpt, and a bit of hearsay) the message board kids try to project the probable quality and contents of King Dork.

A "serious recipe for shittiness?" Or "fucking perfect?" Hard to say at this point, really, but you might as well cast your vote now, right?

Actually, a couple of these comments would make excellent blurbs if they came from famous people:

This will probably be the only book I read this year -- Jimmy Dastardly.

I will read any book that claims to contain the secret to attracting semi-hot girls -- Jesse.

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See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Smell Me

So I've got a few shows coming up.

Wed., October 26, at The Kettle of Fish, 59 Christopher St., Greenwich Village, NYC. 7 pm.
As far as I know, I'll be reading something from King Dork, and playing songs afterward. Two other writers are reading as well. I'm on last.

Sat., October 29, at Rudy's, 372 Elm St., New Haven, CT (203) 865-1242. 9 pm.

This is a being billed as a Hallowe'en Party and there are several other acts. My bit is going to be an acoustic set.

Wed., November 9, at The Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. at Missouri, San Francisco, CA. (415) 621-4455. w/The Specs and Kevin Army. 8:30 pm.


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September 27, 2005

Burned Books Week

Michele has a good post on Banned Books Week and the perversity of trying to mess with Captain Underpants. Of course, I agree with not banning stuff. Totally.

But there are still weird ironies and contradictions in the American Library Association's framing of the issue. I don't have anything to add to what I wrote about it last year, here and here. But I am wondering about the ALA's current position on the imprisoned "independent librarians" in Cuba - I've googled my fingers to the bone, and I haven't been able to find anything very recent on the ALA and the independent librarians. According to Nat Hentoff and Ray Bradbury, they're still in cages and their books are still smoldering:

"As to the disposition of the photographic negatives, the audio cassette, medicines, books, magazines, pamphlets and the rest of the documents, they are to be destroyed by means of incineration because they lack usefulness..."
That "challenged" enough for you?

UPDATE: I'm sure it's just a coincidence, but when you go to the ALA's web page on Book Burning, and click on Book Burning in the 21st Century, you get the following message: "Service Unavailable." Evidently...

UPDATE II: wow, that was quick! Service is now available. No mention of Castro's Fahrenheit 451 parties, though.

UPDATE III: Reason's Julian Sanchez has more thoughts on the ALA's arguably problematic notion of what constitutes a "challenged" book. It's not that the word "challenged" doesn't accurately describe the books in question (it does) but rather that there are several kinds of "challenges," some more egregious than others, and that they are all lumped together under the "banned and challenged" rubric regardless of the reasons for the challenges.

I'd also add that there appears to be no distinction drawn between successful and unsuccessful challenges - they are all lumped together as "challenges." Yet surely an unsuccessful challenge (e.g. where the desire to suppress a book is ignored or rebuffed) is an indicator of a healthy state of affairs with regard to freedom of expression rather than the reverse. Or am I wrong?

As Sanchez points out, Michael Bellesiles's notoriously factually erroneous The Arming of America is number three on the list. Yeah, it was a political hot potato, and people often had ulterior motives for attacking it that were every bit as suspect as the ulterior motives he had for writing it. But criticizing a scholarly work for containing fabrications and slovenly scholarship is quite a different thing than trying to prevent kids from reading The Catcher in the Rye because it contains the word "fuck." Or so it seems to me.

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September 26, 2005

Holy Blood, Holy Grail

Are you ready for The Da Vinci Code Diet? First printing: 150,000. (Not to be confused with The Da Vinci Fitness Code.)

I tried the Chariots of the Gods diet a ways back, and it didn't do much for me; neither did the Moon Landing was a Hoax (Just Look at the Pictures, They're Obviously Fake) diet. The Stephen King Killed John Lennon diet actually put the pounds back on; and the The Great Beast of Revelation is Actually a Computer in Belgium that Has Given Everyone a Number in Order to Create a Cashless Society in which No One Who Refuses to Accept the Mark of the Beast Will be Able to Buy or Sell Anything diet gave me nothing but a horrible rash, to tell you the truth. And don't even get me started on the Boys from Brazil and the Planet of the Apes diets... But, as you can see, I'll try anything once.

But remember, it's not how much you weigh. It's how you look in the mirror and how your clothes fit.

(via Book Ninja.)

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September 23, 2005

He Has Become Bald

A page from a school workbook, found in Berkeley:


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September 21, 2005

Vexed

So this is tax time for lazy, unorganized people like me who file extensions till the last possible moment, and my life could, at the moment, be accurately described as "receipt hell."

I've got a couple of suggestions for a minor, but important, reform of this process. I realize that I'm blowing a great deal of my quasi-libertarian credibility by appealing to the state to mandate involuntary receipt reform from the top down. But as long as they force you to hang on to the damn things in the first place, the least they could do is make them easier to deal with and thereby make hell slightly less hellish.

First: the date should always be in the same place on the receipt. Top left, top right, bottom center - it doesn't matter where, as long as it's consistent. If you have a stack of a couple hundred gas receipts you're trying to put in date order, you never know where to look. Sometimes you pick one up and stare at it for what can seem like ages, still not finding it. "Date! Date!" you cry, angrily. "Come on, man: date!" Eventually you spot it, but not before you've lost a lot of time, a bit of your sanity, and most of what's left of your peace of mind. Would it be so hard to put it in the same place? Like, at the top?

The second suggestion: get rid of those disappearing receipts. For some reason that is entirely dark to me, the powers that be decided that it would be a good idea to print receipts on this flimsy, shiny paper that doesn't hold ink very well. And not only are they barely legible to begin with, but they are specially designed to fade with time, so that if you're doing your accounting a few months after the fact, you are left with a great many nearly blank pieces of paper. I'll tell you one thing - it's certainly a disincentive to eat at Denny's. And Hooters. The Union 76 people manage to print their receipts on regular old paper. Why can't everybody?

Ok. Back to Hell.

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September 18, 2005

Art, Mind, & Hair

ahm.jpg
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September 16, 2005

I Think That My Heart is Saying Yes Go For It

shatia.jpg

Found at the Berkeley BART station, east entrance, by Jupiter.

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September 15, 2005

Well, What Do You Know?

Well, it's not actually "out" till April 11, but I just realized they're already doing advance orders of King Dork on Amazon. It has a sales rank (somewhere in the gazillions, one being the highest) so I suppose that means at least one person must have ordered it. Anyway, here's the link, in case anyone else wants to join the club.

By the way, the latest mini-update: I just reviewed, corrected, and turned in what I believe is the final, final, totally final version of the King Dork text. There's nothing more I can do in that regard, which feels a bit weird.

It appears that there will be an audio book concurrent with the publication, and that it may include music of some kind in some form. (Apparently there are many books for which they don't do that, so it's very good news that they're going for it with this one.) More on that later.

I am working on another novel now; and when I say "working," I mean that in the broadest, most expansive and generous sense of the term. In fact, a lot of it involves staring off into space with a drink in my hand, running through the characters in my head and trying to work out how to render what has now become an extremely complicated scenario into a coherent narrative. I know the real way to do that is to start typing, and I have certainly done quite a bit of that. But I find staring off into space so much more familiar. That's how I did the last one, anyway.

Finally, I may be doing an... appearance of some kind in New York towards the end of October. I think it's technically a "reading," but in my case it'll probably mean playing songs, too. More on this as it develops.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:49 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

September 14, 2005

God Said to Abraham, Kill Me a Song

Michele very sweetly cites "I Don't Need You Now" as a song she wished she had written:

I always wanted to be clever. Clever, as far as songwriting goes, means you have the ability to be witty and punchy while remaning serious. Ironic poetry? Maybe. I could never pull of clever. I wanted to write songs that could make people smile at my turn of phrase, grin at my witty use of rhyme schemes, chuckle at my cleverness, yet, when the song is over, think well, that kind of hit me in the gut.
I'd hesitate to place my song in that category, not only as a matter of decorum and for the preservation of the possibility of future self-deprecation, but more importantly because I don't think that's a judgment you can make about your own songs. I mean, how can your own song "hit you in the gut"? If nothing else, your own songs by definition have lost the vital element of surprise.

But Michele's description of what happens when a certain type of song "works" is dead right, and quite gratifying in the case of that song because that's precisely what I was going for when I wrote it.

So what song do I wish I'd written? There a lots, of course, though I admit I don't often think of it like that. More often, what I'm envious of is the central idea or conceit of a song (I usually use the word gimmick, but some people see that as too negative), almost regardless of whether I like the actual song or if it's any good. If someone has a great idea and pulls it off, that's great; if it's a weird or interestingly crazy idea and he still pulls it off, so much the better; but even if it doesn't totally work, I appreciate it anyway. It doesn't have to be especially clever or complicated or perfectly composed. What I'm looking for is something that makes sense and resonates, something that makes me say "yeah, that's what that feels like" - yet at the same time isn't like every other song out there. A new, unexpected twist on something extremely familiar. When you think about it, it's not too surprising that it's kind of hard to do that.

And of course there are scads of songs, including a great, great many of my own, that I wish I could just unwrite, erase from the universe, or at least from my memory.

But I don't mean to dispute the premise of the assignment like I'm in some kind of gifted and talented program at the junior high school.

Out of hundreds of songs I wish I'd written, here's the one that popped into my head just now, "I Feel Beautiful" from Robyn Hitchock's Jewels for Sophia album. You really have to hear the melody and the way he sings it to get the whole picture, of course, but here are the lyrics:

I feel beautiful Because you love me

I water the tomatoes and I think of you
No one's ever watered me the way you do
I feel beautiful
Because you love me

I feel like a creature that is sleekly groomed
Not some poisoned soul that is alone and doomed
I feel beautiful
Because you love me

I see the clock in shadow and I see your face
You and me belong in the same time and place
People never celebrate the things they've got
Honey without you I wouldn't have a lot
I feel beautiful
Because you love me
Because you love me

Yes, we're alive at the same time
Like mayflies
Like fireflies

I've been hanging round Covent Garden for you for centuries
I've been waiting on Festival Pier for you, honey, for decades

I wake up in the morning and I face the East
I am in the paws of an enormous beast
I feel beautiful
Because you love me
Because you love me

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:36 PM | Comments (16) | TrackBack

September 07, 2005

My First Salinger-Van Halen Post

A Design head pays tribute to the power of the iconic maroon Catcher in the Rye cover.

Somewhere along the way (Was it the mid-sixties? My attempts to find a chronology have been unavailing), Catcher acquired the cover it bore when I checked it out for the first time. Iíve heard rumors, but have not yet found any proof, that Salinger so hated the earlier illustrations that he insisted that the covers of all his books be type-only.
The way I heard it was that Salinger himself proposed what he considered to be a self-evidently awful design scheme as a sort of test to see if Bantam would truly respect his wishes, as he felt no other publisher had done. They went for it, and he knew they were the ones for him. (It kind of reminds me of the infamous Van Halen brown M & M-less rider: the absence of brown M & Ms was allegedly to be taken as a sign that the promoter had actually read and followed the rest of the gazillion-page rider.) I can find no reference for this, though, so it may be no more than folklore.

(Thanks, Armst.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:39 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

Help I'm a Rock

Bookslut's Michael Schaub includes King Dork in his Guide to Rock Novels.

The list is pretty interesting. Who knew there were so many punk rock novels, for instance? But even though they're from Chicago and everything, somehow they missed this one.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:56 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack