Saturday, September 29, 2007


Backed by the Hawks (later known as "The Band"), an electric and electrifying Bob Dylan tore through England in 1966 and was greeted with screams and boos. They were creating a new sound, what Dylan dubbed "thin, wild mercury music." "Judas!" some folkie famously yelled at Manchester. "I don't believe you!" Dylan snarled, and ordered the band to play it loud. Definitely a rollin' stone.


Hank Williams (1933-1953) was a soul singer, a blues singer, a country singer who sang from the heart. Even his silly love songs came from somewhere deep. He was a rebel who got kicked off the Grand Ol' Opry by the squares, had a penchant for booze and pills, and died alone in the back of a Cadillac limo on New Year's Eve. "I'm a rollin' stone," he sang, and he meant it.

Friday, September 28, 2007


McKinley Morganfield, better known as Muddy Waters, shook my hand and offered me a drink. I was working for a tiny newspaper in some jerkwater town, lugging a notebook and tape recorder and camera. His hand felt like iron. I was sent to interview him, but he really interviewed me and I was too young and dumb to know at the time. The man was a genius. My editor was an ass. Square as a box of Apple Jacks. He wondered why this old guy was worth valuable column inches. Just listen to Muddy sing "Rollin' Stone." Can you dig this?

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I come across some unusual recordings, but I really had to pass this one on to you. The White Stripes covering Captain Beefheart. A replica of a replica.

Click red button to hear their version of "China Pig."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


Magicians have always fascinated me. Here is a fantastic trick that my friend Jim sent. Don't try this at home.


An amnesiac walks into a bar and asks the bartender, "Do I come here often?"

Here's a string of jokes that begin with, "A man walks into a bar..." or some variation thereof. Some are funny, some make you groan.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I loved reading Classics Illustrated comics when I was a kid. My introduction to the classics began when I had the flu one time, and Dad came home with some 7UP and a couple of these comics. Robin Hood and Frankenstein, I think.

I'd seen the Errol Flynn movie, of course, but as I sat propped up on pillows with my 7Up and my fever, I was transported back to Sherwood Forest where I joined Robin and his Merry Men robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Pretty revolutionary stuff. My girlfriend is in grad school getting a master's degree in non-profit leadership and fundraising, and she already has plenty of reading to do, but I might suggest adding this slim volume to her stack of books.


Toby Keith, the mediocre country singer, scored major hits with such pro-war records as "Shock'n Y'all," and angry lyrics such as "You'll be sorry that you messed with the US of A, 'cause we'll put a boot in your ass — it's the American Way."

Knee-jerk jingoism and pro-Bush sentiment made Keith a fortune. He had a major public feud with the Dixie Chicks, after their anti-Bush statement, calling them traitors and urging people to boycott their records.

Now Keith claims he's a lifelong Democrat and never supported the war at all.


An article in the Telegraph says Keith, and many other formerly pro-war country singers, have jumped ship. "The changing tone reflects a growing scepticism in heartlands that have disproportionately contributed the young soldiers who have been fighting and dying. Brian Hiatt, associate editor of Rolling Stone magazine, said: "Popular music is reflecting the culture, as it always does."'

As the death toll rises in Iraq and the public support of the war — and George W. Bush — diminishes, the astute -- and opportunistic -- are changing their tune. Whether they're following their hearts or the public opinion polls, or just the money, is a matter of opinion. Either way, the damage has been done. Besides, war-mongering for profit is nothing new.

To quote Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, "F.U.T.K."

Sunday, September 23, 2007


There is nothing like listening to an old radio show on a crisp autumn evening. Make tea, sit in a comfortable chair, and use your imagination.

"Lights Out" was conceived in the fall of 1933 by NBC writer Wyllis Cooper, who wanted to produce "a midnight mystery serial to catch the attention of the listeners at the witching hour."

"Lights Out" became extremely popular. Each show began with a warning to the faint of heart to please refrain from listening. I can only urge you to heed this warning. If you dare, click the red button below. "The Devil and Mr. Speed" originally aired January 5th, 1943.


The imaginary airships of Harry Grant Dart (1869-1938) are beautifully rendered and full of the magic of a dream. They seem to float the edge of a golden moment. Dart drew for the Boston Herald in the 1890s, and did freelance illustrations for Life. In 1908, he conceived of the strip "The Explorigator" to rival the popular "Little Nemo" by Winsor McCay. For fourteen weeks that year Dart told the tale of a fantastic airship manned by Admiral Fudge and several adventurous lads. This strip seems to be the major inspiration for Thomas Pynchon's boisterous balloonists in "Against the Day" (2006).

These gorgeous images were created for All Story magazine between 1900 and 1910.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Then there was the rain. The rain was good and the fog was also good but it was the rain that was the best and they sat by the windows and watched Venice grow darker and ordered something good to drink but not as good as the rain. He sat by the windows and watched the dusk and thought of being tired and hungry and leaving Thrace to the Turks, and the drink came cold and quenched his thirst but did nothing for his impotence.

Everyone loves to parody Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961) and some are quite good at it but none are as good as Hemingway himself. He was the best at being Hemingway.

Click button to hear Hemingway himself read "In Harry's Bar in Venice." From "Hemingway Reads," a HarperAudio release.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


A student at the University of Florida stands up and asks Sen. John Kerry a rambling question about the 2000 election, impeachment, and his membership in the Yale secret society, Skull and Bones -- a membership shared with George W. Bush.
The student is dragged away, handcuffed, and tasered, as the crowd sits patiently and the Senator drones on.
Just before the student gets the 50,000 volt jolt -- as he's being wrestled to the floor by security guards -- he says "Don't tase me, bro!"

The phrase becomes a catchphrase, jolting the web awake. The video circulates and becomes a primary Google search. Pundits argue whether this was all a big put-on, whether the man was obnoxious, whether or not he deserved to have a jolt of 50,000 volts course through his body. Some call the incident an example of our gradual drift toward a police state. Others scurry to blame the victim. The question was impertinent, they say, or overlong. The student was rude and got what he deserved. Are we comfortably numb in our increasingly violent age? Do we instinctively rush to lick the boots of power, or identify with the underdog? In a polite society, should people shut up when they're told? Finally, does the First Amendment guarantee the right to freedom of speech even if you have a question that is overlong, rude, or inconvenient?
Watch the video. What do you think?


"Destino" is the animated collaboration of Salvador Dali and Walt Disney. Started in 1945, the project languished in Disney's vaults for over fifty-seven years -- along with 150 storyboards, drawings and paintings. "Destino" was finally completed by Disney's nephew Roy, and it premiered at the Tate in London in 2003. The film was nominated for an academy award. Here is a rare clip.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Here's something you rarely see these days -- an intelligent political discussion. In this age of short attention spans, sound bytes, and talking points, it's nice to see two smart guys who don't dumb it down. This originally aired in 1969, but is still timely, as they discuss America and Terrorism.
For part two:

Monday, September 17, 2007


I like Elvis. Now we might disagree, and that's all right. To my way of thinking, the high point of his career came early on, before he went into the army, when he was still making wild rock and roll at Sun Records in Memphis. Mystery Train. Baby, Let's Play House. Tryin' To Get To You. You might disagree. You might say, Nope, the high point was definitely at RCA, or Hollywood, or Las Vegas, or the 1968 Comeback Special, or hugging Tricky Dick in the White House.

The high point is arguable, but the low point is painfully obvious. Obese, miserable, chugging pills and devouring fried banana sandwiches, finally overdosing on the john. That's hard to beat for a tragic, terrible waste. Now that moment has been commemorated in a sad new candy, "Reese's Elvis Big Cup" made with chocolate, peanut butter, and banana cream. King Size, naturally. So, you want good taste? Or something that tastes good?


Brand new school clothes, blunt scissors, and a big box of crayons (with the built-in sharpener). Here's a back-to-school special from the old school: "High School Confidential," by Jerry Lee Lewis. Click PLAY


Like a man possessed, Jack Kerouac wrote "On The Road" on one continuous 120-foot scroll, a furious feat fueled by pharmaceuticals and possibly angels. Like Athena springing fully-formed from the head of Zeus, "Road" was born in one momentous rush, and this is now the stuff of legend. It may be popular in certain circles to dismiss the work as overheated youthful exuberance, but man you just know those cats are too square to swing with it. You dig?

This year, the scroll begins a 13-stop, four year tour. To commemorate "Road" hitting the road, I made a short film combining footage of Jack in the heady days of the Beats with a low-fi recording of him singing a sweet little song called "On The Road."

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Come see the fine art, paintings, film and clay animation by Bruce Bickford at the Christoff's Gallery in Seattle. This is a rare opportunity to see the animating genius behind Frank Zappa's "Baby Snakes" and actually purchase artwork from his studio. Don't miss the chance to see his unique vision until September 30th.

Christoff's Gallery
60041 12th Ave. S.
Seattle, WA 98108

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Musically, I like everything from Hank Williams to Sonic Youth, but I had no idea what was going on in my brain when I listened to music until I read this amazing book by Daniel J. Levitin, "This is Your Brain on Music."

Levitin is a neuroscientist who runs the Laboratory for Music Perception, Cognition and Expertise at McGill University in Montreal. He's also a musician and former record producer, so he's the perfect person to ask what happens in the brain when a favorite song comes on the radio, or why certain chord sequences fill us with delight.

Read his interview in the NYTimes.

Friday, September 14, 2007


Krazy Kat, a classic cartoon from the great George Herriman (1880-1944)

Click to enlarge

Thursday, September 13, 2007


This is the remix of Dylan's "Most Likely You Go Your Way (I'll Go Mine)" from the classic 1966 album "Blonde on Blonde".

Mark Ronson remixed it, with Dylan's approval. Ronson is the cat who brought all that old school production to the Amy Winehouse hit record,"Back to Black." That record sounds fantastic. Give me enough Stax-style horns and I'll conquer the world.

But Dylan? I'm a big Dylan fan, and didn't think his work needed any "old school" tinkering. The guy IS old school! Still, I admit the new mix is kind of cool -- even if the coolest part is Dylan's original vocal. The video is lame, but check out the new sound and tell me what you think.
click here:


You won't be seeing the White Stripes soon. They just canceled their North American tour because Meg White is suffering from acute anxiety. We suggest plenty of rest, relaxation, and peppermints. Not only does it fit the band's color scheme, according to our friendly aromatherapist, peppermint has been used since the 17th century to lift moods, relieve fatigue, energize and refresh. Good luck, Meg!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007



Another rare photograph of the face that launched a thousand dissertations.

Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr., born May 8, 1937, lived in Seattle for a couple years, living in the U District and writing technical manuals for Boeing. Later on he wrote some novels, including one of the archetypal texts of post-modern fiction, "Gravity's Rainbow."
The dense, interwoven story takes place in London and Europe immediately following VE Day at the end of World War II, but reducing the complex narrative to a simple paragraph is a fool's errand. Suffice it to say conspiracy, entropy, prescience, militarism, obsession, bawdy humor, bad jokes, and the development of the V-1 rocket all figure prominantly against a backdrop of Pynchon's wide-ranging knowledge of science and technology, history, psychology, music, film, and literature. It's a doozy, by gum.
I've read it -- some parts a dozen times -- and have several dog-eared, underlined copies around the house, but I don't claim to understand it entirely. Passages are undeniably brilliant, but it's impossible to keep track of the mountain of information, the cast of characters, and all the scientific references without some help. Fortunately, Pynchon has fueled an obsessive army of scholarly monks devoted to his writing, and there are numerous critical works and concordances that help guide the novice. Some are listed below.
Is it all just a big put-on? A needlessly opaque virtuoso performance? Too bad you can't ask the man himself, but Pynchon makes J.D. Salinger look like a social butterfly. In this age of celebrity, he grants no interviews. He's never photographed. No one knows where he lives. In fact, when "Gravity's Rainbow" won the National Book Award in 1974, he sent the double-talking nutty professor Irwin Corey to give the acceptance speech, prompting some to wonder if the comic was actually Thomas Pynchon.
Years later, when the actor John Larroquette was planning to have a fictitious meeting with the reclusive writer on his sit-com, he was contacted by the man -- via Pynchon's agent, of course. Pynchon suggested he be described as wearing a Roky Erickson T-shirt. (see Roky Erikson below)

For more information on Pynchon, here are some good links:

Monday, September 10, 2007


Ben Shahn used newspaper photos as a basis for a series of goaches (opaque watercolors) and tempera paintings commemorating the trial of Italian immigrants and anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolemeo Vanzetti.

The famous trial of Sacco and Vanzetti -- called "the most politically charged murder case in the history of American jurisprudence" -- celebrated it's 80th anniversary last week. Railroaded for their unpopular views, the two were electrocuted at Charlestown State Prison just after midnight on Aug. 23, 1927. Their executions set off unprecedented mass demonstrations worldwide due to the atmosphere of prejudice that surrounded the proceedings.

From the Yale Bulletin: "The Sacco and Vanzetti case unfolded shortly after the end of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and World War I, during the period of intense xenophobia and anti-radical paranoia known as the "Red Scare." On May 5, 1920, police in Brockton, Massachusetts, arrested Sacco, a shoemaker, and Vanzetti, a fish peddler, charging them with being "suspicious characters."' They were later charged with murder.

During the proceedings, Judge Webster Thayer made offhand, anti-Italian remarks, and told the jury: "This man [Vanzetti], although he may not have actually committed the crime attributed to him, is nevertheless culpable, because he is the enemy of our existing institutions."

For more, see Peter Miller's excellent documentary about the case.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

MIXTAPE: Piracy Funds Terrorism

M.I.A. -- born Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam in 1977 -- is a sassy singer and mixer of juicy beats, Bombay pop, border-crossing electronica, ragga, dance, hip hop, and soul. Her new record, "Kala," got five and a half stars from Rolling Stone. Some are calling it the best record of the year. So what's Uncle Sam afraid of?

At the height of a civil war, Maya left Sri Lanka as a refugee with her mother. Her father is an activist turned militant, a founder of a revolutionary student group that merged with the Tamil Tigers, an organization labeled terrorist by the U.S. government. He was underground, so Maya hardly knew him. As a security precaution, when they met he was introduced to her as an uncle.

In London, she fell in love with reggae and hip hop, and became a visual artist known for her candy-color spray-painted art and handing out mixtapes. One was called "Piracy Funds Terrorism." When she finally recorded an album she named it after her father, "Arular." In spite of lyrics booming with revolutionary attitude -- or maybe because of it -- the music caught on big time, worldwide. She toured with Gwen Stefani, and had guest appearances with Bjork and Missy Elliott.

In April of 2006, after planning to record with Timbaland, she was denied a visa to enter the United States. The reason for the denial was not clearly explained.

"From Day One, this has been a mad, crazy thing," she says. "I say the things I'm not supposed to say, I look wrong, my music doesn't sound comfortable for any radio stations or genres, people are having issues with my videos when they're not rude or explicit or crazy controversial. I find it all really funny"

Whether M.I.A. is the voice of the developing world, the next Bob Marley, or a terrorist, she makes brilliant dance music. Her latest record is named after her mother, "Kala."

Check out M.I.A.

Rolling Stone on M.I.A.


"A majority of Americans say the United States made a mistake getting involved in the war in Iraq, and the increased numbers of troops in recent months has either made things worse or had no impact at all, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll."
-NY Times, Sept., 9, 2007

Let's face it. The war is a disaster. The only people benefiting are politicians and private contractors. But you know that.

It's an old story. War profiteers cashing in on death didn't start with Haliburton. Read a history book, America. Do your homework.

This Iraq War was a con job from the start, since the initial "lying" period of WMDs, yellow-cake uranium, and the Afghanistan bait-and-switch. The "plan" isn't working. The "surge" hasn't helped. Troops have been stuck over there three, four, five tours, unable to come home. Even the president isn't smirking so much anymore, and he sure hasn't put on that photo-op flight suit again. No "Mission Accomplished" banners this time. The rats are leaving the sinking ship, or being thrown off. Goodbye Rumsfeld, Rove, "Scooter," Alberto. It took the people long enough, but they aren't buying it anymore. History has shown that eventually people catch on to a con least until the next war.

Saturday, September 8, 2007


Compare and contrast. In spite of obvious similarities, which one of these statues stands in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence, Italy, and which stands in the Houston airport?

The eight foot tall statue of George W. Bush (on the right) stands in the Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas. It was sculpted by David Adickes, the Houston artist who has sculpted numerous statues of presidents for public parks. The pigeons love his work. Unfortunately, this one is indoors.

The one on the left is by some Italian guy.

The similarity was pointed out by David, at the Ironic Sans blog.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Westerns have their own logic, a formula as tightly controlled as Greek tragedy, and a truly great Western manages to breathe within those cast-iron confines. The worst are simple horse operas, morality tales wrapped in shoot 'em up conventions, enjoyable as a feedbag of popcorn but just as nourishing, but the best westerns are grim and dark and wrestle with fate. They are fearless, illuminating, mythic. Aristotle, who defined tragedy for the ages, would have loved "The Wild Bunch."

The Onion gives us a list of some truly grim Westerns:

I'm looking forward to seeing the remake of "3:10 to Yuma." How about you?

Thursday, September 6, 2007


This is an extremely rare photograph of a man CNN called "an enigma shrouded in a mystery veiled in anonymity."
Who is he?
Clue: He once worked as a technical writer for a huge airplane company in Seattle, Washington, and lived a few blocks from the UW campus.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


The high point of Bumbershoot (the music festival in Seattle) was seeing Roky Erickson! Roky was the driving force behind the infamous psychedelic garage band, the 13th Floor Elevators. They scored a hit with "You're Gonna Miss Me" back in 1966. Texas being Texas back then, Roky was busted for possession of one joint and sent to a mental institution where he underwent electro-shock therapy. Between the "treatment," and a struggle with mental illness, Roky was knocked out of commission for quite some time. Rent the movie about his ordeal, "You're Gonna Miss Me." It looked like he was out for good. So it was great to see him back, performing his songs, the big hit, as well as "Creature with the Atom Brain," "I Walked with a Zombie," and -- after I screamed out the title, "Starry Eyes." Go, Roky!

Sunday, September 2, 2007


Labor Day Weekend, and these clean-cut kids are having a ball on the beach! For us, the beach was always Rockaway, Lincoln City, or Seaside. Lincoln City had the Pixie Kitchen, but Seaside had a big cheesy arcade with bumper cars and go karts and pinball machines and lots of kids. Thousands of kids! Oh, and the ocean.

They even had a Loop-o-Plane, an amusement park ride run by an old tattooed carny that swung you upside down like a hammer and emptied your pockets of change. You walked around this carefully because there was always some kid throwing up corn dogs and salt water taffy like Spin Art.

Ski Ball was fun and cheap, and if you scored a billion points you could win a tiny green army man or a Bit-O-Honey. I won a couple in my day.

There were always big biker runs on Labor Day Weekend, when outlaw bikers descended on Seaside and terrorized the citizenry, but we only heard about it and never actually witnessed such an event. Like other terrors we only heard about -- piranhas and such, quicksand, the killer with the hook -- this was grist for our imaginations. Scenarios played out in daydreams. I'd see them someday, a band of Hell's Angel's roaring up the Turnaround, and I'd act accordingly. I'd probably rescue a girl in a bikini. Sadly, like my childhood plan to grow up and become a secret agent or photographer for Playboy, it never happened.

Check out this cool time machine produced by oldbluewebdesigns -- turn on your sound and dig this.

Saturday, September 1, 2007


Summer's almost gone, and thankfully so is the anniversary of the "Summer of Love." Enough with the candy-coated reminiscences of people who weren't even there (the cub reporters normally sent to cover birthdays at the zoo), the uncritical misty-eyed memories of boomers now deep in the corporate rat race, even those rare respectful nods from officialdom (only two more weeks to catch the "Summer of Love" show at the Whitney!). Like the great Jimmy Durante would say, "Everybody wants to get into the act!"

Talk about False Memory Syndrome! I'm sick of all this revisionism, the sanitizing Austin Powers time machine that strips all the grit from the equation and turns history into just another Disneyland theme park, all Dayglo daisies, cutesy flower power, peace-and-love. All style and no content.

They got it all wrong. From the 1966 riots on Sunset Strip to the Kesey acid tests, from Vietnam to Watts to the moon landing to Hendrix burning his Fender Stratocaster at Monterey, a cultural hurricane ripping through the land. It tore through dinner tables and classrooms and draft boards. The music, the hair, the dope -- the attitude -- wasn't created in a vacuum. It wasn't even the best part. There may have been strawberry incense and cannabis on the winds of change, but it came with the unmistakable stench of teargas. Worldwide. Students and auto workers threw paving stones in Paris 1968, and hundreds of students were gunned down in Mexico City, where the Olympics were being held. The Tlatelolco Massacre didn't make the Wide World of Sports broadcast, but you might remember those Olympics for one stunning image; that of two African-American Olympic athletes, medal-winners Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raising black gloved fists in a Black Power salute. People were shocked, and the International Olympic Committee promptly banned them from the Olympic Games for life!

Summer of Love? Buy the T-shirt. Better yet, love your neighbor, expand your mind, stand up for peace. But don't trust your memory, it's been tampered with.

Here's a great article from the SF Gate.