It’s Alive: Sound You Can Trip Over

Dr Frank Weakly Reader for 02.28.2020

Frank Portman
10 min readFeb 28, 2020

Hullo, friends, and welcome to another Dr Frank Weakly Reader, wherein I index my own “content” in illustrated, edited, pseudo-newsletter form. I have to do this because social media broke the internet and nothing is reliably searchable anymore.

Anyway, I love records.

The thing that’s alive enough to be tripped over is the Mtx forever double LP, which has at last (and literally) materialized and which, as you can see above, I have just now got my hands on. It has been a long, rather arduous journey from the first inklings of it in 2005, through the location, collation, and preservation and transfer of the tapes, through a public campaign soliciting fan feedback and suggestions, to the Danny Partridge debacle… but, well, here it is, and it’s beautiful. I have lots of outlandish, unrealistic dreams of things I’d like to do that never have much chance of happening; it’s rare, and pretty nice, to have one happen every now and then.

The goal here was to see what we could do with the tapes from the various eras, as a sort of dry run for a future program of re-issues; and to create, as a sort of by-product of that experiment, an album in its own right that sums up the band (during it’s lengthy “out of print” window, anyway, from 1985 through 2004 — there’s still a band now, obviously, and releasing and keeping current stuff in print is another goal of this project. Stay tuned for the future on that.)

We learned a lot, technically and practically, from doing this, but another aspect to it was more, I guess you’d say… philosophical. We have stuck doggedly to the still retrograde but newly salient idea that the physical, and particularly the vinyl, iteration of a sound recording is the only one that is genuinely “real”. Everything else gets lost in the shuffle. It has a ghostly quality.

To quote myself from a previous rumination on this a couple years back, “virtual media’s greatest strength is also its biggest flaw: you can’t trip over it. Easily stored, easily forgotten.And further:

I’ve realized that what I’m actually after with this stuff is not simply the most efficient way to store and transfer it.

Rather, I’m thinking along the lines of creating things that can be excavated, in a worst case scenario, long after I’m dead and forgotten (and also while I’m still living and forgotten.) And by that I mean not only some kids amusing themselves laughing at Engelbert Humperdinck record covers in bargain bins or thrift stores or what have you, but also actual archaeologists digging up Englebert or Show Business Is My Life and dusting them off with one of those brushes, calling to the dig supervisor: “Professor, I think I may have found something, just take a look at these curious markings…”

If I make a thousand more Show Business Is My Life LPs, or cassettes, that’s a thousand more things for people potentially to trip over, now or one day.

And you can’t test out what a vinyl record will be like without actually making a vinyl record. So that’s what we’ve done, plus we’ve made it as nice and pretty, sonically and visually, as we could.

So, now we have, once again but in a new form, some sound you can trip over. I think that’s just grand.

The release date is March 13, 2020. “Dibs” reserve copies of the special limited 180 gram de luxe pressing are going out next week. You can pre-order the standard-weight pressing from Sounds Rad or from Interpunk (with some extras) and also from places like Amazon and Best Buy and such. There will also be a CD for those who like that sort of thing.

Thanks to everyone who did anything to do with it, and to those who are interested for, you know, being interested. Mtx forever!

And now, on to the weak that was.


Moar Mtx forever:

— discogs/MTX/Mtx forever: it ain’t real till it’s on discogs.

— “dibs”: Kevin Charley won the framed Mtx forever test pressing from Sounds Rad. It’s a random selection amongst “dibs” callers. Congratulations. Beyond the main function of reserving copies of deluxe limited editions of new releases, there are special offers, unique items, etc. available to “dibs” people, so if you’re the sort of person who likes special offers, unique items, etc. signing up for “dibs” next time around might just be for you.


— "Dad, where’s that one record I like, the one that’s blue and punk rock?”

Dateline 5/29/12, a kind of review by dialog with kid, of Love Is Dead. By my calculations Cedar is now 11 going on 12. Still wondering about Cedar and what he’s into these days.

— Thursday thwackback on MTX, Henrietta Hippo, and Julie Andrews: how jokingly writing “Julie Andrews” on a tape reel most likely led to the loss of a chunk of the Our Bodies Our Selves master recordings.

— Hard, sweet, and tricky: one of those “memory” things from 2014:

Just have to finish the lyrics of one more song (“Down with the Universe”) for the King Dork Approximately “suite” of songs to be complete but it’s a tricky one. Lyrics are hard.

It was hard, but it came out alright.

— Moar MTX vids: a guy on twitter recently discovered my YouTube channel and reposted some of the videos. That’s good enough for me and I followed suit.

— …and your Friday morning “Together Tonight”, from Dynamite Ham, aka our friend Ethan (from his album of covers of songs by me and Frank Loesser — called “I Believe in You” because we both have songs of that title.) It’s a bandcamp link.

Original recording is here. This was one of the early Songs for Odin, which I wrote about here. As this is not on YouTube, I can’t add it to my YouTube covers playlist obviously, but if you’d like to hear other such covers found on the internet you can follow that link and find some.


— Our friend Alex forwards this pic (above) which looks like Dr Frank corporate headquarters, but is in fact a dental clinic in Ekaterinberg in Russia. (Here’s the clinic’s Instagram, btw.)

— Some Writing I Wrote about Music: some writing on music I’ve done and aggregated. This was slightly repurposed from an aborted “series” I tried to start where I posted a song with some explication each Monday. I couldn’t keep up. Anyway, here it is, on Medium, featuring Charlie Daniels, Renegades, Rolling Stones, Lemon Pipers, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Ram Jam, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Neal Hefti, Joe Goldmark.

Pull quote (on the Lemon Pipers’ album Jungle Marmalade):

My appreciation bordered on the sardonic, possibly even on the sarcastic, sputtering, giggling, saying ‘oh man’ over and over, glorying in the absurdity. Then, I looked up, and, imperceptibly, it had become one of the greatest albums of all time…

— The Art of Wikipedia: in a couple of items I’ve noted before (that came up as FB “memories”), I noted some impressive writing in the wikipedia articles on Meat Loaf and on the song “Boogie Fever.” In both cases I sincerely like the writing, though part of the reason for liking it is an essential absurdity. Writing an encyclopedia entry like that is rather hilarious, but it’s a cut above the usual, even if it’s a bit off-kilter. The background to all this is, I really hate the wikis for myself and my band. I’m not sure what would make them better, but I’m sure the Meat Loaf guy and the “Boogie Fever” guy could come up with something.

— Dept. of bons mots:

According to my phone, the convoluted route I have to take around the neighborhood to avoid all the people I don’t want to stop and talk to increases my step count threefold on average. Fitness through social anxiety and misanthropy. The Dr. Frank method.


In a conversation about resumes I realize that I have had three employers in my life: the Millbrae Public Library, the University of California, and Suicide Girls.


Something’s wrong with the new bacon / shower detector installed in my apartment. Every time I fry bacon or take a shower, an alarm goes off and a voice says “fire fire fire fire fire fire fire fire fire.” It should say “bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon” or “shower shower shower shower shower.” Otherwise it works perfectly once you hit it hard enough with an axe.


So, being a bit deaf and having a possibly warped brain, I almost invariably hear the word “obviously” as “I’ll be your slave” for the first split second that it’s out there. Plan your vocabulary accordingly.


Living in San Francisco means that many of your most intimate, romantic moments occur amidst the strong scent of urine.

— One day maybe you’ll be way beyond this silly habit you’ve put on…: a Song for Odin for æsc Wodnesdæg, that is, me doing “Sackcloth and Ashes” in an Italian cemetery in 2006:

“Minor secrets” are here. Song for Odin playlist is here.


— Roman calendar: cathedra Petri; for Quincagesima; Æthelberht of Kent; Bruegel’s carvinal vs. lent painting for Shrove Tuesday; illuminated letter M depicting Ash Wednesday; Lent / Temptation of Christ; Romanus and Lupicinus and the Devil’s rain of stones

— Behold: Ulysse; an audio girl; George Frederic Watts’s The Happy Warrior; lady disrobes with bat; AC/DC “original punk rock”; Belen Chavanne in Wonderland; lady on bus pole; The Erotic Misadventures of the Invisible Man (posted because there’s a new Invisible Man movie coming out and a twitter ad campaign for it — I thought it was funny); human companionship; three Debbies (one with detachable head)…

…and finally:


— When every last thing that can be regulated is finally regulated, leaving nothing unregulated, only then will we truly be free: bill proposes a ban on separate aisles for boys’ and girls’ items in California toy stores.

— Yet another “cancel culture” story, involving a “leaked” DM from four years ago, an attempted suicide, and a major movie whose director made the mistake of criticizing the initial pile-on. From the article:

So what can we learn from this mess of a scandal? For one, never tweet, never send direct messages, never post anything — in jest or not — that can come back and haunt you later. The internet has created a sort of permanent record for all of us, one in which there’s no room for context or nuance or measured consideration.

In fact, there’s no way to predict what turns of phrase or opinions or modes or styles of communication may render you “cancelable” next year, or five years from now (if we’re still doing this five years from now, which I hope we won’t be but I fear we will.) Say nothing. Write nothing. Keep your own private thoughts to yourself. And trust no one. I guess. We’re not going to do that, are we?

Speaking of which, Emily Gould, who was in the thick of this dynamic in its (in retrospect) rather naive crucible at reflects on her career as shamer and shamed.

It might be that there is no sense to be made of this for me. There’s just the blunt, stupid feeling of humiliation, a strange and specific kind of loss. Who might I have become if this hadn’t been how I’d begun?

Gawker is no more but its spirit lives on in the twitter-sphere. And basically, we’re all Emily Gould now.


And that’ll wrap it up for this edition of the Weakly Reader. Mtx forever and all that. And for those who’ve made it this far down the page, here’s how your guitar can double as a comfortable seat when you need a break from playing folk songs in the woods:

See you next week.



Frank Portman

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