September 30, 2010



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Mind Games

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Ellery Queen


This was my favorite crime show as a kid, and I've been waiting to see it again since almost immediately after it was cancelled in 1976. My memories of it are grand, and almost certainly impossible to live up to, but we'll see what happens.

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Keeping them Honest

This is truly one of the strangest things I've ever seen on television:

I wouldn't be at all surprised if were to turn out to be an Andy Kaufman-style performance-art hoax in the end. But maybe not, because people are weird and they do nutty things all the time that would be great performance art if only they didn't mean them sincerely.

So, in my capacity as a connoisseur of weirdness I am glad I got to see it. The faux-solemnity and self-importance of the "Keeping them Honest" catchphrase makes it even funnier. The guy is off his nut, and his sophomoric behavior targeting a student body president is indeed shocking considering his position as an assistant attorney general. I mean, of all the damned things.

But I have to say, it's also a bit shocking (to me) that this piece of trivia is a major story in what is allegedly a news broadcast. It's not exactly news, so to speak, that cable news has dumbed down the traditional nightly news broadcast to a point where it is really a different sort of thing altogether. I think the word for it was once "infotainment," but maybe there's a newer euphemism for it. Simply put, there is very little actual news to be found on cable news channels, despite the round the clock schedule. The idea that you can watch an hour of television each night that will keep you informed on current events is a thing of the past. If such a thing were presented in this country, I'd certainly watch it.

As anyone who has ever spent any time in the UK knows, it can be done. There is more content in the nightly fifty-five-minute Channel 4 news broadcast than in a month of CNN, MSNBC, and FOX combined. Plus, watching it doesn't make you feel embarrassed to be a member of the human race. It's really too bad we can't get it here.

If I were in charge of CNN/MSNBC/Fox, I'd license the Channel 4 news and show it at 6PM every day. The rest of the day could be devoted to what these people do best, like screaming at each other across a desk and commenting on video of tiger cubs and other weird stuff they found on youtube, and asking each other how their weekend was. Maybe I'm wrong but I really think their ratings would go up.


Getting even weirder:

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September 29, 2010

(Your Love is like) Nuclear Waste

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Both the conservatives and the progressives seem to me to be full of the same kind of intolerance, arrogance, empty-headedness, and to be dominated by different kinds of conformism; in either case the dread of being left out of their reference group.
-- Thomas Merton

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September 28, 2010



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Watch the Dog (that Brings the Bone)

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September 27, 2010



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Dueling Voices

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Enter Sadman

Chris snapped this photo of a T-shirt in a shop window in Groningen, Holland:


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Don't You Threaten Me with a Dead Fish

I hadn't known that the character played by Richard E. Grant in the film Withnail and I was based on a specific, real person till I read this. The newly-published photos seem to be the main point of interest, but I find the extremely Withnailian last words of Vivian Mackerrell to be the most impressive bit:

”Give me a fucking pre-med you fuckers, I’m a personal friend of Sir Lancelot Spratt.”
So he was real. I guess that means there was a real Uncle Monty as well?

According to this, Mackerrell's "only notable acting role" was in a 1971 British TV drama called Edna, the Inebriate Woman, so I thought it only right that I should go ahead and note it.

ADDED: more on the real Withnail:

MacKerrell's career - like Withnail's - was one of overwhelming obscurity, best summed up by the fact that the IMDB spells his name wrong and lists him as an actress. His only screen appearance seems to have been in a 1974 British horror film called Ghost Story (aka Madhouse Mansion), which starred Marianne Faithfull and had Penelope Keith in the cast.
Notable as well, I'd say.
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September 26, 2010



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Going Acoustic

David Brooks: So, "Even Hitler had a Girlfriend." Is that punk rock?

Me: hm, I'm not sure. When it was released, a lot of people complained about the album because it had acoustic songs, which was regarded as un-punk and possibly an attempt to "sell out."

David Brooks: Really. So it was like, Dylan goes electric in reverse.

Me: Yes, it was exactly like that.

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September 25, 2010

I'd Like to Thank Myself and God

MONO Equipped declares the MTX version of "Sex Offender" to be "the greatest and definitive Blondie cover of all time." Thanks, guy(s?).

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September 21, 2010

Good Advice to Writers that You Should Follow (But Probably Won't)

Adam Rex (whose latest, Fat Vampire, I really enjoyed) pens what is perhaps the greatest "letter-to-self" I've ever read.


Understand that your brain, which is not as smart as you think it is, will file the anonymous car-shouters in the same cabinet where it keeps a review from The Washington Post. And that it will highlight any and all negative passages with ink so ostentatiously yellow that you will be able to read them in your dreams. The part of your brain which currently sucker-punches you with humiliating junior high school memories during random quiet moments is going to discover its true calling after people start publishing your fiction. It’s really going to come into its own. You know the part of the brain I’m talking about. It’s located in your gut, despite all medical evidence to the contrary.

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Andromeda Klein 4 Prez

As you probably know, if only because I make a point of mentioning it any and every time the opportunity arises, I wrote a book about a girl who "dabbles into" witchcraft, etc. So when Christine O'Donnell's witchcraft-dabbling burst on to the internet scene, I'm sure many of you realized how inevitable it was that I was going, at some point, to try to use the occasion to slip in a mention of this book of mine somewhere. I mean, I'm a writer. That's what we do.

But how to do it? Hmm...

Ah nevermind, Lexington Green over at Chicago Boyz had the same idea, and saved me the trouble by beating me to it. He has some very kind things to say about Andromeda Klein here. Thanks, Lex.

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September 16, 2010

Summertime City

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"As the performance got underway I experienced this musical exhilaration, which was all the more pleasant for being easily controlled, and I knew then that nothing bad was going to happen..."

In 1975, William Borroughs saw "the Led Zeppelin group" and talked to Jimmy Page.

(via the Agitator.)

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September 15, 2010

My Punk Rock Tape, ca. 1978

I used to have a cassette tape of songs recorded from the radio (from late night punk/new wave themed shows on AOR stations, college radio, and Dr. Demento -- along with the "imports" bin at the Columbus Tower Records location and Trouser Press, that was my punk rock eduction right there.) I played the tape till it broke, and then it continued playing in my mind (till it broke.)

The song above was the first song on it. I didn't know, at the time, that the second song was "The Drawback" by Joy Division from a bootleg of the abandoned RCA recording, but I know it now. Also there was: "Gary Gilmore's Eyes," (what I believe was) the Booji-boy version of Devo's "Mongoloid," the Clash's version of "Police and Thieves," "My Girlfriend is a Rock," "We Make a Noise" by the Leyton Buzzards, a Buzzcocks song or two, "Sonic Reducer," "Shot by Both Sides," "Cherry Bomb," "I Live off You" by X-ray Spex, "The American in Me," "Emergency Cases," "Sick on You," "I Got My Cock in My Pocket" from Metallic KO, a really catchy Mutants song I can still hum but have never been able to locate since, the Cortinas' "Fascist Dictator," and a song by the Nuns that I always thought was "A Little Masturbation" but learned was actually "Mental Masturbation" when I interviewed them during one of their comeback attempts on my own radio show years later. There was also the Street Band's "Toast," and what I thought was a really cool song that began "one two three go" and rhymed that with "ego." I've never been able to locate that either. Sound familiar to anyone?

My method was to press play at the beginning of each song played on the radio, hoping it would be good, and rewinding if it turned out not to be, so the songs were separated by the loud shuffly noise caused by doing that (because I didn't always use the pause-record method like I should have.) Most of the songs had bits of other songs at the beginning and end from the segues. All of these features are still very much present when the songs play in my head. To this day, if I hear "Mongoloid" without a big snare roll starting during the fade out and cutting off with a guy going "waaaah" followed by a tape head smother-y sound that lasts several seconds, it just sounds wrong. The quality really varied, too, because though some were recorded from a tape deck directly connected a stereo, many were also added by playing friends' similarly-compiled tapes and holding our two portable cassette players up against each other, resulting in a muffled, distorted, and sometimes warped sound, along with some occasional background noise as well. That's another thing that still happens when these songs "play" in my head.

I wish I still had that tape.

(I'm still afraid to turn comments on because of the spam problem, but you can comment here if you like.)

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September 14, 2010

Say Goodbye to Winkles


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September 10, 2010

Add Me

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September 09, 2010

At Least Symbolically

Althouse responds to this slightly nutty op-ed on book-burning:

I find it hard to believe that Niebuhr and hyperventilators like him are big readers of important books, because their minds seem pretty feeble to me. "Torch a book and you at least symbolically deny your fellow men and women that freedom." At least symbolically. Or, to put it another way, i.e., truthfully: You don't deny other people anything. You give them something: the information that is your hatred of a book. And as they "decide for themselves whether what they read has meaning," they can take into account that you hate the book. It's not going to be a very influential piece of information, because you're just some attention whore who burned a book instead of articulating a pithy critique of it.

Yes, conceivably, a private group burning its own books might be intimidating, but that would only be because we have other, much greater reasons to fear that group or the movement it represents. And yes, when you burn a book, you adopt an image associated with the Nazis, but that marginalizes you.

Well-stated, and quite right. It is a displacement to mistake a symbolic erasure for an actual attempt at one, and ultimately it seems to reflect a misunderstanding of why it was bad for the Nazis, e.g., to burn books. Or maybe it's not a genuine mistake, but just an occasion for this guy to have fun with a little hyperbole and re-affirm his bona fides as a member of his reference group.

I love the notion of "symbolically denying" someone, though.

That said, as I've stated here, I do think it is interesting that the notion of book-burning sends us into such tizzy of outrage and shame, while other things on the list of "things we can do to offend Muslims to make a statement" don't seem to elicit anywhere near the same concern, or indeed any at all. At the risk of over-generalizing a bit, many of the same people who are appalled and outraged at "International Burn a Koran Day" happily applauded "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day," with nowhere near the same concern for Muslim sensibilities that they have suddenly discovered now. I'll quote myself:

I think it's quite interesting that we all assume that book burning is a whole lot worse, per se, than prophet-drawing, as though one is offensive to the target group, but hey, they should just get over it, while the other really crosses the line and no decent person would ever do it. I have no idea if Muslims feel that way, and maybe some do and some don't? But it seems to me that both are attempts to transgress irrational taboos to make a statement, and obviously there would be no point in doing it at all if it didn't offend. They are both meant to offend. I agree that the pro-free speech statement of the drawers is more worth making than the (I assume) anti-Ground Zero mosque statement of the burners. However, why is it that we are supposed to care a great deal about the sensibilities and feelings of Muslims in one case, and virtually not at all in the other? Does it boil down to a variety of Red State-vs-Blue State animus in the end, more about us than it is about them?
I guess a true test case might be if some sociopathic Southern preacher were to hold a "Draw Mohammed Day." I'd love to see what kind of op-eds we'd get then.

Comment here if you like.

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Are You Lost?

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September 08, 2010

Choking on Spam

I tried turning the comments back on after the last post, because I was curious if anyone would have anything to say about the YA discard bin referenced in it. Result: nearly 1000 spam messages in less than an hour. There's just no way to keep up with it. So I turned comments back off.

I post some of the links to posts on this blog on my Facebook page when I think of it, so until I work up the courage to try again or figure something else out, anyone with a burning comment can do it there.

For instance, if you want to help me understand the difference between "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" and "Everybody Burn a Koran Day" you can do it here.

Or just email me.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:00 PM | TrackBack

They Talk about Me Like a Dog

Language Log unearths the antecedents of "they talk about me like a dog."

I admit my first thought was that it was a Jimi Hendrix allusion, but it evidently goes back a lot further than that.

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How to Endear Yourself to YA Writers Everywhere

From Tom Grimes's memoir, quoted here:

I began to consider the implications of having a book marketed as a baseball novel published by Disney. I imagined serious reviewers tossing it into a bin reserved for young adult novels, all of which ended with a World Series winning home run that completed the fairy tale season of a team of plucky underdogs.
I'm happy to join in the chorus of righteous YA indignation: grr. Shame on you, Tom. They don't all end that way. On the other hand, I'm quite confident that reviewers really do have such bins.

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September 07, 2010

One Way Hotel

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September 05, 2010

Aren't My References Out of Control?

I was just informed (via a link from google alerts, the narcissist's best friend) that my citation of The Greeks and the Irrational in the song about the history of the concept of the soul is noted as a "cultural reference" on E. R. Dodds's wikipedia page. Fun, and almost but not quite accurate, too, like everything in this wiki-ty world of ours.

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Giving Up

Too much comment-spam, so I'm turning off comments for awhile. Email me if you have something to say.

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September 04, 2010


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September 02, 2010

Don't Call 911

-- At least they didn't shoot the dog.

-- Also, don't get caught whittling.

-- Also don't… well this one is kind of hard to sum up: don't be a male victim of a car accident, get mistaken for and mislabeled as a female cancer patient thirteen years younger than you by the hospital and scheduled for surgery to have a cancerous mass removed from your chest. Then don't figure it out and try to leave the hospital before they cut you open. Actually, I guess that is the right course of action here, considering the alternative, but be prepared to be beaten up by security if you do.

All links from Balko's Agitator.

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September 01, 2010

Pictures of Lily Studio Footage


Anyone know where this comes from? I don't think I recognize it.

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How much more me can you stand?

I am interviewed about King Dork and rock and roll on the Booktunes website here.

There's also a review and a playlist of music "listened to, critiqued, or referenced" by Tom Henderson in the book. They've even got "Flight of the Bumblebee" on there.

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I Have in my Hand a Piece of Our Time

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Neverlin Chamble was an appeaser, Chris, all right? That's the key word.

Cable news is, more or less, footage of people who don't know what they're talking about screaming at each other. Forever.

I'd never seen this two-year-old clip before it was linked by Conor Friedersdorf on today, and the yelling is as hard to take as it ever is, but if you start watching at around the 2:00 mark you will find a perfect, unusually clear, encapsulation of this in its purest form. Like all "found" epitomes, perhaps even especially unpleasant ones, it has a kind of poetry. Plus it's really funny:

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