Dr Frank Weakly Reader for 8.23.2019

Unsafe at Any Speed Edition

Frank Portman
Aug 23 · 14 min read

Welcome, friends, to another edition of the Dr Frank Weakly Reader, that thing I do where I create my own index of my web activities so the items may be found in future. It’s annotated, illustrated, and expanded. And, fingers crossed, it hasn’t been banned yet. Annoying as it is that it has to be done, I try to have some fun with it, which is the least one can do. For the handful of people who read it, if there is a handful: I hope you have fun, too.


Unsafe at Any Speed: Putting out records is fun and worthwhile, way more fun and worthwhile than simply selecting a file and pressing “upload.” They’re more fun to listen to than files, too. They mean more.

We’re deep in the midst of Mtx forever mastering. The result will be a beautiful, durable physical object. You can hug it. You can lick it. (Never trust an album you can’t lick, as Todd Rundgren or somebody similarly impressive and record-y used to say, probably.)

Of course, there will be some select-file — upload action as well. We live in the modern world, silly and irritating as it is. But all that digital stuff is ephemeral and insubstantial. One’s entire catalog, or one’s whole collection, can be batch deleted on a whim or a glitch. And even if it survives such whims and glitches, it is still destined to be lost in the massive pile of “content” that just sits there useless and forgotten, not valued very much by anyone. Sure, it’s convenient, but… well allow me to quote myself from this rumination on “content” ephemerality from the days when I was still figuring out what to do with my so-called legacy:

Virtual media’s greatest strength is also its biggest flaw: you can’t trip over it. Easily stored, easily forgotten.

My iTunes tells me I’ve got 37,180 items, 88.9 solid days of“content”, on there. I would guess I’ve listened intently to only around 20% of it. In fact, I don’t have any idea what’s on there, for the most part. It was “collected” and forgotten, and might as well not even be there for all the attention I pay to it. If something happened to a large portion of it so that I somehow no longer “had” it, I’d have no way of knowing it was no longer had. In other words, there’s very little difference between its existence or non-existence.

Of course nowadays keeping a bunch of files that may or may not be there on your hard drive is itself a bit old hat. Now all the files are in a collectively accessible cloud, served to you, once again, by a Platform. (Well, not all the files. There are files they don’t have, lots of them, as well as lots of stuff no one ever thought to turn into files. But they’ve got plenty and you probably won’t miss what’s missing unless you’re weird.) It’s a very convenient, efficient, gloriously elegant system of “content delivery.” But try as I might, I can’t manage to get all that interested in it even when it’s useful, and when my attention wanders it tends to stay that way.

Whereas these dumb physical objects, while inferior and cumbersome and all that, manage to clutter up your life, get in your way, trip you up and remind you of their existence, in a way that pure “content” can’t do, especially if there’s a lot of it (which there is, by definition.)

It may not be efficient or cost-effective or profitable strictly speaking, but creating objects people can trip over, or lick, or that can be excavated by archaeologists in some post-dystopian future seems the best way to go, if legacy-preservation is your bag. It’s my bag.

All that said, I am looking forward to being able to replace the glitchy, CD-ripped files currently “up” on the digital platforms with properly mastered audio as the re-issues develop. If you have to cast your songs into the flimsy wispy easily-forgotten stream of “content” described above it might as well sound good or at least not “skip.”


FRONT BURNER

— The second pressing of MTX Shards vol. 1 has arrived, in half turquoise half white vinyl. Sounds Rad is offering both volumes for $30, limited to 50 sets, which is a good deal if you missed out on the first pressing or if you just want to collect all the variants. (There are people who are doing just that, and I salute you. Those are the kind of customers money can’t buy.)

As of press time there were less than 20 of these sets still available, so now is the time to click, if this sounds like something you’d be interested in.

The idea is to have both volumes of Shards available and in stock when Mtx forever finally comes out in November. The three volumes were designed to be a set and their artwork integrates. (More news on that to come soon enough.)

But speaking of which: it ain’t real till it’s on discogs: “second press also addresses an error with spine alignment and features printed sleeves instead of the printed insert found in the first pressing.”

— Showses: turns out Dan Janisch and I are playing a show at Kevin Seconds’s Riving Loom in Sacramento on Sunday Sept. 1.

So adding that to the grand scheme of shows we’ve got:

— Saturday August 31: The Bodega Bay Folk Festival, featuring Dr Frank, Kevin Seconds, Dan Janisch, and Kepi. High Tide Comics, 2001 Highway 1, Suite B, Bodega Bay, CA. Noon till 6PM, live music from 3PM. Free, all ages.

— Sunday September 1: Dr Frank solo with Dan Janisch, Riving Loom, 2741 Fruitridge Rd #6, Sacramento, CA 95820. Sliding scale donation at the door. All ages. Wall to wall songs.

— Friday September 20: MTX with Kepi and Motorcycle, at The Blue Lamp 1400 Alhambra Blvd Sacramento, CA 95816. Get tickets here.

— Saturday September 21: MTX at Punk the Burbs Fest 3, Basecamp Pub, 5750 Lakeside Dr. Lisle, IL 60532. Get tickets here.

— Sunday September 22: Dr Frank solo, with the Straight As and Robosapien. Palmer’s Bar 500 Cedar Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55454. Get tickets here. Facebook event page here.

— Saturday October 19: MTX, Sicko, and the Pathogens at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th Street (17th @ Missouri) San Francisco, CA 94107. Tix here.


FOUR AND A HALF DOZEN MTX FANS CAN’T BE WRONG

— We wanted Bubble-punque, we got it: the Lookout Ten Year Anniversary show in 1998 comes to a sticky end.

— Yet another old MTX shirt found in the pile, ca. 1989.

— It is a pretty thing: Love Is Dead; colored vinyl.

— Punk rock potpourri: Tyler du Jour will defend the Mr T Experience to the death. I appreciate that, Tyler, and I may just take you up on it; John’s favorite band and his other favorite band; bootleg MTX shirts on eBay.

— Crass, Wizzerd… Mr T Experience… Moral Crux, Mastodon… Pansy Division… I’ve got a lot of fond memories of KTEQ and the Rapid City, South Dakota “scene” — and it looks like they’re still going strong. Bless.

— Song for Odin: the Mr T Experience — “Last Time I Listened to You”, live at the Stortebeker Club in Hamburg, July 13, 1992. Video on YouTube. “Minor secrets” write-up, featuring quite a lot of lamentation about missing tapes, may be found here.

More video of this ilk may be found at my YouTube channel.

— “I Was Losing You All Along,” the chords, which many people find to be tricky. And here’s the video, just because I like it.

— MTX live on the radio, 1988, and sounding surprisingly good.

Program: Now We Are Twenty-One / Danny Partridge / Velveeta / No Milk Today / Surfin’ Cows / The History of the Concept of the Soul / Say Goodnight (plus it sounds like just a bit of “Wearing Out” cut off at the end.)

More here.

— Old notes on even older records: some notes on …and the Women Who Love Them, Milk Milk Lemonade, and Our Bodies Our Selves, from 2011 and looking ahead to now and the future. New post on Medium.

— And, the shirt. Cara’s still got it:

— and finally, your Friday morning “Deep Deep Down,” from Matthew Fremling on Soundcloud. Yes, it’s a “murder ballad.”

I post a cover of one of my songs found on the internet every Friday, when I remember to do it. When it’s on YouTube I add to my YouTube covers playlist, which isn’t the case here, but if you like this sort of thing you will find more of it over there.


THE STORY OF, THE GLORY OF, DR FRANK

— Julie Green takes good photos (yours truly at left.)

— “Book of Revelation,” solo-acoustic version, including solo: it happened, at John Jughead’s house a couple years ago.

— This is a Hare Krishna Girl, about whom I wrote a song called “Hare Krishna Girl” which maybe you’ll hear someday.

— This… is G.K. Chesterton: with some guitars; and, looking rather “gothic” (with ukulele and Night Shift at the Thrill Factory safety reels in background.)

— “My Lovely Horse”: I played this song from Father Ted at a solo show in London in the late 90s and the audience ate it up, as I recall; but the NME was withering and disdainful, because of course it was.

— Even Hitler… recited by Not Jordan Peterson. Way funnier than it probably should be:

As an aside, let me make my usual sort of complaint: here’s another thing (sharing a 16 second audio clip on the internet) that used to be the easiest thing in the world. But now we’ve hi-tech’d and “monetized” ourselves out of how easy it used to be. Simple html players don’t work on the platforms. You have to sign up for yet another platform to generate links that can be used on the other platforms, and these links, despite their sleek design and shiny “skins” and playlists and other features useless for the purpose, don’t even play on the platforms anyway. (At least this Soundcloud link didn’t on Facebook or twitter: minds loaded a functional player.) This is either by design (i.e. Facebook wants to discourage functionality from other platforms to kill the competition, e.g. the YouTube links that don’t play in line); or it’s just incompetent coding by outfits that don’t really care whether anything works or not. Either way, it was way way way easier to do in Web 1.0. Now, it’s almost not worth the hassle to do it at all.

Still, like I said, the clip is funny, even if you have to do more work than should be necessary to hear it.

— late breaking update, in re above: as of today, the Not Jordan Peterson site has disabled itself in light of JP’s comment here. I agree, this stuff has disturbing implications. Such tech can and will be used for evil, which will only get worse as it gets better. Like most things of that nature, it can’t be stopped, only adapted to. Anyway, I’m glad I saved the clip above. It’s still funny.

— solo show field notes: one of those Facebook memory things, from when I played solo at Jughead’s house, I believe:

Kind of amazing that “yeah, actually just stay there” still gets a laugh twenty something years later from people who have heard it thousands of times.

and

When a line “hits” you can see it in people’s faces, and it kind of hangs in the air for a tic, suspended; e.g.”you’re moving to the bottom of a pretty, long list”


— Let Me Take You to Song School:

Writing a song entails a great deal of time, effort, and the ever present risk of teetering off balance into a crippling pool of doubt and self-loathing, all performed with the keen knowledge that it’s quite likely it will never be finished and that if it is ever finished it’s still quite unlikely that anyone will ever hear it and that in neither case does any of it have any bearing on whether or not it is any good in the end, or if anyone will care. You have to do it for its own sake, which is I guess a bit like raising children, that is, you spam the world with them and hope a few of them survive, for reasons that remain unclear?

And on the subject of rhymes, good, bad, and abysmal… well it was sparked by this:

Followed by this:

Real rhymes are always better than “near rhymes,” which are a bit like being “a little pregnant”: close but no cigar. Sometimes ya gotta, but if you try hard enough you can usually find a way to make a given line actually rhyme with its partner and it will almost always be better.

Sometimes there are conventional non-rhymes like “girl” / “world” which have become traditional and carry their own weight as echoes of songs past. I’ve done “referral,” “plural,” “curl”, and of course “pearl,” but but avoiding “world” just for the sake of avoiding it can feel as contrived as just going ahead and using it. Which is a paradox.

Still, it’s better to resort to such last resorts only as genuine last resorts. If hardly any of your lines rhyme, you’re basically just being lazy, and it’s probably not only the rhymes that you’re slacking on.

Squeeze’s “Up the Junction” is an example of a lyric that uses “near rhyme” as its own deliberate gimmick, and it works because (a) it’s on purpose and (b) most of Tillbrook’s lyrics don’t actually do that, so it’s a novelty that does a lot of work. I would find a whole album of non-rhymes to be unbearably wearying.

Now, I’m not saying, as many of you think, that “near rhymes” are never okay, that it’s some kind of rigid rule. It is close to being a rigid rule, but like I said above, sometimes ya gotta. Ultimately the only test of a good lyric is whether it works, and if it works despite some bad rhymes, well it must have a lot going for it in all the other ways lyrics can be good. Maybe it’s really catchy, or moving, or profound, or hilarious, or irresistibly clever and/or risqué. Maybe it just crawls in your ear and sticks in your head and soul. If you’ve got a song like that, congratulations. In such a case sloppy rhyming may not matter all that much. (Though I’d still say better rhymes would make it better.)

What I’m recommending is: avoid the temptation to persuade yourself that non-rhymes are just as good as real rhymes just to make it that much easier to write the lyrics. Because if you do that, one day you will look back on your years of recorded and released songs with a great deal of regret, and wish you could go back to fix them all. Which you won’t be able to do. (True story.) At least aim for real rhymes, even if you can’t always make them happen.

— and finally, speaking of rhymes…


OTHER PEOPLE’S MUSIC

— High Voltage for Sophie: a hard rock mix I once made for a seven year old. Still good.

— The “snap beat” that is killing country music: exhaustively and hilariously documented in this YouTube vid. First I’ve heard of it (I don’t get out much.) And I don’t care all that much what happens to country music going forward, as I already have more than enough actual good stuff from ages past to listen to, which is going to be much better than anything they’ve got now, snaps or not. But it sure is funny, in the way that only abominable things can be.

—Sparks: Just a really cool pic of Ron Mael, from the Sparks twitter feed.

— When I Was Dead: just a really great live solo performance of one of my favorite Robyn Hitchcock songs.

My Fair Lady rehearsal TV re-enactment… quite an amazing document from a 1960 broadcast called The Fabulous Fifties. (They didn’t waste any time any time at all getting nostalgic, did they?) Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews. It doesn’t get any better than that.

— Ray Bradbury would have been 99 years old today had he lived: Rachel Bloom — “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury”

— Apparently there’s a politician named Joe Walsh who’s doing something or other. This is a confusing situation & I’ve already got the obit half written in my head by the time I figure out it’s the wrong guy “trending”. They need to sort out the branding. Here’s “Turn to Stone” live from 1972. And, via a commenter, here’s a rather amusing cease and desist letter from Joe’s lawyer to the other Joe in 2010.

— Allegri’s Miserere mei Deus. Just beautiful:


PICTURE BOOK

— Behold: Bill Ward on writing for a living; San Jacinto; two-fisted gal; St. Agapitus, suspended; if you’re lookin’ for trouble… you got it; the head of St. Louis of Toulouse, empty reliquary; girls with dolls, boy with guitar; Bernard of Clairvaux, lactation event; love potion; Our Lady of Knock; Madeline Smith en bicyclette; Jeannie Carson; Rose of Lima

Botticelli’s Madonna del Magnificat (detail):

— and finally:


IN THE NEWS

— Pretending to be poor at Yale: not sure the author delivers on her promise to explain the “real problem” at Yale and among the “woke” children of the super-elite, but there’s lots of food for thought in this lengthy, deeply-considered essay.

— Thirty-two Short Stories about Death in Prison: our nation’s greatest shame.

— Homepage to Catalonia: “Counterfeit” Orwell abounds on Amazon. Caveat emptor.

— God bless William Shatner: tweet.

— How Olaf Falafel told a joke about broccoli and reaped the whirlwind.

— Machines are scoring essays for tests like the GRE in twenty-one states. What could go wrong?

— Peter Fonda died, so I posted this promo still from Wild Angels.


And that’ll about wrap it up for the Weakly Reader this week. But for those who have made it this far down the page, here’s Joan Collins:

See ya next week.

Frank Portman

Written by

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

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