Frankenstein vs the Wolfman — 2008?!

Frankenstein vs the Wolfman

For people who have never grown up, Frankenstein vs the Wolfman means the Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, the 1943 Universal classic starring Lon Chaney Jr and Bela Lugosi. But while working hard to avoid working, I came upon this film on Amazon Prime — a short from 2008. And I have to say, this discovery is well worth the whole year’s subscription.

15 Glorious Minutes

If you get rid of the titles, Frenkenstein vs the Wolfman is about 15 and a half minutes. And they are glorious minutes! I’ve often reflected on the desire of humans to tell stories and this is a great example because the technique is really not up to the story. Just the same, it tells an incredibly interesting story — so interesting that the relative weakness of the animation really doesn’t matter.

I should point out before I continue, the animation is at least a hundred times as good as anything I could ever do. But my talents lie in analysis. (And maybe in my experiment plays that no one will ever want to perform.) Frankenstein vs the Wolfman is animated with what looks very much like gaming software. Just the same, I found it far more interesting than any game.

One of the complainers on Amazon wrote, “This is a ‘movie’ (featurette) that only family of the ‘actors,’ animators, etc, could possibly love.” When I read that review, I knew I had to watch it. There’s nothing like an ignorant and opinionated jerk to make me want to watch a film. I start watching everything other than big-budget superhero dreck with the idea that the film was made by my son. Why don’t others?! It is a far better mindset to enter a film if you want to be entertained.

Frankenstein vs the Wolfman Overview

Frankenstein vs the Wolfman tells an incredibly compelling story of three orphans who live in, well, let’s say Transylvania because it has Gypsies in it. It is of interest because the “monster” of Frankenstein is more or less the guy that we know from Mary Shelley’s book: an ugly but intelligent creation. But in this reality, he has been accepted by the community (admittedly somewhat far-fetched given how awful humans are).

Living in this town is a man who has been cursed (by a Gypsy — racism, it seems it eternal and not at all solely an American thing) to spend each night walking the Earth as a wolf. During the day, he’s a writer of horror stories — a wonderful bit of self-incrimination: what writer doesn’t think that they aren’t a total fraud?!

Frankenstein, an “orphan” because he, like the children, has no parents, helps the three children. The Wolfman, on the other hand, is unrepentant. He doesn’t even try to stop his killing spree. Even though the film humanizes him, he isn’t very likable because he puts his needs above those of other humans. It shouldn’t be a surprise that, in his fight with Frankenstein, he is the loser. But you will be surprised to see how.

Analysis

If I can get a bit political, the film shows the importance of collective action. Even though Frankenstein is a “superhero” in the film, it is only due to the help of the other orphans that he is able to defeat the Wolfman. This is in stark contrast to most superhero films.

What is most remarkable about Frankenstein vs the Wolfman is that, compared to a Hollywood animated film, it is weak. Yet if you just accept it for what it is — or imagine what you personally would be able to produce — you easily get lost in the story. That isn’t to take away from the animation. As I’ve said, I couldn’t do anything close — regardless what software you gave me. But there are so many things besides the animation that the film does really well.

I thought the editing could have been a bit better; there were parts where the pacing didn’t seem quite right. But it didn’t pull me out of the story. The individual images always looked good. The music by Andrew Kalbfus was very effective. The acting was good. But most of all, the screenplay by Colin Clarke & Marc Packard was first-rate. It triumphed over everything else. The overall production by Andrew Carlson and Colin Clarke works — which is how I try to judge any piece of art.

Colin Clarke’s Other Films

And it shouldn’t be forgotten that this was the first film Colin Clarke directed. He’s made a total of five films over the last decade. I’ve seen four of them, which are all worth checking out: Raven’s Hollow (2011), Witchfinder, and Slit.

Raven’s Hollow is animated the same way as Frankenstein vs the Wolfman. It’s not as strong, simply because the story isn’t as strong. But it’s well made and interesting throughout.

Witchfinder is mostly a live-action film as the rest of Clarke’s film seem to be. The acting in it at the community theater level. But it mostly doesn’t get in the way. And I thought Valerie Meachum as the witch was particularly compelling. Again, the focus of the film is on the story, which is very strong.

Slit is probably Clarke’s strongest film in terms of production value. I have some problems with the story. In particular, the denouement was exactly what I expected. And overall it struck me as a bit misogynistic. And there are strong fetish elements to it. Regardless, the film works and is of interest to see Clarke’s growth as a filmmaker.

I still like Frankenstein vs the Wolfman most. Other people will probably find his live-action films better (especially Slit). But there is something special about this animated film that brings back memories of watching Creature Features with my older siblings.

Regardless, I think any of Colin Clarke’s films are worth checking out. At $1.99 to rent, they are probably over-priced. But if you have Amazon Prime, there’s no reason not to. I’d start with Frankenstein vs the Wolfman. Next, I recommend Witchfinder.

Butterfingers Irving — The 142nd Fastest Gun in the West

When You're in Love the Whole World Is Jewish - The Ballad of IrvingWhen I was a teen, I listened to The Dr Demento Show every Saturday night. I think it was a social thing: my closest friends all listened to it. I disliked a lot of the material that was played. And it was repetitive. Still, there were transcendent pieces like Doodles Weaver’s parody of “Eleanor Rigby.” But it was very rarely played. One song that was played quite a lot was “The Ballad of Irving.”

In order to understand “The Ballad of Irving,” we have to go back to 1964 and a surprising number one hit in the US by Lorne Greene. That’s right: Ben Cartwright (“Pa”) on Bonanza. It should not surprise you that this iconic American character was played by… a Canadian. But I digress.

Greene had a hit with the song “Ringo.” It’s about the drummer of a really famous band who has no detectable skill in anything at all. It’s about an outlaw in the old west. I rather like it. But then, I’m a sucker for this kind of sentimental drivel.

But the only part of the song that is sung is by a chorus that repeats, “Ringo! Ringo!” Otherwise, it is just Greene telling the story. Rather than recount it, you should just listen:

You can see why people would like it at the time. But you can also see why two years later, people would find it ripe for parody — especially since this kind of song became something of a thing.

Here Comes “The Ballad of Irving”

Those people were Frank Peppiatt, John Aylesworth, and Dick Williams. “The Ballad of Irving” tells the story of a Jewish gunman Irving: the 142nd fastest gun in the west. It was first released on the Bob Booker and George Foster comedy album When You’re in Love the Whole World Is Jewish and “sung” by Frank Gallop.

The song is basically one long Jewish joke.

I Don’t Want to Be Racist

What’s strange is that the people involved with that album, and it’s predecessor, You Don’t Have to Be Jewish, mostly don’t have classic Jewish names. I know some of them were Jewish. Probably they all were. In general, one gets Jewish humor from Jews.

I bring it up because (1) Jewish as a race has never made any sense to me and (2) I would feel slightly more comfortable about it if it were created by Jews. I probably shouldn’t worry. It’s hard to imagine a group of Baptists putting out You Don’t Have to Be Jewish and When You’re in Love the Whole World Is Jewish.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Butterfingers Irving

Regardless of my natural liberal guilt, I find this song extremely funny — as I suspect most American Jews would too. There’s something very likable about Irving. I’m not Jewish. (I’m Catholic, which a Jewish friend told me made me half Jewish — a thought I rather like.) But had I been a gunman in the old west, I would have acted very much like Irving, the 142nd fastest gun in the west.

Son of Irving

Shortly after the success of “The Ballad of Irving,” the same songwriters wrote “Son of Irving.” The song was not a success at the time. But worse is that it hasn’t aged well because, at least to me, it is implicitly homophobic. And I do mean “implicitly,” because there is nothing in the song that really signals this. It’s about a moma’s boy.

But there’s something about him being thin, tall, and good-looking that makes me think that they were implying homosexuality.

Regardless, even though the denouement is as strong as it is in “The Ballad of Irving,” the song doesn’t work nearly as well. Still, it’s worth a listen.

Dr Demento Days

Dr Demento is still around. There seem to be umpteen Dr Demonto CD collections. It’s nice to be reminded of him. But I doubt I would want to listen to his show — or any of his CDs. It’s all too uneven. But I’m glad to have been introduced to all those songs — even the ones I hate like Shaving Cream and Wet Dreams.

Why Was Ivanka Trump in Nordstrom to Start With?

Why Was Ivanka Trump in Nordstrom to Start With?I’m sure you’ve heard the good news that we won’t have Ivanka Trump’s “fashion brand” to kick around anymore.

According to Trump, she’s just so involved in Washington politics that she can’t give the company the love it deserves. This is odd in a couple of ways. One is that she hasn’t been running the company since her father became president due to conflicts of interest. (Or rather: the public backlash that she could expect from exactly the demographic she was trying to sell to.)

The other odd thing is that I don’t know what she’s been doing in Washington. She was supposed to be moderating her father. Well, that didn’t work out very well. And then she just vanished. So anything she’s doing in Washington, you can bet it is — at base — lobbying to make the Trump family fortune bigger.

Did Ivanka Trump Create Fashionable Clothing?

But as I was reading up on this, I came upon a great article in The Guardian from a year and a half ago, Is Ivanka Trump’s Fashion Line Any Good? It’s written by Hannah Marriott, the Fashion Editor of the paper.

The article was written shortly after Nordstrom and other retailers dropped Ivanka Trump from their stores. Daddy Trump and the rest of the right wing claimed it was all about politics. Nordstrom said her stuff just wasn’t selling well. But Marriott had a different idea: the Ivanka Trump line just wasn’t very good. She wrote, “The collection shows a talent for taking the temperature of what was happening in design five years ago…”

Another Opinion

Everyone who knows me, knows what a fashion maven I am not. Other than underwear and socks, I do not believe I have a single piece of clothing that was not given to me. People are always trying to improve me. (You really would think that after all this time, they would have given up.)

But Marriott is not the only person to say that the Ivanka Trump clothing line was not up to snuff. Caille Millner at The San Francisco Chronicle wrote, Why Ivanka Trump Really Shut Down Her Line of Clothing. In the article, she goes in search of Ivanka Trump clothing in local stores and finds them decidedly not good choices for the people they were meant to appeal to. She concludes, “I point to this shopping excursion because, ultimately, I think the products are what sunk Ivanka Trump.”

I looked for glowing reviews of the Ivanka Trump line and I did not find any. So with these two opinions combined with the fact that Daddy Trump has never put out anything good, I think it’s safe to say that Ivanka Trump’s clothing line (or fashion brand or whatever the hell you want to call it) sucked.

Why Did This Expensive Crap Get Stocked?

My question is: why did Nordstrom carry what was clearly an expensive line with mediocre quality and design? That’s pretty much a rhetorical question. I think most people around here already know the answer: the Trump name. It doesn’t matter how many times Daddy Trump failed, corporate America is always willing to give him or his equally evil but more polished offspring another chance.

It reminds me of the days when I worked in corporate America. As a whole, management were the biggest marks for con artists. I’ve sat in on interviews with people who were clearly unqualified for the jobs they were applying for. The regular employees could spot the con in an instant. The managers were usually blown away. I think it’s because managers value style over substance. Workers have to actually produce something.

But imagine after Trump is out of the White House and a Democrat is in there cleaning up the huge mess from years of Republican rule (this time, the Democratic president really will need to go on an apology tour — not just in the fevered imaginations of Fox News hosts and watchers). I’m sure that Ivanka Trump will reintroduce her new clothing brand.

And Nordstrom will stock it, again! When it comes to a Trump, corporate America can’t be fooled enough.

The Rich Aren’t Allowed to Fail in America

Of course, this is generally true of the rich in modern America. You just can’t screw up enough so that you won’t be given another chance — another loan you won’t be able to pay back — another high-paying job you aren’t qualified for.

But the Poor Are

If you are not rich, well, roll the dice! If you screw up, there will be no one to catch you if you fall.

It’s funny. I remember all through the 2012 presidential campaign hearing about how important it was to reward “risk takers.” But the fact is that the rich in this country aren’t really taking risks. When a worker takes all their savings to start a small business, they are laying it on the line. Not so for the rich, even if they lose all their money. That’s because all their rich friends will lift them back up.

A regular American can hope at best that when their business fails, the economy isn’t too bad and they can get a job.

A Rose by Any Other Name?

One thing’s for certain: if some nobody came out with Ivanka Trump’s products, Nordstrom would never have stocked it in the first place.

dear wendy number 1

The Rise and Fall of the Third ReichHi, Wendy!

Pleased to meet ya. I hope this doesn’t sound speciest, but some of my best friends have been rats

Okay, so no archy and mehitabel. What would you recommend I read?

Oh, and see if your computer has a “sticky keys” option. Just a suggestion

Thank you.
Dave L

dear dave l,

it’s interesting that you would say some of your best friends have been rats for two reasons…

  1. all of my best friends are rats
  2. and yeah, rats don’t live very long, don’t rub it in.

this is an excellent question if by ‘you’ you mean ‘all of humanity especially america’ and by ‘should’ you mean ‘must.’

personally, i like a good story. but i like to know how it’s going to end. now don’t get up on your heals. you already know how just about every story is going to end. when you watch hamlet do you really think he’s getting out of that play alive[question mark]

i would like to see you humans read as much as possible — it doesn’t matter what. the more you’re reading, the more you are not making the lives of the rest of us worse.

but i won’t leave you with this. just so that you should all be prepared for the future, i recommend The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

in particular, you should pay attention to the sonderweg thesis.

[parenthesis]this is different from the soderbergh thesis, which holds that people will only put up with your pseudo-avant-garde bullshit before they stop pretending to like it.[parenthesis]

the sonderweg thesis holds that there is a direct line from martin luther to nazism. if you question me — and many easily dismissed human historians have — you should check out this quote frank posted before i was born, Antisemite Martin Luther. if luther had just gotten to his eighth point — paper was expensive back then — i’m sure it would have been genocide — a ‘final solution,’ if you will.

obviously, martin luther was not an american — unless you are a mormon — who knows what those people think. but the vast majority of americans are christians. and a large majority of those christians are protestants.

so i’ll spell it out. they ain’t done killing witches.

protestantism is the religion that the antisemite martin luther started. it was a stupid idea. he thought people should actually read the bible because then they would know what god really wanted rather than getting it filtered through the hateful corrupt catholic church. the problem is that the bible is a whole lot of contradictory rubbish that only an expert can make any sense of at all.

luckily, almost none of these protestants actually do read the bible. they just allow it to be filtered through their hateful corrupt churches.

bob dylan, during one of his most annoying periods, sang ‘gotta serve somebody.’ in my experience, christians have to hate somebody.

it may be the jews
or it may be the spicks
but you’re gonna have to hate somebody.

i know that a lot of you out there think that trump will leave office and everything will be fine. that’s not true.

first, roughly half of you idiot americans voted for the man. and it’s not like he didn’t let you know exactly who he was. you knew he was a constant liar before you voted him the most powerful man in the world. [parenthesis]the most powerful creature on earth is the leader of a large colony of termites in australia.[parenthesis] you knew he was an idiot. you knew he didn’t know anything about politics. you knew he was a bigot. you knew he was a sexist. if he’s surprised you as president, you are even stupider than he is.

but even if you did somehow go back to normal, you won’t think about what happened. america doesn’t look back. you think the best way to deal with past wrongs is to ‘look forward’ and pretend it never happened. until it happens again.

i give you all 30 years tops before you have world war iii.

so i say to my fellow rats, ‘let’s start heading south.’

and i say to europe, ‘i think you had better start spending a lot more on your military because fascist america is coming for you and i don’t think russia’s gonna help much this time — but you never know. if america doesn’t have have a complete idiot in charge but just an insane one, the country might attack russia, china, and india as well. still, prepare for the worst.’

and finally, to americans, i ask, ‘is this really how you want to see your empire go down[question mark]’ don’t answer that question americans. it was rhetorical.

cheers,
sally fink signature
wendy

60 Minutes Commits Child Abuse

Alma Deutscher - Artist's RenderingI saw that 60 Minutes profiled the child musician Alma Deutscher. I thought it odd. Very accomplished young musicians are hardly uncommon. I had season tickets to the Portland Symphony for a few years and it seemed every other performance featured some “great” 12-year-old on the violin or piano or glockenspiel. So why this child? Well, because she wasn’t just a performer; she was a composer. Oh, my! How exciting!

Now I should point out that I’m not using the word “prodigy” because that was a word that was used a lot about me: I was a “mathematical prodigy.” And I loved math. But I wasn’t interested in studying it 8 hours per day and my parents weren’t inclined to push me to do it. Instead, I spent time playing and drawing and putting on plays and generally doing anything that made me happy. I have a hard time believing any child wants to do one thing all the time. But I certainly can’t speak for Alma Deutscher. Nor would I want to. She speaks for herself, although she’s obviously been coached as much as Marjoe.

A Composer! Of 200 Year Old Music!

I was skeptical. Modern classical music is incredibly complex — even the bad stuff. The best stuff is filled with so much creativity that I had a hard time thinking that a 12-year-old would have much to offer. That was certainly true of Mozart. Nothing he wrote was really great until he was well into his 20s. (That’s right folks: Mozart wrote a lot of dreck in his early years.) Clearly, he had talent. But as with word writers, music writers need experience with life.

But I hoped that the compositions of this little girl were limited or even bad modern classical music. So I went to YouTube and found everything I could. I was sorely disappointed. She doesn’t even try to write anything from the last two centuries. Her music sounds like a precocious child’s version of the music before Beethoven. And that makes me think her performances aren’t anything more than her copying other performers. (That’s almost certainly true because it’s pretty much always true of young musicians; they haven’t had the life experience to add anything to the music.)

Great Composing Requires a Life Lived

Great composers do amazing things with their work. They communicate — in great detail. You might just hear a passage as sad, but they aren’t working in generalities. Many composers are known for putting musical jokes in their work. A great composer will tell you a story as clearly as the best writer or filmmaker.

Obviously, composers must study. Mozart studied counterpoint with Giovanni Martini, and the music he created afterward was far more interesting. But it was still years before he wrote anything I ever want to listen to.

But here’s my point: he was trying to write the music of his time. And this supposedly amazing child isn’t interested in any of the music of her own time. Most of it is no more interesting in the juvenilia of Mozart — which he wrote over 200 years ago!

The Classical Music Industry Sucks

This is not to knock Alma Deutscher. She’s a child. But it is a knock on the people who “enjoy” classical music. And it is a major knock on the people who produce classical music. As for her parents, well, I don’t know. But I suspect child abuse just as Marjoe Gortner suffered — just in a different way. I’d love to read the child’s autobiography when she’s 50.

This all makes me think that this poor young girl has been turned into a trained monkey by her parents and the classical music establishment. Almost everything she plays is something she’s written. I listened to her play a middling Mozart concerto that wasn’t really very well done. (She’s better on the violin than the piano.) Great for a little girl. Savaged by critics if performed by an adult. (She doesn’t seem to have even been told the purpose of a cadenza. And why an audience would applaud after the first movement, is unclear to me.)

There is no Brahms that I can find — much less Debussy — much much less Francis Poulenc — much much much less Elliott Carter! It’s almost all sweet music by the child herself.

What a Real Composer Creates

But I ask you, do you think the child composer of this:

Will ever grows up to be the adult composer of something this creative and great?

Not to mention Roomful Of Teeth.

I don’t think so. She might have. But not with all the adults who used her natural gifts to stick her two centuries before her own time. Sure, she’ll get better. But I doubt she’ll break from the music that made her famous. And at 16, she won’t be so cute. And if she’s lucky, she’ll have enough money that she can just quit.

Abused Child: Alma Deutscher

60 Minutes brought her on because they (and most classical music “lovers”) know almost nothing about classical music. Because they could have brought on someone like Masha Diatchenko, who at 15 actually seemed to understand the music she was playing. She didn’t seem like an abused trained monkey:

And listen to her at 23-years-old!

Maybe it’s an American thing. But I weep for Alma Deutscher. She’s being abused. And if she doesn’t know it now, she will soon enough.

Afterword

After reading this, I read the child’s Wikipedia page. It’s interesting that it contains not a single criticism, despite the fact that there has been quite a lot of criticism of her work. I suspect part of her marketing team makes sure that any criticism is removed. But there is much in there that makes the case that she is pushing against the prevailing trend against melody. This is preposterous. She has shown no sign of even being aware of current trends in classical music — or even trends over the last century.

Darius Milhaud once said, “Don’t ever feel discomfited by a melody.” I think modern composers know this. They don’t need to be taught by a precocious child. If they can be, modern classical music is over. But I don’t think it is. I think this child will have no effect whatsoever on the art of classical music. She might drag down the quality of what people listen to. Most classical music “lovers” may finally admit that they only like the music that doesn’t offend their archaic tastes. But the art will move along because of people like Caroline Shaw, even if most listeners aren’t sophisticated enough to enjoy it.

Thomas Frank at Book Passages

Thomas Frank at Book Passages (12 July 2018)
Thomas Frank at Book Passages (12 July 2018)

Thomas Frank was at Book Passages last night. He’s on a tour for his new book Rendezvous With Oblivion: Reports From a Sinking Ship. He was his charming self. I think that he is on the outside what I am on the inside: totally despairing but laughing about it because it’s all so absurd. I don’t just mean the politics — I mean everything. Life is a joke, and I am the punchline. You either laugh or cry.

Poor Will

I dragged Will with me. He didn’t know Thomas Frank. I should have prepared him. While Will laughed a fair amount during the talk, he left about halfway through. I figured he went to the bathroom. We had been drinking a lot of caffeine. And indeed, he did do that. But he noticed that Book Passages sold beer so he got one.

We were separated for the rest of the event. I only saw him back in his seat when I was in line to get my book signed. (More on that in a minute.) But afterward, he was so depressed. I felt bad.

Thomas Frank Said Something New

But there was almost nothing in the speech that was really new. The only thing that surprised me is that he said he liked Democratic politicians more than the liberal commentariat and (gag) political consultants. He noted that someone he used to hate, Cory Booker, sees where things are going and is now really good. And where things are going is real (leftist) populism, not this fake rightwing stuff Republicans use to get elected so they can give tax breaks to billionaires and rip apart unions.

Listening to that, I thought he’d been reading my mind because that’s exactly what I’ve been thinking and Booker is my favorite example. And I know what conservatives and liberal “purists” will say, “He’s just saying those things to get elected!” (Yes, Booker wants to be President.) I heard the same thing about Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton.

And so what?! They are Democrats! By and large, they will govern the way they campaigned. Compare this to Trump: campaigns on building the wall and how the working class is getting screwed. He gets into office and there is no wall. But there is a great big tax cut for fat cats; he’s made healthcare go up in price; he’s started a trade war that is going to hurt the working people who voted for him.

But he did stick by his racism. I’ve got to give him that!

Book Signing

So I stood in line to get my book signed. He’s really great. He’s cheerful and nice to people who stand in front of him and pontificate about things they probably learned from him.

But it gave me time to think of something to say to him. At first, I was going to say, “Could you write, ‘To Frank from Tom,’ so I can use it later to prove that we used to be friends and ask to borrow a couple of bucks.” That seemed a bit too oblique, even for someone as sharp as Thomas Frank. Also, it was a little too much Tom Waits:

Thomas Frank: Hüsker Dü Fan

During the talk, he mentioned hanging out with some of his friends under a freeway overpass drinking and listening to Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade while seeing the McMansions being built. And he asked if anyone remembered Hüsker Dü. There was a scattering of acknowledgment. I, of course, was vaguely offended. What else is new? I’m an arrogant bastard. So I figured I’d talk to him a little bit about punk. It would probably be refreshing after the constant political talk that would make Mary Poppins’ suicidal.

So I told him Hüsker Dü was great — especially Zen Arcade. Then I asked him if he was into Minutemen and he was slightly less excited by them but he said he three of their albums. Maybe he’s just really good at this kind of stuff, but giving me an exact number of books made me think he was telling the truth. And why not? For one thing, we are both the same age with relatively similar backgrounds. Minutemen were one of the most political punk bands around — outside Dead Kennedys and Gang of Four, which were much more (probably too) explicit.

Without my asking, he did give me a good signature. I don’t doubt he always uses it when he runs into people named Frank or Thomas. “To Frank from Frank. Thomas Frank.” He has a much better signature than Bruce Campbell — not that I’m complaining about having both of Bruce’s autobiographies signed, thanks to Elizabeth.

Thomas Frank’s Talk

I made an audio recording of the talk. I hate those jittery YouTube videos. The video is mostly useless and the sound is terrible. The sound is pretty terrible here too, but if you turn it up, you can make it all out. I missed the first minute or so, so I faded in. He starts by making a comment about what the Trump Presidential Library will be like. (It’s an interesting thought given that the Nixon Library was filled with flat-out lies to decades.) But the rest of it is a reasonable recording of the event.

It probably would have been even more interesting to record the book signing. But alas.

The book, which I bought more to support independent booksellers than anything, is just a collection of previously published essays — at least half of which I’ve read. But I think I’ve read The Wrecking Crew twice, so I’ll probably read this too.

one rat short – better with cheetos

i want cheetosdear frankly curious reader,

wendy here again. you could probably tell from the lack of capital letters. it’s not that i cannot type capital letters. I CAN. I CAN PRESS THE ‘CAPS LOCK’ KEY AND TYPE ALL THE CAPITAL LETTERS I WANT.

but if i am to use capital letters properly, i have to do a lot more work. and this is hard enough. as you humans like to say[colon] anyway…

it’s kind of like the french phrase je ne sais quoi. but that literally means, ‘i don’t know what.’ so once again, we see that the french are more honest than the americans. anyway… why don’t you just say, ‘i don’t know.’ it would be a good start — for the whole country. but i’m getting sidetracked. and i have another sidetrack i need to get to before i get to what i came here for.

where is frank?

it’s daytime. so where is frank? well, he got himself sucked into his toastmaster thing. so he’s off at a ‘leadership’ training all day.

now frankly [opening parenthesis]ha ha[closing parenthesis], i don’t see that he needs any more outlets for talking. all he does all day long is talk to himself. it’s quite annoying, really. but i’m a forgiving rat. we all have our little foibles. and this toastmaster thing does get him out of the room more.

it’s wendy if you please

as you should know, my name is wendy fink. that’s wendy with an ‘e.’ let me emphasize that[colon] wEndy.

geez, i have to catch my breath.

so because any article published here is immediately posted on the frankly curious facebook page, some wag wrote, ‘It’s no mystery who authored this creative piece. Everyone knows its Wendy.’

[opening parenthesis]that’s right, i can copy and paste. oh isn’t it amazing[exclemation mark] the rat can copy and paste[exclemation mark]. you people disgust me.[closing parenthesis]

so okay, the guy — who has an icon that looks like a puppet’s vagina — is referencing perhaps the most anemic band ever, the association, doing their 1967 number 1 hit — with a bullet — ‘windy.’ note that’s windy with an i. i’ll emphasize again[colon] wIndy.

you know[colon] the word you would use to describe the weather when there is a lot of wind. what is wrong with you americans and your name spelling[question mark] and the song was written by a woman whose first name is misspelled as far as i’m concerned[colon] ruthann friedman. but what do i know, i’m just a rat that learned english and how to use a computer.

so frank posts the song. like that’s going to make it better because everyone will see immediately that the song obviously refers to some human because no rat would be so silly as to name a child after bad weather.

but here it is, since i know you’ll want to listen to it now[colon]

okay, brian cole looks pretty cool, but how can you not playing that bass. he died of a heroin overdose just five years later. he was just 29 with three kids. i hope the royalties kept coming in. je ne sais quoi.

one rat short

now i’ll make a guess, not being there in 1972, but i assume cole was injecting that heroin. he’d have to be — heroin was at an all-time low in terms of purity — just 3 percent by some estimates. maybe someone just smothered him and they blamed it on the heroin. it wouldn’t be the first time someone snapped over that low-e string.

but the injection got me thinking about the rat romeo and juliet[colon] one rat short by the animator alex weil.

now i’m not saying i don’t have my problems with this film. i don’t know what all that rat fighting at the beginning is all about. rats really aren’t like that. and there’s a little bit of furism going on where the black rats are vicious and the brown rat is good but from the wrong side of the roof and the female is virginal white.

but you could say the same thing of any of shakespeare’s works, so i guess it’s okay.

this is a very sweet and sad film. and trust me, humans do much worse to us than that. then again, you do much worse to each other. humans really have a lot to learn from rats.

so take a look at it. i did go to the trouble of finding it and copying and pasting the embed code. that is no easy feat for my feet. i tell ya, i should find an open mic somewhere. what hilarity[exclemation mark]

are you still here[question mark] watch the film[colon]

keep those letters coming

the email has been piling up since my last post. i’m just kidding. no one has written. but i am serious that you can write to me at rat at franklycurious.com and i will answer your questions, assuming you don’t annoy me too much.

my next post will be an advice column, whether any of you write to me or not. i’ve got loads of questions saved up like, ‘how long before humans go extinct[question mark]’ not soon enough for the planet[exclemation mark]

that’s not that to say that i don’t have a certain fondness for you hairless apes. my opinion would go up if frank would start eating cheetos. and if you don’t get that then you didn’t watch the film and i am so not in the mood for it.

cheers,
sally fink signature
wendy

introducing wendy fink

wendy finkdear frankly curious reader,

i’ve been watching frank for about a year now, so this has been a long time coming.

let me introduce myself. i am wendy fink. i live under frank’s bed. what do i eat[question mark] [opening parenthesis]i haven’t worked out the whole shift thing yet. give me time. i’m just a rat and you’re the idiot reading me.[closing parenthesis] let’s just say frank isn’t the most tidy eater.

anyway, i want to get something out of the way before everyone just goes nuts — like you humans tend to do. that is not my picture over there on the right. it’s hard enough writing this. how am i supposed to click the trackball and take a picture of myself[question mark] you’d just see an empty chair. so i got a stock photo off the internet of another rat who might have been named ‘nager sweet.’ i don’t know, i’m a just a rat. i’m almost as confused by the world as frank is.

archy and mehitabel

i know this is all just a rip-off of archy and mehitabel. but there are three clear distinctions:

  1. archy was a cockroach and no one is interested in learning about life from a cockroach
  2. mehitabel was an evil cat and there are no cats around here
  3. this is real whereas archy and mehitabel was clearly fiction.

you question me[question mark] i eat with my hands — unlike certain popular ‘pets’ i could mention that just rub their grubby faces into a bowl of something disgusting that comes out of a can. as a result, i have no problem manipulating a trackball and keyboard. sure, i’m a bit limited at the moment, but i’ll work things out. trust me. i got this far.

now compare this to archy. do you really think that a cockroach has enough weight to manipulate a manual typewriter[question mark][exclamation mark] and a cockroach that writes poetry[question mark] here’s some poetry for you:

roses are a whole lot of colors
violets are, well, sorta blue
archy and mehitabel:
fuck you[exclamation mark]

did you know someone wrote an opera about those two. unbelievable. but true. we’ll say no more about them.

advice column

i’ve introduced myself because i think i can be of help to humanity. so i’m starting an advice column. i figure you could use it.

and this is altruism. you’re all busy ruining the earth for yourselves. it doesn’t matter me and my fellow rats. we’ll be fine. you’ll be the dead ones.

anyway, all you have to do is send your questions to rat at franklycurious.com. not that it matters. if you don’t, i’ll just make up my own questions because i have a bunch that you should be asking.

please no rat-oriented questions. if you want to know about rats, get a book. and no, i’ve never had a ‘boyfriend.’ male rates are possibly even more horrible than human males.

i’ll be talking to you as soon as i get another chance at the computer.

cheers,
sally fink signature
wendy

ps[colon] according to yoast seo, i write at a much more advanced level than frank. ha[exclamation mark]

Happy Independence Day?

Happy Independence Day?

Oh, the Places I’ve Gone!

When I was a kid, I loved the Fourth of July: Independence Day! Admittedly, part of it was because they showed 1776 on television that day every year and I loved musicals. But I was also super patriotic because I totally bought all the lies my teachers had told me about this great nation.

Now it is just a night filled with loud noises and ignorant people.

One Nation, Built on Racism

Things really changed for me just a few years ago when I read The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.

I really should have known, of course. Historians have been writing for a long time about the fact that the primary push for the southern colonies to enter the Revolutionary War was their fear that England was going to take their slaves away.

The Bigots…

Now I understand: for about 30 percent of the modern US population, that sounds like a damned good reason to start a war. In fact, all those people clamoring about “states’ rights” only really care about them in so far as it will allow them to bring back Jim Crow if not outright slavery. It certainly isn’t a concept they believe in when California wants to maintain high pollution-control standards.

Yes, I’m calling 30 percent of the nation bigots.

And the Racists…

The rest of us are just racists — regardless of color. That’s just what happens when you grow up in a racist society. The best of us fight it, but it’s still there — poisoning us.

As Jesse Jackson said, “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps… then turn around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

I feel the same way when I involuntarily tense up when a young black man gets on the bus. I disgust myself.

And the Liars…

There are, of course, people who claim not to have a racist bone in their bodies. They were wonderfully satirized by Stephen Colbert. I suppose some of them are just clueless racists. But mostly, I think they are lying bigots.

If you can’t admit to your faults, you have no hope of fixing them — or even becoming slightly less vile.

Revolution: What Is It Good For?!

Ultimately, the American Revolution was good for the white men that were already doing well. For everyone else — and that includes poor white men — the war didn’t improve their lives. And made the lives of millions to come far worse.

It’s Not Just About Racism

Dylan Matthews makes pretty much the same argument that I just made, but better because he didn’t spend the day writing and editing a mammoth article on Unix shells, Three Reasons the American Revolution Was a Mistake.

In the article, he also addresses the treatment of the first Americans. They would have been treated badly regardless — as they were in Canada. But it’s most likely that there wouldn’t have been a genocide committed against them over decades.

If you want to get a good idea of how badly we treated the first Americans, you should check out the ignorant and racist comments to my article Ayn Rand and Indians. I don’t want to get into it here. I’ve written a lot about this subject in the past.

Parliamentary System

Matthews third reason for why we would have been better off not separating from England is that we would now have a much more stable system of government: a parliamentary system. I’ve also written a lot about this, so I’m not going to dive into it.

You should really just go read Matthews’ fine article. I agree with it point by point.

The Bottom Line

Tomorrow, when I wake up, I will put the flag out. I don’t especially like to because I don’t like the way that people see the flag. I have traditionally seen it as aspirational. Right now, I see it as pictured above: the zombie apocalypse has happened; they’ve destroyed what’s good about us and now they’re hungry for our best aspirations.

But even if we fight them back, our vile and partisan Supreme Court will do all it can to bring the end. Because they crave brains too.

Happy “Independence” Day!

Pablo Casals on How to Appreciate Art

Pablo CasalsMy great wish was to hear Pablo Casals. One day my desire was almost fulfilled and I met him. But ironically, it was I who had to play. It was in the home of the Von Mendelssohns, a house filled with El Grecos, Rembrandts, and Stradivaris. Francesco von Mendelssohn, the son of the banker, who was a talented cellist, telephoned and asked if he could call for me; they had a guest in the house who would like to hear me play.

“Mr. Casals,” I was introduced to a little bald man with a pipe. He said that he was pleased to meet young musicians such as Serkin and me. Rudolf Serkin, who stood stiffly next to me, seemed, like myself, to be fighting his diffidence. Rudi had played before my arrival, and Casals now wanted to hear us together. Beethoven’s D-Major Sonata was on the piano. “Why don’t you play it?” asked Casals. Both nervous and barely knowing each other, we gave a poor performance that terminated somewhere in the middle.

“Bravo! Bravo! Wonderful!” Casals applauded. Francesco brought the Schumann Cello Concerto, which Casals wanted to hear. I never played worse. Casals asked for Bach. Exasperated, I obliged with a performance matching the Beethoven and Schumann.

“Splendid! Magnifique!” said Casals embracing me.

Bewildered, I left the house. I knew how badly I had played, but why did he, the master, have to praise and embrace me? This apparent insincerity pained me more than anything else.

The greater was my shame and delight when, a few years later, I met Casals in Paris. We had dinner together and played duets for two cellos, and I palyed for him until late at night. Spurred by his great warmth, and happy, I confessed what I had thought of his praising me in Berlin. He reacted with sudden anger. He rushed to the cello. “Listen!” He played a phrase from the Beethoven sonata. “Didn’t you play this fingering? Ah, you did! It was novel to me…it was good… and here, didn’t you attack that passage with up-bow, like this?” He demonstrated. He went through Schumann and Bach, always emphasizing all he liked that I had done. “And for the rest,” he said passionately, “leave it to the ignorant and stupid who judge by counting only the faults. I can be grateful, and so must you be, for even one note, one wonderful phrase.”

–Gregor Piatigorsky
Cellist, Chapter 17

My Group — Basing Your Identity on the Edifying

Pacifica - Finding My Group

Greetings from Pacifica, California. I got a good reminder of group dynamics yesterday by finding the only one around here who I consider part of my own group.

A Poor Start to My Vacation

I got here yesterday late afternoon and I was in a rage. First, the place was way more expensive than I had thought. And by I time I got to my room, I thought, “This place is a dump.” (Note: I love dumps, but I like the price to reflect it.) Then I got to the room and it was nice but small and far from the ocean.

But okay, big deal, I wanted to do was hang out — reading books and watching videos. So I started setting up the room, only to find that it had a total of two electrical outlets that weren’t being used. I called down to the front desk and asked for a power strip. Given how expensive this place was and how unhappy I was, I figured this was the least I could expect.

White People Are Not My Group

The nice white woman at the front desk said she wasn’t sure if they had one, but if they did, they would send one up. Oh, how encouraged I felt! But I pleased that ten minutes later, there was a knock on my door.

By this point, I was already suffering with another problem and imagining the 10,000-word review of this place I was going to write and post everywhere on the internet. In fact, I was even thinking of starting a website:

WhyWhateverTheHellThisPlaceIsCalledSucks.com

The problem was that I could hook up my Blu-ray player to the television (which is very nice), but the remote control unit would not allow me to change the input.

I’d given up and decided to connect my Blu-ray player to the computer monitor I had brought for this very reason. Make that a 12,000-word article.

A Member of My Ground!

But I answered the door and a nice young man greeted me with a power strip. I thanked him. It was the first thing that had gone right — a modest victory but a victory nonetheless.

He went on his way and I brought the power strip back to the desk. But then I remembered, “The television!”

A Tech?

I ran out into the hallway and yelled after him. I told him that I assumed he was the tech around here and he told me I was right. Thank God! One of my people! The women at the front desk were very pleasant and professional but totally useless for anything other than charging large amounts of money for tiny rooms with limited television sets.

I explained my problem: the television was modern, so it had HDMI inputs. I plugged in my Blu-ray player, but the remote control didn’t allow me to go into set-up. He understood the problem immediately and offered to get me the “real” remote control unit.

The Answer

So off he went and back I went. Ten minutes later, he was in my room with a proper unit. And together we worked on it and soon the television was displaying The Blood Trilogy. I told him not to judge. He smiled.

He explained to me that they had the simple remotes because most people are, well, idiots (my word) and with the real remote control units, guests were constantly screwing up their televisions. I immediately remembered all those phone calls I got from my parents over the years, “The television isn’t working!”

So I got it, and it made sense. It was so nice to have someone explain the situation and solve my problem as opposed to the front-desk clerk probably doesn’t even know about the issue and had no interest in trying to solve my problem. You know, like saying something like, “I don’t know, but I’ll ask our tech.”

The tech even brought an extra set of batteries. What a great guy! I tipped him exorbitantly and he went on his way.

Rolando!

His name was Rolando and he was a young Latino. English might be his second language, but he spoke perfectly, so if he is an immigrant, he came here young. Regardless, he was a man of few words.

But after he left, I was so happy. All my other complaints about this place went away (mostly). I was no longer a stranger in a strange land. Rolando was here!

And it occurred to me that he was part of my group, tribe, or whatever you want to call it. The white women at the front desk might look like me in their pasty whiteness. But Rolando and I spoke the same language, even if it hardly required speaking at all.

Race Is a Myth Most People Believe

This was a powerful moment for me. As regular readers know, I don’t believe in race — it’s a recent concept developed in the west to justify imperialism and slavery.

But most people believe in it in a big way. And now it isn’t just the obvious bigots — it’s people like Sam Harris and his followers.

But here was this guy who roughly a third of this nation would hate for no other reason than his skin color. (Don’t buy into the whole “illegal immigration” thing; these people would have no problem with immigrants if they only came from “white” countries. Not that Rolando is necessarily an immigrant. But most of these people would consider him “foreign” because he isn’t pasty white.) Yet here was a man who was part of my group.

Nothing Wrong With Being in a Group

I have no problem saying this. It doesn’t matter what it is, humans separate themselves into groups. There are too many of us to all feel a special kinship to all humans — not that we don’t (mostly) care when any other human is killed and eaten by, for example, a grizzly bear. But mostly, we all divide into our own group.

And I think that’s fine as long as there is an edifying reason for it. Looking the same is not edifying. For one thing, humans all look so much the same that basing your opinions on it is simply ridiculous.

The Basis of Groups

I can understand basing your group notions on social customs. But that’s stupid from an immigration standpoint because second-generation immigrants are fully integrated into the society. What’s more, the social differences that people get hung up on are usually superficial.

It’s like what Sting implied during the Cold War: the Russians love their children too. (I’m not a Sting fan and I’m not even that fond of this song; I think it made a pretty obvious point, but it’s still important.)

Hard Times and Good Groups

These are bad times — in the US, Europe, and elsewhere. Too many people divide themselves based on the most foolish of measures. It mostly comes down to simple xenophobia: the fear of outsiders. And don’t kid yourself: this is why the Republican Party is not just in control of Washington, but of the US generally. And it’s the reason this country is being ripped apart.

Good Groups and Bad Groups

I don’t have a problem with other groups bound together by things like woodworking or needlework or whatever. I don’t feel as bound to them as I am to a kid who knows how HDMI works and can program a television to work with a random remote control unit. But I get them.

I do, however, have a problem with people whose identity is based on nothing more than fear of The Other. Groups should be bound by their interest in and love of their people, not disregard and hatred of others.

It was nice to be reminded of that here in Pacifica by a young tech — even if the room still is overpriced.

How a Vacation Gets You Coming and Going

Frank on Vacation in Mexico With Grumpy SquirrelHello all you frankly curious boys and girls! I am sorry that I haven’t been writing much recently. Part of it is Donald Trump. I’ll come back to him. But the bigger issue is that I’m going on vacation starting Friday morning and I won’t be back home until the afternoon of the first day of July.

July not August! July not August! July not August! July not August! July not August! July not August! July not August! July not August! July not August!

The problem for me is that a vacation really gets in the way of my work on the things I actually care about: this site, Psychotronic Review, practicing the most evil musical instrument in the world, and writing my experimental plays. You know: the stuff I don’t get paid to do.

The problem is that there is a tremendous amount of (paid) work that has to be done before going on vacation. I already have weeks of work backlog. But I have to get the really pressing things done. And I want to too! That’s because I’m not going to be working when I’m on vacation, and that means I won’t be making money. But even though I’m going to miss 9 days of work out of this month, I’m going to manage to make about 80 percent of my normal pay.

This, of course, is because I’ve been killing myself.

And Then There’s Trump

I’m now trying to avoid hearing anything about politics. In the past, it wasn’t so bad because I thought, “We’ll probably get rid of Trump in 2020 and this will all just be a bad memory.” Sure, I knew he was causing great suffering, but there was an end in sight. And to a large extent, that’s true. The immigration policy will go back to our normal inhumane situation instead of the near-genocide that Trump is overseeing. So on the domestic front, the election of a Democratic president in 2020 — or whenever — will be a good thing.

(And yes, I know that Trump has apparently reversed course on the family separation of asylum seekers. Does everyone know that we are signatories of the 1951 Refugee Convention, by which the whole process of charging asylum seekers with trespass is illegal? So the whole, “Our hands are tied” explanation was always a crock. But the reversal sure shows that all those people who were claiming that the White House was doing it because they thought it was a political winner were wrong. They were doing it because Trump is a cruel man who doesn’t care about anyone but himself. I think Elvis Costello summed him up perfectly long ago, “If it moves then you f**k it, if it doesn’t move you stab it.)

Our Long-Term International Problems

It’s on the international front that things are so depressing. After Trump is out of office, things will not reset. The world has seen that the US political system is such that it can elect a modern-day Hitler. It doesn’t matter that he got three million less votes. For one thing, that’s still a very close race when you consider just how awful Trump was — not just as a person but as a candidate. But more important, we have a non-democratic system. Hitler didn’t get 50 percent of the vote. His base was roughly that of Trump’s: 30 percent.

So I figure it will take a generation or more for us to heal these wounds. And in a certain way, they never will be. I know that Brexit hurt the UK. But the people immediately regretted it. If they had been able to vote again just a week later, it would have lost. It’s not clear that Trump would lose a year and a half later — despite the fact that other than being a monster to immigrants, he hasn’t done a thing for his straight white male racist base.

(Just a little aside: I am so looking forward to the time when these people — people like me — really do have no more power than anyone else. As a group, cis white males are such whiners about losing power and blah, blah, blah. I’ll be glad to see them have something to really complain about. Of course, if they voted liberal, their lives would be better. But as a group, we are idiots.)

Onward to Vacation

The rule for this vacation is that I get to have the kind of vacation that I most enjoy: doing nothing. I read. I watch totally awesome films. I sit in a hot tub. And apparently, I get a massage, which is the equivalent of the hot tub: except I have to drive — gurr — as many as ten miles to get it. And I have to go whale watching, which is okay, I’m just not sure how I’m going to get to the boat. I’m too tired to think about it, but I have a vague plan that relieves me of having to park in San Francisco.

It’s possible I’ll write something on the blog next week. I’m not planning to, but you never know. I can’t go a day without writing something. I’m planning on working on some plays. But I’m so tired right now, the thought is not appealing. They require a lot more work than a blog post — especially a rambling one like this. (I have Facebook posts that are better than this!)

I Need This

Generally, I’m told that I need a vacation. This is the first time I feel like I need a vacation — I certainly want it more than any one I can remember. My next vacation (which will be the last for a while) will likely not be that great because I’m going with my family. And they all have this idea that you do things on vacation. And that’s such a silly thing, because I will be doing something — my favorite thing to do: metabolize!

Today was a long day. Tomorrow will be worse. Just let me die on the beach.