Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmas Wish Lists

Apparently, Ohio Governor John Kasich wants a balanced budget amendment in the U.S. Constitution.  Well, that may indeed be on his Christmas Wish List, but I suspect it's mainly just an opening gambit as he jockeys for position in the 2016 Republican primaries for President of the United States of America.  I found it a bit ironic.  Here's a dude who spends 25 grand of taxpayer money to stick his name on highway signs, and yet he tries to pretend to be a frugal public servant.  Well, if he were smart, then he'd ditch the names on the highway signs before some rival for the Republican nomination calls him on it.  Stopping that waste of taxpayer money would be grand.  I would love to not see those stupid overlay signs with the governor's and lieutenant governor's names on the "Welcome to Ohio" signs next year.  That's on my Christmas Wish List!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sunday, December 21, 2014

People Still Believe Hemingway Wrote A Story He Didn't

Despite the efforts of myself and others, people still want to claim that Ernest Hemingway wrote a six-word short story that he probably didn't (credit should likely go to playwright John De Groot who has Hemingway say the "story" in a play, thus the confusion).  Quotation expert Ralph Keyes alerted me to the latest bit of nonsense, which unfortunately comes from The New York TimesThe Times does give a tad bit of a fig leaf of cover in relation to reality by writing that Hemingway is "said to have managed to tell" instead of writing "wrote" or "composed" in reference to the story, but the article is undoubtedly sure to spread this nonsense further.  At this point, this story, which isn't really a story and which Hemingway probably never wrote, is probably his most famous literary work.  Well, the Modernists did love irony, so maybe Papa would have gotten a kick out of it anyway, but it would be nice if people, especially when writing for The New York Times, did some research to avoid making false claims.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

New Crazy Carl Robinson Book!

For years, I've been waiting to read the third novel, My Parents' Medicine, by Crazy Carl Robinson.  Well, it's still not out, so don't get too excited, but, at least, some of it has now emerged in the form of a nicely-produced chapbook/zine.  Rogue Holler Blues is destined to be an underground classic, similar to CCR's first two books, Fat On The Vine and Bloodreal.  Only CCR's first novel has been published intact.  His second, Dead In The Head, was also excerpted and remixed into Bloodreal.  CCR is a writer similar to Thomas Wolfe in that he does benefit from a good editing job, but this trend of publishing mini-versions of the novels has probably gone too far.  At 48 pages or so, this is a skimpy read, especially given the price.  It would be nice if CCR's next novel came out more or less intact.  I guess to make that happen I may have to publish the thing myself. However, despite the brevity, RHB is a great read!  Even though I know CCR fairly well and thus have some bias, I am always amazed at the greatness of his writing and his ability to transmute the rawness of life into great literature in his own distinctive style of lowercase letters and ellipses.  He's seriously approaching Nobel class at this point, though what he tends to write about might make Alice Munro and the Swedish Academy faint.  Nevertheless, I enjoy it, sometimes too much (there were times reading this that I laughed so hard that I farted).  But it's not just a chucklefest.  He deals with some heavy and uncomfortable topics such as alcoholism, crime, drug abuse, economics, existential loneliness, racism, self-hatred, and sexism.  Underneath the party stories of small town drug dealers and college town rock and rollers is a deeply serious look at life in 21st Century America.  RHB begins with the narrator picking up where he left off at the end of Dead In The Head, trying to balance his duties to elderly parents with having a career and a lovelife.  If you've ever read a novel and wondered why none of the characters have to ever stop to use the bathroom, then you'll enjoy CCR's work.  For some readers, learning about the narrator's brown washcloth will fall into the realm of too much information, but others will enjoy a narrator who seems to relish sharing intimacy with his readers, even when it's not very pretty.  Some of the cast of characters from CCR's previous books, including a version of myself, return.  This novel finds them entering middleage (the narrator attends two weddings and wonders when his own will be) and settling down while still trying to hang onto their younger ambitions and amoral behavior.  Some such as The Big Handsome and Dale-The-Tail don't seem to want to leave the past, causing much mirth (The Big Handsome) and sadness (Dale-The-Tail) for the reader.  The narrator himself settles down into a regular job by the end, which is where the story presumably ends (some of the story is told out of sequence and there are references to events presumably described in the parts not published).  CCR has said that he has stopped writing, but I don't believe that for a minute and look forward to the next novel (which, one hopes, will be published more intact than this one was).  His novels seem to be turning into a hillbilly version of Proust's oeuvre.  He's also better than Proust, though readers with sticks up their posteriors will tend to disagree.  Any fan of Charles Bukowski or John Kennedy Toole will recognize that the river of true American literature flows right through CCR's Rapidan reflections.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

"Boiling Yellowjackets"

The Red Fez has published my poem "Boiling Yellowjackets" in issue 73.  I wrote the poem in 2013.  Sadly, it is still timely in 2014.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Monster Of Party Beach Is Out!

The comedy horror movie that I was in, Monster Of Party Beach, has been released.  It's available on DVD for $5 here.  I had fun hanging out with director Mark Justice and fellow actor Tim Hale at The Ghoulardi Fest the day after Halloween.  I think Mark has some screenings of the film coming up as well.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Brent Kirby's 10 x 3 Songwriter Showcase

Years ago, one of my bands played with one of Thomas Comerford's bands.  Since then, I try to catch him when he passes through nearby.  This fall, he played a songwriter showcase hosted by Brent Kirby at Brothers Lounge, which I attended.  I thought having a showcase of ten different singer-songwriters was a pretty cool idea, so I asked to play it, which I'll be doing on November 12, 2014.  I'm scheduled for 9 p.m., but those schedules tend to shift.  The whole show starts at 8 p.m.  I'll be playing three songs that I have never played in front of an audience before, so it should be fun.  It is free to attend.

Monday, October 27, 2014

"Cheats For Common Moral Dilemmas"

Life can be complex with many decisions.  To help people out, I created a handy guide to common moral dilemmas and The Red Fez published it

Monday, October 20, 2014

New Pop Lit!

King Wenclas of the Underground Literary Alliance has a new project going called New Pop Lit.  He and his fellow editor, Andrea Nolen, have been publishing some cool stuff.  Right now, there's a story about a cat in an animal shelter up, and I really enjoyed reading it.  It seems as if they're putting together a nice literary community.  They were nice enough to publish "Brian Moves Back" by me, as well as do an interview.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

New Wred Fright Novel!

Yes, I have finished a new novel.  Don't get too excited though, as you may not be able to read it until 2017 or so.  For once, I didn't serialize a novel beforehand, and start releasing it before it was complete (I liked to work without a net).  It was kind of fun to do it in a more conventional way, so I may seek out a conventional publisher.  We'll see.  I do enjoy the whole controlfreakness of self-publishing.  Even marketing is fun, but it is time away from writing, which I like better, so I don't know what I'll decide just yet.  In any case, it's called Frequently Asked Questions About Being Dead, and it is plenty weird.  Here's a taste:

McAllister "Mac" Rose was looking at her corpse when a giant stack of pancakes holding a clipboard asked her, "Excuse me, but would you mind taking a customer satisfaction survey?"

Mac turned from the automobile wreckage and gazed upon the six-foot-tall stack of pancakes, a continuous fountain of maple syrup cascading from the top pancake onto the ones below it, ending in a pool on the white plate underlaying the entire stack, the kind of plate that's been through the dishwasher at the diner so many times that it started to wonder if that was all there was, an endless cycle of stickiness, soapiness, wetness, dryness, and stackness.  A huge glob of butter, shaped and glistening like the sun, sat on top of the stack with the clipboard, a pen dangling from it by a string, firmly lodged in the middle of it.  In Mac's head, she heard Beach Boys melodies that she had never heard before.

She felt like screaming, but, instead, she said, "What?"

Eyeballs popped out of the syrup, "Oh, you're really freaked out.  What do I look like to you?  Jesus?  Sometimes, I get bored and set my appearance to random.  Let's see.  OK, I'm pancakes.  I bet I'm delicious, but I'll change into something else.  Maybe that'll help.  You want a burning bush?  Grim Reaper?  Elvis Presley?  How about a unicorn?  Most women like unicorns."

The stack of pancakes changed into a unicorn.  The clipboard was now speared in the middle by the horn.  "Is this better?" the unicorn said, looking around at itself, the pen of the clipboard flying about every time its head moved.

"No," Mac said, her green eyes starting to tear up, "No, it's not."

"Why not?  I'm a unicorn.  You don't like the color?  I can be pink."

"No, it's not the color."

The unicorn turned pink anyway, except for the horn which turned a type of fluorescent green usually only seen in the neon signs of pawn shops and payday loan businesses.  "What do you think?" it said, but Mac had already turned away to look some more at her corpse.

The unicorn trotted up next to her and also looked at the corpse.  The front of the car that Mac's corpse was in looked like it was a map that someone who didn't know how to fold up maps properly had folded.  In the midst of the badly folded-up folds was Mac's corpse, with a cell phone still clutched in her right hand.  "Ouch," the unicorn said, "Were you texting?  I don't know why people do that.  Most people drive badly enough as is."

Mac ignored the unicorn, who, undaunted, went on to say, "At least the tree looks all right."

Mac looked at the tree that her automobile had crashed into and had to agree.  The tree did look all right.  It was a big oak tree and probably would survive the accident with just a few scars on its bark.

Mac, alas, did not look all right.  Nor did she feel all right.  Nor would she ever be all right again, she suspected.  "At least I didn't hit the deer," she mumbled, as she slumped against the remains of her car and slid down to the ground, her hands covering her face.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ever More Glad I Voted For Gary Johnson In 2012

So the national Democrats sent me a letter asking for money.  I scribbled out a reply and stuffed it in the postage paid envelope.  I wrote, "When Obama and Congressional Democrats stop wasting tax money bombing people in the Middle East, I'll think about it.  Until then, save postage and don't ask." 

I mean if I wanted to bomb people in the Middle East, I could just vote Republican.  It would be nice to have the two major political parties offer more of a choice than bombing (Dems) and more bombing (Repubs).

The Economist this week has a great cover with Obama dressed up as George W. Bush in his Mission Accomplished fighter pilot outfit.  That about says it all.  At this point, even the biggest Obama supporter has to admit that he's little more than Bush Lite.

Bailouts for the rich.  Check.
War in Afghanistan.  Check.
Violation of civil liberties.  Check.
War in Iraq.  Check.
Deficit spending and debt growing.  Check.
Wasteful addition to government health care instead of doing something rational like setting up national health care.  Check.

I have to admit that Obama did keep his promise to close the torture facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Wait!?  He didn't? Scratch that then.  He did manage to get involved in Syria for the military-industrial complex, something that Bush wasn't able to pull off (at the height of the Iraq War giddiness in 2003, the Neocons wanted to roll into Syria, but then things fell apart), so that's something.

Something bad, but something.

I mean I could go on, but you get the idea.  The differences between the two past presidents aren't as great as their supporters try to get me to believe they are.  To me, it's the same crap.  

Do I dare hope that people who want something different won't fall for the next major party stooge (no offense to Moe, Larry, Curly, or Shemp) such as Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush?


My big decision in 2016 probably will be whether I vote Green or Libertarian.  You can laugh that I'm throwing my vote away, but look at what you're actually voting for.  If you do want something different out of the major party system, then you should get involved in the primaries and rev up a Rand Paul or Bernie Sanders.

Of course, before 2008, I might have thrown Barack Obama's name in such a suggestion, and we now know how that turned out.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Just A Reminder . . .

. . . That Project Vote Smart is awesome!  And now they have new tools.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Cost Of Governor's And Lieutenant Governor's Names On Highway Signs In Ohio

I heard back from the Ohio Department Of Transportation (ODOT) about the cost for putting the governor's and lieutenant governor's names on the "Welcome To Ohio" highway signs.  Steve Faulkner wrote, "No new signs are installed. We simply place overlays on existing signs. Cost is about $25,000."  I assume by overlays, he means the little signs they stick on the big signs, which is what I meant, but these people know their sign terminology, I'm sure, so fair enough.  $25,000 is even more than I thought it would come in at.  I hope this tradition can be abandoned.  In a state budget of billions, 25 grand every four or eight years might not be much, but it's still money that could be better used for other purposes.  Like I wrote before, I'm fine with buying new letterhead and business cards for the new governor.  Highway signs or overlays, not so much.  Actually, not at all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What Wred's Reading: A Clergyman's Daughter

George Orwell is best known for 1984, Animal Farm, and some classic essays, but I've enjoyed reading his lesser-known works as well.  I'm closing in on the end of his oeuvre, so I'm finally getting to A Clergyman's Daughter.  I probably have taken so long to get to this one because the title makes it sound like a boring 19th Century novel.

It's not.  Like most of Orwell's work, it's quite good.  I'm more than halfway through and enjoying the read.  So far, the book has been divided into three sections.  The first just details the main character's life, that of a clergyman's daughter.

Then things get weird.

The second part finds her having lost her memory and ended up in London, where she migrates to picking hops on a farm.  The third part is written like a play and just involves the protagonist trying to survive while being homeless in London.

As usual, Orwell's sympathy with the poor comes through.  He, like many of us, seems baffled how a society could just have people waste time on the streets barely surviving.  Though he published this novel in the 1930s, it could be very easily updated to the presentday in the USA.

The only sad thing about finishing this book will be that I have almost no new Orwell to read now, and I've never been the type to read an author's letters and whatnot, except for scholarship purposes, so I'm probably done with George. But if you have never read any besides the famous Orwell works, then you should know that the less well-known works are also worth a read, though it is obvious why some of his work is more celebrated than the other work.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Green Party Knows How To Save Taxpayer Green!

I heard back from the Green Party candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, Anita Rios and Bob Fitzrakis, about their policy on putting the names of the governor and lieutenant governor on the "Welcome to Ohio" highway signs.

They are against it.

Hooray!  Finally, some politicians with sense.

I asked, "If elected, will you be spending taxpayer money to put your names, like Kasich and Taylor do, on the 'Welcome to Ohio' highway signs?"

They replied, "No; but if someone's names [were] already on there, we would have to spend some money on getting that removed or replacing the signs.

Anita would issue an executive order stating that the practice of putting elected official[s]' names on signs should not be permitted as it is a frivolous waste of tax dollars for the sake of promoting politician[s]' names."

Yes, unfortunately, taking the signs off will cost money, but it has to be done sometime.  From the looks of them, the sign with the names can just get unscrewed from the main sign, but since I'm typically driving past the signs at 65 miles per hour, I can't say for sure.  In any case, it would be great to get the names off the signs as soon as possible and start a tradition of not having taxpayers shell out thousands of dollars every time the governor or lieutenant governor changes.

Well, I haven't heard from the other campaigns yet, but I know which candidates I'm voting for now!  I promised!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

R.I.P. Visible Voice Books

I am saddened by the imminent closing of Visible Voice Books in Cleveland, Ohio USA.  It is a cool store and not only because they stocked The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus for a time.  I live on the opposite side of town, but whenever I visited the Tremont neighborhood, I always stopped in.  They have a good selection of underground books (it probably was the only bookstore in town to sell The Dirty Poet) and magazines.  Plus, it is just a pleasant environment to be in.  Well, the doors are closing shortly.  The good news is that everything is 40% off.  The bad news is that, after September 27, 2014, another cool bookstore will be gone, as the digital revolution marches on, leaving more beloved casualties behind.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Updates! Updates! Updates!

With the end of summer, things get hectic, so, as you no doubt, noticed, blogging has slowed down.  So here is a speed round of updates.

1) I saw a rough cut of Monster Of Party Beach.  It was very funny.  Mark Justice told me that he filmed it for less than $200 or something.  I've seen Hollywood films made for millions that I have liked far less.  Fans of Ed Wood and films such as The Naked Gun will likely enjoy it.  My acting is horrible, but Mark seemed to enjoy it, so maybe you will as well.  I don't know when the first public showing is, but I will keep you posted.

2) I have doggedly (ok, a couple of emails a week probably doesn't count as "doggedly" but I don't see anyone else concerned about this issue, so I'm sticking with that as a fair description) been pursuing trying to turn putting the governor's name on highway signs into a campaign issue, but without much luck.  I emailed Melissa Ayers of the Ohio Department Of Transportation (ODOT) to find out how much it cost to put the governor's and the lieutenant governor's names on all the "Welcome to Ohio" signs.  From some articles that I've been able to dig up from Maryland and Pennsylvania, that work of political vanity seems to cost taxpayers between 9,000 and 12,000 dollars.  Ayers works in the communications department of ODOT, so I figured that she would know whom I should talk to in order to find out how much Ohio wastes on that (more would be my guess since the lieutenant governor's name goes up as well).  Unfortunately, she's on leave until Sept. 15th. (well, maybe fortunately for her; I know that I enjoy my time away from work), so I emailed Brian Cunningham of the same department as well, but he apparently is content to let Ayers handle it when she returns.  If I don't hear from them, then I will followup elsewhere in the department.  I also emailed the Democratic (Ed Fitzgerald and Sharen Neuhardt) and Green (Anita Rios and Bob Fitzrakis) Party gubernatorial campaigns, asking for their positions on the issue (I'm hoping for a pledge that the new governor will abandon the practice), but I didn't hear from them either.  That kind of hurt, especially since the Green Party campaign website is a Wordpress blog.  I mean I use Blogger, but then again I'm not running for governor of Ohio.  I didn't bother contacting the Republicans (John Kasich and Mary Taylor) since their names are up on the signs.  I'm assuming that they have no intention of taking down the signs.  But if a pledge can be gotten from one of the other campaigns, then maybe they will reconsider.  In fact, if you're really bored, email the campaigns and ask them to pledge that they will not put their names on the "Welcome to Ohio" signs (and in Kasich and Taylor's case that they will take them down).  This should be an easy issue that will unite people of most political persuasions, though I would love to hear some ridiculous counterargument for why motorists need to know who the governor is.  I also emailed Mike McIntyre of The Plain Dealer and WCPN in hopes that he was really hardup for story ideas.  Again, no dice.  I will keep plugging away and keep you posted.  In the meantime, I will make a campaign promise.  The first set of candidates who promise not to put their names up on the sign (or take them down) get my vote.

3) The talent show that I entered didn't go so well.  The website for the submission was buggy, so I emailed the organizers to make sure they had received my submission.  They assured me that if they didn't they would let me know, but I couldn't find my video among the ones up for a vote.  I kind of got the impression that they were disorganized, so I wasn't surprised.  By that point, my buddy Matt had already invited me to his birthday party, which was the same night as the show, so it worked out well.  Maybe next year!

4) I did play the Sam Ash open mic.  I'm supposed to get a $10 giftcard as a result, but it's a month later and it still hasn't arrived in the mail.  Seeing as they were also disorganized, I think I'll just skip playing there in the future, though the next time I go there, which frankly might be years from now, I'll try to remember to ask them about it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taxpayer Supported Campaign Ads?

When I used to drive to Pennsylvania on I-80, I would pass the welcome to PA sign and for years it listed the governor's name on it.  Quite honestly, do many motorists really care who the governor is?  It's not like one is visiting a general store and it's nifty to know the proprietor's name; it's not like any motorist is likely to drive to the state capital and ask for the governor by name to register a complaint about the potholes on the highway or something (if so, just ask for the governor--that usually will work).  It's a whole state (or commonwealth, in PA's case, to be technical).  Basically, the metal signs with the governor's name appears to be taxpayer supported campaign advertising for future campaigns by that politician.  I imagine those metal signs aren't cheap either nor do the highway folks put them up for free.

It was quite annoying.

Thankfully, PA finally ditched the governor's name on the signs.

Alas, Ohio is even worse.  I was driving on 80 into Ohio and noted that the Ohio welcome sign has the governor's and lieutenant governor's name.  Who cares who the lieutenant governor is?  I doubt 100 buckeyes in the entire state could even name the current lieutenant governor.  Which I suppose is the point of the sign.  It builds up name recognition for politicians, and taxpayers get to pay for it.  To confirm this, I've contacted someone at the Department Of Transportation.  I'll let you know if I hear anything.

I mean letterhead, business cards, the website, and whatnot are fine.  Change them for the new governor and lieutenant governor.  But signs on every highway?  No, that's a waste of money.  Tell the politicians to stuff it and pay for their own signs.  What's really annoying about the I-80 sign is that right after it is a closed rest area, presumably due to budget cuts.

The current sign can stay up (and probably for the next four years as it looks as if the current governor is going to get reelected--his main opponent has a scandal about driving without a license; given how badly most people in Ohio who have licenses drive, he must be an extra-special bad driver), but I would love to see that when the name sign gets taken down that no other one ever goes up.  "Welcome to Ohio" is quite sufficient.        

Monday, August 18, 2014

"Mitt Romney Dreams Of The Last Taxpayer And Nightsweats, Soaking His Magical Underwear"

My pals at The Red Fez have kindly published my poem "Mitt Romney Dreams Of The Last Taxpayer And Nightsweats, Soaking His Magical Underwear".  I wrote it back in 2013 to trade with my zine pal Mark Sonnenfeld.  It is nice that now others can read it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Raq, You Raq, He Raqs . . .

So we're bombing Iraq again, you know, because that has worked so well since the 1990s that we'll just keep on doing it.  I'm pretty sure that we've spent trillions messing around in that country (and probably more--we likely gave money to old Saddam in the 1980s when he was our "friend"), particularly if one counts the interest we have to pay on government bonds to finance the bombs (and then the rebuilding after we drop the bombs and feel guilty about it), but I'll leave the fine details of the accounting to someone who is even more bored than I am.  Perhaps the leaders of my beloved USA should try a new tactic:  do nothing.  We haven't bombed Vietnam since the 1970s, if I recall correctly, and just last week, I bought a nice shirt that was manufactured in that country, even though the Viet Cong, our enemies in the Vietnam War (or American War if you're Vietnamese) still run it.  And I didn't buy it from under the counter like Cuban cigars, so things must be going pretty well between us and the Viet Cong now that we've stopped bombing them.

I will vote for the presidential candidate in 2016 who promises to do nothing in Iraq.  I won't even ask for a discount on my taxes.  They can be used to rebuild Cleveland, sections of which look as if they've been bombed, or something else useful for the taxpaying people here.

Even if the do nothing strategy is not more successful than the bomb Iraq strategy (which, judging from the last two decades, is a complete failure, aside from people employed in the defense industry and a few others who benefit from the destruction), at least it's cheaper.

Do Nothing!  It's Cheaper And Possibly More Effective!  If you are a presidential candidate, then you have permission to use those slogans in 2016.  Maybe then when you're president, you will not follow in the footsteps of the last four (that's right, four!) presidents and bomb Iraq (is there a special button in the Oval Office, that says "In case of emergency, bomb Iraq"--if so, that would explain a lot).     

Friday, August 8, 2014

What Wred's Reading: The Black Swan

I read Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder last year and was quite impressed by it.  Author Nassim Nicholas Taleb is very thoughtprovoking.  It was one of the rare books that I bought last year that I kept since I thought I might reread it in the future (even so Taleb would likely think me a fool as he seems to prefer what he calls an "antilibrary" full of books that he hasn't yet read; as is typical of his thinking, he prefers to be both contrarian and to emphasize what we don't know instead of what we do know), so I picked up The Black Swan:  The Impact Of The Highly Improbable, an earlier book of his and one that was quite popular a few years ago.  I picked up a hardback edition used since I thought it might be likely that I would keep this book as well.  I have noticed that a second edition is out, so I'll probably get that from the library and read the new stuff in it as well.  Both Antifragile and Black Swan are part of one large work that Taleb calls the Incerto, in which he explores the notion of uncertainty in life.  He's an entertaining philosopher.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Song: "A Song For Sonnenfeld"

I was cleaning out a file folder and found a bunch of scraps of paper with old lyrics on them.  Most of the songs weren't good, which is why the lyrics never left the scraps, but a line or two here and there caught my eye, so I combined them together to form a new song.  I was inspired by the poetics of Mark Sonnenfeld, who seems to delight in combining disparate images and sounds to create something that as a whole works.  I don't know if I achieved the same here, but I like the resulting song, which I called "A Song For Sonnenfeld".  For the music (well, the guitar anyway--I got weird with a bass synthesizer and beating on file cabinet folder hangers, or whatever they are called for the rest), I aimed for a sound of the college rock bands I loved in Bowling Green, Ohio USA such as Sheepish Grin and Dutch Crumbs.  You can check out the MP3 here.  Really, this stuff is much more fun and cheaper than therapy.  The lyrics are below.  It's the same deal as always.  If you like a song, then feel free to cover it if you're in a band or whatnot.  I love to hear covers of my songs, so please let me know about your version.  If you start making money, then send me a check/we can work out a deal.  Similarly, if you want to use a song for your Youtube video or whatnot, then just let me know.  It's usually fine by me unless it's a commercial product or whatnot (and then it's likely fine as well--I just want my cut).  Find out first though.  Write me at wredfright ATATAT yahoo DOTT com.

I feel like a crushed cigarette, dragging myself across the pavement,
but I'm just another creep walking across town at six in the morning.
You're so attractive when you make my clothes smell like smoke.
The farmer in Adele, an angel on Cherry Street.
Once upon a time, I'd say about two o' clock.
Help!  Somebody come save me!  I'm trapped in a bad made for tv movie.

She said, "I'm going to drain you like a coffee cup" and
"You can't put a flower in the closet and expect it to bloom".
This is a song for Sonnenfeld and Miss Lung Cancer 1993.
Her dreams went up in smoke.

Don't be so self-obsessed.  We'll run around naked in the backyard.
We'll roll around in the grass and leave buttprints on your neighbor's new car.
You're talking trash like a policy wonk.  You're promising cash like a mafia monk.
Who needs a brain when you've got rich parents?
I'll never forget that day in Farm Fuck, USA.
It's time to go out and review the nation because I'm William B. Fuckley.

You can burn your diary, but you can't burn the past.

Did you hear about Mr. Denny, who lives in the pink house?
He grows wildflowers, never mows his lawn, and likes to beat his spouse.
For Tracy, who I always kept calling Julie by mistake.
I don't need Latin.  I know my ABCs.
His idea of romance is wearing a condom.
There was a time when I would have gone anywhere with you.

Written August 2014
Recorded August 2014

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The War On Grass. No, Not Marijuana. Grass.

I was reading the League Of Women Voters report on one of the Cleveland Heights, Ohio USA June 2014 city council meetings (often a source of great amusement) in The Heights Observer and noticed that the city government was revising their weed laws.

No, not marijuana.  Judging from some of the tie-dye flavor of the shops on Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights is pretty cool with that.

Just plain old lawn weeds.

It's not even just dandelions that the good liberals of the Heights don't like.  They don't even like plain old grass if it's more than six inches tall.  I'm glad that I don't live there since I have some varieties of grass that seem to grow that length overnight given the right conditions (I don't know what type it is, but the blades are broad and my cat likes to eat them).

The latest salvo in the war on unruly vegetation ("Oh, why won't it just stop growing and look like it does on a golf course?!") is a proposal to send only one warning to the property owner and then if the grass is not mowed and gets unruly again in the next year to just mow it and charge the property owner at $200 an hour for city goons municipal employees to teach the grass not to reach so high for the sun.  According to this article by Chanda Neely, the new city manager wanted to even skip the warning, but the council, in a rare moment of sanity, rejected that idea.  The city manager isn't all bad though.  She wanted to make the violation height more than 8 inches.  Council, recovering from their rare brush with good sense, rejected that idea as well.

I've been researching the American obsession with lawns, particularly their use as symbols, and I would like to chalk up this nonsense (worrying about the height of grass in the first place and paying people to measure it with rulers in the second place) to just the nuttiness of Cleveland Heights, but this is more of a national nuttiness.  They aren't alone in wasting taxpayer money and human energy on an unwinnable war.  Of course, governments love these kind of futile endeavors (which reminds me of another one, the war of drugs) since it allows them to spend the public money to employ people (often their friends and relatives) and buy stuff (by corporations who donate to political campaigns usually), plus the whole rush from exercising power over others no doubt makes them feel good in a creepy way.

Along those lines, it's also ironic that in Cleveland Heights getting caught with the other kind of grass is a minor misdemeanor in most cases resulting in a fine not more than $150, which might be cheaper than forgetting to mow the lawn.  Given that the city council and administration are wasting time on silly matters such as the height of grass, I do have to wonder what they're smoking.

Hey, it would explain a lot!

For, not only are their bigger issues that local governments should be spending their limited resources on, but also the height of grass shouldn't be an issue at all.  Property owners should decide what they want in their own yards, not their neighbors and not the government.  Most of the arguments against tall grass don't hold up to scrutiny; essentially, it boils down to a fight over aesthetics.  Being that Cleveland Heights is in America, the so-called land of the free, and claims to be progressive, maybe their government should find their way back to when they did show some "creativity and culture" in regards to land use such as when they allowed residents to raise chickens.

On the grass issue, however, the city has laid an egg.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Another Music Video

Crazy Carl was in town and filmed me playing a bit of "Nootie Has The Phat Nugz". You can actually see the guitar in this one, so that is good.

Friday, August 1, 2014

"Why Honey Sings" Video

Don't expect a Duran Duran masterpiece, but I made a music video.  I entered a local talent contest (at least I think I did; I wasn't sure if the Web entry form actually worked) since I decided to play out again (cue up "Talent Show" by The Replacements, but I'll skip the pill-popping part).  The contest was looking for all ages material, so I chose an older song with no cuss words and fairly broad appeal in that it wasn't about an old man hanging out at the library or an administrative assistant plotting revenge on the people who made fun of her musical taste.  I figured a love song would be good, and since I had been playing "Why Honey Sings" lately, I chose it.  It's also a short song, so I figured there would be less chance to screw it up. The contest rules asked for a video, so I filmed myself playing it.  It's a pretty boring video, but the performance is all right, and I assume that's what the talent contest folks are looking for.  I did break out my old shiny shirt ($2 at the Fashion Bug sidewalk sale in 1997, if I remember correctly) to provide a hint of visual appeal.  I would have liked to have shown the guitar, but anytime I moved back enough from the camera for it to show up, the sound quality dropped too much, so y'all just get a cross between a webcam shot and the second half of the Bruce Springsteen "Brilliant Disguise" video.  The best thing about the video is that after I filmed it and filled out the contest application, I noticed a little tiny note that said that if the entrant were a musical act, then all that was needed was a sound recording on SoundCloud.


Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sam Ash Open Mic

I checked out the Sam Ash open mic last night.  It was pretty cool.  As with most open mics, the only people there were the performers and a couple friends of theirs.  I appeared to be the only one who just showed up to listen in general.  Some talented folks were playing, and they got some random musical collaboration whenever someone would try out a drumset or keyboard in the middle of their song, which added a nice Dadaesque spice to the open mic.  I likely will attend the next one on Wednesday, August 6th at 7 p.m. and play some of my new songs.  I believe that I will fit right in with the other middle-aged dudes playing Bob Dylan songs (except I won't be playing any Dylan songs).  There were no female performers, which I found odd, but guitar geekery is primarily a male bastion anyway, so it's probably not surprising (one guy even played "Stairway To Heaven" to check his tuning).  Each performer gets a $10 gift card apparently, so that's a good deal.  I can use it to buy a Bob Dylan songbook and then return to play Dylan songs, so I can fit in even better.  The Sam Ash I'll be playing is located at 5700 Mayfield Road in Lyndhurst, Ohio USA.  If you get there by 6, then you can hit the Entenmann's outlet a couple of doors down in the strip plaza and get some cheap bread and donuts.  There's also a Skyline Chili in the plaza, which might be the most north of Cincinnati that I've ever seen one of those.  So, if you're really bored, then feel free to come out and stock up on going stale raisin bread, chow down on chili on your spaghetti, and hear some Dylan and Fright!  It's free (though someone might try to sell you a bass or something). 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Third Monster Of Party Beach Trailer!

The third trailer from Monster Of Party Beach is out!  This one includes a couple moments with me in my role as a cop.  I spoke with director Mark Justice yesterday and he said that he's trying for an August release, but even if that goal doesn't get met and the film doesn't get out until the fall, that would be just fine since it's a horror movie parody and that would be perfect for the Halloween season.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Purslane: The Driveway Dinner

For the last week or so, I've been eating purslane, a little plant that seems to love growing in my driveway and patio.  I used to pluck it out, but then I read somewhere that purslane was edible and nutritious, so I decided to give it a try.  So far, I've had it with couscous, with rice, and in a burrito.  It's crunchy and yummy.  I've been eating the leaves and stems, so pretty much the whole plant, except for the roots.  Being not used to eating plants that sprout up in my driveway, I proceeded cautiously, but I've gotten pretty good at identifying it from a couple lookalikes who are poisonous (here's a good article for identification).  I didn't even have to grow this plant from seed nor plant it, so that's the best kind of gardening!  My next experiment will be to see if it can replace spinach in a sandwich.  If it could, then that would be great, as my first spinach crop is all gone and the second one won't be ready until late in the summer.  Like blackberries, purslane is another good reason not to use lawn chemicals.

Monday, July 28, 2014

La Bibliotheque Fantastique

I recently traded zines with Antoine Lefebvre, a zine publisher and artist from Paris, France.  It had been some time since I traded internationally, and I was a bit shellshocked by the rise in international postage prices.  Yikes!  It's a good thing that Antoine also copublishes his work electronically at La Bibliotheque Fantastique, so that you can check out the great assortment of zines and other publications, including classic dada publications, without having to pay postage.  Print is still cooler, but it's certainly not cheaper!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Stepping Out Again

I stopped writing songs in 2005. I had a nice 15-year-long run, but it seemed time to stop. With marriage and a full-time job, I didn't have time to be in a band anymore, so there didn't seem to be a need to write any new songs, especially with so many old ones to pick from when I felt like playing music by myself. In addition, most of my little time available for creative activities was taken up by writing. I did a lot of literary readings at that time, so it still kind of felt as if I were playing out in bands, except I didn't have to lug heavy amplifiers around town (I am reminded of something David Thomas of Pere Ubu said, something to the effect that rock and roll mostly involved moving big black boxes from one side of town to the other), which was pleasant.

However, the muses apparently weren't going to be satisfied with poems and stories; they wanted songs, so, in 2012, music started pouring out again. Even though I still took care of my responsibilities, I made a deliberate effort to reserve time for the activities that I most enjoyed such as writing and playing music, even if I only got to playing guitar once a week or so.  Apparently, the secret to happiness is doing more of the things that make one happy, so I followed that mantra.  I also made a vow to play out again, but only when I had a set of eight new songs, one cover, and one old song. Well, with "Soldier Through" being the eighth new song, it appears I will have to keep my vow (the cover is "Pack Of Lies" by Fatima Mansions and the old song is "Why Honey Sings"), so I'm thinking about either hitting an open mic or two or getting a bass player and drummer to flesh out the songs, or maybe even both. If anybody has suggestions for either one of those approaches, then please get in touch. I've been out of the Cleveland, Ohio USA music scene for long enough that I will basically have to start all over, which I'm kind of looking forward to.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Song: "Soldier Through"

I wrote this song for anyone going through a rough patch.  I was aiming for the feel of a Stooges b-side.  The static on the recording is by design, so there is nothing wrong with your speakers or your broadband connection.  It popped up as an Audacity error, so I decided to make use of it.  Percussion this time is provided by a pair of old boots.  The everpopular mouthbass provides the bassline, such as it is.  I found a cool MIDI synth that I intended to conjure bass sounds out of, but it didn't play well with Audacity.  Maybe next time I can get it to work.  You can check out the MP3 here.  Really, this stuff is much more fun and cheaper than therapy.  The lyrics are below.  It's the same deal as always.  If you like a song, then feel free to cover it if you're in a band or whatnot.  I love to hear covers of my songs, so please let me know about your version.  If you start making money, then send me a check/we can work out a deal.  Similarly, if you want to use a song for your Youtube video or whatnot, then just let me know.  It's usually fine by me unless it's a commercial product or whatnot (and then it's likely fine as well--I just want my cut).  Find out first though.  Write me at wredfright ATATAT yahoo DOTT com.

I got hired, and I got shit on.
I got fired, and I got spit on.
I got sick, and no one cared.
I threw up, and everyone just stared.

But I'm going to soldier . . . I'm going to soldier through,
so I can find my way . . . find my way through.

It was my turn, and I got ignored.
I told my story, and everyone looked bored.
So now it's one foot in front of the other.
I will not cry out for my mother.

If I'm in Hell, I'm going to keep going.
That's the only way out, and that's the only thing worth knowing.
Some people say that I should give up,
but marching on is the only way to sip from the victory cup.

Written July 2014
Recorded July 2014

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What Wred's Reading: Bridge Of Sighs by Richard Russo

I was in Chicago this April for the national Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association conference.  As part of the registration material, I received a free book about movies made in Berlin.  It looked like a very nice book, but I had no great interest in Berlin's film legacy and I had a six-month stack of books back home waiting to be read, so I wasn't too thrilled to get it.  Still, it was free; how could I complain?  I noticed that some of my fellow conferencegoers also felt the way I did about the book as they had dumped their copies of the book on the freebie table, but if everyone at the conference had it already, then who was going to pick it up there? I wanted my copy to find a better fate than just getting swept in the trash after the conference.

Fortunately, I saw in The Chicago Reader that they were holding a book swap at The Old Town School Of Folk Music one evening when I was in town, so I popped in and left the Berlin book there.  I hope that it found a good home.  Given all the intellectuals (or at least people wearing glasses) at the event, I figured that someone who dug movies and Berlin would be there and dig it.

What a cool event the book swap was!  A little folk band was playing, and people were on the free books like crows on fresh roadkill.  Some people appeared to be attempting to achieve personal bests in weightlifting given how many books they were taking, but I just wanted to swap my little Berlin book for one that I was more interested in reading.

I picked Bridge Of Sighs, a novel by Richard Russo.  I had read some of Russo's other novels such as Empire Falls, Mohawk, and Straight Man and enjoyed all of them, so I figured it was a good bet.  I've just started it now.  I think I will especially enjoy the portions set in Venice, Italy since I would like to go there next year.

And if you do the math, now I only have a three-month stack of books!  So my summer reading is actually my spring reading, but I am getting caught up.

I'm sure that you are just as excited as I am.

Apparently, the book swap is held annually, so if you're in Chicago next April and you like books, then maybe keep an eye out for it.

If I'm there and I'm caught up on my reading, look for me to be one of the weightlifter people. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Films Of Edward Burns

I was delighted to stumble across The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, a new film by Edward Burns, at the library.  Burns's films are never great, but they're almost always good (a tendency towards schmaltz in the narrative and a lack of cinematic style tends to keep a lid on how good his films get), which is sort of amazing since he seems to film his movies on the Hollywood equivalent of a fifty-cent budget.  The films are typically set in New York City and feature Irish-American characters.  They tend towards slice-of-life stories.  His strength is definitely characterization (you don't want to think too much about the plots or you will usually like his movies less).  The Christmas movie is in line with his previous work.  It's about a large Irish-American family whose estranged father is dying of cancer and wants to spend one last Christmas with the family he abandoned decades earlier.  Since there are about a dozen family members seemingly, there are about a dozen storylines underneath that main story.  Some viewers may not like that, but I enjoyed the weaving of the storylines and how the characters interacted with one another.  For a fairly realistic film, I didn't like the ending, which I didn't find very realistic, but it's a Christmas movie, so it would probably be too much a violation of the genre to have anything other than a happy ending (as happy as an ending can get anyway when one of the characters is dying).  Given Burns's tendency towards schmaltz, such an ending was almost inevitable in any case.  I probably will forget this film by next Christmas, but I enjoyed watching it, and I will likely again be delighted to encounter another film by Burns.  He's no Martin Scorsese, but, unlike Woody Allen and Spike Lee (to mention a few New York-centered filmmakers), who produced quality films early in their careers and then the law of diminishing returns kicked in (I won't watch Allen films anymore, and I think I'm at that point with Lee as I have no interest in seeing his remake of Oldboy), Burns's work remains remarkably consistent.  More people should check out his work.  Maybe then, he'd get a seventy-five cent budget for the next film and be able to create a great one.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Say No To Lawn Chemicals; Say Yes To Blackberries

So, I'll be sitting on my futon in the living room by the big window doing a spot of morning reading when a truck filled with chemicals pulls up outside, and a dude in a hazmat suit gets out and sprays my neighbors' yard with only God knows what.

That's definitely a buzzkill to the easy early morning isn't life grand vibe.

Either my neighbors really hate dandelions (to which I will quote William Niering, "There is nothing wrong with dandelions; there is something wrong with people.") or they fell for one of the many direct mail solicitations that I get as well which attempt to make people feel neurotic about their lawns.  I'm pretty live as let live, but their paying to put potentially health-damaging chemicals on the lawn makes me think I live near some stupid people (on top of that, they seem to run an under the table daycare service there as well--let's play on the lawn and get cancer, kids!).  I just hope none of that crap gets over on my property or gets the other neighbor's cat, who loves to roam, sick.

Meanwhile, across the street in my yard is a lawn chemical company's worst nightmare.  Not only do I not pay them anything, I let just about anything grow (I draw the line at poison ivy, Canadian thistle--I like Canadians but these ones should be deported--and a few other plants) in the lawn, and I don't care how it looks, thereby puncturing the local conformity in yard appearance that they use to pressure people with (furthermore, I only mow the thing as often as I do because the city would fine me if I didn't, and I use a reel mower--no gasoline or electricity needed).  As a result, I get plants such as blackberries sprouting up, blackberries that have just started ripening (they are the black ones in the picture--the net is there to slow down the birds from eating all the fruit before I can get to it; by the way, if any bird is reading this, please eat the other berries that grow in the yard and not the ones that humans can consume, and if you get caught in the net, don't peck at me when I fish you out to free you) and blackberries that I will be eating as part of my lunch today and for probably about the next month.  But this isn't about how great I am (though I am pretty great, only my modesty keeps me from telling you more about that--ha!), this post is about how great blackberries in the yard are.

I'll be blunt.  People, don't be stupid.  Stop paying people to spray potentially-hazardous stuff on your lawn if you are doing it, and don't start doing so if you aren't, and maybe you too will someday be able to walk out in the lawn and chow down on delicious fruit, delicious fruit that you didn't even plant, delicious fruit that just showed up to say, "Thank you for not being the type of idiot who is obsessed with a narrow conception of nature.  Eat me for free."

Friday, July 18, 2014

Song: "Smooth Jazz Riot"

I wrote this song from the perspective of a frustrated white collar worker.  Imagine an administrative assistant or accountant who likes to listen to smooth jazz in the office and everyone else makes fun of her or him for doing so.  It's sort of "Pirate Jenny" set in a suburban office park.  It's certainly far from autobiographical; if I had to pick a least favorite type of music, then smooth jazz might be it.  You can check out the MP3 here.  I successfully resisted the tempting Audacity effects this time except for the sexy echo, whom I just couldn't say no to.  Really, this stuff is much more fun and cheaper than therapy.  The lyrics are below.  It's the same deal as always.  If you like a song, then feel free to cover it if you're in a band or whatnot.  I love to hear covers of my songs, so please let me know about your version.  If you start making money, then send me a check/we can work out a deal.  Similarly, if you want to use a song for your Youtube video or whatnot, then just let me know.  It's usually fine by me unless it's a commercial product or whatnot (and then it's likely fine as well--I just want my cut).  Find out first though.  Write me at wredfright ATATAT yahoo DOTT com.

Hey, black metaller,
you think you're scary
because you worship Satan,
but I'll show you scary; I worship Kenny G.
Hey, hip-hopper,
you think you're tough
'cause you're in a gang,
but I'll show you tough; I work forty hours a week.

I'm listening for the smooth jazz riot.

Hey, punk rocker,
you think you're a rebel
because you have a lot of tattoos,
but I'll show you rebellion:  I don't have any tattoos.
Hey, honky-tonker,
you say you like to party
because you drink a lot of alcohol,
but I'll show you a party, and I don't need any alcohol.

We're tired of being ridiculed
for liking pleasant music,
doing our jobs, and being polite.
That makes us angry, so very angry that we want to riot.
Imagine the streets filed with smooth jazz fans.
Imagine if we didn't show up for work.
I apologize for being crude,
but imagine just how fucked you'd be.

Hey, classical music snob,
you think you have good taste
because you go to the big symphony hall,
but I'll show you good taste that you can whistle along with in the elevator.
Hey, teeny bopper,
you think you're so hot
because you like what's popular,
but I'll show you that being cool is better, and it has nothing to do with how many people like something.

Written July 2014
Recorded July 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Best Garage Sale Ever!

As a child, I sold at flea markets, which meant I shopped at garage sales to buy stuff to sell at flea markets.  Since one of my favorite things as a child was comic books, I always dreamed of finding some comics at a garage sale.  When I did, it was always a great day, and I often kept them instead of selling them.  Though my appetite for comics is not quite the same as when I was ten years old, I still was delighted last year to attend Tony Isabella's garage sale since it pretty much was a garage sale of nothing but comics.  This year, Tony is making his wonderful garage sale even better by planning to host a comics convention in his driveway after his garage sale on July 26th.  I doubt I'll make it, but if you are anywhere near Medina, Ohio USA and like comics, then you should.  Not only will you likely get to chat with the creator of a Justice League member (Black Lightning), but I bet you'll find some great deals!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

"Weird Al" Yankovic The Prescriptive Grammarian

A few years back, I saw "Weird Al" Yankovic in concert.  It was great fun.  He still makes records as well.  His latest effort features a song called "Word Crimes", which has a very funny video (it should be embedded below).  In it, he ridicules various language usages which are regarded as erroneous by those who like to police the language, who will politely be called here prescriptive grammarians (since they like to prescribe how people should use language--they are often contrasted against linguists who tend to be more often descriptive grammarians and merely describing how people use language) and not, as I saw one commentator on the video call them, Grammar Nazis.  Admittedly, most people, including myself, have strong feelings about language and its use, but I tend to fall on the more permissive side of the debate.  For example, if I ask you how you are and you say "good", I won't tsk tsk you because you didn't say "well".  As long as the meaning has been understood by both parties, clearly the language usage was successful.  Other people, particularly other English teachers, are not so permissive and seem to derive much satisfaction from using language in a particular manner and correcting that of others whose usage is found wanting.  I suspect, like Thorstein Veblen argues, that this sort of language policing is related to social class issues and conspicuous consumption (if you haven't read The Theory Of The Leisure Class, then I recommend that you do so if you get an opportunity; for a century-old book, it still explains a lot about American life today).  Most prescriptive grammarians decry such an accusation of snobbery; they usually claim they instead are defending standards of clear communication (ask them who set the standards then and their argument usually collapses, though they seldom will admit it).  At least, "Weird Al" can hide his prescriptive grammarianness behind the mask of art; when I complain about someone not knowing the difference between "it's" and "its", I'm just being a jerk.  I am with him on the "I could care less" issues and a few others.  More people should think about language.*

*Note to prescriptive grammarians.  Punctuation marks such as commas and periods are located outside the quotation marks because I prefer the British standard on this convention and not because I don't know what I'm doing.  You will just have to focus on my other linguistic deficiencies instead.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Commas And Toos

So I was writing away and noticed that I had thrown a comma in front of "too" in a sentence such as "I'm working on him, too."  I looked at it and threw the comma out.  It didn't make any sense.  There was no pause between "him" and "too", so, rhetorically, the comma wasn't needed (in this case--if one wanted to indicate a pause, then a comma makes a great choice here), and, grammatically, it wasn't doing anything.  In terms of meaning, the sentence read just as clearly without the comma.  I certainly wouldn't have put in a comma if the sentence read "I'm working on him also" or "I'm working on him as well", so why should it have a comma for "too"?  So I went back in the manuscript and made sure to yank all the commas out that I had placed in front of the "too"s where I didn't want to indicate a pause.  I must have picked this up from reading and unconsciously noticed that a lot of other writers were chucking commas in front of "too"s, so I started doing it, uh, too.  I don't know why those writers were doing that, but often punctuation usage just plays follow the leader even if the trend doesn't make any sense.  No doubt that if a copyeditor gets hold of the manuscript, then the too commas will pop back up, and it will be a battle to get them removed, but, in the meantime, they are out.

I hope other writers dump the commas there, too . . . er . . . there too. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Back To GEMM

A few years ago, I sold on GEMM, a site for record collectors.  I don't even remember if I ever even sold anything, but, given eBay's decline, I thought I would try again, so I reopened my account and put up an oddball record for sale.  It's a copy of a Circle Jerks cd.  It's supposed to have their first two albums on it, but it's a mispressing, so it only has the first album on it, which is a great album but a bit disappointing if you expected both (I experienced this myself and ended up going back to the store to return it, whereupon a compromise was arranged and I got half my money back or something).  Some collectors like oddball stuff such as this, so we'll see if anyone wants this particular sound recording folly.  If not, it's probably off to Half Price Books or somewhere, and some poor unsuspecting soul might buy it expecting both albums to be on it.

Maybe I should just throw it away.

Nah, Group Sex is a great record.  That would be a waste.

Friday, July 11, 2014

More Fun With Direct Mail!

Yes, that may be the worst blog post title of all time, but it's accurate.  I keep getting goofy fundraising appeals in the mail, so I feel compelled to share their goofiness with you.  The latest is a letter begging money for The Friedman Foundation For Educational Choice.  The letter is eight pages long, with each page on a different sheet of paper.  Maybe the explanation is as simple as the fact that this foundation has never heard of doublesided printing (i.e., using both sides of a sheet of paper), but I'm interpreting it as they already have so much money to waste that they use twice the paper they need and pay extra postage (for the extra weight of the extra paper), so they probably don't need my money (they were asking for a thousand--they must have me confused with Mitt Romney or some other rich guy, but if I gave at least $250 they'd send me a special thank you; uh, no thanks).  They did manage to use both sides of a sheet of paper for some extra material that they sent with the letter, so I'm guessing they know how to do doublesided printing and just like wasting money.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Yip!*: Supershow!

I've attended two Supershows and had a good time at both. It's a comedy/variety show that features various comedians and other acts, all for $5 at a bowling alley in Lakewood, Ohio USA. It's a good deal. I usually find myself laughing quite a bit.  The latest version had Mike Polk Jr., ballerinas, a rap metal group, and more.  It's held the second Wednesday of every month.  I don't know if I can make the next one, but if I don't, I know that I'll be missing a good time.  It's good to see the local Cleveland entertainment scene blossoming.

*Yips are good things!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Song: "I Love The Library"

I wrote this song from the point of view of one of those cranky old men who like to hang out at the public library because they have no better place to go (and, really, what place could be cooler than a great library anyway?).  The song has some artistic license, as I doubt many old men listen to The Smiths (maybe someday--give it a few years).  You can check out the MP3 here.  I went a little crazy on the Audacity effects this time.  Really, this stuff is much more fun and cheaper than therapy.  The lyrics are below.  It's the same deal as always.  If you like a song, then feel free to cover it if you're in a band or whatnot.  I love to hear covers of my songs, so please let me know about your version.  If you start making money, then send me a check/we can work out a deal.  Similarly, if you want to use a song for your Youtube video or whatnot, then just let me know.  It's usually fine by me unless it's a commercial product or whatnot (and then it's likely fine as well--I just want my cut).  Find out first though.  Write me at wredfright ATATAT yahoo DOTT com.

I'm going downtown to the library.
I'm going to check out a book and find out what's wrong with me.
Maybe other people just don't pay attention to politics,
and that's why they're not bothered that we're led by cunts and pricks.

I love the library, lots of books to read and they're all free.

Well, tax dollars paid for them so they're not quite free,
but at least they're paying for something other than bombing peasants overseas.
I also like that I don't have to buy something to go pee.
Yes, there are many reasons to love the library.

The other day at the Friends of the Library booksale,
I bought a Smiths cassette for ten cents.
I gave the clerk a nickel and five pennies.
It was Rank, my favorite 'cause they rock on it,
yet another reason for me to love the library.

There's a retarded guy there who's always yelling at me.
Yes, you can meet many strange people at the library.
But I find reading relaxing.  It calms me,
unless I read the newspaper and see what the idiots are doing with my tax money.

Written July 2014
Recorded  July 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fundraising Cliches Or Idioms?

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the use of seemingly fake surveys in direct mail fundraising appeals.

Yes, I'm sure most of you find this just as fascinating as I do--ha!

In any case, I received another fake survey, this time from the Democratic Party.  What struck me more than the presumably fake survey this time was the massive amount of cliches used in the accompanying letter.  Democrats were going to "pull out all the stops" to have a "big finish" to keep the country on "the path forward" because it has been "paying the price" due to Republican "roadblocks".

And those were just the first few paragraphs.  Later cliches included "all-out effort", "work around the clock", "stand their ground", "deep-pocketed", "foundations to victory" (complete with "pillars"), and "[t]ime is slipping by".  There were more, but I will spare you.

A cliche is usually defined as a metaphorical expression that has worn out its novelty and now represents stale thinking.  It was one of the things that George Orwell complained about in his great essay "Politics and the English Language", though he called them "dying metaphors".  If you think about it, what does "pulling out all the stops" mean?  Do the Democrats have a magic pipe organ that they're cranking up to scare Republicans away?  What is a "big finish" anyway?  Is there a scale one can measure out what a big finish is from a small finish?  What path is the country on exactly?  Not only does land not move (aside from earthquakes or whatnot), but even if the writer of the letter (supposedly Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz) was imagining the people of the country instead of the actual land, when were we all on the same path? There are millions of us; that little path is going to get quite crowded.  I could go on, but you get the idea.  This stale language is representative of stale thinking, and, therefore, unlikely to get my financial support.

However, I bet this stuff works for others.  Fundraising folks generally know what they're doing, and if they pile on the cliches, then maybe they have found that some Democrats "open up their wallets".  Cliches do allow people to follow meaning very quickly.  One could even argue that one person's cliche is another's idiom, and that different people will consider some expressions not to be worn out.  In this last paragraph, I used both "pile on" and "worn out"; they could be considered cliches by some, since they involve a figurative use of language and have been used so long that no one really thinks of their metaphorical aspects anymore.  Language is always tricky.

Still, I think the Dems need to hire some better writers.  Perhaps they need to "think outside the box", to use a phrase I personally detest (anyone who says that clearly isn't thinking out of the box yet), so that they can "clean the clock" (perhaps the same one that they were working around in the letter) of the Republicans in the midterm elections.  Orwell was right decades ago when he wrote, "Political language--and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists--is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase--some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse--into the dustbin, where it belongs."

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Latest Thirsty Bear & Hungry Snake Strip!

I was going to save this for submission to The Funny Times, but they usually like several cartoons to sort through at a time, and at the rate I produce these, they might be out of business before I have enough to be worth submitting, so you get to enjoy it now here.  Somehow I don't see them going for it anyway since it doesn't make fun of Republicans.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Yip!*: Jello Biafra Live

I was a big Dead Kennedys fan in high school, but I never got a chance to see the band because they broke up before I started regularly going to concerts.  I had seen their former lead singer and mastermind Jello Biafra do spoken word a couple of times over the years, and that was great, but I had never seen him in concert with a band, so when I saw he was coming to Cleveland, Ohio USA this week, I decided to check it out.

He was great.  He's older now, but he has more energy than some teenagers I know.  His band, The Guantanamo School Of Medicine, was terrific; he made some right-on political statements; and if the new songs weren't quite as good as the DK classics, then he more than made up for it by playing a few of those classics.  My favorite moment of the night though might have been this cover of "Sonic Reducer" just for Cleveland (for some reason, Jello doesn't know it's a Rocket From The Tombs song, as he said something to the effect that he loves Pere Ubu and Rocket From The Tombs, but this Dead Boys classic was his favorite song from Cleveland--what really happened was that co-songwriter Cheetah Chrome took this song with him when he left RFTT to the Dead Boys; since the two best Dead Boys songs, "Reducer" and "Ain't It Fun" were both at least co-written by RFTT members David Thomas and Peter Laughner respectively, Chrome should have kept writing with them as those were good songwriting pairings).  Openers Negative Approach helped out Jello's band on this version, and I'm glad that someone caught it on video, so you can hear and see it for yourself.

It's the next best thing to being there live! 

*Yips are good things!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Garage Sale Time!

I used to be a packrat, but, over the last decade or so, I get rid of things regularly now.  The stuff is pretty cool, but I just have enough stuff.  I'm selling some of it on eBay now (the link goes to my current listings).  Unfortunately, eBay is no longer what it once was, so things don't sell on there as easily.  First of all, eBay has a default search mechanism called "best match" which favors commercial sellers and not a garage saler like myself, so my stuff usually ends up at the bottom of the search listings, which means a lot of potential buyers never even see it. Second of all, eBay's fees have gotten so expensive over the years that it's really not worth my time to have an auction for something unless I can get ten bucks or so for it, so bargains are harder to find for sellers as well.  All of that hurts eBay as well in that they lose potential fees on the sales I don't make, but I guess they make enough money as is that they don't care.  Then there was the hack a couple of months ago.  That probably scared some buyers away.  In any case, eBay's getting so bad, I may not even sell on it anymore.  I might even sell some of this stuff on another site or even here if it doesn't sell on eBay.  There definitely is an opening for an alternative auction site.  None have seemed to catch on yet, but if someone could just create an equivalent to eBay circa 2002, then I'd give it a shot.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Higher Education Meets The Hello Nurse

A few years ago, I watched a documentary by Adam Curtis.  In it, he told the story of the Hello Nurse.  The Hello Nurse was created by hospital administrators in Britain to meet complaints by politicians and the public that patients waited too long to be seen by health professionals.  What happened was that when a patient entered a waiting room, a nurse greeted her or him by saying "hello".  This was counted by the hospital administrators as a patient being seen, so that statistically the waittimes for patients to be treated would look very short.

Of course, in reality, things were worse.  Not only were the real waittimes as long as before, but now a nurse who could have been treating patients was basically off the floor and charged with being the hospital equivalent of a Wal-Mart greeter.  But, on paper, it looked great, and the politicians were able to claim to the public that the waittime problem had been solved.

I was reminded of the "Hello Nurse" story when I read a recent news article about Governor Kasich of Ohio USA signing a higher education funding bill that ties funding to graduation rates for public colleges.  Though the goal of the bill seems admirable in that it seeks to raise graduation rates and therefore improve the education and skills base of Ohio, I suspect that the bill will lead to worse education.  Just as the hospital administrators who created the Hello Nurse to "solve" a problem that the politicians charged them with solving, probably without those same politicians giving them more financial resources to actually solve the problem, college administrators will likely use every Hello Nurse trick in the book to raise graduation rates.  These likely will include the aggressive weeding out through admission standards of potential students perceived as unlikely to make it to graduation (those who would have to take remedial courses and whatnot) and pressuring instructors to water down the difficulty of courses so that more students who are admitted can graduate.  Then when graduation rates rise, the college administrators and the politicians can claim victory.

But it will be a Hello Nurse sort of victory.  Many potential students won't be given a chance, graduates will have learned less, a college degree will have less value, and it will likely do nothing to actually rein in the expense of college.  So Ohio will be less better off in reality, but on paper we'll look great with all the diplomas flying out of the state diploma mills.

Perhaps we'll even end up with a Hello Professor or two.    

Monday, June 30, 2014

What Wred's Currently Reading: Legal Action Comics Volume Two

Over a decade ago, I read a comics anthology called Legal Action Comics.  It was hit and miss but enjoyable overall, like most comics anthologies.  Apparently, I never knew that a second volume had come out, so when I stumbled across it this year in a bookstore for half price, I snapped it up.  Apparently, I overpaid, since people are selling them for 6 cents online, but I was happy to support the nice bookstore that I was in (there aren't many left, eh?).  Anyway, this volume, like its predecessor is also hit and miss but enjoyable overall.  I was curious if the lawsuit that inspired the books, a spat between cartoonists Danny Hellman and Ted Rall, was ever settled, and it seems to be still ongoing some fifteen years on.  It's just sitting on a court docket and Hellman thinks there it will remain forever, but, judging from the comments on this blog post, Hellman and Rall still hate one another., so perhaps someday their animosity will result in Legal Action Comics Volume Three.  I don't know if that would be a good thing ultimately, but the books are fun.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Soule's She-Hulk

Since I followed up on Palookaville yesterday, it's only fair to also report on the other comics series I covered extensively on the blog a couple of years ago, which were the various series starring She-Hulk.  You can find the last post in that series here.  Fortunately, I have good news.  The new series is very good.  The art by Javier Pulido fits She-Hulk well, but even better is the writing by Charles Soule, who as a lawyer himself can "draw" (pardon the pun) upon his career experience.  It would still be nice to see a woman write She-Hulk in an ongoing series (not that men such as Soule, Dan Slott, and others haven't done a fine job, but it would be interesting to see if a gender switch in the scripting would be fruitful).  My only complaint would be a usual one regarding mainstream comics these days, where a number of the pages only have two or three panels on them.  Issue 4 of the original Hulk series from the 1960s averaged 6-8 panels, making for a longer and more satisfying read (assuming one isn't allergic to Stan Lee's occasional silliness and plotholes).  By contrast, issue 4 of the current She-Hulk series has three single panel pages, three double panel pages, and one triple panel page.  It's almost a relief to get to a quadruple panel page.  Still, it's nice to have Shulkie back in a starring role.  FF was great fun, but with so many characters in the book, she didn't get much attention.  I actually have a subscription to this series (yes, I am twelve years old again), so I'm in for the long haul, or at least until my subscription runs out (I wouldn't renew, but that has nothing to do with She-Hulk, and everything to do with the quality of Marvel's subscription service).  Now, if you'll excuse me, issue 5 arrived a couple of days ago (yes, that's right, only two weeks after it arrived in stores), so it's time to catch up on my deep, philosophical reading about green people.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Palookaville 21

A couple of years ago, I reread my Palookaville collection before I disposed of it, and wrote about it on the blog (you can find the last post in that series here).  At the time, issue 21 was supposed to come out, but it was delayed yet again, so I didn't get to review it.  Of course, I ended up buying it when it did come out in hopes that Seth would finally finish the "Clyde Fans" serialized story that I've been reading since the 1990s.  Well, "Clyde Fans" continues in this issue, but it does not conclude.

At this point, I have to wonder if it will ever conclude.

Still, this issue does provide a nice chunk of it.  Unfortunately, instead of providing more of it, Seth also includes examples from the rubber stamp diary he keeps (yes, you read that right--Seth actually keeps a comic strip diary and uses rubber stamps to recreate common scenes in his life) and then an autobiographical story about growing up (Seth seems obsessed with children and the elderly--in this issue he manages to include both obsessions).  I liked both features though, even if they weren't "Clyde Fans". I particularly liked the autobiographical story because of Seth's use of a 20-panel page grid.  In these days of comics being two or three panels on a page, Seth is a pleasure to read.  It almost justifies the $21.95 cover price (almost--I'm still a bit disappointed that "Clyde Fans" is not done).

I'll probably buy the next one though.  I must admit though that I'm starting to feel like Charlie Brown does when Lucy pulls the football away yet again.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Another Monster Of Party Beach Trailer

My pal Mark Justice has put up another trailer for his film, Monster Of Party Beach.  Alas, I am not in this one.  If you want to see the one I am in, then please check out this post.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

"Fast Food Friendship"

My poem "Fast Food Friendship" has been published on page 35 of the new issue of Inscape. You can find it here (24 MB PDF) or in print on the campus of Ursuline College.

Monday, June 23, 2014

"The Short Story Just Got Shorter: Hemingway, Narrative, and the Six-Word Urban Legend"

A few years ago, I started running across a story about Ernest Hemingway writing a six-word-long short story.  Despite having read most, if not all, of Hemingway's stories, I didn't know this one.  That made me curious.  I wrote a blog post about what I found and then did further research for a paper that I gave at the 2010 International Conference on Narrative.  That eventually resulted in an article that has recently been published in The Journal of Popular Culture (Volume 47, Number 2, Pages 327-340), in which I argue that the story credited to Hemingway was actually written by John de Groot. During the three years or so that my article worked its way through the academic publishing maze, the Quote Investigator discovered that the actual six-word-long short story seems very similar to a newspaper advertisement from the early 20th Century.  It's quite possible that de Groot heard the legend associated with the advertisement and adapted it for his play about Hemingway, which eventually resulted in the contemporary urban legend.  But, to sum it all up, the six-word story isn't a story and it's not by Hemingway.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Fake Surveys

The American Civil Liberties Union sent me a fake survey today.  That sort of fundraising is always annoying.  If you've never gotten one of these types of fundraising appeals before, then consider yourself very fortunate.

You're also probably an alien from Mars.  I seem to get at least one fake survey a week from one organization or another.

Basically, the solicitation consists of asking a bunch of loaded questions designed to stoke your indignation until you're ready to open up your purse, wallet, mattress, or backyard (wherever you keep your money--I make no judgment).  For example, in the survey that I received today, I am asked, "The ACLU is using lawsuits and other forms of legal action to challenge the constitutionality of the government's actions and to insist that the courts demand adherence to the Constitution and rule of law" and given four responses about how important I think that is, from "Very Important" to "Not Important At All".

I can't imagine that many people who get this survey would mark the answer to that question "Not Important At All", and if you're going to fill out the survey at all, then you're likely even more concerned about those sort of issues. 

However, that's the problem.  I feel bad for anyone who actually does fill out the survey, as I suspect that the ACLU hardly glances at it while looking for the true information the return envelope contains:  that person's check or credit card number.  When I searched the ACLU's website, I certainly couldn't find any results from last year's survey.  If it were that "vitally important to the success of [their] work", then the results would be up on their website.

I suspect the absence of the results is because there aren't any results.  Who is really going to tally up a handmarked survey, especially if one receives thousands of them?  The ACLU have an electronic version of the survey on their website though, so many they keep some data from that.

Possibly, a tally of suckers gullible enough to waste their time filling out a fake survey.

Presumably, this strategy works though.  The fundraising folks know what appeals to people generally and what will generate a higher rate of return, and, apparently, filling out a survey fires people up.

I don't mean to pick on the ACLU specifically.  They're a fine organization, and just about every organization like them uses this fake survey bit to raise money.

But I do have an answer for all those surveys that are really just fundraising appeals.

It's no.  Just beg.  It's more dignified.  Don't pretend that you care what I think when you really don't.  Perhaps one day when I'm very bored, I will contact the ACLU to get some results from the survey.  That might be amusing.  Maybe they can just fake the results as well.

In the meantime, I have a survey of my own though for the organizations who like to use fake surveys.

Will you please quit doing the fake survey bit?

Monday, May 5, 2014

What Wred's Currently Reading: The Sound And The Fury by William Faulkner

Yeah, I've read this before, a couple of times in fact, but I had to make some room on my bookcase (as a recovering packrat, I only permit myself so much room for books), so my ducttaped together, yellowed, and somewhat musty (it came that way except for the ducttape, which was an improvement over pages falling out and spilling all over the floor) paperback copy of The Sound And The Fury and I are parting ways. I can't remember when I got this copy, but it had to be twenty years ago or so, and, based on the writing inside, it belonged before to someone named Martha Evans. My guess is that my copy of Faulkner's 1929 masterpiece was published later in the 1960s (it lists Faulkner's death in the back but has no UPC and just seems like a 1960s paperback). I don't know what Martha thought of it, but I've always enjoyed this novel. It might be my favorite of Faulkner's. When I first read it, I found the opening Benjy sequence to be very confusing, but now that I know what to expect, it might be the funnest portion, if fun is an applicable way to describe this book. I'd probably be better off reading the Norton edition advertised below, but, you know how it is, when something's been with you for a number of years, you grow fond of it, so I'm giving it one last read before it goes out the door.