MTX IS INFRASTRUCTURE
Welcome friends, to another Dr Frank Weakly Reader, and another double-week edition this time because I skipped last week (that’s what I mean by “incl.” in the subtitle.) As it is at least theoretically possible that someone may look at this who hasn’t looked at any previous Weakly Reader, I repeat the spiel: this is mainly a means index my own “content” in this post-index internet, in case I ever want to find anything in the future. I usually big it up with illustrations, annotations, and the like, and sometimes I’ll include extra items and commentary (as here with the mini-essays on being reminded of Richard Brautigan and Philip Roth — scroll down.) It’s like a pseudo-newsletter, sort of. I know very few people actually read it, but if you’re one of them, I thank you.
And now, on to the weaks that were….
— RAD-018: MTX Shards vol. iii, that is, the final chapter (at least till we make more to be shattered into shards and reassembled later on.) Sounds Radical announced it this week, though it’s been a long time coming.
These are the last of the “orphaned” tracks, released but as yet uncollected on vinyl and not on the program of any projected album re-issues. This batch is all non-album songs from singles, from 1991’s “Sex Offender” seven inch through the b-sides of 1997’s “…and I Will Be with You” single.
I’ll have more extensive comments and notes to share in the next few weeks, but all I’ll say now is, everyone in the audio chain did a bang-up job and it sounds great. (See this week’s Song for Odin write-up of “Speed Racer” for more on that.)
As for the schedule: an advance “dibs”offer for the de luxe 180 gram first press went out to special dibs list “club” people on Monday (and they gobbled up most of the slots as I understand.) Regular “dibs” for what’s left and for the waiting list will commence on Monday, May 10, noon EST, with ordering to begin on June 7. The street date is July 9.
Btw, the way to get on that special advance list is to make a “dibs” call, so if you’re not on already and want in on it, now would be a good time.
As always, Sounds Radical is where to go for info and teases.
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF MTX
— The way how we used to open bottles like… a pic of one our old MTX keychain bottle openers, in green, was posted on the Lookout Records FB page. Which reminded me, I wrote a bit about the “minor secrets” of these items in an old Songs for Odin post. Snip:
There was a time when I believe each and every person who was aware of and supported the band had one of these. It made “our people” very easy to spot, which was useful. We continued to make them, in small, erratic batches and various colors, all the way through the nineties, at which point you could tell the “old guard” by the fact that the logo had faded completely away. I still encounter some such.
Every so often our van would be broken into and the box of keychains stolen. We would wait till the weekend, go to the Ashby Flea Market, find the stall of the guy who stole them, and buy them back. It was a sort of game.
— Tape notes: a Yesterday Rules “memory” and an update, on the challenges and progress of extracting the music from a creaky old hard drive. tl;dr: it wasn’t easy but it worked, though there’s still more cans of worms to open. I know digital is the wave of the future, but give me tapes any time.
— Sometimes the most memorable shows are those to which the band doesn’t show up: a story from Tim Popkid about a show we missed because of freeway exits, or something, and the shirts that endured. I have no recollection of this, but it sounds like us.
— Tumbleweed and Bailey, of the Berkeley Square, where we played many, many shows an age ago. Just a cool picture I stumbled on.
— To be fair, stuck somewhere between the summer of love and the Partridge Family is where I wanted to be all along: guy posts old review of Alcatraz and comments ensue. And ensue. People really still argue about this, after all these years. Musta did something right, or wrong, or both.
I personally, have some experience with the fairly well-worn tradition of creating a would-be masterpiece that breaks new ground in a way that absolutely nobody digs. Complexifying your art and getting away with it can be mightily challenging. It doesn’t help that you can see their point, which you usually can. But what am I supposed to do, you ask, shaking your fist at the stars, record the same album ten times in a row before finally bashing my brains in with a hammer? Why, yes, that is in fact what they want you to do. Literally. Let us know when you’ve secured your hammer, and we’ll write a respectful obituary, they seem to say.
— Song for Odin:
“Minor secrets” here.
[b] then we did “Speed Racer” from the Shards vol. iii test pressing:
[c] and then:
— Too Vague to Fail, a/k/a ODIN xxxi, the latest collation, feat: “Fucked Up on Life” / “The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful” / “The History of the Concept of the Soul” / “Population: Us” / “I Fell for You” / “I Wrote a Book about Rock and Roll”.
— …and finally, Valerie with her Big Black Bugs:
Before that, the previous thing I signed for her was a coconut around 1000 years ago.
DR FRANK THE TERRIBLE
— Esme Bee: Way back in 2006 I got a message from a girl from Austin named Esme Bee, asking me to do an interview for her zine, a pretty common thing to happen in those days. I responded as usual and then the thread got dropped and it never ended up happening, also a common thing. So the interview never got done, and, sadly, Esme passed away in 2012. Last week, fourteen years later her friend Jessica picked up the thread and responded to my email response of 2006, and we conducted the belated zine interview as a sort of tribute to her. And here it is, in zine form, including all the correspondence and some photos. Never too late. RIP Esme.
— Dept. of bons mots: evergreen, if evergreen means what I think it does.
— UPDATE: the world HAS finally gone so wrong it’s taken all the pleasure out of being right…
— Sound you can trip over: in lieu of a Weakly Reader post last week, we re-visited this essay on my Show Business… legacy and the uses and benefits of encasing art and music in petroleum products that can be traded and scattered hither and thither.
“Very useful,” said Sir Impey. “A person who can believe all the articles of of the Christian faith is not going to boggle over a trifle of adverse evidence. But we can never hope for a whole jury-box full of ecclesiastical die-hards.”
— Dorothy L. Sayers, Strong Poison, 1930
OTHER PEOPLE’S MUSIC
— Swell Maps — Mayday Signals: a new rarities collection compiled by Jowe Head, most of them previously unreleased as far as I can tell. I just discovered its impending existence and said “wow.” The track list is very interesting, of course. I pre-ordered, of course.
— The Saints — “Monkey (Let’s Go)”:
— Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt: I’m certain that the San Francisco Chronicle headline in this 1940s newstand photo is the source of the Richard Brautigan poem and book titled Rommel Drives on Deep into Egypt from 1970, but I can’t figure out if its source is this particular photograph or some other depiction or reference to the headline. (Google didn’t tell me.)
Either way, it’s a great photo, a real visual time capsule, with the juxtaposition of the momentous war reporting with the astonishing array of pulp/comics. I’ve done lots of reading and seen lots of movies about that war and that era, but I never knew life was like that, or saw it from that angle precisely.
And it’s quite a poem too, and what the hell here it is:
Rommel is dead.
His army has joined the quicksand legions
of history where the battle is always
a metal echo saluting a rusty shadow.
His tanks are gone.
How’s your ass?
Though I wasn’t a big poetry guy when I was a kid, I was a big fan of Brautigan’s novels despite (and maybe a little bit because of) the fact that he was severely out of fashion by the time I discovered them. He was one of the great oddballs of his era (and just, generally), never fully accepted by even the counterculture literary establishment despite having sold several million copies of Trout Fishing in America, and he had a very tragic life from beginning to end (see wikipedia for the story.)
These books are quirky and darkly comical to a fault, impressionistic but nonetheless much more coherent than the typical counterculture let’s-just-freak-’em-out sort of meandering anti-art. It’s possibly this coherence itself that made it all seem naive and unserious to people like Lawrence Ferlinghetti and other grand pubahs. Or maybe I’m just feeling some vicarious resentment on his behalf, because I totally get that seriously unserious aesthetic and I can feel something of the sting of that kind of contempt myself. Had he been an actual hippie maybe they would have given him a break and things might have ended differently. Maybe not, though, he was a troubled man.
His daughter, Ianthe, is still around in San Francisco, and wrote a beautiful memoir called You Can’t Catch Death: A Daughter’s Memoir largely concerned her father’s suicide’s effect on her, and a bit Brautigan-esque itself.
I’ve run into her at a couple of literary events, at one of which I managed to involve her in a discussion about what her father’s work meant to me and we both wound up a little choked up, which is one of my fondest and most bittersweet memories. It wasn’t one hundred per cent about the books qua books. She really loved her dad, and I know the feeling.
Anyhow, discovering the Rommel photo brought it all back. Despite all this darkness, for a good time go pick up a copy of Willard and His Bowling Trophies, the funniest sorrowful book I’ve ever read.
— Roman calendar: the Three Marys, at the tomb, by van Eyck; Mark the Evangelist with winged lion, illuminated; 13th century paten depicting Saint Trudpert; kitchen angels, for Saint Zita’s Day; Vitalis of Milan, illuminated; Peter of Verona and the false Cathar apparition of Mary with child (at left); Catherine of Siena; Joseph the Workman, from the Merode altarpiece, attributed to the Robert Campin workshop, and depicting among other projects on the workbench, a wooden mousetrap; Saint Athanasius, from the Versailles colonnade; The Finding of the Holy Cross (Crouchmas), illuminated; relics of the English Martyrs, Tyburn; Saint Pope Pius V, gazing out the window at a vision presaging victory in the Battle of Lepanto; Saint John before the Latin Gate, illuminated;
— Behold: a girl and her frogman; John William Waterhouse’s After the Dance (1876): a brunette by the fireside; a book for two, by J. Frederick Smith; man lessons and woman lessons, before it’s too late; Jane Seymour, by a window; Why, a photograph by Jung Lee; nothing like a pretty girl with a sawed-off shotgun; are you woman enough for… The Ringmaster?; a middle-school listening party; a kneeling girl, in wire, by British sculptor Richard Stainthorpe; it’s your world, hang on to it…; just a pirate lady with beer and sword;
— The Z3d menace — not sure if this is real or not, but either way, it’s funny:
— …and finally, blow away, dandelion:
IN THE NEWS
— Michael Collins: I shared the story of my childhood project of collecting the autographs of the Apollo 11 crew on a NASA promo photo (at left.)
He was the last to sign, most difficult to get. RIP, General.
— Philip Roth: once again, I was spurred to act quickly to acquire a sort-of banned book while I still could, just in case I ever should want to read or consult it, instead of just waiting for that moment to arrive, if ever, and trying then to procure or borrow it when it could be much harder to come by.
A literary biography — the only authorized such — of one of our greatest novelists is worth preserving for such consultation, even if its author may have engaged in some questionable and egregious and/or criminal conduct. In fact, I don’t see what the one has to do with the other. If this guy is guilty of crimes, by all means prosecute and punish him appropriately; but why on earth should the punishment be extended to regular people who just want to read, or might imagine one day wanting to read, an important book as well? Like it or not, this book is part of the critical history of Roth, and of American letters. It’s got 900 pages of information, good, bad, (and I would imagine) ugly. It should be freely available whether or not it was written by a bad man, and even if it is, as some say, really awful. Before the controversy and pulping, lots of people said it was great, brilliant even. Now some of them are backtracking, deleting their commentary etc. much like the publishers themselves, obscuring history, or at least, the history of this history. People can’t be trusted. You have to read things for yourself to know what’s what, and the first step is, you know, getting a hold of it.
But, that’s just one of my quirks. I’m against any kind of banning or suppression of literary and artistic works, being old fashioned that way, and that puts me out of step with the beautiful smart people once again. It’s going to be one heck of a Banned Books Week this year, no one knowing which side they’re supposed to be on, grimly celebrating the Qualified Freedom to Read (Exceptions Apply). All that commendable liberal rhetoric has become traditional, even reified, and people still incant it, but the zeitgeist is post-liberal. Banning books is okay in a good cause now. The most honest and dignified thing would be just to skip it. We don’t believe in it anymore, not really.
As for the Roth book, I’m not in a huge hurry to read it, but I just like knowing it’s there, in the sense that I hate the idea of it not being there. This is why you need your own library, though I have to say, I’m running out of space over here.
— The way we live now (from Sean Cooper in Tablet Magazine):
And that’ll do it for this particular Weakly Reader. But for those who’ve made it this far down the page, here’s something from Albert Arthur Allen, ca. 1924:
See you next week.