Dr Frank Is Alive and Well and Living in Hobbiton

The Dr Frank Weakly Reader for 03.27.2020

Frank Portman
Mar 27 · 9 min read
Robert Albauer

Welcome friends, indifferents, denizens of the deep, and so forth, to another Dr Frank Weakly Reader, that thing I do where I re-cap the week in Dr Frank, adding illustrations and this and that. It’s mainly so I can find stuff later on, should I ever want to do that. And also because, what else is one to do? I mean why not?

To explain the Hobbiton thing: when I talk to my old pal and rockandroll comrade Grim Deeds he always asks, “how are things in Hobbiton?” meaning in my squalid little apartment, which is small and over-filled with books and such, largely shielded from natural light… plus there are a lot of swords. The comparison isn’t entirely apt. Oakland is nothing like Hobbiton, as I imagine it, and Bag End was, as far as I can tell, rather a grand hole, as far as hobbit holes go. (I have lived in actual literal Hobbiton, by the way, which is in deepest darkest Norfolk.)

But I know what he means. It’s a dark, cramped little hole in many respects. And as I’ve mentioned in a recent write-up on “Two Minute Itch,” it’s a little hole I’ve lived in now for literally decades. And we’re all in our little holes now, aren’t we?

And I am, I suppose, rather clearly alive and well enough. So far so good anyway, as far as I know. Though I half suspect I may be going a bit mad, though it’s famously and logically rather difficult to tell if or to what degree such may or may not be the case. Nevertheless, the show must go on, even if it’s the worst show in the history of shows.

So my friends etc., allow me to wish you well.

And now let us move on to the weak that was.

— Here are the “dibs” deluxes, all boxed and bagged for pickup at Sound Radical HQ. A photo for our times.

The outer shipping bag seems to have worked well at protecting the inner shipping box (there have been reports of other packages delivered on the same day without such safeguards and less satisfactory results.) Is there a limit to packaging for the packaging? We’ll find out. Here’s the link to sign up for the Sounds Rad mailing list, btw. They are truly the packaging kings.

— And… delivery! Documented box arrivals have begun, including to/from Clay; Nick; Sean; Drewfus; Jason; Rev Will the Thrill; Jay of the Prozacs (at left)… with more to come, I’m sure.

— Animal Xing: not going to pretend I have any idea of what Animal Crossing is all about, but I do know that Jody MTX-icized it.

— Podcast warning: Jim Testa of Jersey Beat interiewed me about Mtx forever etc. and you can hear the result here:

—You wanted the best you got the… well, it’s … pretty good and anyway whattaya want for nothin’? An Mtx forever review from a website called The Firenote. We did what we could with what we had even if we weren’t Dylan.

— Surrender: when google translates Japanese on twitter, it often results in a kind of poetry, as it does with this caption linking to the Fastbacks’ “Book of Revelation” cover.

— Can’t even leave the apartment: the Mtx forever playlist continues with “Oh, Just Have Some Faith in Me”

Plus: “Leave the Thinking to the Smart People”I know it’ s (still) not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is one of my best songs, qua song. And “The History of the Concept of the Soul”. I’ve been gradually adding songs to the playlist, just to have it on my channel. We’re nearly there.

— For an interesting discussion…: speaking of, here’s a copy of ER Dodds’s The Greeks and the Irrational that Patrick had me sign:

— What could go wrong? A suggested corporate recruitment playlist from linked-in that included the MTX song “On the Team.” They’re just using titles as elements in a sentence that reads: “you, you’re awesome, we need you on the the team. When your [sic]ready, come and get it.With kind regards, your friends. P.S. You’re so cool.”

— Some Foggy Mountain Tops: there was a twitter post of the MTX version of the Foggy Mountain Top song, so, you know any excuse. I wrote a bit about that here.

— Odin, Song for: much as one might wish to suspend Wednesday indefinitely, it comes along nevertheless, and much as I might like to pull the plug on the whole thing in these trying times, I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s important to maintain the bare bones of the schedule, if only to preserve just a bit of a grip on reality. (I know that sounds stupid, as if the stuff I post has anything to do with reality, but real is as real does and you work with what ya got.)

So, we had “Surfin’ Mozart”, chosen, as explained in more detail in the “minor secrets” write-up, because a K-pop playlist has recently significantly boosted plays of that track on Spotify.

So, we pulled off another one. The Songs for Odin playlist is here.

— … and your Friday morning “History of the Concept of the Soul,” another track from Dynamite Ham’s album of Dr Frank and Frank Loesser covers. (Bandcamp link.) Cheers Ethan! Original above.

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.

— Dept. of bons mots:

In the fourth grade we had a “rock appreciation” program where we all sat cross-legged in a classroom in the dark and clapped along to songs from Magical Mystery Tour and Bridge over Troubled Water. I got in trouble for sarcastic clapping. I still do this.

— Extended family: my niece Julia’s quarantined mermaid, wearing an MTX pin.

— We’re allowed to walk for exercise if we maintain “social distancing” (which I would do anyway.) I really hope they don’t do away with this “exception,” as I’ve heard they are considering in some localities, because without these daily walks I do believe I’d go right round the bend in pretty short order. I’m a grown man, allegedly, in, as I say, a hobbit hole, effectively. It’s a nice hole, as holes go, but I’ve already gone a bit mental. I can feel it. Anyhow, here’s an angel I saw at Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland, on one of these walks.

— Zen and the art of blade maintenance: when in doubt, oil your swords.

— …and my quarantine laundry bottom of the barrel 23 year old shirt:

— Weird Al doing “Classical Gas” on accordion on a So-Cal balcony:

— Tom Lerher doing “I Got it from Agnes” on British TV. Charming as always and never more apt:

— “Shelter in Place”: I complained about the use of this term this last week (tl;dr — it does not describe what we’re doing, but rather something entirely different.) Here’s journalist Jesse Singal in NY Mag making pretty much the same point.

— “The Gambler”: Kenny Rogers died and I posted the obligatory photo. He is, it hardly needs stating, most known for his wildly successful record of the song “The Gambler.” It’s a song that has impacted my life more than you probably think. My dad used to quote it ruefully quite often during the trying times of intrafamily conflict during bitter negotiations with his own father concerning the disposition of the family business, the reverberations of which could still be felt all the way through to his death and even now. (Long story.)

It is him I think of first when I hear the song today. But it’s also the first song (qua song) that I studied deliberately, forensically, in the spirit of an autopsy, to try to understand what it did and how it did it. This at the prompting of Kevin Army, trying to nudge me toward better writing of my own, or at least, toward a wider vista. I was skeptical (because despite the association with my dad I tended to dismiss anything mainstream or popular as mindless “muzak” — boy I must have been insufferable. Plus I wasn’t in the habit of looking at songs in that way.) But Kevin was right: it’s a composition that really rewards careful examination. I learned a lot from the exercise, benefitting most, I’m sure, from the simple experience of having my expectations and prejudices shattered. What a song.

Of course, if the goal had been that I start writing songs like “The Gambler”… well, that didn’t happen. I couldn’t do it if I tried. But I do think it helped me get better at writing my own sort of song. Which reminds me, I should do more of that sort of thing.

Kenny Rogers was a great talent and, from what I can tell, a lovely person with impressive humility and a spirit of kindness to all. He didn’t write the song, though. That writer is Don Schlitz. He went on to write a great many Nashville hits in subsequent years, but “The Gambler” was an early effort, written in his early twenties. His own recording of the song can be heard here. I’ve always liked Bobby Bare’s version:

Anyway, here’s to “The Gambler,” Don Schlitz, Kenny Rogers, Bobby Bare, Kevin Army, and my dad. My world certainly wouldn’t have been the same without that particular confluence.

That’s about it. But for those who’ve made it this far down the page, here’s a gal in a dirndl, if dirndl means what I think it does:

See you next week.

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