December 30, 2009

13 songs that have made me cry at least once

"If I Could" - For Stars

"Jesus was a Cross-maker" - Judee Sill

"This Time Tomorrow" - Kinks

"Plea from a Cat Named Virtute" - Weakerthans

"Shake Some Action" - Flamin' Groovies

"Disney Girls (1957)" - Beach Boys

"This Will Be Our Year" - Zombies

"Whisky in the Jar" - Thin Lizzy

"Some Broken Hearts Never Mend" - Don Williams

"You Say You Don't Love Me" - Buzzcocks

"Celebrated Summer" - Husker Du

"Surgery" - Robyn Hitchcock

"Aguas de Marco" - Tom Jobim/Elis Regina

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:30 PM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

December 27, 2009

Goody Goody Gumdrops

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:25 AM | TrackBack

December 17, 2009

Goodnight Keith Moon


Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:43 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

"The nearest that I have ever come to practising Satanism was at the age of sixteen..."

Thus begins a review of what looks to be quite an interesting book on the life and times of pulp occult novelist Dennis Wheatley.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:34 AM | TrackBack

December 16, 2009

A battle to redefine humanity

George Monbiot expects quite a bit from Copenhagen.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:25 AM | TrackBack

Wombling Merry Christmas

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 15, 2009

We Try Not to Do That


I had a package returned by the US Postal service marked "no such address." The recipient said there is such an address and he really does live there, but that the ZIP code he originally gave was off by a couple of digits (***73 instead of ***64) and that his mail lady told him they should have been able to deliver it despite the ZIP problem and to tell the sender to take it to a Post Office for redelivery.

I took it to my local PO, and the guy at the window seemed surprised that they didn't deliver it, since both ZIPs are in the same town. He wrote the new ZIP on the package and took it away for redelivery.

When the package came back again marked "no such address" I took it to the PO again (different branch.) This time the window person told me that the reason it was returned was not, despite what the rubber stamp said, because there is "no such address" -- in fact, she checked the address/ZIP and confirmed that it is correct -- but rather because I should have been charged again for the redelivery service. Now, she said, if I want them to deliver the package I'll have to pay twice more, once for the "service" of failing to deliver it the second time, and again for the service of (presumably) actually delivering it on the third try.

She said the USPS policy is that they are not obligated to deliver mail not addressed to the proper ZIP code, even if it's close. When I pointed out that I get mail with the wrong ZIP all the time, including mail with no ZIP code at all, she says that mail delivered in those circumstances is delivered in error: "we try not to do that," she said.

Could that possibly be the real USPS policy? Is it new? No wonder they're in trouble. Somehow I can't imagine having that conversation with UPS.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:30 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Autograph Techniques

When I was a kid I used to write to famous people requesting autographs. In the end, I had hundreds. Some don't seem to have survived (like the one where General Westmoreland returned my own handwritten note, having scrawled "lack of public support" next to my question: why did we lose the Viet Nam war?) One that did survive was a card from Georges Simenon who ignored my question about his claim to have slept with twenty thousand women, but did write: "Thank you for your kindness: for my part, I have no opinion on Maigret. Regards."

Here's what I got from Dr. Seuss:


I realize now that the Dr. Seuss approach is one I've taken when signing my own autographs for people.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:08 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 14, 2009

How legit am I?

There's a lengthy feature/interview with me in the new issue of Ghettoblaster Magazine.

Also, I recently did an assembly at Holden High School in Orinda, and the notices are in. Well, one notice anyway, reported by a teacher: "that Frank dude was legit as fuck."

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:15 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Joe and Rebekah


Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:01 PM | TrackBack

Mind: Belatedly Blown

About a year late (which is usually just about my speed) I finally got around to seeing that Baader-Meinhof Complex film (it's currently on netflix watch-instantly, which is how it came about that I finally got around to watching it.) The sad, horrifying, fascinating tale of the New Left in general, and the Red Army F[r]action in particular, has long been one of my weird obsessive interests. I'm no expert, but I've read as much about it as I have on any other subject; and it was quite a strange experience to see scenes and figures with which I've been so familiar depicted on the screen so vividly and with such skill.

It really is an amazing movie, a "docu-drama" in the form of an action thriller, beginning with the Benno Ohnesorg shooting on June 2nd, 1967, and ending, rather abruptly, with the shooting of Hanns-Martin Schleyer in October of 1977.

I'd heard complaints that the film unduly glamorized and exculpated the perpetrators but it certainly didn't strike me that way, much. Andreas Baader is depicted, accurately, as a slow-witted, thrill-seeking thug, for whom radical politics was little more than a self-aggrandizing pretext for criminal activity. Gudrun Ensslin comes off as a hip, vapid sociopath, who cows all in her path with a relentless, hectoring stream of canned revolutionary Marxist clichés, pausing only occasionally to address Baader fondly with a kittenish "baby…" Horst Mahler is every bit as sleazy, comic-preposterous, and morally bankrupt as the real guy must have been (and still, clearly, is.)

There is, it is true, a certain pathos about the film's portrayal of Ulrike Meinhof: she is the bourgeois intellectual who assuages her own guilt and feelings of inadequacy and inauthenticity by allowing herself to be seduced by the glamor of radical chic, eventually joining the gang and devoting her once-lauded rhetorical talents to a warped, semi-coherent post hoc quasi-theoretical justification of a wicked and ultimately pointless project driven chiefly by the egotism and narcissism of a couple of deranged half-wits. I have no idea if this psychological portrait is accurate, but it is certainly effective cinematically. Empathy, whether deserved or not, gives way gradually under the weight of successive horrors, as the grand tragedy plays out, leaving her, in the end, utterly corrupted, a burnt-out cinder, empty and inscrutable even in her anguish and abandonment.

This sorry trajectory lends a grim irony to the depictions of public support, the courtroom chants, the fist "power" salutes, etc. I find it difficult to imagine how anyone viewing this film could come away with a positive impression of the participants or their project, though that failure could well be mine. (There's an account here of one instance where the film appears to have inspired a perverse diplay of solidarity rather than revulsion, if it is to be believed.)

A few puzzling omissions, given that such care was taken in re-constructing iconic scenes (the hooded Black September terrorist peeking out over the balcony in Munich, the bleached-blond, wounded Baader being dragged by the leather jacket sleeves after a shoot-out with an armored vehicle, etc.):

-- Jean-Paul Sartre's visit to Baader in Stammheim Prison during the hunger strike of 1974;

-- the Revolutionary Cells' hijacking of the Air France airliner and subsequent raid on Entebbe;

-- related to that, if there was any allusion to the undercurrent of anti-Semitism running through the RAF and the German New Left, I managed to miss it -- especially odd because the events of Munich 1972 are depicted, but not Ulrike Meinhof's communiqué endorsing them;

-- the RAF's support and funding by the East German Stasi isn't referenced at all.

Of course, you can't put everything in a two-hour movie. I do wonder how and why such decisions were made, though.

The movie is based on the similarly-named, and once rather hard to come by, book by Stefan Aust (an associate of Meinhof's from the pre-terrorist konkret days, played by Volker Bruch in the film) fortunately now re-printed in an English edition. Both the book and the movie are worth checking out if you're at all interested in that type of thing.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:28 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 12, 2009

A drawer full of gun manuals

Remembering the young Thomas Pynchon.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:19 PM | TrackBack

December 11, 2009



Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:46 PM | TrackBack

Something Weedgie This Way Comes

Of the several biographies of Aleister Crowley out there, Richard Kaczynski's Perdurabo is the best by a mile, and perhaps the best book on Crowley, period. Its short initial print run sold out long ago, and since then it has been pretty tough to obtain, with paperback copies regularly trading on ebay for hundreds of dollars.

So it's great news that a revised and expanded new edition is finally being published. I'm not sure exactly what the new material is, but I assume it will include at least some of the stuff published as "Perdurabo Outtakes" by the Blue Equinox Journal in 2005 and 2006, detailing, among other things, Crowley's exploits in Detroit, which comprise a fascinating and seldom-told tale.

If you read only one book on the subject, this should be it.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:30 PM | TrackBack

December 10, 2009

How do you carve up a cow?

First you cut the meat off the bones. You start by severing the muscles from the joints with a sharp knife. The fibrous meat can then easily be scraped off, from top to bottom. After you've removed the flesh there's still a lot of goodness left. Deep in the long bones and vertebrae lies the marrow. To get at this delicacy you smash the bones and scrape out the marrow or simply boil it out in water. What's left is a pile of naked bones with traces of scratching and scraping as well as the small debris of bone that contained marrow.

Archaeologists found just such a pile -- a huge one -- when they were excavating a Stone Age settlement in the small town of Herxheim in south-western Germany. The only difference is that the bones aren't from cattle…

Der Spiegel reports on apparent evidence of human livestock in Stone Age Germany.

(via Hit and Run.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:59 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Andromeda lives

Marie Mundaca reviews Andromeda Klein for the Hipster Bookclub.

And the AK audiobook got a star from School Library Journal.

Also, Rutila shares a personal moment; and leftik likes Rosalie van Genuchten's name.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:54 PM | TrackBack

News to me

According to this article describing a Muncie, Indiana mother's thus far unsuccessful efforts to get Nancy Garden's Endgame removed from her son's school library, King Dork was complained about and removed from two middle school libraries in the area earlier this year.

Endgame sounds rather edgy and disturbing (and the kid's dad probably has a point that in our current zero-tolerance environment no student could get away with turning in an assignment dealing with the same subject matter, which is a paradox of a sort.) It's kind of hard to imagine how King Dork could be "worse" in that regard, but maybe it is: middle school is tricky, and King Dork is recommended for age 14 and up after all. Anyway, Endgame is on my to be read list now.

I'm often asked about whether my books have been "banned" or "challenged" and so forth and I think the assumption is that, as the author, you would know somehow. But google alerts only inform you if it gets in the paper somewhere, and that can be quite random. It could be happening all over the place and you'd never know.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:51 PM | Comments (4)

Mordor has fallen

Kirkus, a venerable book trade publication known chiefly for its mean, anonymous reviews, is being shut down, leaving a significant Prince of Darkness-shaped hole in the pre-publication book review universe. Will a new Voldemort arise from its ashes? If you hang around with writers much, you've probably encountered the occasional "that time I got kirkused" anecdote. I hope whoever the new Lord Sauron is has a name that is as readily verb-ified.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

December 08, 2009

Little Big Tom

Madeleine drew this for a school assignment:


Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:41 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

We need to dedicate some of our precious time to a futile time-consuming ritual.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:38 AM | TrackBack

December 02, 2009



Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:23 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Audible Author

Me, that is, on this podcast interview for the Sacramento/San Francisco Book Review. (The review is here.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 10:05 PM | TrackBack

Isn't it, though, yeah?

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:00 AM | TrackBack