April 30, 2011

Better Book Titles


The hit to miss ratio among the items on this self-explanatory tumblr project is extraordinarily high. Clever stuff.

Added: of course, I've thought about how my books might fare. There is certainly fodder for some good ones amongst disgruntled reader reviews. e.g., my favorite short review of King Dork: "I'm in a band! Look at me, I'm in a band!"

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Permanent Vacation

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Instead of wasting time on mindless conspiracies, let’s get back to having misinformed debates about issues that matter.
-- Michael C. Moynihan, on "birtherism".
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April 29, 2011

'"Originally called Changes, the movie was retitled Head, partly as a drug reference and partly so that Raybert's next production, Easy Rider, could be marketed with the slogan "From the guys who gave you Head"'

The Guardian's Dorian Lynskey commemorates the Monkees' Head.

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I Live in the City

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I'm gonna sound a bit like Greg Kihn's radio show here but...

You know what's great? "Zeppelina" from the Dickies' Idjit Savant album. When Leonard Graves Philips handed me the CD at the end of a small tour we did with them (the CDs arrived at the last show) he said: Let me introduce you to my own personal Smell the Glove. The whole record is great actually. If that song was on youtube I'd post it, but it's not, so find it somewhere and listen to it.

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April 28, 2011

Up Pompeii

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Let the Buyer of Knockoff Merchandise Beware:

This lady wants to put you in jail.

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burn the books kill the priests kill kill kill

They're putting William Burroughs's The Soft Machine on trial in Turkey. It isn't clear to me what penalties the book will face if convicted, but the article reads as though they are gearing up for a criminal trial with the book itself as the defendant.

As for the specific charges, "incompliance with moral norms" and "hurting people's moral feelings" aren't matters I'm qualified to assess. But it's hard to argue with these: "lacking unity in its subject matter," "incompliance with narrative unity," "using slang and colloquial terms," "concentrating on the banal, vulgar, and weak attributes of humanity," and "the application of a fragmented narrative style." If those features really are subject to criminal penalties in Turkey, this book's goose, to the extent that books can be said to possess cookable geese, is cooked.

I can well relate to the book's reflexive response: "just google me," it said, through its lawyers. "I think you'll find that I'm a pretty big deal." I've tried this on behalf of my own books when they've been attacked, dismissed, or ignored, and I can say from bitter experience, Soft Machine, it just doesn't work. Finding out what a big deal you are (or, let's be honest, used to be) will just make your accusers angrier at you.

But, for what it's worth, I do join you in calling for an end to investigations that constrain your activities as well as an end to the prosecution of books for any reason whatsoever. Good luck with that.

(via Reason.)

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April 26, 2011

The Day the World Turned Day-Glo

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April 24, 2011

Jesus Was a Cross-maker

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April 23, 2011

Jazzy Spies #10

I've loved the "sound" of this ever since I first saw it on TV (in other words, since I was around five) and the intro-outro still plays regularly when I put my iPodlike head on shuffle, but it wasn't till I looked for it on youtube that I learned who the vocalist was: Grace Slick!

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nocturnal passers-by sometimes spoke of witch-fires glowing behind the broken panes of the foetor-spreading windows


According to this, the home for sale in this Providence real estate listing is the Shunned House featured in HP Lovecraft's famous story of that name.

(via Metafilter.)

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The Hardy Boys Habit

An unusually snark-less appreciation and recollection of the Hardy Boys from Vince Keenan. (The shout-out to King Dork as "contemporary variant" -- if shout-out is the word I want -- is also unusual. I know, because Google Alerts, which keeps track of such things and alerts me when appropriate, has brought few such references to my attention.)

My own experience of these books was broadly similar. They certainly were the foundation for a future interest in crime fiction that might well not have materialized at all had it not been for them. What would that have been like, "that" referring to my future reading life? Mostly likely Hobbits and tarnsmen and Great Old Ones would have swarmed in to fill the available space vacated by Frank, Joe, and Chet, but it sure would have been a different "mix" and it probably would have delayed my discovery of Raymond Chandler by at least a few years.

The Hardy Boys books were too low-brow and non-"literary" for the library. I get why the library decided to go that way, but the decision had one, likely unintentional, consequence. The only way you could read these books was if you actually owned them, and, for some reason, ownership made quite a lot of difference in how much I valued them. I used to get two Hardy Boys books a year, as birthday and Christmas gifts, and they were my first experience of book-owning, the beginning of a lifelong, apartment-swamping book-hoarding habit. Eventually, of course, I figured out that you could own other books as well, but for awhile there it was the Hardy Boys or nothing.

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April 22, 2011

Q: Do you have precog ability?

A: I wrote one novel in which there was a 19 year old girl named Kathy whose boyfriend was named Jack who appeared to have a relation with the criminal underground who turns out to have a relation with a police inspector, and that Christmas I met a 19 year old girl named Kathy who had a boyfriend named Jack who sold dope but later turned out to be a police informant. There have been other instances.
The Q is from Slash magazine, the A is from Philip K. Dick in this unlikely and fittingly disjointed 1980 interview.

(via Reason.)

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April 21, 2011

Keep Your Head Out of the Light

Well, I guess the migraines, the cancer, the toxic waste, and everything looking ugly and disturbing all the time is a small price to pay if it really does save the world and everything in it from an otherwise certain destruction.

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New Wave Love

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"Harder drugs should not be legalized, but their use should be dealt with as a health issue – not a criminal justice issue…"

That's from Gary Johnson's website blurb about drug policy. Read the rest: it is the most sensible, sane thing I've ever read from any politician on the subject, and I would vote for it in a heartbeat. Not that I'll ever get the chance. It's a real indictment of our governing classes that non-insane views on this matter place you on the "fringe." (And it's an indictment of our allegedly "liberal" party that the Democrats don't have anything like a Gary Johnson on offer.)

Alex Massie:

If President Johnson were to end the Drug War and that were his sole achievement in office he'd have done more good than any President in 40 years.
Indeed. Of course, it's an impossible dream, but I hope one day you'll join us and the world will live as one, or something.

(By the way, John, I've been meaning to complain about this: why'd you have to rhyme "one" with "one"? You were doing so well for pretty much the whole rest of the song.)

UPDATE: well, now I don't know what to think. Progressive nationalists in this ThinkProgress comments thread explain how Gary Johnson is a traitor, a seditionist, a cockroach, an idiot, a crazy person, and a hater of children.

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Midget Submarines

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Note this Note

I just learned that the class mentioned here has been cancelled. You can feel free to email me questions and send me fifty bucks anyway, if you like.

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April 20, 2011

Parody Bits

Weird Al vs. Lady Gaga: here.

This whole Lady Gaga phenom is a bit out of my area -- quite a bit -- and I had never heard the original song before now, nor do I know how to assess it, but the lyrics of the parody are funny and like a lot of the songs he does, the parody appeals to me way more than the original.

UPDATE: nevermind. Probably a publicity gambit. It worked!

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April 19, 2011

Then she looked at me with those red, white, and blue eyes

(via Andrew Sullivan. )

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Who Needs Happiness?

From a sweet comic by Liz Prince.


Whole thing here.

(via Aaron.)

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Remember the great Rajneeshee salad bar panic?


If you spent any time at all in the Pacific Northwest in the eighties, you probably do. I remember hearing all sorts of outlandish stories about the Rajneeshees, and most of them turned out to be true.

The picture of Rajneeshee "security forces" pausing to pray during paramilitary training is one of many in this fascinating retrospective in the Oregonian. Really quite a story.

UPDATE: Seriously, the photos are just amazing. Here's one showing the security force uniform:


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April 18, 2011

Ohio Express

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April 17, 2011

Don't ride a bike in NYC; don't speak out loud within earshot of a police officer; pretty much, whatever it is, just don't

Found here.

UPDATE: Here's Radley Balko's post on this.

I've been asking myself why I have such a strong reaction to this video and story, when, compared to so many other cases of police abuse of authority, it's relatively tame. I mean, they didn't shoot him, or beat him to death, or break into the wrong house and set his daughter on fire, etc. They didn't even execute anybody's pets. Though there's no excuse for what happened to this guy, things could certainly have gone a whole lot worse for him.

What I came up with was this: it's the fact that the "perp" here is so jovial and good-natured, his teasing of the cyclist so gentle, and the entire scene, up until the moment when the police shatter it, so pleasant and, really, neighborly. He seems like good guy. He isn't hurting anyone. He's just making people laugh. People shouting in the street aren't always that nice, and truly hostile ones can be scary and threatening. But this isn't the case here. The whole thing seems just kind of: nice. Along with the good-humored comments by the guys on the balcony about various neighborhood characters, it made me think (up to the point where the whole thing went wrong), wow, I kind of wish my neighborhood was that friendly.

But then, here comes trouble, i.e., the officer who first confronts this jocular menace to society. To me this cop looks like the classic bully, the kind of guy who would steal your lunch money back in school, or would hassle your girlfriend on the street, or, at a bar, would keep asking you what you're looking at, trying to start a fight. Suddenly, it's not nice anymore, and it is crystal clear precisely who is responsible for 100% of the sudden decline in the quality of life on that street, on that day.

I know the smart thing to do, when you see police out and about, is to give them a wide berth, try to avoid any sort of eye contact and hope they don't notice you. (Kind of like what you do with any kind of thug.) This guy should have done that, no question. But I don't want the guy who says "better put your training wheels on" to the guy on the bike to have to cower in the shadows out of fear that an officer might take it into his head to target him for some routine, even if relatively non-life threatening, human rights abuse. He shouldn't have to.

None of us should have to. While the main victim is the unfortunate jokester, we're all victims, because knowing that things like this happen, and that those who did it will almost certainly face no consequences and will continue to do it, makes us feel less comfortable, less safe, less free just standing out on the street in our own neighborhoods. Street crime is sometimes referred to as "street terrorism" because it degrades the quality of life by making ordinary innocent people feel threatened and unsafe and afraid to leave the house. This, in its way, is street terrorism, too.

Like I said, there are way worse things that get done in the name of the law, but still, this is really quite bad when you think about it.

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On Tricking Yourself into Being able to Write Things

I have seen this attributed to Hemingway, Roald Dahl, William Goldman, and maybe even a few others, but whoever said it, it's some of the most useful advice anyone ever gave me:

The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.
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Tokyo Daze, Tokyo Knights


Sachiko sent this blast from the past, with this note:

I was cleaning my apt today and found this in my CD shelf. This is such a sweet memory of my life.

When Mr. T Experience came to Japan about 10 or even long ago, me and my little sister went to see the show 2 days in the row. It was in Sangenchaya, the venue was called "The Heaven's Door" in Tokyo. Me and my sister were wearing matching operation ivy t-shirts and you guys called us OPIV sisters. We were a couple of crazy girls and did stage dive over and over.

Then we all went to the game alley and took a bunch of photobooth.

I just wanted to send you this picture. Thank you so much for being such awesome band and be a big part of one of my most fun time of life!!!

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Puzzle Piece

boingboing likens the national anthem of Montenegro to a "mid-century epic horror movie theme," and they have a point. I am (if I have this right) descended from Montenegrans on my father's mother's side, but I never heard the soundtrack before:

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April 15, 2011

Monetize Your Pets

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In Which Our Hero Leaves the House for the First Time in Like Forever

I kid you not. I mean, this is no dream, this is really happening.

I'm going to be a guest at Jane Ganahl's "Authors on Writing" workshop at the Grotto in San Francisco on Thursday April 21. The topic is YA fiction, and it'll be an interview with me, followed by Qs and As from the class and me, respectively.

People who aren't enrolled in the class can go, though it'll cost you $50. If you do have fifty spare dollars that you'd like to spend on wine, appetizers, and an a hour and a half's worth of my own pearls of wisdom and wry anecdotes, you can contact Jane at jganahl@pacbell.net.

San Francisco Writers' Grotto, 490 2nd Street, 2nd Fl., San Francisco, CA 94107, Thursday, April 21, 7:00 - 8:30 PM.

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April 10, 2011


As you might imagine, I have never knowingly read a "romance novel," per se, though I would guess some books I have read could well fall into some genre-straddling peripheral category. I mean, like, actual gothic romances, The Monk, the Brontes, Mary Stewart's Arthurian series -- I'm not that sure how the genre is delimited by fans of it, exactly. But the world of the modern romance novel is quite properly almost entirely dark to me. On the other hand, I know from stray links on the internet that there is a thriving tradition of romance novel readers finding, reading, and ridiculing the more outlandish examples on their blogs, and the links I've clicked on can be pretty funny. They're doing strange, unnatural things with fiction over there, from what I can tell.

To wit, this one, linked by someone I virtually know on twitter, is a doozy. (It's text only, but if you were to stand on your desk at work and read it aloud, I doubt it'd be "safe.")

So, it's funny.

And yet, I must admit, the whole thing was quite a bit funnier and more interesting when I thought it was a "real," as in, actually published, book. But it turns out, from what I can tell, that The Gingerbread Tryst is a Kindle-only production.. I'm told that still counts as published, and my head tells me that's true; but my heart's just not gonna buy it.

There's a cherished category in my world (and it includes everything, not just books) that goes by the name of: "amazing and wondrous that it even exists." I'm sorry to say I'm old fashioned enough that Kindle-only-ness makes a book seem like it exists less. And quite a bit less, actually. Maybe I'll get with the program and learn to stop worrying and love the bomb and all that, and I'll modify my definition of "existence" to include "anything somebody typed out and uploaded to a server and put a cover and price on." But in this apparently inevitable brave new world, it just seems like it will be impossible to tell whether or not it's wondrous and amazing that something even exists, and the net result will be: less wondrousness and amazingness, in that sense. I don't know, maybe I'm totally wrong about that. There are more important things in life, I suppose, than ironic celebration of weird stuff that somehow managed to get published.

This started out fun, but now I'm just kind of bummed out.

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Heading Out to the Highway

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And the head coach wants no sissies...

Unlike Ron Rosenbaum, I'm quite fond of Ulysses, but I agree with a lot of what he says in the process of trying to trash it in this piece.

As an ironic commentary on the Odyssey -- something Rosenbaum doesn't even mention, for some reason -- it's brilliant, and clever, and hilarious, and (I really believe this, honest) fun. As a detailed portrait of a "day in the life" it is perhaps less obviously fun and accessible, though it is pretty impressive that it manages to be both of those things at the same time.

The weakest line of criticism here, and one that pretty much every Ulysses-hater brings up eventually, is that it owes a lot to Tristram Shandy. It does, but beyond the fact that it allows you to boast about the fact that you know what Tristram Shandy is (the main reason it is ever mentioned, I believe, including here, by me) why bring it up? That's like saying you're not allowed to like the Rolling Stones because you've already heard Chuck Berry. There's room for both, in other words.

That said, I'm the kind of person who'd much rather curl up with a Ruth Rendell or Elmore Leonard than slog through a lot of pretentious, artsy pages. But if you're going to slog, you could do a lot worse than Ulysses. Plus, you know, I have heard of Tristram Shandy. I'm Mr. Tristram Shandy. And I slog through that, too, between murder mysteries sometimes. I should get a medal just for being me.

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April 09, 2011

Hail, Customers

Thanks to everyone who has been sending me things to sign lately. I like how they all come with a quirky, heartwarming story attached. You rarely get the "backstory" when you're just sitting in a bookstore signing. I feel all full of warmth and goodwill and everything all of a sudden.

Also, my last red vinyl Andromeda Klein 7" is spoken for, but I still have some on shiny basic black. You can see yourself in them, if that's your thing. I can get you a deal.

Details here, for anyone who's interested.

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April 08, 2011


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April 03, 2011

Nasty Dan

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April 01, 2011



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