Anyone can publish on Medium per our Policies, but we don’t fact-check every story. For more info about the coronavirus, see cdc.gov.

Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis

Dr Frank Weakly Reader for 4.03.2020

Frank Portman
Apr 3 · 9 min read

Hello, friends, and welcome to this week’s Dr Frank Weakly Reader. It’s just a thing I do for my own records, to make my web presence searchable in this age of unsearchability, but you can read along if you like.


Earl Head: When I was a kid I thought it might be a good thing to do to learn some long words and work them into my conversation so that I would seem smarter, and weirder.

“Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis” was, as far as I could determine, the longest word in the English language, or at least in any dictionary. Not sure how I learned this in those remote, pre-internet days. We’re talking 1972 or so here. I believe the inspiration to do this came from the Professor on Gilligan’s Island. He would say fancy, intelligent-sounding polysyllabic stuff all the time that puzzled everyone, after which he had to repeat it more simply so even Gilligan could get it. I thought that’d be a good look for me, for some reason.

Anyway, I learned it was the longest word, somehow, and duly committed it to memory. Working it into a conversation was… not the easiest thing in the world, though. It’s a lung disease caused by inhalation of fine quartz dust.

And the way I did it was, I’d go something like: “well, it’s not like we have pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis or anything, but…”

Or, when someone would happen to cough I’d say with what I imagined was a wry expression:

“Somebody’s got pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis!”

It was this last one that inspired this guy Earl Head from up the street to punch me in the stomach. Which was fair enough, really. From that point on, I kept most of my pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis comments to myself. Being the Professor wasn’t worth getting punched that hard in the stomach. It just wasn’t.

Now, though, we live in a social-distanced world, and one in which my native hypochondria has found new avenues in which to thrive. Every cough, every sniffle just kind of makes you wonder, you know? Is this the big one? So, the other day when I coughed a bit and said, “well, with any luck it’s only pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis,” there wasn’t anyone around with long enough arms to punch me. I could get used to this.


And now, on the weak that was.


MTX IS IN THE AIR

— My pal Will: (at left). He was “there” all the way back in the beginning of my so-called thing and now it’s like full circle, sorta. Love you man.

— Our friend Jonathan London got his Mtx forever box and said:

In the midst of all the chaos, my favorite band in the universe, The Mr. T Experience, put out a Best Of Double LP! It spans every era of the band going back to 1985, from breakups to record label ups and downs to tours with Green Day, and I’m completely in love with it! It even includes an MTX board game!

I wouldn’t be who I am without their brand of Rock N Roll and thank you Frank Portman and Sounds Rad for putting this together! MTXForever!

Eight years ago:

206 suggestions at the link. We’ve come a long way baby.

— Our man Klode: I should have known when I posted this blonde on blonde on blonde that Klode would do this:

Mtx forever on Youtube: I’ve been adding the newly mastered Mtx forever versions of the Mtx forever songs a few at a time to the designated playlist on my YouTube channel (and posting them from time to time one by one.) They’re all there now, for what that’s worth. I have some rather ambitious ideas of making some kinda sorta music videos for some of them. This is, I must admit, unlikely to happen. But if it does, the new videos will replace the ones on the list (as with the “More than Toast” video and the test pressing spin of “Love American Style.”)

Anyway, here’s the Mtx forever “Naomi,” which, as I’ve said, sounds possibly a little less “blown up” than it does on the original release:

Plus: “Fucked Up on Life”; and see below for “More than Toast” again.

— Justin Perkins strikes again:

— Another six weeks of Odin: Odin XXIV, the latest compendium of Songs for Odin on Medium, featuring “Who Needs Happiness (I’d Rather Have You)”; “Sackcloth and Ashes”; “I Feel for You”; “Ba Ba Ba Ba Ba”; “Two Minute Itch”; “Surfin’ Mozart”. Sometimes I can’t believe I’m still doing it, but I am. Every Wednesday regular. 127 entries covering 104 songs as of this aggregation.

Podcast from two guys from Las Vegas, one of whom is Todd, whose daughter Maddy made that great “More than Toast” video (inset) featuring a dramatic rendering of the lyrics using Littlest Pet Shop characters. He tells the story of how it came to be and they discuss the band and Mtx forever a bit.

Looking forward to more stuff from Maddy, should anything emerge.


DR FRANK ON ICE

— Still not done lovin’ you, mama: this photo (inset) taken during vocal sessions for King Dork Approximately the Album came up as one of those FB “memories.” Hard to believe 2016 was four years ago, but the math checks out.

— Eleven long-haired Friends of Jesus in a chartreuse micro-bus: another one of those memories, of that time when I opened a set at Joel’s birthday party show at the Bottom of the Hill with a singer-songwritery rendition of C. W . McCall’s “Convoy.” One time only. I doubt I’ll ever do it again. It succeeded in puzzling the audience, which was the intention.

It only happened because there’s an actual chartreuse micro-bus that used to be parked in the driveway of one the houses we walk by on our usual morning walk. And every time we’d go by I’d say that line. Eventually I had to explain to Dina why I kept saying that, and it turned out I still knew all the words. So I decided to see what would happen if I covered it. (I say “used to be” because it hasn’t been parked there for the past few weeks… maybe the guy just got into the vehicle and drove deep into the desert to ride things out. I hope so.)

— H. S. art: depicting yours truly ca. 1998.

— Dept. of bons mots:

Nemesis follows hubris. No matter how many times you read it, it still comes as a complete surprise when it happens to you.

— Quarantine Cinema: Carry On Spying

I have a Carry On box set, but don’t think I’ve watched more than half of them. Carry On Spying (1964), the last black and white Carry On film, first to feature Barbara Windsor, Bernard Cribbins (of “Right Said Fred” fame) as the straight man, Kenneth Williams his usual charming self — one of the better ones, I’d say. Worth it.

— Speaking of, Monday was “National Doctors Day”:

— “Monongahela Bridge” is a sort of work in progress I posted as this week’s Song for Odin:

You can read about it here. As I mentioned there are some lyrics that aren’t really all that together yet, which tell a story that begins at this Pittsburgh bridge and ends in Big Stone Gap VA, and which follow the main melodic line picked out here. Not sure if they or the concept will ever be good enough to see the light of day, but I do like it as an instrumental as here. It has been hard to do “work” during this pandemic thing. The mind refuses to concentrate, somehow. But I’m gradually edging into some real writing. When in doubt, write more songs.

With everybody in my apartment building “sheltering in place” there’s a lot more activity and noise than I’d never noticed before, e.g. my upstairs neighbor who I basically had no reason to know existed before, and who is now continually strumming his guitar. My mic picks it up sometimes, so if you happen to hear a faint ghost of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” on this recording, that’ll be him.

A short playlist of fingerpicked songs may be found here. Songs for Odin playlist is here.


OTHER PEOPLE’S MUSIC

I’ve covered this song at solo shows on occasion, and it seems vaguely apt now.

— A really lovely rendition of the Pentangle’s “A Maid that’s Deep in Love,” in DADGAD tuning which is, as you can tell once you hear it, quite obviously how Bert Jansch did it. Sigh. If I studied it for several years I might be able to do it (which I’ve wanted to do since I was around twelve.)

— A beautiful Gregorian chant (for Passion Sunday):

— Plus: Norm Macdonald’s “Bat Song”: John Prine’s “When I Get to Heaven” (pray for John)…

— …and finally, another one of those “memories” popped up concerning parodies that instantly eclipse the originals yet simultaneously justifying their existence, citing Robin Hood Men in Tights, White & Nerdy, and (what will always be my favorite) “Deteriorata”:

Know what to kiss, and when.



IN THE NEWS

— Adam Schlesinger died, tragically, one of America’s most gifted songwriters, and the first Covid-19 related death that has hit so close to home for me and so many other “modern rock” people. I imagine there will be more, though I pray there will be few. And I sure hope John Prine pulls through. (The only thing I know to do in such situations is to post a commemorative photo, which I did here.)

I didn’t know him personally, but I met him a couple of times. He was very kind, friendly, and down to earth, and supremely gracious towards lesser lights like me. He will be greatly missed.

— Bill Withers as well, though it doesn’t appear to have been Covid-19-related from what I’ve seen. He was 81. One of the truly great ones. RIP.

— “What We Sacrifice to Be Seen”: a splendid essay from Kat Rosenfield on art and culture and self-understanding in our time of social isolation warped by the over-arching social media as consciousness. Lots of succinct, well-stated bits to quote and I chose this bit.

But also:

This is the multifarious power of social media: that it amplifies minor slights while at the same time flattening them into Just Another Example of Some Larger Problem. The people who’ve wronged us are no longer people but walking avatars of privilege, identity-category mascots, perpetuators of systemic injustice who’ve been getting away with it for far too long. Accountability is in order. Posts will be published. Let the crowds, in their wisdom, referee our relationships.

What other people think will decide the nature of the truth.


THE END

See you next week.

Frank Portman

Written by

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

Frank Portman

Written by

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

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store