Dr Frank Weakly Reader for 7.19.2019
Welcome to another Weakly Reader, that thing I do each week wherein I create my own index for my activities on an internet and information system that has largely de-indexed and memory-holed itself. It’s annotated, expanded, and introduced as well, for what that’s worth. It helps me find stuff, and if you ever want to find stuff concerning me, my band, and other stuff I write or post about, it will help you too. Search “weakly reader” “raquel welch dancing” for instance, if you want to find that picture of Raquel Welch dancing. It works.
On the Kludging Euphemism and the Social Media Colander: This is the “Banned by Facebook” edition because my usual Wednesday Song for Odin post for this week (on the subject of the song “Hell of Dumb”) was summarily and inscrutably banned by Facebook when I posted it. Though posts of mine have been de-ranked, “shadow banned,” hidden, etc. in the usual way up till now, this is the first time this has happened per se, that is as an actual literal post ban, identified as such. The post, a video link with an essay, went up and was up long enough to be seen and commented on by at least one person, but then was quickly tagged with a message saying that the post violated community standards and that only I could see it. There was no appeal available. The only option on offer, that I could see, was to click the “delete post” button.
Facebook recently changed its community standards rules, and I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that this happened for the first time just now. I’m not particularly bothered by it — as I’ve said before a few times, Facebook doesn’t play nice with my kind of content anyway and is making it more and more difficult to come up with workarounds to get such information and “content” across to those who want may want to see it. I never rely on it, and have begun to phase it out for certain “features” in my web activities program: invisible posts serve no purpose, obviously. However, Facebook is still where all the eyeballs are. Most people still use it as a sort of “front end” to the internet. If it doesn’t pass through the FB gate, they don’t see it. This is annoying, but there doesn’t seem to be much that can be done about it, except wait till Facebook crashes and burns and its users abandon it for something else; or even better, for nothing at all, opting to do the gatekeeping for themselves. (Fingers crossed.) But if you want to see my stuff, unmanipulated, uncensored, unbanned, the place to go is my minds.com account. There at least, it’s all in chronological order and nothing’s hidden. Facebook is a trash fire and increasingly so.
All that said, it is interesting to speculate on what might have tripped the wire on that “Hell of Dumb” post. I can’t imagine what about it could possibly be objectionable. It’s probably just an automated banning machine gone haywire (as they always do — this is, as I observe continually, the Age of Nothing Works.) Or possibly it’s the Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse words called for by the Odin conceit, scarily unfamiliar, doubtless up to no good. Maybe there were too many links, or some particular link that was on some kind of ban list. Or possibly some unknown enemy flagged it as offensive, just to cause trouble. There is no way to know.
Of course, I’ve had fun with it, as one must, performing “tests” of various potentially but not really objectionable terms, “Odin,” “country music,” “pedal steel,” “Gary Gilmore”; and speculating that the OBJECTIONABLE CONTENT might well be the guitar solo played in the video. Or was it the profanity, or the arguably “ableist” word, in the title? But fun aside, this process is still worth noting inasmuch as it is emblematic of a kind of spirit of the age, an age of information dystopia, inconsequential as the suppression of my silly little song and video write-up may be within that context.
Basically, my post, my speech, has been censored, without any specified reason. (There’s almost never a stated reason in these cases — you’re just declared to be in violation and zapped.) Like everyone else, I am left to try to guess what it may have been that caused this unfortunate state of affairs, and to try, for the next time, to avoid what I imagine to have been the problem, regardless of whether I might agree with it or whether it would make any sense if I knew what it was. It’s a matter of trial and error with no rhyme or reason, self-censorship without parameters. If I get it wrong, my words won’t appear, my song won’t play, no one will see the naked lady by Velázquez or Raquel Welch dancing.
So I must keep trying various omissions and elisions and circumlocutions till I pass the enforcement machine’s unstated tests for acceptable discourse. Maybe writing “7734 of dumb” would do it. Maybe “Hell of dvm6” would work. Or maybe just skip that song, post and write about a song with no profanity in that might fare better.
And this, of course, goes along with the strange character of our cultural “moment,” in which technical ability to broadcast one’s speech under one’s own auspices with unprecedented speed, reach, and ease is coupled with a severe contraction of what is acceptable and practically feasible to refer to with that speech. This contraction is rationalized as a mechanism for social improvement, a way of making life better, “safer,” for people. But what it amounts to is an increasingly complex and ever more inscrutable system of euphemisms — of the classic sort and now additionally in a new guise as the rhetorical equivalent of a machine-readable tech “kludge”. (Along with a not unrelated stealthily puritanical etiquette that would have made the Victorians’ or even the actual Puritans’ heads spin.)
Just as an example of the sort of kludging dynamic I’m talking about: YouTube, by information and belief, now de-ranks, de-monetizes, de-lists, hides, and sometimes even outright bans and deletes videos that reference the Nazis, so there has developed a habit, almost a folk custom one might say, among those talky YouTubers who want to allude to World War II in videos to “talk around” the term in an oblique way, i.e.: “well, I probably shouldn’t use this term,” they’ll say ruefully and with a raised eyebrow, “but let’s just say: the party in charge of the German government between 1933 and 1945… you know who I’m talking about,”; or they’ll say “you know, the bad guys in Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
No one knows for certain, that I can tell, if this penalty for uttering the word “Nazi” is actual. These people are just guessing and modifying their rhetoric based on their observations and experiences and trying to do what they can to formulate their language in such a way that it stands a chance of dripping through the YouTube speech colander so that people will be able to see and hear their “content.” But the result is a chaos of kludging euphemisms that will, I suspect, be rather confusing to future generations if they ever see this stuff. It’s confusing enough even right now. And it is also, not to put too fine a point on it, and still less to euphe-kludge it, totally retarded.
As another aside, the thought occurred to me yesterday when I was writing this: perhaps the reason no one from the future has used a time machine to come back to kill Hitler is because we will have managed so effectively to erase awareness of all the unsavory bits of history that by the time the time machine is invented no one even realizes that there’s a Hitler there to be killed. It’s a good theory.
But I digress… The point is that, essentially, the exigencies of machine policing of speech and thought require us to leave things unsaid, unreferenced, blindly euphemized. If we don’t, our speech is, or may be rendered, invisible and unhearable, which defeats the entire purpose of it. And it’s often quite unclear precisely what those things are. And the machines doing the enforcement can’t really tell what from what anyway. The machine decides, so we must work with it, and adapt to its crude parameters. (It’s just a cruel handicap for the humans here that many of these parameters are kept secret.)
So the qualitative difference between the banned and the unbanned can be, and so often is, very difficult to spot. “Hell of Dumb” vs. “Supersonic” — the former is forbidden, the latter just hunky dory. It doesn’t matter that the banning of this or that post, this or that bit of speech, this or that term, this or that image, this or that account, or this or that person makes no sense. (cf. St Augustine’s homily, an excerpt from which was banned by Facebook as “hate speech” 1500 years after his death: this really happened, apparently.) In fact making no sense is a feature rather than a bug. Just keep trying to self-censor till you hit the formula that allows your speech to pass through the Facebook speech colander. This time. Or give up on expressing yourself in public entirely, which is, really, the rational thing to do in such a system. This is what is known in law as a “chilling effect.”
To return to “Hell of Dumb”: the result of this banning has been that even for those who managed to see some iteration of my post about the song and video the discussion of the song and what I had to say about it has been totally derailed by the issue of the mechanics of its suppression. I’m the first to admit that discussion of “Hell of Dumb” is not a matter of dire consequence to the world at large. But it is what I choose to use this internet for, and, clearly, this internet is not working for that purpose. The thing I’m trying to do is harmless, simple, and completely straightforward, and should be the easiest thing in the world, but somehow our superior tech and machine-enforced ethics and etiquette make it hard. At least, on Facebook, in this instance. And I expect it to get harder still, as we get better and better at this, that is to say, worse.
As for kludging euphemisms and the social media colander, if this hasn’t been your experience of today’s internet, well, your experience has differed greatly from mine. Anyhow, carry on.
— Sat. Sept. 21 2019: The Mr T Experience with a ton of other bands at the Punk the Burbs Fest 3, Basecamp Pub, Lisle, IL.
Still not quite ready to announce the as-yet-unannounced shows, but I assure that is coming soon. In the meantime, this one’s still on. Tix are available here.
THE AGONY AND THE MTX-TASY
— Song for Odin: The Mr T Experience — “Hell of Dumb” live at the Rivoli, Toronto, October 1997. Banned on Facebook! Hear the song they don’t want you to hear, read the “minor secrets” they don’t want you to read, think the thoughts they don’t want you to think. Question authority. Death to the machines.
— Odin XVII: Minor Secrets of the MTX, Songs of, Revealed! Charles’s Bar Mitzvah Edition! The latest collation of Songs for Odin, posted on Medium, featuring: “Swiss Army Girlfriend”; “Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba”; “King Dork Approximately”; “Supersonic”; “So Long Sucker” / “Zero” (Lookout 23.)
— “You know the band Mr T Experience? Except it’s not Mr T. It’s an old white guy.”
— …and your Friday morning “Institutionalized Misogyny,” a cover by a guy who goes by the name of BassPlaysDave on SoundCloud.
It’s funny, when I wrote this song (in the aftermath of a conversation with a drunk girl who kept repeating the title phrase over and over and saying “oh you gotta read Foucault”) I genuinely thought that sort of rhetoric was long gone, a relic of the past, and was surprised to encounter it in (what was then) the present. But it has come roaring back now, possibly in part because that girl and others like her became an adjunct professor of something at Columbia or somesuch and revived it in their classrooms. The song has always been pretty popular among fans who are or have been academics, and when anyone requests it, it’s pretty much guaranteed to be somebody who has, at minimum, been to grad school. (Who knows, maybe at Columbia at that girl’s class. I wonder if she’d request it if we ever happen to find ourselves in the same club again: probably!) They’d crucify me for it now, and I suppose it’s not too late. Probably shouldn’t even post it but I’m in a reckless mood.
I can’t add it to my YouTube covers playlist, obviously, but more such covers may be found there nonetheless, should you wish to encounter them.
ILLUMINATED E-VELLUM FROM THE FRANKISH KINGDOM
—Christina Aguilera vs Dr Frank: More YouTube Copyright Shenanigans, this time concerning the song “Thank You (for Not Being One of Them)”, which Universal Music Publishing Group thinks they own because there’s a Christina Aguilera song called “Thank You (Dedicated to Fans…)”. It’s the parentheses that do it, I suppose. Again, it’s obviously not the same song — and not even the same title this time, at least not all the way; and again, it’s doubtful they care whether it is or not. And again, it’s pretty funny even while being annoying. For more on this, see my essay on YouTube and Its Discontents.
And… there’s an update: in the end (as of just yesterday) the claim was released because the claimants failed to respond to my dispute within thirty days, which is what usually happens. This leaves Beyonce vs Dr Frank (for “What Do You Want?”) still in play. Will update as appropriate.
— Dept. of bons mots:
Every so often, when I’m not drunk, I realize that my impulse to post something “topical” on this godforsaken website is a foolhardy one & am smart enough to keep my thoughts/ links to myself avoiding a potential world of trouble. Too early to be drunk. Crisis averted. This time.
— Another old shirt (Alcatraz era) came up in regular shirt rotation.
— A girl and her balbum. Ciao Marta!
—Writing about Music Is Like Dancing about Architecture update: my essay on this topic, recently described as “delightful pedantry” in this random Instagram post that tagged me because my Medium “handle” is the same as my Instagram one, is my most-read post on Medium. Perhaps that’s because so many disagree with my position that the saying in its familiar form is wrong, logically and grammatically, and that it must be derived from an unattested, better-constructed original that made sense, before a stoned hippie named Martin Mull got a hold of it and screwed it up permanently.
A commenter over there cried “strawman,” saying that the “interpretive dance” theory is correct and that that should dispense with any objection to the extant formulation.
My response was, and is:
On the contrary, sir, I am positing an unattested “ur-text” that seems to have been garbled by the no doubt extremely stoned Martin Mull in an interview and subsequently set in stone culturally. I’ve explained elsewhere why I don’t buy the “interpretive dance” explanation: if you accept the notion of “interpretive dance” itself (as the Martin Mull sentence certainly does within its own confines) then there’s nothing whatsoever absurd about doing an “interpretive dance” about architecture, or anything else. The point of the saying, unless I have it wrong, is to underscore the absurdity of writing about music by analogy to something illogical and absurd. But, screwy as the idea of “interpretive dance” is (and I agree it is indeed screwy) if it’s possible to dance “about things” in that way, well, why not do it about architecture? Why would that cast an aspersion about writing about music? The saying, in this form, doesn’t do what it clearly purports to do.
But you know, it’s not really so much that I don’t like it, as that I’m interested in it, and the fact that so many people defend it so fervently is just rather fascinating. And of course I could be wrong about it. (Though I’m not.)
But to me it is exactly like when people say “I could care less…” I know they mean “I couldn’t care less…” even if they don’t know they mean that. “Could” stands in for “couldn’t”, “could” MEANS “couldn’t” in this context, by some cultural hive-mind decision that defies all grammar and logic. No matter how many times you explain it, people still say “I could care less” to mean its opposite. So in this situation, to take the democratic view, they’re right and “could” means “couldn’t.” But it’s not actually right, that’s the interesting part.
— Just a pic of me with guitar at the Middle East, Cambridge, Mass., ca. 1997.
— I’m trying to look kind of evil here, but no one’s taking it that way.
OTHER PEOPLE’S MUSIC
— In which I interface with songwriting hero Margo Guryan, on the internet, which, it turns out, is good for something after all.
— Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” drum cover by an eight-year-old girl. If this doesn’t cheer you up, nothing will:
— and finally, Sanford Clark with “They Call Me Country” via my old friend Mad Max (who informs me that this album has been re-issued — one for the wish list for sure):
— Behold: Casino Royale; the Lennon Sisters; another dame in her underwear from (who else?) McGinnis; don’t mess with this which; the Royal Order of the Garter; ibid.; blonde with rose; Claudette Colbert as Cleopatra; dame on phone; terrible lizard in my front yard; dance with beautiful girls
— Kill ’em All… possibly the best “found item” ever, though it was in fact purchased rather than found.
— The party’s over at Francis Marion “Borax” Smith Park in Oakland, Calif.
— …and finally, a couple of guys in turbans putting cats in a lady’s pantaloons (apparently a traditional Turkish punishment, but I’m not informed on the matter).
IN THE NEWS
— England won the cricket, so:
— The New Republic published quite a terrible article on Democratic nomination contender Pete Buttigeig. Everyone seemed to agree that it was terrible, for the anti-gay slurs and (mainly for me) for the pretty terrible writing — it was difficult to believe it was real and not some kind of fake-out. My Rebecca Black-citing lament was that hate-clicks are more valuable in the text-cump click-onomy than taste, good writing, and editing. Then TNR responded to all the criticism by removing the article from its site and sending it down the memory hole, making my comment meaningless and all the commentary floating around on the internet incomprehensible to anyone who didn’t happen to read it before it was shredded. Thus they took a bad thing and made it far, far worse. Publications shouldn’t do this. It makes their whole enterprise suspect when you can’t easily tell what has been published and what has been deleted, or whether anything has.
And this is in a sense the same banning colander process described above, except that here it was a collective of actual people imitating the machines designed to emulate them who tagged an essay as unworthy of existence, after which the offending document deleted itself. I’m against this, even when I dislike the auto-deleting item. Especially when, in fact.
— Nancy Rommelmann says goodbye and good luck to Portland… it’s gonna need it.
— The Hampster Chronicles: real or allegory?
— I still find this funny, though I can’t quite say why:
And that was the weak that was, and it’ll about do it for the Weakly Reader. But for those who have made it this far down the page, here’s a picture of a Fender Nohea Koa Tenor ukulele.
See ya next week.