I Am Here to Let You Take Advantage of My Lack of Craft

The Dr Frank Weakly Reader for 3.19.21, incl.

Elio Luxardo, Ballerine futuriste, ca. 1930

Hello. I’ve assembled another of these Dr Frank Weakly Readers, though it’s two weeks’ worth of stuff instead of the usual one because I skipped it last week as I sometimes do. It’s meant to be an effective index of otherwise unrecoverable internet posts, so I have a place to search if I want to find something. As I always say, I do it mainly for my own use, but I try to make it interesting and pretty as well, just in case anyone else might like to follow along. And as usual, it’s annotated, illustrated, augmented, and expanded, here and there. (To wit, in this case, there are some extended comments on Dr Seuss and censorship in the IN THE NEWS section down below.)

And now, on to the weak that was…

FRONT BURNER

— Lookout Zoomout #3: the third (and mostly like final) installment is just around the corner, March 28, noon Pacific. I’ll be returning as the sort of “house band,” and Grant will host once again, and joining in will be Ted Leo, Penelope Houston, Mass Giorgini, and John & Judy Denery plus Virgil Shaw.

They’ve been fun so far and there’s no reason to think this’ll be any different and it is, as before, a terrific line up. Sign up here if you want to check it out:

So far I’ve done eleven songs over the course of the two shows: Hilter, Last Time I Listened to You, Ba Ba Ba…, I’d Do Anything, Swiss Army Girlfriend, She All Right, Thank You for Not Being One of Them, Swallow Everything, History of the Concept of the Soul,Tomorrow Is a Harsh Mistress, and Here She Comes. Haven’t figured out which ones I’ll do this time, but I won’t repeat any and I am still taking note of requests so let me know if you’ve got any. Requests, that is.

MTX NOW, MTX THEN, AND MTX FOREVERMORE TO BE

— Kepi did a bit of “Two Minute Itch” on Instagram.

— A Rocknroll Show with Screeching Weasel, Mr T Experience, Green Day, Preachers that Lie: an old flier posted on the FB Lookout Records page.

Held on the same day as the Haight Street Fair, so there were maybe 100 people in attendance, and that’s being generous. The third act was hawking their newly-released first 7” record for a dollar. And hey, all eventual Lookout bands! (Sort of…)

I have no recollection whatsoever of this Fulton at Octavia show, but I remember the shows with SW, especially that one in deepest darkest hippie land up north somewhere. I highly doubt there would have been anything remotely near 100 people at it, anyway.

— And another old (25 years) flier via Grant Lawrence, feat. MTX, Smugglers, Dillinger Four, and Quincy Punx. The Whole was a venue in the basement of the University of Minnesota’s student union if I recall correctly. Memorable night.

— Coming soon from the Gungans:

— The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful: the postcard, a promo item from Lookout for Revenge Is Sweet and So Are You. (Came up as one of those “memories.”)

— The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Here: the Song for Odin.

That’s live in Cleveland at the Euclid Tavern, Oct. 1997. The “minor secrets” write-up is here. The Songs for Odin playlist is here.

The following (this)week, Song for Odin took St Patrick’s Day off and reposted an old entry (“Supersonic” in Hamburg, Germany, 1992) instead. The “minor secrets” are here.

— You’re the Only One, i.e., Ukulele Hiro’s latest MTX cover:

— Deep catalog: posted on the FB LK page, the MTX / Goober Patrol split, CD version (which features “Itching Powder in the Sleeping Bags” as a Bonus Mystery Live Track.)

Making Things with Light, yellow vinyl: new to me, and discogs didn’t know about it either. I’ve also seen blue, along with the red and clear they list. Maybe others? You’d think I’d have been interested enough to notice and keep track at the time, but I sure didn’t.

— and finally: "Retirement community y punk rock lunch box” seen on twitter.

SHADES OF DR FRANK

— Tonight I’m a rock and roll star: Jackson Lo has the only photographic document of what I believe was my first attempt at a solo show, at the Bottom of the Hill in SF, ca. 1999. I was terrified.

And here’s another one, at the Brainwash laundromat, late ’90s.

That’s a lotta mics.

— For the Love of Chair: Two years ago, this “chair flier” was still extant, at the record store that presented the show… I still have no recollection of the show, but this must be it, from August, 1999.

Quoting:

"Dr Frank’s lyrics pull you in to meander around in his often silly world.”

Fact check: true, probably.

A guy on Instagram informs me that the chair is, in fact, still there. Long live the chair.

— Just a pic with a guy named Matt, ca. 2006, seen on the internet. (Inset left.)

— Representing Millbrae, CA: a Show Business Is My Life post on the FB Lookout Records page, listing all the guest participants. And it’s true, lots of people had a hand in making that record what it was and is.

— How College Radio, Dr Demento, and Monty Python’s Flying Circus Turned Me into a Punk Rock Antiquarian: re-visited this old essay in lieu of a Weakly Reader post last week.

OTHER PEOPLE’S MUSIC

— Totally incomprehensible anthems make the best anthems:

PICTURE BOOK

— Roman calendar: Saint Fridolin with Ursus; Thomas Aquinas, teaching, illuminated; the funeral procession of Saint John of God; Saint Frances of Rome, in stained glass, from Saint Denis de la Croix Rousse in Lyon; Forty Holy Martyrs of Sebaste; a page from the Félire Óengusso attributed to Óengus of Tallaght; the inspiration of Saint Fina/Seraphina; the liberation of the adulterous woman (John 8:1–11) by Bruegel the Elder; Laetare Sunday, introit; The Cleansing of the Temple (John 2: 13–25); the martyrdom of Julian of Antioch; Saint Patrick’s Purgatory, illuminated; the raising of the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7: 11–16) in relief; Gasparro’s painting of Joseph the craftsman…

— Behold: Coffee, Tea, or Me?; just a dozen Barbie heads in an egg carton; a girl casting hand shadow of wolf against wall; Carole Lombard and Clark Gable at the library in No Man of Her Own; whisky, a woman, a record player, and fake fire; Rocket Tarzan; even when I’m right, I’m wrong; ride the magic carpet; more than toast with a robot; in the museum; inhabited by a race of idiots; a girl englobed; put your cat clothes on

— …and:

IN THE NEWS

— Health Officials Warn It’s Still Too Early to Stop Languishing in State of Unceasing Despair.

— On Beyond Zebra did nothing wrong: John McWhorter defends Dr Seuss’s On Beyond Zebra, one of my own favorite books in childhood, and now, it seems, contraband.

Quoting:

The idea that a labored interpretation of a single page in the book renders it suspicious contraband is a kind of thought trapped very much within a box, a modern proposal that we show that we are good people via performative paranoia.

As McWhorter acknowledges, an image in one of the other books in question is quite obviously distasteful and offensive to current sensibilities, and it’s easy to see why it might be deemed inappropriate for children in this day and age. Parental guidance would seem in order there. The others, of those I’ve seen anyway, are much more of a stretch. But you have to strain very hard indeed to see any problem at all in On Beyond Zebra. McWhorter suspects it’s “Orientalism” in one of the pictures — in the Edward Said sense, I assume. I don’t know if that is in fact the alleged transgression, but if it is, McWhorter dismantles it handily. (I wonder, though, if the offending bit might not instead be a passing reference to Columbus that occurs in the early pages: we all read the entrails differently, I suppose.)

At any rate, whatever you may think of the other five of “the six,” it’s a real shame to deprive children, or adults, of this imaginative, superbly composed work, for what appears to be just about no genuine reason at all.

The matter of the de-published Seuss titles has, of course, assumed the dreary pattern of the “culture war,” with predictable battle lines, over-reaction, and grandstanding on both sides. As usual, it’s either the absolute end of the world or “everything’s fine,” with no middle ground on offer. And as usual, I disagree. That is, it is certainly not the literal end of the world, but neither is it altogether fine.

Yes, yes, books go out of print all the time and private companies can and will do what they must to preserve the viability of their brand, as all the smart, morally upstanding, respectable people say, rightly but also possibly a bit… over-enthusiastically. You own it, you get to choose what to do it with it, that’s the way it works. I imagine Seuss Incorporated has so flamboyantly and public relations-ly announced the virtuous scrubbing of these relatively unprofitable titles as a sacrifice to the “woke” gods and their activist functionaries, hoping to buy at least a couple more fiscal years of licensing in peace before they have to give up The Cat in the Hat, which is, I gather, where the real money is. I wish them luck.

Removing controversial books from libraries (e.g. in Chicago) is a step too far, though, and it astonishes me that so many people who still think of themselves as liberals seem to regard this step with relative indifference (and even outright approval.) It is truly a post-ACLU world. I wonder how the ALA’s “banned books week” will handle this awkward situation, as it’s rather a classic case. Maybe these libraries will back down in the end, as censorship is not a good look for them. And I’m sure they could, if pressed, find some way to pander to the sensibilities of hip twitter and the powers that be that stops short of censorship: warning labels, a dedicated “dangerous books” shelf, or a special room behind a curtain, that sort of thing.

(I don’t love that idea, but I do see the argument for it when it comes to impressionable children. On the other hand, I see the other side there, too, as children are not non-people and in principle deserve to see and judge for themselves just like anyone else, with appropriate guidance and direction if and when necessary, of course. On the other other hand, and I speak from experience here, there’s no quicker route to obsessive enthusiasm for a “problematic” item than parental or societal prohibition, so put that dynamic in the social engineering and moral hygeine calculus as well. You could well find yourself raising a generation of contrarian rebel Seuss-heads if you’re not careful. Nightmare scenario, I know.)

But as for outright removal I think it’s a bad precedent, one that could well have broader repercussions, and I wouldn’t like to see it set.

But it’s only these six books, they say, there’s plenty more books out there why don’t you read some of them and anyway why do you even care, it’s just a bunch of children’s books. Wonderful. But I can easily see this dynamic of activist strategy, corporate appeasement, and library, er… “volunteerism” arising with regard to other “problematic” artistic works, potentially pretty much all of them. There are many books (and films, and songs, and other art) that a whole lot of people would quite like to ban, and would do it if they could.

This has been an on-going problem for free societies, a continual multifarious pressure upon and against open, public access to art, literature, and even discourse itself. I’ve been taught to fret about it since early childhood, and fret about it I have done, ever since, as you know if you’ve read much other stuff I’ve written. I tend to bang on about it. Alarm bells sound at the vaguest, slightest hint of censorship. If it proves to be a false alarm, as it may well here at least with regard to wider repercussions, I’m always relieved rather than disappointed. No one would be happier if everything were to turn out to be fine.

The liberal answer (the one I was taught, and, it still seems to me, the best one available) has been, heretofore, to let everything stand, the bad with the good, the controversial with the unobjectionable. Let the chips fall where they may and leave everyone to sort it all out on their own. It’s all part of history, history is important, and no one can be trusted with the memory hole. We don’t burn books or remove them from libraries; it’s the bad, illiberal people, the ignorant philistines, the authoritarians, the fascists, the religious nuts, who want to do that. That’s no longer the consensus of the “establishment”, the ruling class, the intelligensia, the academy. Now they, that is,“we,” do maybe want to do a bit of that. (A fact which still manages to shock me.) Maybe it will stop at just these six books, and if so, much ado about comparatively little, I suppose. I’ll be relieved if it’s just these six books. Somehow, though, I have my doubts. But if I’m wrong: good.

— Destructive and Impotent at the Same Time: Lots of quotable bits in this article on “hate speech” and censorship, from Freddie de Boer, back on the internet again with a substack like everyone else these days.

This is something that has always puzzled me:

Of all the pretense and hubris that regularly spools forth from the social justice crowd, probably the most deluded is their dogged belief that if some new laws restricting speech were to be passed, they would inevitably be the ones to choose who gets silenced and what they don’t get to say. This is from a group that constantly self-identifies as marginalized and othered, and yet they are certain that they will be the ones left on the throne to decide who gets to say what. Why? I have no idea. The cops like you as little as you like them, lefties. You really think they’re gonna enforce the hate speech law the way you want them to? You want to defund the police, you think they’re irredeemably racist, you think they’re all fascists at heart, but you also want to give them sweeping new powers to limit what people say? That’s… strange.

Strange indeed. This is treading familiar ground, to be sure, but it is still relevant and trenchantly expressed as usual, and worth a read. And: he’s right.

I posted it on minds.com to kind of bookmark it, since I may want to re-visit it later, but I didn’t Facebook it etc. because I frankly didn’t (and don’t) feel strong enough at the moment to face the wave the sniping and condemnation that would inevitably result from such a foolhardy move. Post not, regret not, that’s the maxim. This is not a climate I like.

— obits: RIP to Ray Campi, Norton Juster, and the guy who invented the cassette tape.

FIN

And that’ll wrap it up for this here Weakly Reader. But for those who’ve made it this far down the page, here’s Joan Bradshaw, ca. 1956:

See you next week.

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

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