Friday, December 13, 2013

A lengthy, rambling farewell to the Best Show on WFMU

Note: This is my half-assed eulogy for The Best Show. It won’t be pretty and it probably won’t make much sense if you’re unfamiliar with the show, or even if you are. I’m not writing to tell you what the Best Show is. I’m not even sure I could. But if you’d like to know more, check out Jake Fogelnest’s 2011 profile of it here. If you want to read a more cohesive and moving eulogy of the Best Show, I’d check here and here and here and from just about every other great Best Show fan out there. And probably Patton Oswalt’s site in the next few days. There's also a great little interview with Tom here. For now, though, I just need to get my thoughts out regarding one of my favorite things ever.

The Best Show on WFMU is grinding to a halt in less than a week.

    The above sentence was written over an hour ago and it’s still sitting directly above my flashing cursor. It’s not like I have nothing else to say about it. If anything, I have too much to say. I could fill pages and pages about so many different aspects of the program, but instead I’m just sitting here and thinking of all the joy that the show has brought me.

    Like a lot of other people, I’m not entirely sure about what I’m going to do after the show ends. I mean, I know what I’m going to do: go to work, love my wife, raise a child, cook meals of varying quality… i.e. live my life. But the show’s departure leaves me with one less ritual in my home, perhaps my favorite, one that has come to mean a great deal to me. The Best Show is consistently the highlight of my week, a weekly call home to Mars.

    One of the reasons it’s so hard to really describe being a fan of the Best Show (Friend of Tom) is because it’s not like being a fan of anything else. The easiest comparison to make would be to that of being a fan of a television show, but that’s also probably the worst comparison. Watching a TV show is so passive and controlled, a polished product that is complete long before anyone sees it*. Even shows live SNL or Larry King (I refuse to name that other clown) seem to have been pre-planned almost to a fault.

    The Best Show, while clearly the product of two minds, has a huge margin of spontaneity that arises both from the creators themselves and also the callers. The show isn’t a finished product until Tuesday has become Wednesday, and sometimes just a stray thought or call can derail huge chunks of the show, usually for the better.

    I first encountered the Best Show about seven or eight years ago, but I have to admit that it didn’t really take for almost a year. I would listen to ten minute segments or cherry-pick episodes (usually ones with semifamous guests on them) from the archives and listen, but I’d skip around a bunch and listen mostly to the interview.

    The first time it totally clicked for me was during a Wurster call that would later be dubbed “Darren from Work Shakes His Moneymaker to the Greasy Funk.” I haven’t missed a show since. Suddenly, I wasn’t listening for the comedians that I liked to be on. If anything, I started viewing them as a speed bump that would interrupt the pace of the show.

    I think that every fan of the show has a similar experience, that sudden click where the show goes from a passing interest to something you suddenly want to know everything about. The archive is combed. Youtube clips are scoured, articles read, and for the first time you realize that everyone’s already been talking about how great this show is and how did you not know about this for so long?

    Another common experience for fans to share is tragedy. Not anything specific, but just those down times in our lives where shit just doesn’t work the way we’d hoped and nobody knows what to do next. It seems weird that a radio show (or a podcast) would be the logical remedy to that, but in times of despair, routine is often what gets us by. Sometimes you just need a break from feeling sorry for yourself. Sometimes listening to someone talk about how terrible Frank Zappa is can help to put the world into perspective.  Sometimes you know how fucked you are but you still need a laugh. I know this not only from firsthand experience, but also from the sheer number of people that has called in to thank Tom for what he’s done**. These calls are rarely explicit, but you can spot them from a mile away. You can hear a cracked voice and an earnestness that sounds almost out of place. Anyone that has ever been in a spot like that knows just how grateful you are to the person who helped you out, even if they’re completely unaware of doing so. You can tell these call mean something to Tom, but also that he is made uncomfortable by them. How do you respond to something like that on the spot, over the radio? Still, it obviously means something.

   It’s worth noting that the support system works both ways, as well. A few years ago, Tom’s friend Dogmo died and he started a few stories about what he loved about his dog so much. He clearly felt awkward putting this stuff on the radio, if it’s too personal or sad or whatever. But it was also weighting heavy on his mind and he had to talk about it. What followed were dozens of calls of support, and any apprehension Tom might’ve had about mourning a pet on his radio show vanished. In its place was an outpouring of grief and empathy so widespread and moving that it puts tears in my eyes to remember it.  We’ve been there too. We know how silly and painful it feels all at once and you do too.

    I can’t even get into the shows after 9/11 or Sandy without having to go back and listen through the shows. Sometimes you can hear people put down whatever bullshit and just come together to grieve or work on helping or just to get out of their own thoughts. These past few years, the Best Show has been my place to do that as well. The show is a public house, in the classical sense and not spelled all dumb with a k.

    To me, the show has several vital components. A better writer than me would be able to tie these all into a wonderful commentary about life and loss. Unfortunately, I am no longer a better writer than me, so I’m just gonna have to list them.

    The Best Show was probably a tough sell before it started and then evolved for 13 years. It has experienced growing pains, audience chances, personnel changes, etc… you probably couldn’t have paid a commercial radio station enough to put it on their airwaves. So of course it was a listener-sponsored radio station that put it on. Even if you’re not a fan of the show (and if you aren’t why are you still reading?), that station has such a diverse programming schedule that there is virtually something for everyone. Please go check it out when you get a chance. If you are a fan of the show, please don’t forget how much WFMU relies on donations. As soon as I heard that the show was ending, my thoughts turned to the station and how much money The Best Show brings in. This station is invaluable and should be supported forever.

AP Mike
    Associate Producer Mike is sort of the wild card of the show. He’s super contrarian and probably takes as much shit as anyone (often from squirrel puppets). He’s probably more known for the can of Coors he opens at the beginning of every show than he should be. He never fails to provide some perspective that might not have considered, and his voice is a perfect sounding board for Tom’s. I think one of my favorite surprises of the Best Show is how much I’ve enjoyed its fill-in show Depravity’s Rainbow with Mike and Therese. I can only hope that he’ll continue to appear on WFMU.

The Callers
    I had a whole thing written up about how I believe callers almost always fall into at least one of four categories (crazies, assholes, self-promoters, and FOTS), but it’s longwinded and unnecessary. What I will say is that the callers of the show (even especially the bad ones) are a vital part of it. Earlier I said that the easiest analogy to being a fan of the show is of being a fan of a television show. It certainly isn’t the best, though. Because being a fan of the Best Show is like being a fan of… I dunno, the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Hershey Park. You definitely have something in common with everyone there, but probably not as much as you would think. Aside from the show, the most unifying theme of FOTS is a fascination with the absurdity of Western pop culture. In this regard, it’s no surprise that GG Allin is the patron saint(?) of the show, or that KISS is a frequent topic of discussion. Tom will still occasionally reference that TV show Cavemen, or Hider in the House. Once, I heard him mention Vice Squad, which remains one of the most troubled and baffling films I’ve ever seen. I’ve meant to call in about that since he said it 3 years ago.
The callers of the Best Show are a disparate group, and that’s part of what makes the show work so well. They’re not just a sounding board for Tom, they make up a community of people that talk among themselves, that theorize, and all of whom want to make the show better. They don’t always succeed, but their efforts are usually in earnest.

    The regular callers, meanwhile, are frequently as entertaining as anything else on the show. There are too many names to list here, and too many names to insult by listing just a few.  In an earlier draft of this paragraph, I had named a list of like 25 callers that was still growing, and I’d feel terrible if I left anyone out. But they know who they are. There are voices that I love to hear on the other end of that line, and they’re the ones that I’ll probably miss the most after next week.

Jon Wurster
    I find Jon Wurster to be completely enigmatic. I’d be a huge fan of his for his Twitter account alone. He also happens to be a member of more than one of my favorite bands ever and has played with pretty much everyone. He’s also a Philly guy, which I tend to keep close track of for some reason. But more than any of that, he is the voice of Newbridge. In fact, I first started listening to the show because his most popular character, Philly Boy Roy, kept getting mentioned on Philly-area message boards. Like many people from the area, I was also appalled by the character until I realized what he was doing. Of course, it only took me about twenty minutes to realize that I know lots of Roys and that they’re from everywhere. The accent smarted at first, though. Still, it’s a testament to Wurster and the show that I can talk to people all over the country about Wawas, or that there are people who make pilgrimages to them. I don’t blame them. I’ve missed Wawa every day since moving to the west coast.

    For me, it’s impossible to see Jon Wurster playing drums on TV or something and not think about some of the characters he’s come up with. The mosaic of degenerates and weirdos that he and Tom have constructed over the past 13 years is nothing short of genius. I feel like he must have had a spasmodic imagination as a kid that, instead of being suppressed by medication, was fed Miracle Gro or something. Yes, Newbridge is a festering place that is inhabited by connivers, scam artists, copyright infringers, and more than one belt whipping league, but it’s also one of the greatest places on earth. It’s a horrendous place with inexplicable pride in itself. It’s a Mayberry that enacted Marshall Law after a tire fire, and then never really got over it. I know that sounds like hell on earth, and I’m sure if would be, but I cannot help but absolutely love the idea of it.

    I think the things that tend to crack me up the most about his calls are the waves of idiosyncrasies that have his characters have shared:  frequently mishearing words or phrases, repeatedly offering to “wiki” things, giving out absurdly long URLs (usually featuring at least 5+ tildens) over the air, or stopping a line of conversation with “Wait. Whuuuuuuut?” Many of the characters tend to use “pants” as an adjective. Since I started listening, he’s probably called AP Mike at least 200 different names (“Call Screener Pierre” being my favorite). These little quirks aren’t even the punchline to Wurster calls, just little bits of weirdness to add to the surreality of Newbridge.

    My favorite Wurster appearances have been in-studio. He was a sound guy working on the station’s mixing board who just happened to get caught up in the show, and Matthew Tompkins from the Shout! Network, promoting a new show. But the most jaw-dropping example of Wurster’s in-studio performances has to be the Mayubernatorial debate show, where he played what felt like all of his characters fighting with one another (and Tom, of course). That show was radio history and should be remembered for decades as the crowning achievement of the medium. Take that, Herbert Morrison!

Tom Scharpling
    Forget Newbridge for a second. Forget the music that he’s exposed us to. Forget that Tom just riffing on stuff in the studio is funnier than most standup albums (and that he does it every week). These are all qualities that deserve their own essays and I’m sure they’re out there. It’s testament to how talented and funny the guy is that I’m not even going into those aspects of the show, which have brought me countless hours of laughter and joy. But there’s something else.

    The first thing to note about Tom Scharpling on the Best Show is that he is the most genuine human being to appear on mass media in the past generation. If you turn on the TV or radio or whatever***, you hear a script. You hear synergy and corporate tie-ins. You hear people suppressing their humanity in order to present a generic and likeable face. Everything, for the most part, is so deliberate that your brain tunes it out. The only time we ever really take notice is when something unplanned happens, like an errant curse word or a lunatic is interviewed on a news channel. The rest, though, is like focus-grouped white noise.
Except for Tom. As The Best Show has progressed, we have heard Tom’s on-air personality has become more and more sincere and realistic. Instead of suppressing the components of personality that make him an individual, he airs them out for exploration.

    A lot of the criticism that I’ve seen online or the Best Show is that Tom is always cranky or complaining about something, which has its merits I guess. But to me, that’s what’s so great about the show. Complaining is human nature, and if you don’t have a little voice in your head that complains about everything in your head, I neither trust nor believe you. Personally, I harbor ridiculous grudges or explode with rage sometimes at the dumbest stuff ever. Why is this person acting like such a clod and why isn’t anyone saying anything? How does this person have a book deal? Why can’t I stop watching this garbage TV show? Imagine if you had to deal with some of the mutants that call into the show, and think about how long you’d last before exclaiming “what am I supposed to say to that?”

    Tom gives voice to the same frustrations and anxieties that most of us share, but rarely say. He’s the little guy too, just as appalled by internet commenters and what Subway calls bread as I am. And more importantly, he’ll be the first one to admit how dumb it is to be so worked up over something so insignificant. Instead of storing anger, he vents it briefly before pointing out how absurd the reality of it is. 95% of anger in this world is completely fucking ridiculous, and that’s something that everyone needs to hear at some point. I’ve disagreed with Tom on plenty of things over the years, but it’s never mattered, since the big stuff is what counts. Try to be a decent human being, and who gives a shit whether or not we like the same movies.
And it’s not like it’s all negative, either. Anyone who’s listened to Tom rave about good music or Clifford or SCTV knows just how giddy he can get about something he loves. When Fucked Up’s David Comes to Life came out, I didn’t really pay attention because it was a band that I’d never really gotten before. I think he played a track from that album every week for a month before telling the listeners just how incredible the rest of the record is. I ended up buying the album not because I felt like I was supposed to, but because I wanted to hear anything that could inspire such a reaction from anyone, let alone Tom.

    And I think that’s what a lot of the cult of Best Show fandom is. People identify with him mostly because he’s sharing his thoughts in earnest and he’s trying to stand for something. It’s just people relating to someone who isn’t gonna bullshit them. We gravitate to the show because hearing someone be truthful about their frustrations and insecurities is so refreshing and human. We tune in because for three hours a week, a normal person gets complete control over his surroundings, talking about what and with whomever he wants to. He has no problem hanging up on someone who wants to discuss something he doesn’t care about, which probably a personal fantasy for all of us. He does things exactly how we all like to think we would, although way better and much, much funnier.

    It is empowering to listen to. The good guys win on Tuesday nights, that’s just how it feels. And that’s a very hard feeling to walk away from.

    This is gonna be a weird story, but bear with me. Years ago, I read a reprint of an article about John Belushi in a Rolling Stone collection. I don’t remember much of the article other than the writer describing being terribly depressed and upon seeing this, Belushi told him “don’t take shit from anyone”. The writer (Charles M. Young) eulogized Belushi with that same phrase later in the article. These words had a profound effect on me in spite of the somewhat juvenile sentiment (I was 14, give me a break), and I’ve repeated them plenty over the years. Of course, the rub of it is that we all take shit from plenty of people in our lives. Try getting a bank loan or getting pulled over without taking a certain amount of shit.

    Years ago, I bought some show merch from and it never showed up in the mail. I sent Tom a sheepish email explaining this and apologizing for the confusion. His response was terse, apologizing in kind and saying he’d re-ship before adding:  don't ever apologize for writing about getting something you paid for, no matter who it is you're writing to! That's your money! It was totally true and I was embarrassed immediately. Sometimes we grow so accustomed to deferring to people that we expect it, which should never be the case.

    I think one of the big things I’ve learned from the Best Show is that there’s a difference between not taking any shit and not rolling over.  That you and I have every right and dignity afforded to us as the assholes who don’t know how to act like civilized human beings. What’s more, we outnumber them. I’ve learned that sometime the world puts so much attention on terrible behavior that we lose track of the fact that the overwhelming majority of us are considerate, decent people. Keeping that in mind makes life a lot easier sometimes.

    I’m gonna miss Tuesday nights because we’ll never have something like this again. I’ll miss Tom’s astonishment of how a show like Sons of Anarchy can exist, and Spike’s bad celebrity nicknames. I’ll miss Ploptron 5000, Roy Jr, and all of the other morbidly obese, drug-addicted denizens of Newbridge. I’ll miss deconstructing “Chestnut Mare”. I'll miss the theme song(s).

    I know that it has to end, and I know that we’ll all get to experience some amazing new things. I can’t complain about a show ending that has existed so consistently for so long. Nobody from the show owes me anything, and I thank everyone for making my world a better place. I’m just happy to have been a part of it, even if I didn’t participate. Scharpling and Wurster will continue to work together, and I know that I’ll love whatever they do. But I don’t think any of their future work will allow their personalities to shine through as much. There can’t be as much interaction with such a giant cast of weirdos, outcasts, and FOTS. There will never be another Best Show, and if you missed it, I’m sorry. If you caught it, I’m glad we all got to share it together. I’ll see you in the archives.

*As I wrote that, I realized that the closest TV analogy to The Best Show is probably the Chris Gethard Show, which also features a cast of lunatics and people who are fascinated with them, just in a different ratio.
**This was made even more in the most recent show, when several calls came in to that effect.
*** I’m discounting podcasts, which one could easily argue he is the godfather of (Suck on that that, Adam Curry). The show is a precursor to podcasts, but it’s worth noting that podcasting also helped the show develop an even more massive audience.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hot Dog Social Hour, Vol. 5

 There are two gaping holes in this mix (one at around the 22 min mark, the other around the 43 min. mark or so) that I just found and am appalled by. Unfortunately, it's taken me far too long to get this done today, so it's going up. Expect a cleaned up version for download by the beginning of next week. I swear!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Old Soviet Playgrounds

Normally, I send all of the web crap I encounter to my Google+ feed*, but this is pretty much right up my alley. Abandoned? Check. Soviet? Check. Terrifying? quadruple check.


*I think I tend to put stuff there because I usually feel like most of the stuff I look over has already been shared on the internet ad nauseum, and I don't want to have this site be just a bunch of shit that I found on the internet which is dumb because A) that's what it's always been and B) it's not like I'm posting original stuff here anyway.
In short, I have no idea what I'm doing.

Monday, May 06, 2013

c. 1900s : Girl thumbs her nose at bird in cage

I am returned from illness, reborn as... well, still Cotton.

Just shaking the dust, should have another mix up this week, should be still pretending to write this week, should be running soon.

c. 1900s : Girl thumbs her nose at bird in cage:
Girl thumbs her nose at bird in cage

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

John Waters, Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton

Just pretend for a second that you're at a party or something and you see these three people standing off in a corner and looking you like this.

these guys look like they timeshare a van.

If it was me, my sneakers would leave skid marks on the floor.

John Waters, Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton:
John Waters Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton | Rare and beautiful celebrity photosJohn Waters, Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton.

(and yes, I agonized over using the phrase "skid marks")

Richest Americans grow richer (and, spoiler alert: poor grow poorer)

File under [no shit]

Richest Americans grow richer (and, spoiler alert: poor grow poorer): A Pew Research Center study out today shows that the modest economic growth following the so-called "Great Recession" has increased wealth inequality in America. The top 7% of American households enjoyed a 28% increase in net worth; the wealth of the other 93 percent declined. [Washington Post]

I am terrible with science. Yes, I am married to a scientist, but tha'ts more one of those things where it's like "I'm glad she knows that stuff, because I sure as hell DON'T."

So when I take this quiz and find that I "scored better than 85% of the public, below 7%, and the same as 8%", I find that to be both insane and pathetic.

Sadly, I bet if this was about NFL stats or the Kardashian family tree or whatever*, those scores would be a lot higher.  But then, what has science done for us lately? Also, what's a bird flu?

Science and Technology quiz

*granted, I can recite plenty of useless things in disturbing detail (music stuff, comic book stuff, NBA lineups, pre-2002 Simpsons, etc...), but come on. At least save room for the fucking basics of SCIENCE.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hot Dog Social Hour Vol. 2

Okay, so work hell is over for 5 or 6 weeks, so I can get back to this. But not today.

Instead, here is volume 2 of my ongoing mix. This is an odd one (less English than any mix yet!), and some of it has been sitting around onmy computer for some time, waiting to be put on a mix. Not because  they're not good songs, but because I lost most of them for awhile. Anyway, enjoy?

or, listen to it here.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Retrobituaries: Chuck Jones, animator of Looney Tunes

I got to meet Chuck Jones once as a kid, and he was exactly as awesome as you would expect. That the creators of Looney Tunes only expected these shorts to run 5 or 6 times and then be "retired" is astounding, especially since they hold up so well.

I still watch them a few times a week, and I still laugh as hard at them as I ever did. Chuck Jones's name in the front is as good of a sign of quality as I've ever seen.

Not sure I'd pick "What's Opera, Doc?" as the best, though...
Retrobituaries: Chuck Jones, animator of Looney Tunes:

Few animated series have aged as gracefully as Looney Tunes, and that’s in large measure because of director Chuck Jones. He drew relentlessly as a child, a result of a nearly unlimited access to pencils and stationery because of his father’s business ventures. (Each time one of his dad’s companies closed, Chuck and his siblings were given the remainder office supplies.) He never stopped drawing, and would go on to elevate animated shorts as an art form. Here are a few things you might not have known about the man behind Bugs Bunny.

He worked for Walt. 
After Warner Brothers closed its animation studio, Chuck Jones worked for Walt Disney. “In animation,” he said in an interview, “asking ‘Walt who?’ would be a very strange thing. It would be like saying ‘Jesus,’ and saying ‘Jesus who?’—he was that important.” (Jones added that poor Walt Lantz, director and producer of Woody Woodpecker, was always overshadowed as the other Walt. “There were no Chucks, which is just as well.”)
He didn’t last long at Disney, though. 
“The reason I stopped working [at Disney] was because I saw that nothing happened unless Walt okayed it, and you might have to wait three weeks to get an appointment with Walt to come in and see this sequence you were working on. And it was old stuff to these guys, but not to me. I was used to working at a pace.”  
Dr. Seuss was an old war buddy.
During World War II, Jones served with Theodor Geisel in a unit that produced training films for soldiers. They worked on such series as Situation Snafu and Fubar. Army training shorts could be pretty boring, he noted. “The pictures were made by some Army colonel who thought he was a director.” Jones and Geisel made it a point to keep their films interesting and entertaining. As if it’s not weird enough that the guy behind Bugs Bunny and the guy behind the Cat in the Hat were war buddies, they later collaborated with the Navy on other films. The Navy liaison? Hank Ketcham, the cartoonist behind Dennis the Menace.  
He didn’t make Saturday morning cartoons...
This might sound weird to anyone under 30, but for a very long time, if you wanted to watch cartoons, you had to wake up early on Saturday mornings. Looney Tunes, of course, was a mainstay. But none of Chuck Jones’s work was made for children on Saturday mornings. “They were always made for theatrical release right up to ’63. None of them were made for television. There’s a perfectly logical reason for it, and it was that there wasn’t any television.” In the 1930s and 40s, he and his team figured the work that they were doing had a total lifespan of three years—first run through fifth run—until finally the films would be worn and retired. Accordingly, they were unafraid to take risks with what they were doing. This often drove their producers crazy. “We got a double pleasure, and that was to make pictures that we enjoyed making, plus making someone else uncomfortable by doing it.
“Because we were so young and had recently left our parents, or teachers, we had very little respect for adults. So we ended up where every creative person is, and that is where you paint or draw for yourself. And we figured if we made each other laugh, hopefully the audience would as well. And it turns out they did.”
...and yet he helped invent Saturday morning cartoons. 
In the mid-1950s, KTLA in Los Angeles and WNEW in New York starting running old Warner Brothers cartoons from the archives on Saturday mornings, thus beginning the tradition of programming for children. Animated features at the cinema didn’t last long after that. “We used to kid about it when television was being done... We figured TV might put us out of work, which eventually it did.” 
He said of his work at Warners, which was never meant to survive, let alone endure, “We kind of lived in a paradise and we didn’t know it.” 
He reportedly considered "What’s Opera, Doc?" to be his greatest work. 
If the words “Kill the wabbit!” mean anything to you, then you’re familiar with arguably the greatest cartoon of all time. The 1957 animated short features Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, and parodies Wagner’s operas. (The cartoon’s most famous line is sung to "Ride of the Valkyries.") This wasn’t his only take on opera. He took on Rossini in 1949’s Rabbit of Seville.
He had to persuade his old friend that How the Grinch Stole Christmas would make a great show. 
“I had known Ted during the war, but it had been 15 years... I had really wanted to do something of his, and Charlie Brown was one of the only works I knew doing a Christmas special.” Jones thought that Dr. Seuss was the natural person for such an annual tradition. “So I called up Ted, so I ask him would he be willing to think about doing it? He was anti-Hollywood, very much, because when he left after the war they pirated a lot of his stuff and took his credits off of his features... He did some documentaries—one of which won the Academy Award and someone else took it. So he was pretty sour about that.” How did he persuade Geisel? “I told him this was another field—this was television!—and he didn't know much about televisions either.”  
Ironically, a banking consortium agreed to sponsor the show, which helped Jones sell the Christmas special to the networks. Jones later noted that Dr. Seuss’s publisher should have sponsored the show, because the cartoon doubled sales of the book that year, and they haven’t slowed since. 
He was once, under protest, the vice president in charge of children’s programming at ABC. 
In 1972, he was hired by ABC TV to be its vice president of children’s programming. “I’m guilty of a lot of sins,” he said, “but that is one I’d just as soon forget.” How did he get the job? “I complained so much about children’s programming that these guys called my bluff. They said come over and do something... well that was a very good idea except nobody listened to me.” He didn’t last long. “I didn’t want to be vice president. I wanted to go back to doing drawings.”
April 3, 2013 - 12:00pm

Chart Of The Day

Obviously, a lot of this has to do with the amount of attention the issue has received in the past 20 years, but this is crazy. I honestly don't know whether to be proud of the reaction to public outcry or dismayed that there had to be public outcry. Still, very interesting...
Chart Of The Day:
by Patrick Appel
Senate_MarriageDylan Matthews charted the Senate’s support for marriage equality over time:
It’s basically an exponential increase.

Informational Posters and Books from a Fictional 1970s British Town

Informational Posters and Books from a Fictional 1970s British Town:

Informational Posters and Books from a Fictional 1970s British Town

Scarfolk is a town stuck in the 1970s and a blog slowly releasing pieces of the town's municipal history. The reworked book covers, posters, and public information ads are humorous and uncannily realistic. 'Certain themes resurface: the municipal, the occult, childhood and school days, totalitarianism and dystopia, memory and nostalgia, societal paranoia and fear of disease, television and radio.'

Butterfly in a Human Skull

Butterfly in a Human Skull:
Photographer Marko Popadic took this marvelous photo of a butterfly inside
the eye socket of a human skull. Titled Oki ("eye" in Croatian),
the butterfly's wing looks eerily like an eye staring out of the lifeless
void. Link
- via Mighty
Optical Illusions

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Last week I posted a mix and said I'd have another one up this week. Truth be told, it's all but done, I just need to work out the seques and clips that I'm using. But I also noticed that the last one has been listened to once since I put it up. Once.

So I'm not exactly in a huge rush to get the new one up. Especially since I checked the last mix to make sure it was playing correctly. Once.

So it'll be up when it's up.

I'm working between 10 - 14 hours a day all through this week and next, so don't expect a ton of content to be put in that time period. I have some writing ideas that I want to work on, but they're still in nascent stages. There are a few more Adventures with an Idiot thingys I've got ready, so expect those sooner than later. Whether you want them or not.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hot Dog Social Hour, vol. 1

try this?

or here?

"Sundor Tum Goa" - Amit Kumar
"Soul Shake" - Peggy Scott & Jo Jo Benson
"Give Me Your Love" - A.C. Jones & the Atomic Aces
"I'm doomed?"
"Je Bent Niet Hip" - The Pattie Sisters with Enteng Tanamal & his Comets
"Viva, Femme Africaine" - Danialou Sagbohan
"Funky Bijou Anthem" - Funky Bijou
"What do you think about, Sean?"
"Harlan County" - Jim Ford
"Don't Believe Nothing" - Ike & Tina Turner
"There's this huge man..."
"The Feeling Kind" - Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
"Dope on Plastic" - Uptown
"I think it's in Canada..."
"Panzer" - The Dirty Nil
"Shrinking Violet" - Swearin'
"They tell me cake is bad for me..."
"Birthdays" - The Mouthbreathers
"Light Up Gold II" - Parquet Courts
"Have You Seen My Son?" - Benjamin Booker
"Sad but true..."
"Black Egg" - Snake & Jet's Amazing Bullit Band
"Open Letter to the President" - Roy-C
"My story amused him all the same..."

I'm trying to figure a download option, but that may take awhile. In the meantime, email me or something.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

okay, Soundcloud is being a dick and I'm late to go to the desert.

download it here.

I'll fix this up later.

Friday, March 15, 2013

So here's a thing...

I'll have a mix up in a few hours. It's all done, I'm just working on a new delivery system and I need greater bandwidth before I can upload it.

It hit me pretty recently that I hadn't made a mix in well over a year. It's not through lack of effort, either. A few months ago I had one all but ready, but then my hard drive crapped out and that was a pretty massive setback. I'm still trying to find some of those songs. It's also because I don't listen to as much music, with my listening augmented by podcasts, audiobooks etc...

So I had this folder of songs and clips that I wanted to use for a mix just keep growing and growing and growing until the idea of getting back to making a mix was daunting indeed. So I decided to make it a bunch of mixes. Then it turned into a (hopefully) ongoing project, the Hot Dog Social Hour. I know if you've seen this site in the past few years, you're already rolling your eyes, but I'm gonna make an effort both to revive this dusty virtual space and to release at least a couple volumes of HDSH, so check back sometime soon if you'd like.

Usually, the bulk of the work I put into my mixes is the tagging and editing. I know that sounds crazy but it's true. So I'm gonna try to do something new, where I'll put out a mix as a single track. This allows me to avoid getting sued for sharing music, and it also makes the back end a lot easier for me. If you don't like it, or if you want a particular track without all of its neighbors... email me. or something.

This way, it should be a lot easier for me to put one of these out every other week or so. I have most of the next show already taken care of, as well.

Check back here in a few hours for more details on the first volume of Hot Dog Social Hour.

Coming soon...

Though long abandoned, the machines lurched for a moment before sputtering to life. Giant gears creaked and groaned as they gained the momentum that possessed so many years ago. Rust flaked and descended through errant beams of life, giving the workshop the appearance of a copper snowstorm. The scent of wear filled the room.

Across town, the butterflies were back.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Adventures of an Idiot

There was no moon visible the night I met the wizard. It was cold and wet and I had been waiting at a bar on 17th all night for a friend who never showed. I was thinking about whether I’d been stood up or if I’d just forgotten to inform my friend that we were going out when I noticed a weird pink mist emanating from the subway station at Harrison. At the time, I just assumed it was an effect of the rain or alcohol or whatnot, but in retrospect I should’ve known something was going on.
After descending the steps and reaching the platform, it was evident that the mist had nothing to do with the rain. In fact, the station was crawling with it. At first I thought something might be burning, so I glanced around for a burning cotton candy machine or something, but there was nothing.  Besides, there was no smell.

Then, I just assumed that there was probably a bank of smoke machines or something hidden and that any minute now some annoying improve group would jump out of the fog to scare me. I decided right there and then that that would not happen. Despite the fact that I was starting to freak out, I didn’t want to end up on some prank-based reality show. So I decided to just keep my eyes fixed on the wall across from the subway tracks until my train arrived. The joke was gonna be on them when they couldn’t even get my attention, let alone prank me! I stood there pleased with myself for a few minutes, listening to some Tuvan throat singing on my headphones to help keep me calm. Before long a train showed up and I got on it.

It only went a few stops before slowing to a halt at some station I’d never been to before. It’s funny how many subway stops you pass through a million times and never really look at, right? Anyway, this is where stuff started getting weird. The pink smoke was at this station as well. Also, the station appeared to just be a tunnel carved into solid rock. Some neighborhoods, right? Anyway, seeing how the car clearly wasn’t going to budge, I walked into the tunnel so that I could make my way to the surface. A few minutes later, though, I was standing in front of an old man. He was short and tubby, and was practically nude except for a beat up pair of cargo shorts.

“The transit authority is gonna shit a brick when they see what you did to their station” I yelled. The man didn’t look up.

“Hey, did you do this?” I yelled once more, but again was ignored. I was starting to think that he was deranged. Or maybe listening to headphones of his own.

“Are you listening to Tuvan throat singing, too?” I yelled even louder. Again, no response. Was this guy dead or something?

Apparently not. Because as I got within ten or so feet of him, he did look up. He straightened to a height of what felt like ten feet and pointed his finger at me.

“Thou mustn’t confuse me with a mere mortal, lest you find thyself on the wrong end of my wrath” he boomed, angrily.

“What are you, Thor?” the man stopped for a second. His pointing finger withered slightly and he had an expression of confusion on his face.

“Why are you talking like that?

“I have walked the earth for millennia. I will speak how I wish” He said.

“Well, you sound like a crazy person to me.” I said, trying to get around him. “Can you tell me how to get back to the F Line?”

He looked at me with an expression of disdain.

“You have been summoned to a higher calling” he said, before adding “for some reason” under his breath. I checked my phone. There were no messages.

“Ew, no way am I gonna be a priest.” He looked annoyed for a second.

“I have summoned thee here to the Rock of Eternity to-”

“We’re on the West Side. Is that some sort of club?” I looked around and noticed that there were number of lit braziers and totems of the deadly sins. The one closest to me (“Sloth”) looked a lot like Andrew McCarthy.

“Hey, was this stuff here the whole time?”

“They have been here for time immemorial. The sins are a grievous reminder of the horrors that might occur if man’s wickedness is left unchecked”

“That one looks a lot like Andrew McCarthy.” I pointed at the totem.

“I am not familiar with with that sin.”

“Um, Weekend at Bernies much?” He looked lost. Poor guy. Sometimes I forget that not everyone has daytime cable.

“I have summoned you here because my champion has fallen, and you have been deemed worthy of his mantle.”

“What do I win?”


“You have to win something to become a champion, don’t you?”

“It... is a title. There are no rewards. You will be called upon to defend those in need, and to oppose wickedness in all its forms”

“Wait. Who are you?”

“I am burdened with the task of carrying out the will of the cosmos”

“And... you want me to become a social worker? An unpaid social worker?”

“I want for-” He stopped himself. “I will thee to become my champion, to right the wrongs in this wicked world”.


“Thou hast no voice in this decision. The great powers I bestow upon thee”

“Great powers? Why didn’t you say that earlier? I love great powers! What are we talking about here? Flight? Nigh-invulnerability? Holy shit am I getting a power ring!?”

“This was a bad idea” He seemed to melt into the darkness. I tried to follow him, but my legs felt paralyzed.

“So, you’ll mail me my power ring?” I yelled, hearing only my echo in response.

It’s been two damn weeks and I still haven’t gotten anything in the mail.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Goodbye Fergus

   My friend Fergus died on Monday night.  I hesitate to use the term “cat” or pet”, since I haven’t really thought of him as either in years, but I also want to make it abundantly clear that I’m talking about a cat here. There is pain and injustice in this world that baffle the heart and mind and, even though it’s sad, I cannot count a librarian’s eulogy for his elderly cat among them. And that’s exactly what this is. Requiem for a feline.  If it doesn’t sound appealing to you, don’t read it. I’ll understand. Besides, I’m writing this more as a process than anything else.

   Shortly after we moved to California, Carrie decided that she wanted a cat. Not just any cat, mind you, but a Scottish Fold. For those of you not up on your cat breeds or too lazy to follow a Wikipedia link, Scottish Folds are stubby, round-headed cats known primarily for the way their ears “fold” over. One of the most internet’s famous cats is a Scottish Fold, although Maru does not have the distinctive folded ears. Anyway, Carrie decided that she wanted to adopt one. Being a dog person my entire life, I wasn’t thrilled at the idea, but was willing to go along with it. So we started keeping an eye on various sites and Scottish Fold Rescues.

   After a few near misses, we had found an available Fold that looked we couldn’t stop looking at. His profile photo was that of a gruff, pissed-off-looking cat. The description was coded in a way to suggest that he might not be the most outgoing or lovable cat. He’d had his hips replaced as a kitten. And he was 9, which was older than we were hoping for. Nonetheless, we trekked out to North Hollywood one day to the pet store where he was being kept.

   When we got there, it was the typical chaos of a large pet store during an adoption event on a Saturday. I had identified Fergus as soon as we walked in, and I knew that he would be going home with us. It wasn’t that he was particularly adorable (though he was) or outgoing. In fact, he just sat in his cage like a hardened veteran of events like those. He surveyed what was going on around, but he looked disinterested and tired more than anything else. Fortunately for him, disinterested and tired are great hobbies of ours.

   Carrie soon picked him out and she knew right away, too. When the adoption people figured out who we were looking at, they brightened up. Fergus had been with them for years, living in the pet store. He wasn’t the greatest with other cats, and he was too old for most people to want. They also told us he’d originally been named Winky, but that they’d renamed him Fergus in hopes that it might help find him a new home. It did. We were on our way home with him (and our new cat supplies) in 30 minutes.

   It took him a long time to warm up to us.  The first thing he did when we brought him in our home was throw up. He was far from hostile, but he spent most of his time in crawl spaces or warily surveying our apartment. After some phone calls, we got a better idea of what was happening. It turns out that living in a pet store for a few years was just part of Fergus’s life. Before that, he had been living in an outside cage at a cattery for some time. Apparently he had been pampered by someone, since his hips had been replaced as a kitten, but from what we could gather he’d been living in bad conditions or foster care for most of his life.
So we had a cat that, after years of neglect, had stopped trusting anyone. He was defensive and ornery at times, but usually just wanted to be left alone. After taking him to a vet, we were told that he had kidney disease and other health problems. Our concerns mounted.

   But something happened. He started to enjoy himself. He started soliciting pets from us. He grew to trust us, and then much later, to love us. He became a member of our family. His jail mentality disappeared and he began to act like the entitled cat that he’d surely been at some point in his life.

   It took over three years, but he even starting meowing. W we returned from a five-day trip to Big Sur, and he was sitting on our bed. He meowed in such a “where the hell were you?” way that we didn’t even believe it had happened. It was only when he repeated himself that we realize that he was talking to us. After that, we couldn’t shut him up. He had a hungry meow, and a “wake up” one, and a “leave me alone” one. He started hanging out in the bathroom, meowing to himself over and over just to hear his own echo like he was admiring his singing voice.

   His health, while stable, continued to decline in the last few years. He developed an abscess in his right paw, making it swollen and uncomfortable. Still, he hobbled around on his big paw without much pain. In October, we started having to give him electrolyte injections at home to keep renal failure at bay. We were criticized by friends and colleagues when we started doing this, and it was suggested that we were keeping him alive for our own sakes and ignoring his decrepitude.

   Of course, we knew better. Those people would see him for 15 minutes a month and assume he sat and stared all day. True, that was his primary occupation and he’d do that for some 20 hours a day. But he always did that. What nobody else saw was the way he would sprint around the house (a sound made unmistakable by his big paw), or chase after errant insects. He developed an unprecedented penchant for table begging.

   In all honesty, he was a pretty lousy pet. He would spite-poop all the time. I once awoke to see him sitting on my pillow next to our bed, taking a shit because his litterbox was full. I didn’t know whether to throttle him for ruining my pillow or respect him for keeping it all off the floor. There was one instance where he let loose a torrent of diarrhea upon a former-roommate’s mattress that rendered it unsalvageable. He begged at the table and refused to do anything but glower at 90% of our guests. He whined a bit and kneaded our feet when we were sleeping. He was insanely finicky about his food, especially when he was supposed to only be eating his special kidney food. One of the few things he got right about being a cat was the constant self-cleaning.

   He wasn’t the best at being a pet, but he had parts of it nailed down. For one thing, he was freakishly photogenic. As people who generally dislike having our photo taken, it really helps to have a pet that openly mugged for the camera.

   There were other things, too. He started being this weird comforting force in our lives. When I broke Carrie’s heart, he noticed. He would lie next to her (unusual for him) and lick her hands. When unemployment and depression threatened to ruin me, he would sit next to me and pick me back up. I know how that sounds, I really do. You can roll your eyes or think to yourself how I’m rambling that a cat saved my life or something, and I completely understand why. But I was there, and I remember how bad things seemed. Depression is screwy. Sometimes it’s difficult to address. Sometimes, because of fear or shame or anxiety, you can’t talk about it with anyone, not even your closest friends. I stopped communicating with most people. Important personal relationships were neglected, as was this weblog. While Carrie and I spoke constantly about what was happening, they were terse conversations, pregnant with frustration and dread. I spent my days volunteering and filling out applications while my spirits grew dimmer and dimmer. But each day, I’d sit with him for a bit and pet him while I thought. Carrie did the same. I know that the idea of therapy animals is hardly new, but I guess I never expected firsthand experience.

   That never really stopped. When I started getting up before dawn to go to work, he would be the only thing awake in the universe, staring back at me while we waited for the water to boil for coffee. It became my morning ritual to sit for a minute with him and read the paper. A little later, Carrie would sit in the yard with him while she had her own coffee and he wandered around the garden.

   He’s not there anymore in the mornings to greet me. There is no thumping as he runs around the house in the middle of the night, and the house is a lot quieter without the sound of him eating. The object in our peripheral vision is no longer a grey cat, but a bag on the floor, or a pile of books in the shadows. Because he died in our arms the other night.

   I’m not going to bemoan his death or act like he was taken from us too soon. Fergus was a cat, and he outlived all expectations. We used to joke that he was part cyborg because he was constantly proving to us that he was stronger and more agile than we thought. But he was still a living being, and as with all living beings, at some point they cease to live. His death was a painful reminder of the hardest part of having a pet. His exit was sad, but we’d been telling ourselves that it would happen for months, and I feel incredibly fortunate for the time we had with him.

   I know he was a cat. I also know that most of you have children and that it probably seems a little absurd, the amount of fixation we poured into this fleabag. But he was still a member of our family. It breaks the heart not to feel the ones you love there anymore. It still hurts not to hear the voice of a loved one, regardless of whether they could lick their own genitalia or not.

   There’s a saying that rescue animals are actually the ones doing the rescuing, and I can’t disagree. I’ve never been happier to take a chance, and I’ve never been rewarded as handsomely. There will be other pets and (I hope) other friends, but none who would ever replace him. Like I said, he wasn’t great at being a cat. But he was a damn good friend and neither of us will ever forget him.