March 30, 2012

Even Hitler had a Girlfriend

That's Hank Green, John's brother.



The youtube comments include some, er, critiques. It's often interesting what happens when one of my songs is out "in the wild" like that.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:01 PM | Comments (4)

Don't Wear a Medical Alert Pendant

68-year-old man with heart condition triggers medical alert. System operator calls an ambulance. Police arrive on the scene, break down the door, and shoot him dead. A "warranted use of deadly force," according to the public safety commissioner.

Yes, after being Tased and shot with beanbags, this guy apparently did reach for a knife, but it still seems to me the last thing you want in a medical emergency is a bunch of armed "pumped" guys with warrants to use deadly force. The shooter has been placed on "modified assignment" but it's all but certain he'll soon be back on the job protecting and serving other customers, so be careful out there, White Plains.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:46 PM

March 29, 2012

Playing Somewhere

I ran into a guy on BART yesterday, who asked the following two questions:

"Are you Dr. Frank? Are you playing anywhere?"

This happens quite often, believe it or not, and usually the answers are "yes" and a slightly sheepish "no not really," respectively. But just as I was about to give the usual answers, I realized just in time that I actually am playing somewhere, that is, in Oakland, next week. That was close.

Not sure if that guy will show up, but whether or not he does, you can.


Playing at this thing, Wed. April 4 at the New Parish in Oakland, 579 18th St.

Advance tickets here.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:18 PM | Comments (2)

March 28, 2012

Unfazed Cookies

Trying to come up with a "best of" MTX track list. Twenty songs or so. What would you pick?

(I think I've maybe asked this before a time or two and nothing wound up coming from it, but something will definitely be coming of it this time.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:04 PM | Comments (32)

March 25, 2012



I've had this shirt for nearly twenty-five years.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:48 PM | Comments (4)

Are's Arm


That's Are Lund of the Norwegian punk band the Promdates.

His original idea for a Love is Dead tattoo was to depict the first five notes of "Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba" on a music staff, but in the end went this way instead. Slightly less difficult to explain, I'd assume.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 09:03 PM | Comments (2)

March 24, 2012

The problem with being generally mild-mannered and easy-going

is that if you ever do have the occasion to raise your voice or assert yourself even a little bit about anything, people will look at you like you just kicked a puppy across the room.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:42 AM | Comments (2)

March 23, 2012

Born in Hard Luck


Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:36 PM

Don't Bring Comics to Canada

Basically, you're crazy if you take a laptop across the Canadian border.

The standards are so broad that almost any kind of document, electronic or printed, text or image, could potentially put you at catastrophic risk.

And it doesn't matter whether whatever you have on your laptop is, in fact, perfectly legal and above-board, even by these standards. The mere suspicion of border guards (who even at their best are hardly legal experts) can be enough to launch a two-year ordeal and ruinous expense, even when the charges are ultimately dismissed.

And as bad as this kid had it, he did have support from the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and a competent legal team working for him. You might not, and probably won't, be that lucky.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:13 PM | Comments (5)

March 22, 2012

The War on Stucco

This guy was arrested and jailed without bond for failing to complete his stucco and decorative rock siding home renovation project to the satisfaction of "city leaders" who say they "had no choice but to enforce the law."

He was released after two days, but was required to submit to electronic monitoring:

In Dakota County, that process requires participants — no matter what their crimes -- to blow into a drug and alcohol device every time an alarm goes off.

“They could call me at 2 in the morning and they did,” Faber said.

There must have been scores, if not hundreds, of people in the clodhopping chain of officialdom administering this four-year home décor policing operation (city bureaucrats, administrators, police, prosecutors, judges, court personnel) and it's astonishing that not one of them ever said "hey, come on guys, this is nuts" and pulled the plug on it. But I guess they were just doing their jobs, so to speak.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:35 PM | Comments (1)

March 19, 2012

Might Makes Right

I have occasionally observed that the arguments of culture war ideologues often boil down to little more than various restatements of the basic conviction that "we're the good people, so whatever we feel must be right."

Stanley Fish demonstrates here, in acadamese, with mock (?) approval. It's satire, I believe, but really who can tell?

(via Instapundit.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:32 AM | Comments (10)

March 17, 2012

Irish Ballad


Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:56 AM | Comments (1)

March 16, 2012

Wrong but Accurate

There's this saying that you used to hear people say a lot:

Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.

It's attributed to various people who seem like they might have said something like that, David Byrne, Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, none of whom, I'm sure, ever actually said it. I've seen it on T-shirts, I've heard it in conversation, and people have said it to me, with a wry expression, when someone has written something dumb about music, especially if that writer is me.

The message is that writing about music is a pointless exercise, an absurd thing to try to do. What do you do with music? Certainly you don't write about it. That would be as stupid as… dancing about architecture. When confronted with a bit of music, here's what's you do: dance, sway jerkily from side to side, crumple into a ball in the corner weeping, smash something with a hammer, drunkenly yell a slobbery approximation of the lyrics in the ear of the pretty young girl seated next to you at the bar. But for God's sake, don't write about it. You're young and free. Stop the writing. Get out there and LIVE, damn it!

So, I get it. And I suppose my own song "I Wrote a Book about Rock and Roll" grazes against the same broad message. It's kind of funny to write about rock and roll, especially when you do it with a lot of attitude and self-importance, when rock and roll itself is chiefly concerned rocking and rolling, not typing. But the saying has nevertheless always bugged me (yes these are the kinds of things my aspergery mind retains and obsesses about) because, well, it doesn't quite work, logically or grammatically, does it?

Because you don't dance "about" something, as the word "about" is obviously meant here. I mean, in the archaic sense of "around" you could say "say fellows, here's an idea: let us dance about the Empire State Building. With gay abandon, if possible." Or I suppose, at a stretch, you could construe it as referring to an "interpretative dance": this is my dance about the Albany Post Office at Three in the Afternoon in the Middle of a Downpour with Homeless Woman Crying about South Africa. If you ever attended a liberal arts college, you probably wound up dating a couple of girls who would say stuff like that, but I doubt that's what "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" is getting at.

Obviously, to me, what is meant is this:

Writing about music is like dancing to architecture

But no one ever, ever says it like that. Whoever first cast it as a grammatically nonsensical construction cast it pretty permanently. When people are quoting it, they are quoting it accurately, even though it's wrong. Wrong but accurate. And my asperger-y brain finds that pretty interesting in and of itself.

Anyway, even when formulated correctly, and even though it sounds like the kind of thing a guy like me might think, I'd have to say I still disagree with it, mostly. Writing about music may not be the best use of your time (depends on how much they're paying you, and these days it's probably not much.) But dancing to architecture? That's just fucked up.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:03 PM | Comments (10)

March 15, 2012

Don't Drive Outside Your Own State

The Fourth Amendment proves to be no barrier to this Collinsville, Illinois cop's desire to harass a couple of rotund, middle-aged Trekkies from Ohio. It's a long video, but amusingly-edited and -narrated enough to reward sticking through the whole thing:

This guy had every right, under the Constitution, to refuse the request to search his car. But, as in so many of these cases, asserting his rights is simply seen as an admission that he's got something to hide. And, as so often, this officer proceeds to manufacture dubious "probable cause" with little regard for the law and the (no doubt justified) confidence that he'll be able to do whatever he feels like without much risk. There's little recourse for a citizen in such circumstances, so publicly shaming the cop by posting the video is about all he could do.

I learned through years of touring with my band that driving across the country with California plates, while technically allowed, is nonetheless seen as a suspicious act and treated as an open invitation to stop and harass the driver and passengers. Often the officers would be quite straightforward about it. "Sorry boys, just wanted to get a look at the freak show. So you're from Cali? Must be nice…" And of course, these friendly look-and-see stops would almost always lead to searches, sometimes quite extensive ones, that I now know we could have, technically, refused. But not really. In reality it's prohibitively impractical to refuse the question "mind if I take a look in your van?" They're not going to take no for an answer.

If they let you go, it's only so they can follow you till you do something they can construe as a traffic violation, and then use that to extort your "cooperation." e.g., "No, you can't pay the ticket now and you can't mail it later because we have no compact with the State of California. We'll have to impound your van till your court date. You're free to go though. There's a bus station about five miles down the road. But tell you what, if you let me take a look inside, just to make sure everything's okay, we can forget about the ticket and you can be on your way. Guys like you, seems like you've got somewhere important to be. Am I right?" And yes, we were always late for a show and opted for what seemed like the path of least resistance, though sometimes that would lead to hours on the roadside while the officers dismantled the van piece by piece.

So yeah, there's usually nothing you can do but thank God you didn't get shot. At least these days, you can make an amusing video afterwards. And that's something.

(via Radley Balko, who reports in an update to his post that the Collinsville Police Department disputes the video's narration and defends the officer's conduct, and that he'll be writing it all up for the Huff-Po. Something to look forward to.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 11:49 PM

If I Were a Rich Man


Posted by Dr. Frank at 01:55 AM

March 13, 2012

The thing is, those Louis CK tweets about Sarah Palin are funny.

They just are. And I don't think that because I hate Sarah Palin (I don't -- though I never really wanted her to be the president.) On the other hand, Bill Maher gets a laugh from his Palin jokes, I believe, mainly because his audience does hate her, and gets a thrill out of almost anything said against her. Rush Limbaugh's slut thing was not funny in the slightest, to me: just a kind of dumb way of making a semi-coherent banal point about subsidies.

But if Limbaugh or Bill Maher had said Louis CK's tweets on their shows? Funny. Seriously. I don't know why, precisely. Part of it is shock value, because "cunt" is still, somehow, a genuinely taboo word in most quarters: you get a lot of mileage, comedy-wise, out of breaking these rules and causing that kind of discomfort. That's why comedians do it, the funny ones, I mean, because it works. That's why people do it in ordinary conversation, too, when they're just goofing around with their friends. When something's forbidden, especially when it's forbidden in a puffed up, hypocritical, pseudo-high-minded way by puffed up, hypocritical, pseudo-high-minded people, it's funny to get in their face and say it anyway. ("Slut" isn't shocking at all; the anti-Rush people are totally faking it with that, it seems to me.)

But the tweets also take it one step further. It's not just the presence of the "bad words," but the fact that they are used so absurdly and, perhaps, childishly that makes them so funny. They demonstrate the absurdity of social taboos and the absurdity of language and our own absurdity for being unable to resist laughing at them. The comedy happens in your head when you're forced to say to yourself, wow, I can't believe I'm laughing at that.

By the apparent standard we've arrived at in this cultural moment, saying "slut" on the radio is so bad that members of one cultural reference group (the "liberals" -- ha!) will demand you be silenced. The other reference group says, you guys do it, too, only worse, so you should be the ones who get silenced but silenced even more. And by this standard, Louis CK is worse, because "cunt" is supposedly worse. The right wing has the stronger case, on those terms. But I think the whole thing is bogus. They're all faking it. They'd make each other's arguments identically if the circumstances happened to be reversed.

If you want to live in a country with free speech, you just have to deal with the fact that people are going to say stuff you don't like. It's insane that it is even necessary to point out that this has to work both ways, or it works not at all. And yeah, I know, "people may have a right to free speech and all but they don't have a right to the airwaves, advertising, etc., etc." Keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better. It still amounts to policing language: and don't be surprised if the language police come breaking down your door and shooting your dog somewhere down the road. So yes, people are also free to boycott each other all they want. But it's the dumbest idea from a bunch of smart people that I've heard in quite awhile.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:32 PM | Comments (6)

March 12, 2012

Crash the Justice System

NYT op-ed:

The system of mass incarceration depends almost entirely on the cooperation of those it seeks to control. If everyone charged with crimes suddenly exercised his constitutional rights, there would not be enough judges, lawyers or prison cells to deal with the ensuing tsunami of litigation. Not everyone would have to join for the revolt to have an impact; as the legal scholar Angela J. Davis noted, “if the number of people exercising their trial rights suddenly doubled or tripled in some jurisdictions, it would create chaos.”
I could not agree more. You first, though.

(via Instapundit.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:07 PM | Comments (2)

We Have Ways of Making You Park

Okay so, this is funny: an Ottowa woman claims that convenient parking is a "human right" (and that her having three kids qualifies her as having "special needs" as well.) Moreover, the woman in question is a former investigator for the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The comedy routine writes itself, and National Post columnists are having fun with it, sarcastically comparing her plight to that of victims of Pol Pot and Stalin, etc.

I'd also agree, more or less, with the takeway that "anyone who has ever wondered about some of the more inane rulings made by that august body now has their explanation — if the bar for what constitutes discrimination is set this pathetically low, we’re all guilty of something"; and with this bit quoted by Glenn Reynolds:

There is a cost to this nonsense. The more ludicrous the claims being made under the human-rights banner, the more the concept itself is stretched and mauled completely out of shape, the more that the real elements of human rights are degraded or forgotten. Human rights are not a sticky post on which you paste the latest silly thing that annoys you…

All true. And you can't blame the columnists for having fun with it. In fact, though, they're having so much fun with it that it's a bit hard to tell from the editorials what the actual complaint is: what it is is, the city bureaucracy won't grant this woman permission to park in front of her own house. At least that's how I read it -- she wants to install a "parking pad" on her front lawn (and, though I'm speculating here, she seems to be relying on her own expertise on how the "human rights tribunal" system works to use it as a weapon against the bureaucracy itself. Two cheers for that, really.) Both columnists proceed under the unquestioned assumption that such a desire (to park your car on your own property) is an outrageous demand, the government's prerogative to grant or deny, an expectation of special treatment to which ordinary people quite obviously have no right.

Actually, the Canadian jokes kind of write themselves here, too, but I'm not laughing all that much. Because we're headed that way ourselves soon enough if we're not indeed already there.

So sure, it's not a "human rights violation." But, it's a violation of something, eh?

Posted by Dr. Frank at 06:28 PM | Comments (2)

I am so in favour of these opinion. Great use of storage, man!

I've turned the comments back on, just to see if I can bear what spam may come after the little break. If it gets bad again all of sudden, I'll have no problem turning them off again. Honestly, it was kind of nice not to have to worry about it. However, if there's a lull, followed by a deluge down the road, it's possible that I won't get around to turning them off again. That's what usually happens.

For some reason, though, turning the comments back on globally doesn't seem to have affected the last few posts. But, you know, it is what it is.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 12:39 AM | Comments (4)

March 10, 2012

Upbeat and Conventional

Will Wilkinson's car radio quite obviously plays a different sort of country music than my record player does. Granted, contemporary country music overall is a devolved, shallow, shadow of its former self, like all contemporary music -- and culture in general as well. (We live in a great age of deculturation, in which I am as complicit as anyone, despite my mostly downbeat and conventional record collection.) The sentimentality Will is patting on its dear little head runs through the entire "corpus," so to speak, and it's true that it can be cloying and laughable: hence the term. But in the hands of a great writer and singer? There's nothing to beat it, nothing whatsoever in this world, according to me:

Granted, they don't write 'em like that anymore, but even though the charts have changed a bit, you can't say this song is alien to the culture being crudely dissected here.

The attempt to correlate music and culture with quantified personality types and in turn to the crude liberal/conservative culture war Venn diagram seems, like the Manichean schema itself, like mostly hogwash to me. Self-defining "liberals" can be quite conservative in the sense of clinging like grim death to their own status quo, and it is nothing but self-flattery to term this rigid devotion to a cultural aesthetic of slightly more recent vintage as "openness to new ideas." Of course, the culture war is a real thing, God help us, and the "rednecks" whose folkways are celebrated in the entertainment genre in question, obviously, tend to live in the "red states" and the red parts of the states otherwise occupied by open-minded urban sophisticates who hate their guts and everything their guts stand for.

Now, despite a (possibly related) contrarian impulse in all things, I'm one of these wonderfully open-minded blue state urban living guys. I just am. And though I'm sure I'm "low openness" and otherwise deficient in all sorts of ways, I'm quite confident that that's not why I'm a fan of country music. I love it because I like listening to the records, which is surely a better yardstick to use than, say, my track record in the categories: "exotic travel, hallucinogenic ecstasy, sexual experimentation, or challenging aesthetic experience." I like it because of the good, coherent writing (a quality found much less often in other pop music, especially these days) and because sometimes the songs are powerful enough that they make me cry.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:08 PM

You Should Never Have Opened that Door

Disingenuous campaign against Rush Limbaugh's unfunny "slut" routine sparks reciprocal disingenuous campaigns against actual funny comedians. (Also, against Bill Maher.) So it goes. I really hope they don't cancel Louie, but it could well happen, and if it does, well, it'll be your own damn fault, kids.

(via Instapundit.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:30 AM

March 09, 2012

"It’s something that Richman and Reed have been kings of doing for years…"

My buddy Chuck Prophet has a new album and it's getting some attention (and it's great -- buy one!) It's always nice when the good guys win, since it happens so rarely.

He's getting a bit of press in the UK, to judge from my twitter-stream, including this fun "fantasy band" Q&A in the Independent, and this delightfully screwy review of Temple Beautiful on the BBC's website, which is the source of this post's title.

All the praise is well-deserved, but well, let me just say: writing in the English language has been something the English used to be kings of doing. Now, it seems, not so much. And Chuck as the new incarnation of... Jonathan Richman? I guess I get it, in that they're both arguably a bit Reed-y sometimes. As for all those obscure, oh-so-American references in the lyrics (e.g. "Halloween" and "baseball") - well, who knew?

Glad to know rock journalism is alive and well somewhere at least.

Anyway, if you pick up the new album you won't be sorry. Time to add another throne next to what some Lou Reed albums are lounging on.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:39 PM

March 08, 2012

On the Better Side of Just Okay

Jodi of I Will Dare, guesting at Book Riot, posts about how Andromeda Klein's love of books inspired a general, felicitous de-hoarding and purge of unwanted titles and how in the process (if I'm reading it right) the book managed to earn itself a place, if only just. Whew, that was close!

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:07 PM

March 07, 2012

We Won't be Broke Forever Baby


Posted by Dr. Frank at 08:41 PM


Michael Kinsley talks sense on the Rush Limbaugh slut boycott:

any apology induced in these circumstances is almost by definition insincere. You can’t demand a public recantation and then expect sincerity along with the humble pie. If they wanted a sincere apology, Limbaugh’s critics would have had to defend his right to make these offensive remarks, and then attempt to change his mind using nothing but sweet reason. Go ahead and try.

These umbrage episodes that have become the principal narrative line of our politics are orgies of insincerity. Pols declare that they are distraught, offended, outraged by some stray remark by a political opponent, or judicial nominee, or radio talk-show host. They demand apology, firing, crucifixion. The target resists for a few days, then caves in and steps down or apologizes. Occasionally they survive, as Limbaugh probably will, but wounded and more careful from now on.

More careful means less interesting. Limbaugh is under no obligation to keep saying offensive things just to keep me entertained. Still, it’s a pity.


The New Republic's Timothy Noah struggles to find a rationale for dismissing charges of hypocrisy from the right and comes up with this: Limbaugh's statements are objectively worse because he has a bigger audience. Er, sure. Partisanship has its reasons, which reason never knows.

This was my comment last year when everyone was pretending to think that the Tuscon shootings were caused by Sarah Palin's maps and uncivil "discourse" from the bad people (but not us) and I'll quote myself because it's apt here as well: of course you think the other side does it all the time while your side does it hardly at all; thinking that is part of "it."

I'm with Nick Gillespie:

If you've ever needed a reason to rethink dumb attachments to the left-right, liberal-conservative Manicheanism at the heart of conventional politics, the sort of idiotic Team Red vs. Team Blue mentality underscored by Noah's need to exonerate the misogyny of his ideological allies should give you something to ponder.
Ideology makes us into dopes, no matter how good we are.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:05 PM

Fantastic publish! What a beauty text!

Overwhelmed by spam again, so I'm turning off the comments for awhile to let it die down a bit. Email me or facebook me if you've got anything to say.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:15 AM

March 06, 2012

Found Another One


I have no idea how the sixth reel, and only the sixth, of the 16-track for Our Bodies Our Selves wound up in my closet, but it's lucky it wasn't the one that got flooded when the water heater burst a few years back.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:10 AM | Comments (3)

March 04, 2012

When I was a kid this intro was the drum version of the "Smoke on the Water" riff...

... that is, it was always the thing you would try to play first whenever you picked up drum sticks.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 07:14 PM | TrackBack

March 03, 2012

Why Our Kids Isn't Learning

Spelling test found in Noe Valley, San Francisco:


Four out of twenty are misspelled, yielding a score of 23/20. This equals 100% (i.e. "NO RETAKE!" which is greater than two "spelling tasks") for a grade of A.

Nice Try!

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:39 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

"I attempted to draw the sexiest babes I could, but they came out looking absurd."


Maria Popova celebrates Dr. Seuss's nude "adult" book. It's long out of print but not too hard to find.

Wishing a dead person a "happy birthday" is a pretty strange thing to do, and doing so as a way of displaying one's good taste and mastery of the calendar is one of many strange behaviors that the internet seems to exacerbate. I don't like it, particularly. But were it not for this custom, I'd never have heard of Dr. Seuss's The Seven Lady Godivas, so, you know, yay internet.

I posted my own brush with Seuss here.

(via Andrew Sullivan.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 02:58 PM | TrackBack

March 02, 2012

Instant Comma Gonna Get You

Say what you will about Peter Gleick, but a guy who scrupulously uses the Oxford Comma can't be all bad. I will be extremely surprised if it turns out that he is not the guy who forged the Heartland "strategy memo," but this is weak tea.

That said, I imagine Dr. Gleick and his parents, God and Ayn Rand, must be miffed, chagrined, and vexed that his ill-conceived little caper seems to have been just about the best thing ever to happen to the heretofore obscure Heartland Institute. It, the Institute I mean, certainly seems to be having fun with it, at any rate.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Subject: The "Monkeys"

Here's the FBI's Monkees file.

The contents are mostly blacked out except for this bit:

…that "The Monkees'" concert was using a device in the form of a screen set up behind the performers who played certain instruments and sang as a "combo." During the concert, subliminal messages were depicted on the screen which, in the opinion of [redacted], constituted "left wing innovations of a political nature." These messages and pictures were flashes of riots in Berkeley, anti-U.S. messages on the war in Vietnam, racial riots in Selma Alabama, and similar messages which had received unfavorable response from the audience.
You never can tell with these "beatnik types." Sounds like a heck of a show.

(via Reason's Jesse Walker.)

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:11 AM | TrackBack

March 01, 2012

Monkees Derangement Syndrome

As Davy Jones is dead, I thought I should write something about the Monkees, but I already did that here, and I really don't have much to add.

Here's wishing you a Heaven that makes all women beautiful and kills all men over five foot four.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 05:01 PM | TrackBack



Stunning custom scabbard from Brian Kunz made for an Albion Dane.

Posted by Dr. Frank at 04:06 PM | TrackBack

Pense à moi


Posted by Dr. Frank at 03:38 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack