Can’t stop not knowing why I never don’t

The Dr Frank Weakly Reader for 5.01.2020

ello my friends, and welcome to another Dr Frank Weakly Reader, that thing I do where I produce an augmented, annotated, illustrated index of the past week in Dr Frank. It’s mainly just so I know where to go to search for things should I want to.

But as always, read along if you like. Even though I know few do, or will, I try to make it as entertaining as I can, for some reason I can’t quite articulate.

No main introductory essay or theme as I sometimes do this time. But there is a lot of blathering about various things at random yet in the proper place. You’ll see if you continue.

And now, on to the weak that was…

MTX IN THE ADORABLE FUR

— Life hack: turn your vintage Love Is Dead cassette promo copy J-card into a surveillance-busting laptop cam shield. It just works.

— Looks like it’s goin’ around: the Bill Clinton listening to records meme, MTX style.

— MR T EXPERIENCE REEL 2: Steven Boyle’s friend bought a tape deck from Hyde Street and it came with this empty reel. 1996. Bernd’s writing? That’s some memorabilia. Of WHAT, I have no idea…

— Martini & Rossi vermouth all by itself: Am often asked where we got the image used in the Yesterday Rules artwork and I haven’t been able to recall, but I recently found this and well, this is it. Hard to believe that was 16 years ago.

— Posies, Fastbacks, Mr T Experience, Gas Huffer, Evaporators, Oct 12 1990, UBC Ballroom. Aaron turned up a flier for a very memorable show.

— Katie’s dream: ten years in the making.

— Ty’s You > Toast tattoo: That was quick! No staplegun, I see, but admittedly, “staplegun” is pretty weird.

Speaking of, in the FB comments, Todd asked this Q: “I often wonder how you come up with “staplegun” for that lyric. Maybe you’ve covered that before and I missed it.”

My A, quoting myself from this “minor secrets” write-up of “More than Toast” was:

The kernel of this song was just the idea of playing around with metaphors for love and loss and such, and it evolved into an unstated hypothesis that you can plug just about anything (e.g. “staplegun”) into these kinds of statements with no erosion of emotional meaning for all their absurdity. Eh, it’s hard to explain. It’s never a good idea to try to explain a song: just listen to it (if you want.)

Now you know.

— More hot More than Toast action: So if you’ll remember, our plan, way back when, was to release the remastered version of the song “More than Toast” as a flexi postcard single that could be sent as a Valentine. It was to be a preview of the soon-to-be-released Mtx forever double album as well as just being a fun thing for Valentine’s Day. We offered it in a cool box with an optional shirt that that could be sent as a Valentine gift to arrive on or shortly before the day.

Well, this plan went very far awry. Due to a problem at the flexi manufacturing plant, the first batch of flexi-cards were unplayable. And it took many tries till they were finally able to produce ones that work. Finally, though, we have them, ten weeks too late for Valentine’s Day, and they’re going out imminently. Sorry about that, but it was the best we could do in the circumstances, but, well, Happy Valentine’s Day to you.

Everyone has been a very good sport about it, which I appreciate. Sounds Rad printed some posters, and I signed them, as a kind of thank you to everyone for being so patient. Most of them were just me signing in that way I sign things, but some people issued particular instructions, which I endeavored to to follow faithfully — as in the example inset above — despite the fact that a few of them were quite out of character for me.

Anyway, thanks again for your patience and indulgence, and:

— The High School Is the Penalty Men’s and Girls’ Chorus: four years ago, hard as that may be to believe.

And here’s that song (video by Jonathan London):

— …and, finally, your Friday morning “Personality Seminar” from Sean Padraic Monistat — thanks Sean. Can honestly say I’ve never heard anyone cover this before, or ever imagined that anyone would want to. A “deep cut” for sure. (It’s a Facebook video and won’t embed.)

Original on YouTube is here. In the comments, btw, to that video on YouTube:

I cant believe the small views and comments!! This is a classic/mmasterpiece.. Oh welll. This bandnwill always end it with an underwhelming bang. Thats their trademark!!!

Indeed.

DR FRANK AROUND TOWN

— “The glasses” or what’s left of them.

— April 23 2014 was, as I’m reminded by a Facebook “memory,” the date I was interviewed for the Turn It Around East Bay punk documentary. I was very reluctant to participate when I first heard about it, because I’d been around the block a bit with these punk rock retrospective interview projects and I was fairly certain it would devolve into everybody trashing one another inanely, plus being interviewed by people who don’t particularly know or care about you. Plus, I’m a bit shy. But I’d heard from a couple of people that it wasn’t like that at all and decided to go for it, and they were right it was nothing like the typical situation I’d imagined. They were all very… respectful, I guess is the word, which is something I certainly wasn’t used to wrt me and my band at that time. So, it worked out okay, and actually was kind of fun, though a bit grueling. And I’ve heard I come off okay in it, but I haven’t yet been able to bring myself to view it as, like I said, I’m a bit shy.

— Quarantine shopping with Team MTX: this is how we live now.

(This was a home-made mask my sister made out of a T-shirt.. for more on rock band masks, see below…)

— Urban goats: Getting used to the new normal, but it’s nice to see the old normal popping up again, e.g. the Oakland Fire Dept.’s Preventative Landclearing Goat Brigade back on the job.

— Hell of Oakland: wild turkeys and rattlesnakes.

— Birra Franketti: the great Paolo Proserpio, a brilliant graphic artist who happens to be one of my Milano friends, made these labels (inset, left) when I visited Italy a few years back for the Punk Rock Raduno — and he attached them to actual beers as well. We drank them under a tree in the sweltering Bergamo heat, pre-festival and it was a great, great time.

— Dept. of bons mots:

Junior high school band memory: some guys in a band, somehow, heard I was a self-styled lyricist and asked me to contribute the words to a song of theirs called “Rockin’ Halls” which was supposed to be about going to a Bee Gees concert, killing the Bee Gees, and using their instruments to play the self-same song being written. (I think that last bit may have been my conceptual contribution.) I gave it a shot, but didn’t pass muster. “Your lyrics suck, dude,” they said.

— An old rant (via FB memories) with which I still find myself in broad agreement:

Of all the rhymed couplets in the world, there is none more personally irritating to me than: “Our whole universe was in a hot dense state / then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait.” More here.

Plus:

Speaking of TV, I’ve since stopped watching it almost completely, thus I don’t know if there’s still a solid block of wall-to-wall Big Bang Theory playing on all channels simultaneously throughout the day, and if there still is I’m not there to allow it to bother me.

However, on occasion I do turn it on, and when I happen on CNN I’m always a little shocked by my inability to categorize the programming. And I say to my cat: “wait, this is the news?”

— I didn’t know there was a Yang Gang Book Club on Twitter, but there is and it was a nice surprise to see Jason Elia on there recommending King Dork and King Dork Approximately. Thanks!

Imaginos, Sandy Pearlman, Blue Oyster Cult, and Me: Re-upped this essay about Sandy Pearlman and Blue Oyster Cult’s Imaginos album — part tribute, part “rock procedural,” and part (unlikely) memoir…

In a perfect world we’d have the complete edifice to gape at. Instead all we have is this make-shift, much-compromised, fallen capstone, a capstone that its creator, doing the best he could, set atop his own unstable architecture, and that now sits awkwardly in the sand where it fell. Which is grand enough.

— Two Martinis from Now: Show Business Is My Life was released twenty-one years ago (i.e. it’s “old enough to drink” as the saying goes.) Good Lord. Telling time by means of counting drinks is one of those songwriting conceits that I’m sure has been done many times, but I suspect no one ever went to town on it quite as hard as I did here, and when you’re reckoning time and thinking about drinking, well, it’s apt:

I don’t know how many martinis equals twenty-one years, but it’s lots, obviously.

Jody said: “We should all do the Two Martinis From Now challenge and have every drink mentioned.” I have basically inadvertently done this before and I really wouldn’t recommend it. They say “never mix never worry” for a reason. However, if you spread them out, that is, if you practice temporal cocktail distancing, that’s good drinking I suppose.

— and, speaking of, an important message from Sounds Radical Ministry of Martinis:

— Anyway, cheers: can’t remember where or how I stumbled on this gif of my cameo in the Queers’ “Punk Rock Girls” video, but I did and I posted it.

— Odin: it’s me doing “Jill” and goofing off in a small club in Belgium.

Yes, I dedicated the second verse to my beer. That’s so me. The “minor secrets,” rather extensive as this is a sort of important song for me, are here.

As I said in that write-up, I’d had some plans for some other “content” for this week that just didn’t work out. I have noticed that the videos where I’m just sitting on the couch playing an old song get a lot more attention these days than this more, er, traditional type of Song for Odin, where it’s an old video of historical or nostalgic interest. And this is no exception. In fact, very few people seem to have clicked through on it. Maybe they just don’t like that particular song that much, which is fair enough, though it is good. But I imagine it’s mostly because I’ve done “traditional Odin” so often that it has become a bit old hat by now and is not so interesting after all this time.

And I have been doing it for a long time. I don’t know about the future of this Odin thing. I’ve kept it going mainly so I’m forced to remember what day it is at least once per week and don’t get lost in time. I guess that’s still worth it. But even the more-watched videos don’t get watched all that much. It’s partly YouTube’s fault for de-visibilizing and dis-recommending videos from small channels like mine. It’s partly just that, you know, I’m not real big and famous, about which, well, I think I’m pretty much at my peak there with not a lot of room to move up. Regardless, the struggle continues, sort of. I know the handful of people who appreciate it really do appreciate it and I appreciate their appreciating it very much.

Anyway here’s the Songs for Odin playlist. Some good stuff there, nevertheless.

NOTEBOOK

— Postcards from Lovecraft: a selection of postcards sent by H. P. Lovecraft to various correspondents.

OTHER PEOPLE’S MUSIC

— Jeffrey Bland — “My Skies Were Black (but You Made them Grey)”: I quoted this title on the social medias, and I figure many people assumed it was just one of mine, but it’s actually somebody else, i.e. one Jeffrey Bland. I discovered it via WFMU’s 365 Days Project a ways back, and it is one of my favorite songs. You can hear it here.

— You wanted the best, you got the best: of course KISS “went there” with the masks.

— Earliest Led Zeppelin Memory:

In the car with my mom and sisters, driving past a wall on which someone had spraypainted: LED ZEPPELIN.

“Mom,” we asked, “who’s Led Zeppelin?”

She turned right off El Camino and said: “He was a very bad man.”

(I posted this because of noticing Led Zeppelin “trending” on twitter. Joining in, that’s a weird look for me, but I did it.)

— Stompin’ Tom Connors — “Rubberhead”:

PICTURE BOOK

— Roman calendar: St. Mark the Evangelist with lion; The Good Shepherd; Peter Canisius; Carpaccio’s Vitalis on Horseback with Eight Saints; St Peter of Verona from an illuminated manuscript; Catherine of Siena; Gerrit van Honthorst’s Holy Family in the Workshop of St. Joseph

— Behold: was it LSD he threw or what?; lady and fish by Virgil Finlay; Vincent Price with Linda Hayden from Madhouse (which is quite a good movie if you’re looking for something to watch); she’s Super-chick; Olbinski’s Midsummer Marriage; Gina Lollobrigida (promotional artwork, from La Legge); You… monster!; just a cute redhead

— …and finally:

IN THE NEWS

— Bye Bye Mia: Land O Lakes summarily erased the iconic Indian maiden from its butter packaging, probably (as most assume) in a misguided attempt to get woke and go broke. The little trick where you cut around the butter package she’s holding and fold up the cardboard so her knees become boobs will no longer, it seems, be a part of your typical American childhood as it certainly was of mine.

There’s a nuanced and interesting story about the significance of this artwork and its erasure (cf. “My Native American father drew the Land O’Lakes maiden. She was never a stereotype”). And the irony of trying to be politically correct (if that’s what they were up to) by removing the Indian but keeping the land of lakes was noted by many a twitterer. Not a good look, probably clueless and inadvertent, possibly more sinister, but definitely clumsy. I’m mainly in it for the boobs, of course, but the cultural politics of the whole thing is interesting as well, if not quite as interesting as the boobs.

Then our friend Last Will did this:

Mia forever, indeed. Long live Mia.

— Toilet Duck: in this strange stage in the simulation, an old Father Ted gag becomes suddenly almost topical:

— “Toxic positivity”: this article on psychologists saying “it’s OK not to be OK” and excoriating the cheerful struck a bit of a nerve when I posted it. It seemed to make a lot of people happy, ironically.

And I get it. I’m not one of those cheerful people by nature, and an over-the-top positive “up with people” attitude is something I have often found very annoying. On the other hand, this isn’t something I need to be told. Part of being a dour misanthrope is not caring whether some people in positions of authority think it’s “OK” or not. Plus, pathologizing cheeriness by labelling it “toxic” seems wrong. Toxicity, especially, when applied to emotional states, is an analogy that obscures more than it illuminates.

I would like people to be kind and polite to one another, but not get in each other’s face so much. If that’s what they’re getting at fine. But I know the internet, and our contemporary society, and with this we’re just a step a way from a Cancel the Good-humored campaign, which sounds terrible. Good humor is all we’ve got.

Anyhow, I subsequently posted this, without explanation, which also got some web reaction:

I’m positive about negativity.

It’s a good formulation and, the granted the caveats above, reflects my true feelings in a certain mode. Don’t knock negativity — it’s often a nice way to pass the hours.

Several people said it sounds like a lyric from one of my songs, which, yes it does, and suggested that I should write such a song if I haven’t already. Which isn’t a bad idea. But actually, I think it’s already a song, by somebody else. That is, it’s a lyric I remember, from my earliest days of listening to punk rock and “alternative” radio. I can hear how the singer talk-sang it in my head, though I remember nothing else about it. (But I hope after that it continued with quasi-contradictory phrases like that, e.g. certain about uncertainty, faithful to infidelity — that’s how I’d have done it, had I done it.)

Anyway, if it ever was a song it seems to have left no trace whatsoever on the internet. And it could well be a false memory of mine. I half-hoped someone in the comments to my post would identify it and solve the mystery, but it was not to be. I bet I could write a pretty good one, but the fact that it’s probably already a song means I probably won’t. A song that may have been; or might have been.

FIN

Which will do it for this week’s Weakly Reader. But for those who’ve made it this far down the page, here’s Margaret Nolan:

See you next week.

I am Dr. Frank. I write books and songs. Mtx Forever.