Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Separated at Birth?

Hapless goob Chuck Todd of NBC News:

Mapless noob Murray of Flight of the Conchords:

A Horrible Gardening Accident

Perhaps, I mused, as I wended my way through early-evening traffic yesterday on my way to the Leesburg emergency room, the wound to my thumb that would require five stitches to close it still seeping ungodly amounts of gore into a sodden paper towel clutched in my right hand, the razor-sharp paring knife was not the optimal tool to use to go slashing around in the asparagus patch while preparing the family dinner. Quite possibly, I reflected with some regret, I should have used the machete instead.

The triage nurse's wall was a study in Our Life and Parlous Times. Freshly tacked to it was a flow chart (quite poorly executed, possibly in PowerPoint, I noted with professional satisfaction). The first decision box read, "Been in Mexico in the last two weeks?" (The Yes/No paths led to quite different procedures; respectively, they were, "OK, let's assume you have swine flu," and "You almost certainly don't have swine flu. Go home and sleep it off.")

As the nurse practitioner was swabbing the last of the dried blood off my hand and preparing to give me a tetanus shot, the triage nurse poked her head into the menage. "We need this room," she whispered to my ministratrix. "Why?" was the former's natural response. Quickly eying me, the triage nurse beckoned her out into the hallway; clearly, they didn't want my prying ears overhearing the subsequent justification.

The nurse reentered the room, and hurriedly gave me the tetanus shot. As she was doing so, urgent conversation filtered into the room.

"When did you return from Mexico? Was it more than a month ago?"


"Can you describe the chest pains?"

[Mumble mumble]

"Sir, I don't believe that swine flu is a likely cause of your chest pains, but we'll get you an EKG and a complete blood workup...."

Poor bugger. As I left the room to him, he lay on a gurney in the hallway, oxygen mask clapped to his face. He'd worked himself up into a panic attack over the goddamned cable-news overcoverage of this swine-flu thing. He had a sniffle, connected it with his spring-break trip to Mexico, and assumed he was the next Dreadful Statistic. He was, of course, in no more danger than he had been in in Cancún, eyeballing the Kollege Kuties in their bikinis and swilling Tequila Sunrises.

I sidestepped the whole scene, looked for the exit. I stood aside to let pass a young man in a wifebeater, straight out of an episode of Cops. His hands were manacled behind him and a grim-faced gendarme held his elbow. Blood streamed from his nose.

OK! Time to go cook some asparagus!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Say Hello to My Little Friend

It was a trifle disconcerting to notice something, shall we say, out of place in the potting shed yesterday morning:

For the last couple of years, I noticed mouse-droppings in among the grass-seed I had stored out there. Now? Not so much.

A black rat-snake has taken up residence in a seldom-used drawer. For the last few summers, I found shed skins out there, and assumed their erstwhile owners had moved on. Now I realize the mouse population was so plentiful that My Little Friend decided to take up permanent residence.

According to the Audubon Society's Field Guide to Reptiles,
Rat snakes are large, powerful constrictors and excellent climbers. They are often found in barns and falling-down old buildings, [Hey! That shed's in great shape!] where their shed skins may be found in the rafters. As the name suggests, rat snakes eat rodents, as well as rabbits, birds, and eggs. Out and about during the day in spring and fall, they often don't move until just after sunset in summer. They sometimes hole up for the winter with Copperheads or Timber Rattlesnakes.
Well, there's no accounting for taste in the company one keeps, I suppose. But Mr. or Ms. Rat Snake (mighty hard to sex these things), far from being a nasty viper with a deadly bite, is about as benign a critter as there is in the herpetological world, and is more than welcome to share my shed and eat my mice -- as long as he or she doesn't invite in her winter pals.

I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. Jingo!

As the warm spring sunshine streams in the window, My Little Friend wraps herself in switchbacks, to warm every inch of her six-foot-long body. And why not, eh? It's been a long, cold, lonely winter for everybody.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

All Hail the Great Gazoogle!

We note with amusement that a Google search for Marlaina Miller, Associate Manager, American General Life and Accident, is, as of this writing, the very first return in a Google search on that term.

We do what we can.

(Backstory here, here, here and here.)

State of Play

Feeling walls closing in on me earlier this week, I did what my forebears did during their own Great Depression, and hied myself off to the local outlet of the Hollywood Dream Factory for a dose of escapist fantasy. Besides a few moments' respite from worry and care, the experience revived some home truths that one needs to have reinforced every so often. For example, the first three mouthfuls of movie popcorn are delicious. Every bite after that is a whole lot like chewing a sort of styrofoam that, when swallowed, mingles with the digestive juices to produce astonishing quantities of methane. In this vein, it is a wise man who limits his intake of soda pop during a two-hour flick; it is something very akin to self-inflicted torture to be looking forward to the Big Reveal with a bladder filled beyond the bursting point.

I'll just come right out and say it: State of Play is a corking good movie in the Washington-thriller tradition of All the President's Men and Three Days of the Condor. Russell Crowe's Washington Globe reporter Cal McAffrey, an old-school print reporter of the shoe-leather-and-notebook variety, is somewhat hilariously unbelievable -- he never seems to do any actual work -- and yet we root for him because he represents the kind of gritty, in-the-know investigative reporter we wanted to be when we grew up. That this rumpled, raffish disregarder of office-rules convention never existed and, if he had, would have been summarily fired five minutes into the plot, is immaterial. He's a good dude, sticks by his friends in a scrap, and tells authority to go to hell. (You can tell he was Cool in the Sixties 'cos of his shoulder-length hair. Gives it away every time.) He's got contacts all over town -- beat cops, mortuary insiders, security-camera operators -- and he has ways of extracting arcane information that are beyond the ken of ordinary mortals. What is more, he is contemptuous of the "web side" of the Globe's operations, considering bloggers and online reporters to be lightweights and candy-asses. Even if the caricature is ridiculous, something in me likes that about him.

The plot develops at breakneck speed. When it becomes apparent that two violent deaths, seemingly completely unrelated to each other, are indeed part of skulduggery involving the US Congress and a Blackwater-like security firm with designs on privatizing the entire US security apparatus, we find ourselves leaning forward in our seats, awaiting each new development with interest. Crowe's good-dude-ishness extends toward his former college roommate (played by Ben Affleck), now an up-and-coming Congressman investigating the security firm, whose heavies appear to be offing randomly selected citizens with impunity.

In this potboiling good time, the city of my birth plays an outstanding role. These Washington movies often crack me up with their attempts to establish place by getting as many of our memorable landmarks into as many shots as possible. A key scene takes place in Ben's Chili Bowl (McAffrey is, of course, a well-known regular, popular with the staff). One is amused to see the Department of Health and Human Services at L'Enfant Plaza standing in for a Washington hospital; it seems fitting.

Unfortunately, if you know the city fairly well as I do, things can get disorienting. Early in the flick, Affleck's chippie, about to meet her doom in a Metro station, begins to wend her way to work from Adams Morgan (look! There's the Madame's Organ mural!); she turns a corner and she's in Georgetown; another corner and she's several miles away on Constitution Avenue with the US Capitol Building shining gloriously in the morning sun. If she's on her way to Capitol Hill, she's got about a four-minute walk left ahead of her; instead, she suddenly pops down into the Metro Center subway station (apparently a wormhole opened up in the space-time continuum) to meet her nemesis.

Although Washington is home to many very fine restaurants, there is no eating establishment from whose windows one may obtain that particular view of the Capitol Building. We do have fairly strict zoning ordinances here, which make it quite clear that no commercial enterprise may be built in the middle of the National Mall. It is also quite funny that McAffrey, setting up an extremely hush-hush and sensitive deep-background meeting with a contact who might be able to help him, racks his brain for a safe, out-of-the-way place where the contact would feel comfortable and safe, and comes up with the fish market at the Marina. And of course, since All the President's Men, it's been well known that all those who brave Washington's menacing and spooky parking garages (I'll admit, some of them are pretty dank) face nameless and dreadful peril. It's pretty much SOP.

Silly geographic solecisms aside, State of Play is a damned fine, dare I say old-fashioned, thriller. Ben Affleck is a bit out of his league as a congressman, but Helen Mirren and Della Frye, as, respectively, the Globe's editor and a perky young blogger, stand out. Casting Jason Bateman as a dissipated PR flack was a stroke of genius. Your money could go to worse places.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another Career Opportunity!

Well, the opportunities for a career in insurance sales just keep pouring in.

This was in last night's email crop, in a prepackaged CareerBuilder form email purportedly from one Dennis Nave, (a valid CareerBuilder-owned domain, although the generic nature of the address suggests that a reply would go straight into a bin).

Titled, imaginatively, "Your Resome," it runs thus (grammar and syntax unredacted):
Dear Neddie Jingo,

I noticed your resume on Career Builder and you appear to be someone we would like to pursue. [Fascinatingly, I'm feeling pretty much exactly the same about you!] Our staff located in Hagerstown areas has been a leader in the Central Atlantic Region for American General Life and Accident over the last 3 years.

For this reason we are growing our organization and we are looking for qualified people in Lovettsville. If you would like to know more,or would like to pursue a position please log on to: and click onto our POP screen. (2nd one) The user password for you is: DRS9XZMD(cap sensitive)
After we receive your results I will, or someone from my office will, be in contact with you.

I am looking forward to our future meeting.

Marlaina Miller
Associate Manager
Hagerstown, Md
301-739-2454 office
So far, two calls to the "office" number have produced busy signals (at 7:50 AM), and the 240 area-code number rolled straight into a message queue.

Googling Ms. Miller suggests she actually does exist; her office number at is the same as the one in the CareerBuilder email. The office is at 13210 Fountain Head Plaza, Hagerstown, MD 21742, in case you'd like to apply in person.

Before going off too hard on Ms. Marlaina Miller, Associate Manager,
American General Life and Accident, I'd point out the domain of the URL linked in the email: (slogan: "Self-Management - the #1 competency of top performers!"). I believe here we have our real villains. I conjecture that they sold themselves as a recruitment firm to Ms. Miller or someone in her organization, promising to bring in a whole bunch of "#1 competency of top performers" (read: "rubes") with their CareerBuilder ninja-fu.

But soft! What light through yon window breaks? Let's complete that linked URL: /clients/aig.

Yes, American General Life and Accident is a subsidiary of AIG.

Your tax dollars at work, folks.


Update: The foregoing may be too oblique. I should be as clear as I can possibly be here. The three links at the top of my post detail, in order, an experience I had last week with a recruiter for AFLAC, another insurance giant. A person called me last Monday with an offer of an interview in Hagerstown, MD -- the very same town as in the current "offer" -- last Thursday. As I believed she had actually read my resume, I assumed the interview was connected in some way with my professional qualifications. I became suspicious when this person would not tell me straight out what the job in question entailed, and over the next few days discovered that the recruiter was trying to get me to appear at a group "informational" gathering at which an insurance-sales scam of thoroughly Dickensian sordidness was pushed on unsuspecting and desperate unemployed people. My extremely strong suspicion is that Ms. Marlaina Miller, Associate Manager, American General Life and Accident, a subsidiary of AIG, is engaged in exactly the same scam, through the recruitment firm SelfManagement Group.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Cat Skeletons

I once got into a conversation with a volunteer firefighter, at one of those open houses they hold to let local kids admire fire engines up close. As these things go, I inevitably came around to asking him if he'd ever rescued a kitten from a tree. He told me he hadn't, although people sometimes called to ask. Firefighters' time and equipment are far too valuable to waste on your little Mittens, and besides, he joked to my kids, "Look around your neighborhood. Look in the trees. Have you ever seen a cat skeleton in the branches?"

Word up, Mister Fireman. Hunger is a powerful motivator, and if the moggie can get up there, it can damned well get down when its little tummy starts to growl.

In the same vein, nor have I ever seen a cat skeleton in my music loft, but there's a first time for everything.

Here Lexie, who's been with us for about five months, discovers that that strange wooden contraption in the corner of the cabin is actually a portal to an entirely new dimension, one that she never dreamed of. O, Great Wooden Portal, which reminds me so much of a very disciplined tree, take me away to Great Adventures!

She takes advantage of the fact that the ladder is offset from the wall by just about exactly one Lexie-width... It's almost as if it was designed for cat-transportation!

Hmmm. What's my next move? You be careful, young lady!

And she's up!

From her New, Never-Before-Imagined Strange Extra Dimension, she surveys the vale of tears she has forever left behind!

I am now Ceiling Cat! Aren't you supposed to be masturbating?

Anything for you, hon.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Willy Loman

I couldn't go through with it.

Walked up to it, had a hand on the door, and I couldn't force myself to push through.

Here's the thing: I was prepared for one thing, but when I saw what the reality was, I couldn't bring myself to perform the task at hand.

Let me explain.

I hopped into my car for the drive to Hagerstown, already carefully preparing the white-hot denunciation that was taking shape in my mind. I was imagining a one-on-one scene, the Regional Sales Coordinator of Annoying White-Duck Insurance Company quaking in his boots as I ripped him up one side and down another for his spectacularly cynical waste of my time. I had imagined a corporate office: cool fluorescent lighting complimenting tastefully placed house-plants, a stunning receptionist who, when I announced my name, pressed a button on a sleek phone, announced my presence; an assistant glimmering into the room would escort me to my interview with Mr. Reg. Sales Coord. That's how it's always happened before.

Me and Mr. Reg. would converse lightly for a brief moment, noting the gloriousness of the weather, and then he would begin his spiel, at which point I would interrupt him and eviscerate his fatuity, ending with the zinger: "There are creatures lying on their backs at the bottom of ponds that I would rather associate with!" (Protip: Sybil Fawlty is a great source of putdowns.)

But, as I say, the reality was so different that I was unprepared for it.

Hagerstown is a very down-at-the-heels blue-collar burg. As I drove in to the district I'd been directed to, white boys in full ghetto drag hung on street corners -- on an early Thursday afternoon, you'd think these guys'd be at work; you'd of course also have to remember that there is no work for them. I suppose I was still expecting to find a major insurance company's regional offices in this neighborhood -- maybe a repurposed warehouse, lotsa cool exposed nineteenth-century brick, saggy wooden floors, leftover milling machinery tastefully incorporated into the design scheme....

No. The structure I was directed to was a blue-painted Victorian triplex. The side-panel of a cardboard box had been ripped out and suspended over one door: inscribed in black Sharpie pen, [Annoying Duck Company] and a couple of arrows pointed to the rightmost of the three doorways. Setting the digital audio device that I carry on "Record," I crept up to the indicated door. A bay window next to the door lay in the early afternoon sunlight.

And there in the window was Willie Loman. Man pushing, if not already having pushed beyond, sixty. White hair. Business suit. Carefully filling out a form in the window's light. Behind him, several other candidates sat, all equally carefully attired, each equally absorbed in clipboard duties, filling out details of their lives, past jobs, education, salary ranges. I was suddenly struck with the realization that the bait-and-switch employment crap to which I had only now been exposed, was a daily reality for these poor saps. They had no power of discernment; they had no ability to say "no!" in a resounding voice of indignation. For them, "employment" literally meant an opportunity to take it up the ass from Mr. Reg. Sales Coord. Followed by a life of daily torment at the hands of younger frat-boy sales creeps, continual frustration with recalcitrant buyers (and who can afford insurance in these times, eh?), and permanent tsuris with the Company Store over what constitutes salary and what commission.

This system, this humiliating meat-grinder process, is what I thought I was going to go in and sweep away, with one heroic denunciation of the BossMan. I would scatter these poor rubes to the four winds... For what, exactly? So they could apply for equally shitty jobs in Frederick, Martinsburg, Winchester?

Jesus, this world.

My imagined denunciation of bait-and-switch sales-recruitment fell in ashes at my feet. What was I going to tell Willie Loman? "Willie, let's you and I join forces and start a... a..." what, exactly? An insurance company? A revolutionary new-economy insurance company that tends to the needs of widows and orphans while stalwartly eschewing the blandishments of evil corporate money? How'm I gonna set that up?

Willie Loman got no investment in that shit. Me and Willie, we understand. We're on our own.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tee Hee

Sent just now:
Dear [Ms. Charlatan-Who-Preys-on-Unemployed-People-for-Annoying-Duck-Commercial-Insurance-Company];

I apologize for my suspicious outburst from this afternoon.

I've been discussing this matter with my wife, and we've agreed that we can't afford to turn down any possible opportunities for gainful employment.

I hope it might be possible to reschedule the interview with Mr. Regional Sales Coordinator.

Again, I apologize for any inconvenience I've caused you.


I've been talking the matter over with Wonder Woman; she approves wholeheartedly as long as I continue to look for work seriously (which I am).

Let's see what arises. I'm willing to make a scene, put out a fag on his desktop, photograph him surreptitiously, record the interview with my pocket recorder, get myself thrown out of the office, do whatever it takes to let be known my utter contempt for this fucking snake-oil salesman.

Stay tuned for FUN!

Scenes from Your Recession

Strangest thing just happened...

I'm once again between jobs, and answering the phone to any and all callers. (Before anybody panics, I've got several headhunter agencies working, résumés posted everywhere. I really do expect this to be literally between jobs.)

Two nights ago, the cellie went off. I answered to a very personable young woman who told me that my résumé had sparked an unquenchable glow of interest on the part of her employers. I replied that I was extremely gratified to hear this delightful news, and encouraged her to fill me in on every detail, no matter how trivial. She invited me to an interview; her invitation accepted, she told me she would be sending me the details in an email later that evening. This was Monday evening. The interview was to be Thursday afternoon.

I duly received the email, as promised. Besides the time and place, it gave the name of the prospective employer (a large insurance company you've heard of -- think annoying white duck commercials) and the name of the interviewer and his job title. Mr. Interviewer was Regional Sales Coordinator in Hagerstown, Md. (This is not too terribly far from me, a reasonable commute -- but a long, long way from the well-beaten track of my usual professional haunts, which tend to be more in the Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs.)

Several things immediately struck me as quite hinky about this email she sent. First, it came from a Yahoo! account, rather than from Annoying-White-Duck Company. First alarm bells go off.

Second, there was an admonition that the dress code was "Business Professional" -- a rather strange construction I'd never seen before. It was almost as if -- irony of ironies -- this was a rather amateurishly put together email.

Third, "Regional Sales Coordinator"? Conducting an interview with a UI designer? That's very odd.

Fourth, I'm to bring a copy of my résumé. Now this is getting insulting. We have email for this kind of thing nowadays, and this instruction heavily suggests that Mr. Regional Sales Coordinator hasn't actually yet seen my résumé.

But most puzzling of all was the whistling emptiness where one would expect to see an explanation of exactly what the job actually entailed. I've been in the user-interface-design racket for quite a few years, and have never seen a job announcement that wasn't extremely specific in its requirements as to expected duties, experience level, software skills expected of the applicant, and so on. Not a word of this appeared in the email.

Oh, I rationalized, I'm sure that was just an oversight. Annoying-Duck Insurance Company is probably setting up a team for some sales-enhancement web tool, but their HR department, being in Hagerstown and all, isn't used to dealing with us techie types, and aren't familiar with the protocols of the process. They haven't danced the dance, as it were. No prob.: I'll just email her back with a request for more information, on the not unreasonable pretext that I really need to familiarize myself with the organization so I can prepare for the interview in a professional manner.


This is now getting very suspicious. I let yesterday, Tuesday, go by, half expecting to see a reply to my email at any moment. This morning, at nine o'clock, I called the number she'd given in her email. It goes to a cell phone message. I left a message asking her to please give me a call. No reply for three hours.

About an hour ago, I received a reply to my email from Monday evening. She was sorry she didn't get back to me, she'd been out dreadfully sick, but I really needn't worry about preparing for the interview, it was entirely a meet-and-greet, just "informational," there would be second interviews to determine my fitness for the job, blah mealymouthed blah.

OK. I'm being fucked with. My reply:
I'm sorry to be blunt, but I want very much to know what the position entails -- even a title will suffice -- before I make the trek to Hagerstown in my business suit. That's not a minor time commitment for me.

The fact the Mr. XXX is a Regional Sales Coordinator, and not, say, a creative director or art director or even an IT director, sets off alarm bells for me. He may be a wise and wonderful man, but a Regional Sales Coordinator is in no position to judge the worth of a user-interface designer. The instruction to bring a copy of my résumé likewise raises suspicions. Do we not have email for this kind of thing now? Hasn't Mr. XXX already got a copy of my résumé?

More information, please. If it's not forthcoming, I'm going to have to decline the interview.
She replies shortly thereafter,
This position would be a sales position and you would be a licensed insurance producer. Let me know if you will still be attending the interview.
The best part? Her own job title?

Licensed Insurance Producer.

Needless to say, I won't be attending the interview, thanks very much.

I confess I'm flummoxed. Is Annoying-Duck Insurance Company actually running some kind of pyramid scheme out of their Hagerstown operation? Does Mr. Regional Sales Coordinator hire naive young women whose entire job it is to lure the unemployed into interviews with vague promises of a paying gig, and then entrap those rubes into enticing other rubes into his office? Is this how they grow their sales staff?

Seriously? It's a combination of Amway and used-car sales. Glengarry Glen Ross updated for Your Recession.

And I'm willing to bet any amount of money it's perfectly legal.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Zombie Jesus Day!

Last night, I sat in a brown study, contemplating the Meaning of Easter. From there, it was only a short and entirely natural mental leap to a phrase that has occupied valuable real estate in the Jingo cranium for more than a decade: "Poop keeps the tent wher it is."

The Dysfunctional Family Circus was one of the earliest -- at least the earliest that I remember -- Internet phenomena that took advantage of the True Webbiness of the Web: graphical communication in service of a self-sustaining virtual community. The concept was simple: Take the painfully unfunny single-panel comic "The Family Circus," remove the caption, and invite the sicko-twisto-comedian contingent of the burgeoning new Interwebs to supply their own. The editors chose the best few score submissions and published them. While there were a few duds among the finalists, many of them were extremely funny.

As you might conjecture, "trippin my nut sack into a frenzy of dik play" was another of those phrases that stayed with me. My brain's chock to the brim with stuff like that -- you do not want to be in here with me.

As my evening was free, I Googled the "poop/tent" phrase (remembering the, er, eccentric spelling, which was the funniest thing about it), and discovered that someone had archived the whole damned thing -- Family Circus creator Bil Keane, I seem to recall, had objected to the copyright violations inherent in such an enterprise, issued some cease-and-desists, and the whole thing came to a grinding halt sometime in the very early 2000s.

But man, was it funny while it lasted!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Public Service Announcement

As we enter this sweets-intensive Easter season, please heed this bit of advice, which may save you some social discomfort.

When asking for "Runts candy" at the sweets counter, slow way down before pronouncing the name. Do not request "Runts candy" if you have consumed even so much as a half a beer.

I was just now a trifle too quick at the 7-11, but I think I got away with it.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

I Suppose This Would Be a Desirable Outcome

We Lovettsvillians are a quiet lot. Not for us are the hurly-burly of the city, the harum-scarum of the urban scene. We reject even the argy-bargy of the outer suburbs. We don't smoke marijuana in Lovettsville; we don't make a party out of lovin', and we like holdin' hands and pitchin' woo. Furthermore, leather boots are still in style for manly footwear; beads and Roman sandals won't be seen. Football's still the roughest thing on campus, and the kids here still respect the college dean. ("Dipso" Jimmy Callahan -- Dean of Your Bedroom at Patrick Henry College. Finest, most upstanding man from here all the way to Brunswick, MD -- if a bit fond of the ichors of grape and grain, he slings a mean pinochle hand.)

So it was, I must concede, a bit of a shock to find, at the convergence of Mountain Road and Morrisonville, a harbinger of the encroachment of the aforementioned hurly etc.:

Stop Disney Porn
That I was constrained to screech the brakes, yank the Pathfinder through 180 degrees, and photograph this graffito is evidence enough of the rarity of the malign urban influence in these parts. Not since Lovettsville Pizza and Subs added ricotta cheese to its selection of toppings has such a citified thing as the alteration of stop-signs to support some political cause or other been seen in these parts. Hens' teeth would rain from the sky before one of us began tagging public property.

But I must confess some bewilderment as to the cause being advanced here. "Stop," "Disney," and "Porn" are three words I had honestly never expected to see collected together in one sentence -- and yet there they are. A Google search suggests that they might be referring to this unfortunate yet hardly world-shaking incident, in which some narsty narsty moviefilm was accidentally transmitted over Disney's cable network. But it seems hardly worth defacing roadway signage over. Whey-faced apologies were issued and accepted. We moved on.

But it is the presence of the word "please" in the graffito that makes me glow with pride for our small-town weltanschauung. It is of no importance in what manner the Disney corporation is degrading our public airwaves with money shots and degraded-slut antics; in our from-the-bowels-of-hell outrage against it, we still remember Emily Post. If the DFHs who ended the Vietnam war with their chants and self-immolations had only included a few pleases and thank-yous in their arsenal, the war would have ended in approximately 1968.

"Hey, hey, LBJ, please be so kind as to inform us, how many kids did you kill today?"

It has a Virginia-Nice ring to it, don't you think?

Saturday, April 04, 2009


Pursuant to my last post, about Paul Williams, the founder of Crawdaddy at the age of seventeen, I've followed a link at the Friends of Paul Williams site and found online reproductions of the original Crawdaddys from 1966-68 -- the first few issues are typewritten and mimeographed, in true fanzine style. I've been devouring them all afternoon. The garden can go to hell.

Two reasons I call them to your attention:
  1. They're utterly fascinating in a first-draft-of-history kind of way. Page 11 of the January 1967 issue -- "What Goes On," a sort of collection of news briefs from the rock world -- begins, "There's a group you have to hear. They're called the Doors, and they're the best new band I've heard this year." I missed this stuff growing up. I was just too young and too far away. Everything I know about Sixties rock came at second-, third-, fourth-hand. This journalism is the closest you're going to get to eyewitness accounts, of the visceral reactions of a true fan seeing the stuff of rock 'n' roll legend unfold before his eyes. I haven't gotten to the Sgt. Pepper reaction yet, but I bet it's a doozy.
  2. The writing is astonishingly good. Williams' essay on Bob Dylan, in issue #4, in reaction to the release of Blonde on Blonde, is one of the best essays I've ever read about how to approach Dylan's opacity and obliqueness. And it was written by a seventeen-year-old! At seventeen, I felt oppressed when tasked by my English teacher to write a 500-word review of The Grapes of Wrath. The Man was Keepin' Me Down. This guy was doin' it.
Add to the mix the other giant talent Williams was able to attract -- Jon Landau, Sandy Perlman, Richard Meltzer, to name a few -- and this becomes a wonderful collection of impassioned fandom mixed with great writing.

Off you go.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Please Help if You Can

Paul Williams, a legend of rock criticism -- he founded Crawdaddy magazine in 1966 at the age of seventeen and championed Philip K. Dick when he needed it badly -- has fallen on hard times. He suffered a debilitating head injury in the Nineties, in a cycling accident. This injury led him into a state of early-onset dementia, and he now requires full-time care -- an expense his family can ill afford. The Friends of Paul Williams have set up a web site is really worth looking at, featuring some rather amazing photos from a life lived to the fullest.

I hope you go over there and hit the Donate button. I know it's about the worst possible time to ask for this kind of thing, but having watched a father-in-law succumb to that horrifying disease, I know how difficult it is not only for the victim, but particularly for the caregivers as well. Anything you can do to help out would be appreciated.

Here's an article about him at BoingBoing. Read the comments, too: it'll give you some idea of Williams' impact in the world of both rock 'n' roll and science fiction.