Thursday, January 19, 2017

Self Help Radio 011817: 1981

(Original image here.)

People love lists.  People spend all day on the internet looking at lists.  When I was a kid, I read all three copies of "The Book Of Lists."  I have a friend who's intensely interested in lists.  Give me a list of your top ten favorite artists, he has said.  What are your favorite records of this & such year?  Make a list!  Make a list of the best movies you've seen!  List!  List!  List!

Frankly I am leery of such lists.  First of all, it seems like once you've committed to a list, especially a hierarchical one, you're less likely to want to go back to change it.  Secondly, aren't lists conditional? I mean, none of my favorite hip-hop records from 1981 made it onto my show, but that's only because I don't think about hip-hop in the same way as music that affected me when I was younger.  Which is to say that there are times I'd much rather listen to "Apache" by the Sugarhill Gang than "Ceremony" by New Order.  (Both singles were released in 1981.)

The best kind of list I can offer is this sort of show.  On this week's Self Help Radio, I played songs from my favorite releases of 1981.  Two of these were recorded before, but not released until, 1981.  Eight of them came from singles or EPs.  Almost all of them would wait to be discovered by me until late high school/college.

& here's the show, now at the Self Help Radio website. Pay attention to username/password info on the front page.  The songs I played are below.  The fact that it's now thirty-six years since 1981 kinda blows my mind.

(part one)

"Don't Let Our Youth Go To Waste" The Modern Lovers _The Original Modern Lovers_
"Nothing's Going To Happen" Tall Dwarfs _Three Songs_
"Fast Boyfriends" Girls At Our Best! _Pleasure_

"Exercise One" Joy Division _Still_
"Ceremony" New Order _Ceremony_
"The Passion Of Lovers" Bauhaus _Mask_
"Spellbound" Siouxsie & The Banshees _Juju_

"Charlotte Sometimes" The Cure _Charlotte Sometimes_
"Into You Like A Train" The Psychedelic Furs _Talk Talk Talk_
"Zoo-Music Girl" The Birthday Party _Prayers On Fire_
"Don't Shake Me Lucifer" Roky Erickson & The Aliens _The Evil One_

"Leave The Capitol" The Fall _Slates_
"Jerkin' Back & Forth" Devo _New Traditionalists_

(part two)

"This Angry Silence" Television Personalities _...And Don't The Kids Just Love It_
"Join The Book Club" George Carlin _A Place For My Stuff!_
"Help Me Somebody" Brian Eno & David Byrne _My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts_

"This Is Radio Clash" The Clash _This Is Radio Clash_
"That's Entertainment" The Jam _That's Entertainment_
"The KKK Took My Baby Away" The Ramones _Pleasant Dreams_
"That's When I Reach For My Revolver" Mission Of Burma _Signals, Calls, & Marches_

"New Lace Sleeves" Elvis Costello & The Attractions _Trust_
"Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic" The Police _Ghost In The Machine_
"Since You're Gone" The Cars _Shake It Up_
"Belinda" Eurythmics _In The Garden_

"Poor Old Soul" Orange Juice _Poor Old Soul_
"Sorry For Laughing" Josef K _The Only Fun In Town_

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Whither 1981?

(Image from here.)

When Self Help Radio began, I thought of each show being a unique theme, nothing revisited, nothing repeated.  But within two months of doing the show, I realized I would probably do a Christmas show every year.  & then my birthday came around.

My birthday is January 20 - yes, inauguration day.  On my first birthday, Nixon became the President of the United States.  On my thirteenth, it was Reagan.  On & on.  More awful presidents have taken over the job on my birthday than good ones.  & this year will probably be the awfulest.

In 2003, I came up with the idea of, on my birthday, revisiting my favorite music from the year of my birth.  It was a cool idea & I kept with it, starting then at 1968 & arriving this year at (you guessed it) 1981.  The earlier shows, of course, didn't feature music I liked at that age - I barely remember any music I listened to in 1969, for instance, but rather featured music I have come to love from that year.  But we're getting closer.  At least two of the songs on the show tonight that I might play were songs I loved from the radio in 1981.  But most of them were still things I discovered later.

Personally I think it was an amazing year for music.  But you might not like the same things I like, so we'll just have to see.  Or hear.  The show's on tonight from 8-10 pm central, 9-11 pm eastern on 93.9 fm WLXU in Lexington, online at everywhere.

Hope you'll come back to the past with me tonight!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Preface To 1981: Middle School Life Crisis

This week's show features music from 1981.  If you don't already know why, I'll tell you tomorrow.

In 1981, I was 13.  It was in seventh grade that I met my friend Russell, who's my friend to this day.  He plays (or inhabits) the Reverend Dr. Howard Gently on the show.  Here's something interesting: being two shy kids, who spent way too much time in their rooms, we actually pretended on the phone to be a radio show - I was Gary Franklin (no idea why that name happened), he was all the callers.  I have tapes of us doing that that one day I may share.

Because Russell lived a fair distance away & because we were both introverted, we were friends mainly on the phone.  I still had a few friends in my apartment complex where me, my mother, & my little brother lived, but, usually because poor families don't stay in one place for long, & those friends would come & go, mostly I spent time alone.

My memory is fuzzy about the difference between the summers that happened between the grades.  I suspect that the summer after seventh but before eighth grade is when I became friends with a fellow named Gus, who had been a classmate of my little brother's, who contacted me out of the blue to ask about comic book collecting.  The truth is, at the time, I suspected I might be outgrowing comics.  I couldn't really afford new ones, & the convenience store at which my mother worked had been sold - she would let me show up, grab some off the rack, & make off with them - & instead she was working at a drug store which was, shall we say, less easy to pilfer from.  But I also had read the ones I had too many times & found the style a little tiring, especially when compared with books I was reading.  But Gus told me about comics by people with names like John Byrne & Frank Miller who were apparently revolutionizing the industry.

Gus was just interested in making money through selling comics, but I had always loved them & would eventually spend the better part of my teens collecting them.  That summer, though, my little brother & I would walk nearly every weekday from the apartments to Gus' house to hang out with him.  (Google maps says it is 1.2 miles away - I imagine we did it even when it was quite warm out, but luckily the route was shaded by big old trees.)  It must have been the summer of 1981 because "Bette Davis Eyes" was always on the radio when we listened.

What we spent our summer hours doing I haven't the foggiest.  I remember two things.  One, I shot my little brother point blank with a b.b. gun.  I didn't know it was loaded.  It luckily didn't break the skin.  To this day he believes I did it on purpose - he brought it up a year & a half ago at my sister's memorial!

The second was that we were walking around in the attic area & I stepped off one of the wooden bars & went right through the ceiling landing on Gus' bed.  It was terrifying & I was lucky I didn't break anything - it could've been, for example, above the bathtub or the kitchen.  I don't remember if I got in any trouble.  For either of these incidents.  We would come back to Gus' house & there'd be a hole in his bedroom ceiling.

On days we didn't go to visit Gus I probably talked on the phone with Russell.

One thing I think happened at that time is that my sister Karin moved back in with us briefly.  She had moved out after she "ran away" the year or two before, & would eventually move in with the man who would become her husband, but for a time she slept in a bed in my room (I assume my little brother slept downstairs) & she'd wake me when she came in during the nights.  It often unnerved me, like someone was breaking into my room.

As for eighth grade, well.  I think I liked it better than seventh grade, but things were still confusing.  I didn't really have an idea of what I thought "attractive" was & puzzled over the tastes of my classmates.  Simply put, I didn't think any of the "popular" girls were all that pretty, but it had little to do with how they actually looked.  I could tell they were snobbish, & they were vary fashion-conscious - this was around the time the "preppy" look became the suburban style.  I still mostly wore hand-me-downs & whatever my mother bought me.  (Still!  I dress the same.  In fact, one KOOPer once told me I dress like a thirteen-year-old boy.)  But I paid attention, & tried to see girls through the (stupid, young, gross) eyes of my classmates.  & of course I had no idea about anything like kissing or sex.  That was so outside of any experience I could imagine having that it went beyond science fiction.

That's not entirely true.  I did have a crush on someone.  But it wasn't much more than a kind of far away admiration.  It became harder & harder to talk to her as time went on.

One teacher I was very fond of was my American History teacher, Mrs. Lane.  She was very kind to me.  Another was my English teacher, Mrs. Bishop, whom everyone hated but who was unusually rigorous about understanding literature for a middle school teacher.  It just occurred to me they're both probably dead now.  It's strange that's not easy to find out online.

My classmates were the same classmates I had had for my entire run of middle school, so it was a more comfortable grade I entered, even if I was still mostly thought of as an outsider, or a nerd, or a weirdo.  Man, thinking about eighth grade has made all kinds of memories flood back.  I can tell three stories & then I have to stop.

The first one is in health class.  I have always been squeamish about intravenous drugs &, just like in sixth grade, I passed out while watching a film strip about heroin.  Spent the day in the nurse's office. Was asked about it all the next day.  Experience the odd thrill of minor celebrity.

At some point - I'm not sure how this came up - I think this was with the Yearbook staff - we were in the school after hours - I dared another student - I can't remember who it was - to go write some bad words in the boy's room.  No, it was someone I worked with in the library.  Library staff got to travel freely in the halls during school.  The other person was in the seventh grade, & I was in the eighth.  I dared him to write something awful in the boy's room in his hall & I would do the same in mine.  I wrote something that today would be completely innocuous - something I'm not entirely sure I knew what it meant - but it was something like "Cheerleaders are easy."  I was shocked to find out some time later than this so affected the cheerleaders that one of them got in trouble for going into the boys' room to scrub it off the walls.  I felt just awful about it.

Finally - & this may have happened in 1982, because it feels like something that would have happened at the end of the year - I was in Beta Club - it's where I met Russell, I was very amused by his heckling at the dire meetings we had - & occasionally we were told we had to sell stuff for whatever club budget shit.  In this case it was M&Ms.  I lived in an apartment complex with lots of poor people, who knew a fifty cent box of M&Ms was no deal at all when you could walk to the Minyard's & get them for twenty cents, so I didn't sell many.  I actually barely tried.  I hated selling things.  I had tried before, tried to solicit newspaper subscriptions & just hated it.  Hated knocking on doors & hated pushing products.  I helped my mother at a convenience store, I would wait while people picked out what they wanted to buy & then came to me.

When the time came to collect, I returned a nearly-full box to the Beta Club sponsors.  One of them - the same woman, I believe, who was my Yearbook Club sponsor - was furious with me.  She accused me of not trying, of being lazy, of being indolent.  I told her, because I couldn't really see the point, that I didn't enjoy & wasn't very good at selling things, & if it was a condition of my membership that I sell a certain amount of M&Ms to be in the Beta Club, I guess I wouldn't be in the club.  She just stared at me, then gave a cry of exasperation, & left.

You see, I didn't really understand about things like service groups & college applications back then - how could I?  None of my siblings had gone or would go to college, & my mother was a working-class woman raised in Germany, where none of her family would have even dreamed nor had the opportunity for higher education.  I didn't really know what Beta Club was for.  I didn't like the meetings, I didn't like the parties - although my friend Russell tells me that it was one of the parties where we sat in someone bedroom & talked about the Beatles.  I vaguely recall that.  That's how a friendship was born.

Russell was watching, too, when I gave back the M&Ms & explained myself.  I looked at him & saw him wide-eyed.  It may be why I remember the story.

Monday, January 16, 2017

When I Was Thirteen

On January 20, 1981, I turned thirteen (13) years old.  That seems like such a terrifying thing, but I don't know that I perceived it as such.  I was vaguely aware that something called "puberty" was assaulting me, & my skin was already not so great, though my voice would take its time changing & I wouldn't reach my full height until some time in high school.  Honestly, what might have been most noticeable to me at thirteen was how different I was not just from everyone else, but mainly from my own family.

Honestly, thirteen found me in one of my worst years of my life - I spoke a little about it last year when I talked about 1980 - but I didn't mention one class I had, my "Reading" class (a real middle school class), in which the teacher actively hated me.  She was a severe woman with a thick Southern accent who did everything she could to - well, not humiliate, but she did enjoy flustering me.  I remember one day we were doing crafts - so weird, in a reading class - & I clumsily spilled paper & glitter on the floor.  She made me stay after class - so I'd be late to my next class - & basically called me a dolt the entire time I tried to fix my mess.  It was a weird experience because, in general, teachers either liked me or they tolerated me.  For a teacher to be openly hostile to me frightened & confused me.

By the way, I remember her name: Mrs. Reeves.

But it is true that at thirteen I was about to make my first friend who'd stay my friend into adult life who wasn't also my little brother's friend.  A month or so ago, when I was talking to my wife about something, she mentioned that it was hard for her to understand that I once was close to my little brother, to whom I barely speak & haven't really talked to for years (we shared some conversation & memories at my sister's memorial in 2015, but haven't spoken at all really since I moved back to Texas).  But he & I spent the first ten or so years of our life together, doing things together, fighting, talking, playing.  It was obvious by the time I was thirteen that we weren't very much alike, but separating - having a life without the other - was something we gave up reluctantly.  Luckily, my mother had installed a mechanism which would make it easier.

Often people will be surprised that I have six siblings but am close to none.  My sister Pat, who died almost two years ago, was the sibling I was closest to, but that closeness came much later, in adulthood.  My sister Karin is much harder to get close to than Pat, & I am not sure why that is.  My four brothers, however, I have found impossible to have a relationship with.  & I think I know why.

My mother likes her boys - not so much her girls - tied to her apron strings.  One of the way she has done that - subconsciously or no - is to basically instill into each of her sons the idea that they are the most important person in the world - that they are phenomenal, without peer, exceptional, including in the looks department.  What happens when you do that with five boys?  Well, I believe that they begin to see the other brothers as something like rivals for the mother's attention & affection.  She obviously thinks the one the best; but she also has to spend time with the others.  You are competing for the most attention - & surely you can't be friends with your rivals, can you?

It has baffled me when I see siblings who are so close, so supportive, so kind to one another.  That doesn't happen in my family.  It's not just at my generation - my sister Pat once told me that my father barely kept in touch with his siblings (I have no way to know if that were true), & my mother recently told me she hasn't communicated with her deceased sister's son in almost two years.  & look at me - I have barely had a friendly exchange of words with any of my brothers in years.  I am certainly taking part in the role I've been given.

Of course I wasn't cognizant of any of this at thirteen, but I do know I was aware I was different.  My love of comic books & science fiction, as well as my growing interest in music, which was much more obsessive than my siblings', who were happy to like whatever was on the radio, was starting to set me apart.  I was, as they may have noted, a fat little weird nerd.  Possibly beyond saving.

There are more details about this year of my life tomorrow.  So sorry about that.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Writing In My Sleep

I had a dream last night in which, when you received a letter from someone, you wrote back to them starting on the empty space at the end of their last letter, & then sent them back your letter with theirs. People who corresponded for a long time sent back & forth to one another giant tomes of their writings. Getting a letter in the mail was a thrilling, if daunting, event.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Self Help Radio 011117: A Tribute To Leonard Cohen

(Original image here.)

There's a famous story I'm going to screw up.  Bob Dylan & Leonard Cohen are sharing a cab or a limo or something, & are being complimentary to one another.  Cohen mentions a song of Dylan's - in my brain it's something off of Infidels, but I can't recall what it is - & asks Dylan how long it took him to write it.  (I assume this is the sort of thing about which songwriters compare notes.)  Dylan says he wrote it in a cab on the way to a show.  He then compliments Cohen on the song "Hallelujah," & asks how long it took him to write that song.  Cohen replies that he worked on it off & on for a decade.

This story may explain why Cohen, in a career just a little shorter than The Bob's, only released fourteen studio records, while The Nobel Bob has released four thousand.  & by the way, there's a part of me that things both men are being somewhat hyperbolic - Dylan to show off, Cohen to be humble.  Which also says something about the two men.

There are times when you gotta be Dylan, & there are times when you gotta be Cohen.  As I stumble through my meaningless life, a life defined at times by gloom & at times by painful beauty, at times by bleakness so vast my eyes & ears fail, & at times by love so true & surprising that I am grateful for my senses - as the road ahead gets shorter than the one behind, as what the heart remembers starts to overshadow what it has yet to feel - I find in myself less & less Dylan & more & more Cohen.

Truly I could talk about him & his music (which is also him) all day & night long.  Maybe one day you & I will do that, with a bottle of wine in front of us.  Until then, here's my feeble attempt to pay tribute to someone I have loved & needed for almost my entire adult life.  Oh, Leonard Cohen.  I will listen for you everyday as you sing to us sweetly from the Tower Of Song.

The show, such as it is, is at the Self Help Radio website.  The songs I played are below.  I hope you like it, if you listen.  But the truth is, as piss-poor a tribute as it is, I needed to do it, for me.  To say thanks.

(part one)

"Suzanne" Nina Simone _To Love Somebody_
"Memories" The Extra Glenns _Martial Arts Weekend_
"Why Don't You Try" Colleen Rennison _See The Sky About To Rain_

"There Is A War" Great Plains _Slaves To Rock & Roll_
"Story Of Isaac" Green Pajamas _Indian Winter_
"Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye" Claudine Longet _Let's Spend The Night Together_
"Lover Lover Lover" Ian McCulloch _Mysterio_
"I'm Your Man" Mystery Twins _Arrow_

"Dress Rehearsal Rag" Goodbye Mr Mackenzie _Jezebel_
"Tonight Will Be Fine" Herman Düne & Clemence Freschard _Kreuzberg Cafe_
"The Law" Tanya Donelly _Swan Song Series, Vol. 2_
"If It Be Your Will" Human Drama _Pinups_
"Sisters Of Mercy" Area _The Perfect Dream_

(part two)

"Avalanche" Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds _From Her To Eternity_
"So Long Marianne" Bill Callahan _The Songs Of Leonard Cohen Covered_
"Dance Me To The End Of Love" The Civil Wars _Barton Hollow_
"Bird On A Wire (feat. Marc Ribot)" My Brightest Diamond _I Have Never Loved Someone_

"Hallelujah" John Cale _I'm Your Fan_
"Who By Fire" Coil _Horse Rotorvator_
"You Got Me Singing" Jenny Adkins _You Got Me Singing_
"Joan Of Arc" John Wesley Hardings Love Hall Tryst _Songs Of Misfortune_
"Paper Thin Hotel" Close Lobsters _Nature Thing_
"Diamonds In The Mine" Broken Family Band _Balls_

"Passing Through" Dick Blakeslee _Songs For Political Action, Vol. 6: The People's Songs Era 1945-1949_
"Chelsea Hotel # 2" Lambchop _Rainer On My Parade_
"Seems So Long Ago, Nancy" Palaxy Tracks _Twelve Rooms_

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Whither A Tribute To Leonard Cohen?

(This image found there.)

If it hasn't been made perfectly clear by what I wrote after I found out about his death, Leonard Cohen is one of my musical heroes.  If I had to make a list of my favorite artists, as people do & then pressure other people to do, he would undoubtedly make my top ten most of the time.  I have thought about & listened to to his songs for almost thirty years now.  There are few musicians who have touched me so deeply & affected me so strongly.

Tonight I'll pay tribute to him in a curious way: I'll do an entire show of his music covered by other artists.  Why do I do this?  You'll recall, I've done this before with artists like David Bowie & the Velvet Underground, but I've mixed some shows up like with George Jones & Morrissey.  Why just play others interpreting Cohen's work?  Why not hear from the man himself?

You must know by now I'm a contrarian by nature.  I have listened to enough Leonard Cohen tributes in the past two months to not want to basically do the same radio show as others have done.  But I also find something magical about reinterpretations of songs - sure, covers can be awful, but there are covers that make you think about a song in an entirely new way, & covers that unlock the potential of a song so it actually surpasses its original.  I hope you'll hear some of these tonight.

Tonight!  9-11pm Eastern!  8-10pm Central!  93.9 fm WLXU in Lexington! LCR online everywhere!  Join me in paying tribute to a true poet.

(P.S. I noticed that I chose images from the album Live Songs on two blog posts about LC.  I don't think that's my favorite picture of him, but for some reason I think of it first when I think of pictures of him.  I don't know why that is.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Preface To A Tribute To Leonard Cohen: Another Poet Entirely

Because of Leonard Cohen, I found my way to Federico García Lorca.  Leonard Cohen has a song on I'm Your Man called "Take This Waltz" which is a translation/reimagining of a Lorca poem called "Little Viennese Waltz."  It's a gorgeous song, so unusual in the pop idiom, with pure poetry bursting from its lines:

In Vienna there are ten pretty women
There's a shoulder where Death comes to cry
There's a lobby with nine hundred windows
There's a tree where the doves go to die

It's hard to imagine even our most poetical of musicians getting away with such lush imagery.

Cohen named his daughter Lorca.  That's a beautiful name.

At some point in the early nineties, I got to see a Lorca play being performed.  I believe it was Yerma, & it was eye-opening & jaw-dropping to hear the lines of the play - so poetic - being recited by actors.  It's the same epiphany one feels when one sees Shakespeare performed for the first time, especially after having been forced to read it for a class.  Poems were meant to be sung, I believe.

Why, in general, aren't they?

After that time, I would pepper Lorca lines in letters & emails I wrote to women I was courting.  Here's one:

Like a snake, my heart
has shed its skin.
I hold it here in my hands,
full of honey and wounds.

Here's another:

Only your hot heart,

nothing more.

& one more:

The guitar
makes dreams cry.
The sobbing
of lost souls
its round mouth.
& like the tarantula
it weaves a great star
to ensnare sighs floating
in its black
cistern of wood.

That last one, called "Six Strings," was one I'm sure Leonard Cohen knew intimately.

Gosh, it would have been nice to have a conversation with him once in my life.  I'll have to live for the rest of my life with all the conversations I've had & will continue to have with the beautiful music he made.

Monday, January 09, 2017


Do you know about this?  It's an invitation-only (they send invitations through the snailmails with activation codes on them) website for neighborhoods.  I have friends who are very skeptical of it - thinking it's another way for criminals to break into their homes! - but the wife & I signed up mostly out of curiosity.  Since we've only been in our new home for a little over a week, we don't have much to contribute.  But both of us have been pretty voyeuristic with its contents.

One thing that's handy: people talk about stray dogs & cats in the neighborhood, & so far two dogs & one cat who've gone missing have been found, possibly thanks to the service.  (It must work better than flyers posted on telephone poles in places where no one walks!)  That's very good for me - & when it got cold here - below zero cold - people were shaming folks who leave their animals outside all the time.

Another handy thing seems to be recommendations for services.  People are asking their neighbors - albeit online - if there's a good plumber or dentist or whatever.  That feels sort of old-fashioned, even (again) if it's through some website.

But.  The wife & I were chuckling about this today.  When it comes to interacting with strangers, there are definitely two distinct camps.  For example:

There's an environmental group that comes through, asks folks to sign a petition & accepts donations.  One person wrote on nextdoor that the person who came to their house seemed suspicious.  There were two swift, completely opposite, reactions: one, people defending the group, supporting them, & explaining their purpose; & another, saying, basically, call the police!  "Code blue," one of the neighbors succinctly put it.

During the Christmas season, one neighbor's child apparently has the lovely idea to put candles on porches around their neighborhood.  The child nor his parents didn't quite explain what they were doing, & folklore immediately arose: one nextdoor neighbor said something like, I have heard that criminals are putting candles on your porches & if you don't remove them, they'll know you're not home & rob your house!  The other reaction was, naturally, How nice! How thoughtful! A candle for the season!

Amazing that this was as far from the truth as possible - & yet to a certain fraction of folks who live in this neighborhood, it wasn't far-fetched but probable.  Granted, most people, once it was explained, thought it was sweet & in the holiday spirit, but others grumbled - even with its innocent motives laid out, they couldn't help but see bad everywhere.

& there is bad, of course.  There was, according to a headline on the site, a "gun battle" (!) just a few blocks west of us the other night.  That shouldn't be as thrilling to me as it is - I'm sure if it were down the street, I'd be thinking of purchasing a gun to do battle myself.  But the thread was so much fun to read!

Have you used this website?  Is it available where you are?  If I end up posting stuff, I'll let you know how it's received.  We've already starting walking the dogs in the neighborhood, so I'm sure people are already talking about "the beagle family."  I hope the people who noticed our comings & goings in Lexington don't think we've died.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Writer's Writing, or, Writers Writing

Excuse me while I meander with no real destination in mind.

Back in the day when I wanted to be a writer, I read a lot of books & stories by writers about being writers.  Friends of mine who wanted to be writers were writing stories about being writers.  I was probably writing stories about being a writer.  This is not to discount very good books & stories about writers written by writers, but thinking of this reminds me of a series of experiences I had on a school bus when I was in college.

In Austin, the University of Texas provides buses to get students from certain areas to campus.  When I arrived in 1986, the buses were actual school buses of the kind without air conditioning & windows you could open up.  They had stereo systems with cassette decks that the misfit bus drivers used to play cool music on.  It was fun in 1986 to be taken to school on a bus blasting Joy Division.

At some point they replaced those buses with air-conditioned Capitol Metro buses, & apparently there was something of an uproar by the drivers because these buses - like most city buses - did not come equipped with a stereo system.  Many of the drivers would bring boomboxes & tie them to some space & play their music that way.  Eventually the management relented & put radios in the UT buses.

Always a dodgy proposition, this radio gambit meant that, on my morning commute, I could listen to drive-time wacky pop radio.  In general, I'd have a Walkman or later an iPod to listen to (I worked at the University so still rode the buses to work after I finished school), but some mornings I'd just be too sleepy to bother, & was forced to listen to Whomever & Whomever in the morning, the crazily-named people who played fart noises & other sound effects in-between whatever hits were programmed by the corporate owners of the station.

Like some kind of bored sociologist, I would listen to these guys & realized that all they ever really talked about was stuff they saw on television, their radio show, or events they attended because they had a radio show.  I guess they had very little time to read a book, or go on vacation, or have much of a life - their show was three or four hours long, a lot of time to fill, & there was pre-recorded material.  Talking about something they went to in the capacity as "morning deejays" was of course the entirety of their lives.  But boy it made for extremely dull radio.

There was probably a bit of jealousy there, of course - I was on the radio & had only a fraction of a fraction of their listeners.  & to be honest, I wasn't living much either.

Do you remember when you & your friends started working when you were in high school?  I worked mainly at my family's convenience store & had for a long time, but suddenly I was hearing stories about fast food joints or mall stores or any number of places teens used to work.  I was astonished, really, & wondered about what we talked about when we didn't have jobs.  Did we just talk about school?

These days I roll my eyes at movies, television shows, & books which are about writers.  Some I'll give a chance, most I'll reject.  Tonight the wife & I started the third (I think) season of the show The Affair which has, as its male protagonist, a writer.

Honestly, I'm amazed I've watched it this long.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Self Help Radio 010417: Cafés

(Original image here.)

The first Self Help Radio of 2017 took place at a rundown café.  There was too much coffee & no one liked what was on the radio.  But those of us who are drawn to cafés, well.  We moved the crumbs of the half-eaten muffin around the dingy tablecloth & daydreamed about happier times.

Or at least that's how I imagined it; the show didn't air from a café at all!  It aired from 93.9 fm WLXU in Lexington but now you can listen to it any time you want at the Self Help Radio website.  A username & password is required; those are available on the web page.  However, should you wish to listen to the show among all other kinds of shows, you can find it also (for the next two weeks) at Radio Free America.  In any event, all the songs I played are listed below.

Has anyone seen the barista?

(part one)

"Sunset Cafe Stomp" Louis Armstrong's Hot Five _Hot Fives & Sevens, Vol. 1_
"In A Cafe On The Road To Calais" Noble Sissle & The Georgia Syncopators _Sidney Bechet 1923-1936_
"At The Cafe Rendezvous" Doris Day _Golden Girl (The Columbia Recordings 1944-1966)_

"Le Grand Café" Charles Trenet _The Extraordinary Garden: The Very Best Of Charles Trenet_
"Little Cafe Paree" Vic Damone _Little Cafe Paree_
"Smokey Joe's Cafe" The Robins _Atlantic Rhythm & Blues, 1947-1974_
"Cafe Bohemian" The Enchanters _Jungle Exotica_
"Couleur Café" Serge Gainsbourg _Couleur Café_

"Sittin' In An All Night Cafe" Warner Mack _The Bridge Washed Out_
"Old Home Filler-Up An' Keep On A-Truckin' Cafe" C.W. McCall _Best Of C.W. McCall_
"Dusty Café" Wylie & The Wild West Show _Ridin' The Hi-Line_
"Highway Cafe" Kinky Friedman _Old Testaments & New Revelations_
"North Memphis Cafe" George & Ethel McCoy _At Home With The Blues_

"In A Street Cafe" Lisa Linn with Bo Sylvén & His Orchestra _Scandinavian Souvenir_

(part two)

"Twilight Café" Susan Fassbender _Twilight Café_
"Kardomah Café" Cherry Boys _Scared To Get Happy (A Story Of Indie-Pop 1980-1989)_
"Paris Cafes" The Art Museums _Rough Frame_

"Midnight Bahnhof Cafe" Wire _Document & Eyewitness_
"Gustave Café" Bill Pritchard _Jolie_
"Cactus Land Cafe" The Pearly Gatecrashers _Age Of Innocence_

"Cafe Hong Kong" Future Bible Heroes _I'm Lonely (& I Love It)_
"Night Café" Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark _English Electric_
"Electric Cafe" Kraftwerk _Electric Cafe_
"Cafe Ole" Benny Hill _The Best Of Benny Hill_

"Highway Café Of The Damned" Austin Lounge Lizards _Highway Café Of The Damned_
"Montana Cafe" Neil Innes _The Innes Book Of Records_

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Whither Cafés?

(image from here)

Some cafés play radio stations, often quietly, for their patrons, especially when the employees are bored with the same CDs or tapes they've always played.  (My memories predate satellite radio streamed music.  Bear with me.)  There was a nice café - a coffeeshop, really - on Guadalupe Street in Austin, Texas, I used to frequent a lot back in the day.  It's not there anymore, but a version of it exists in Hyde Park, but, you know, it isn't the same.  I don't know how late the Guadalupe store stayed open, but someone who worked there once told me that they listened to my Monday night show at the café from time-to-time.  Which of course unnerved me.  Once, when I was with a friend, the fellow behind the counter - I don't think barista had become common parlance by then - said, "Are you Gary?"  He said it not like that was a good thing, but I went ahead & admitted I was.  It was too late for him to spit in the drink.

A few years back - or maybe just last year - it feels like a lifelong project - I gave up caffeine.  I was never much of a coffee drinker - I have an aversion to hot liquids - but the allure of the café beckons even now.  I remember sitting in the back of a café in college, trying to read but instead looking at women.  I remember staring out of a café window at a world either too hot or cold for me to abandon my muffin to re-enter.  Something about cafés is nice, you know?

So tonight there'll be a radio show about it!  It's on 93.9 fm in Lexington from 9-11pm Lexingtime (that's 8-10pm Texas time), & you can listen everywhere at the Lexington Community Radio web page, as long as you click "WLXU."

It'll be like having a coffee with me - I'll talk about & play music & won't hear a thing you say!

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Preface To Cafés: Accent Aigu

Here's something I probably knew before but wouldn't have known if you just asked me: in French, the accent aigu (the little accent mark that tilts up from the left) is only used on the letter e.  You'll see its opposite, the accent grave, on other vowels, including e, but the accent aigu is only used - in French, mind you - on the letter e.

Wow, I can hear you thinking to my face, what an unbelievably minor piece of trivia.  I agree - but it is something I would think I thought I knew.  In fact, if you had asked me about that diacritical mark, I would've spelled it accent ague, & lost the spelling bee again like I did in the fifth grade.

But you know why I'm thinking about it.  I'm wondering if it's more proper to spell this week's theme café or cafe.

The internet (& online dictionaries) say both are acceptable - & strangely without much fuss.  This discussion on wordreference dot com doesn't even end with someone being called a Nazi!  Etymologists are chumps.

For the purposes of this show, I've found also that songs about "cafes" (or "cafés") don't adhere to any set rule per genre or age of song.  While poking around for the origin of some song or other, I found it as both cafe & café.  Who knows what the composer intended?  Does it matter?

A search of local (for me, Fort Worth-area) cafes (or cafés) demonstrates a clear disinterest in the Frenchified version.  West Side Cafe, Twin Creeks Cafe (which is inside a Honda dealership), Press Cafe, Vickery Cafe, & Benbrook Cafe (to name a few) all happily avoid the accent aigu.  In fact, the only one I could find in the city that uses the accent is (of course) in an art museum.

One thing to note is that most of these places are eateries of a sort that the strict definition of the word "café" (or "cafe") doesn't support; the strict definition of café (or cafe) is much synonymous with "coffeehouse" than "restaurant."  So perhaps the losing of the accent mark is a deliberate gesture, a kind of offhanded rejection of the roots of the word, the European café?  I can't know & of course I am overthinking it.

What will Self Help Radio do?  When you see the playlist, you'll discover that I'll just go with whatever the tracklistings say.  But when I say the word, I am definitely saying it like this: café.

Monday, January 02, 2017

The Lake Across The House

So. Many. Ducks

This weekend the wife & I moved into our new house.  It is an old house, built in 1957, & we purchased it about a month after we moved back to Texas, but the wife wants the place where she lives to conform to specific needs she has for habitation, & I have no opinion either way & would sleep on a mattress on a dirt floor as long as I had wi-fi, so the new old house has been renovated, but even though there are many things that still need to be done, we moved in because we needed to be out of the rental house at the end of the year.  I will in fact be putting together this week's show in a room with a door I can close & I don't know why I haven't done this before.  Oh yeah, because I used to do Self Help Radio in a radio station.

What was I talking about?  Oh yeah, our new house.  It's across from a lake.  Well, sort of.  It's across from the side of the street which has houses which have a lake behind it.  The owners of one of the house came by & introduced himself yesterday, & he told us we could go back there to look at the lake & specifically the probably hundreds of water fowl that hang out there.  I took the picture above today & in fact there are many more ducks than that, those were just the ones who swam away when I walked up with four dogs & a human woman beside me, a frightening proposition in any case.

In fact I can see the lake between two houses from the window in which I am busy now editing interviews for Wednesday's show.  I wish I could live by the lake - the houses which face the lake in fact have large windows in the back to look at the lake by which they live.  I have to crane my head, squint my eyes, & catch far-away action between two houses; they look out their window & most probably take it for granted.

Oh, & someone owns the lake.  That feels weird, but as I've mentioned before, I find it strange that I own trees.  I own a house, I own the plot of land on which the house stands, & on that plot of land stands trees, which I therefore own QED.  But the fellow across the street from us, whom I've not met yet, owns the lake.  It is his lake.  That seems incorrect somehow.  But it's true.

Expect more lake pictures, especially on my Tumblr blog.  & maybe a show about ducks, maybe?  In the future?*  Guest-starring actual ducks?

(Daydreaming now.)

* All right, I've already done a show about ducks.  But I'd love to invite some ducks to program a show.  Maybe about lakes?**

** Damn it, I did a show about lakes last year!  Well, ducks will need to come up with something!

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year!

(This image found here.)

Happy new year!  As we begin another three-hundred-sixty-five days around the calendar, the poorly-paid employees of Self Help Radio once again present the show's Radio Resolutions, to give you an idea what to expect in 2017 from a radio show you've almost completely forgotten about.  As always, treat these resolutions with the same respect & determination as you do your own.

1) Animals will no longer be allowed to host or guest-host the program.  They know why.

2) That joke where the deejay pretends to be talking to someone else, even though he's all by himself playing records, you know the one?  He'll keep doing it, but he'll be more self-conscious about it than before.

3) Very loud reminders that "YOU CAN TURN IT OFF, YOU KNOW" placed as bumpers between songs.

4) A letter to the heirs & estate of Henry David Thoreau has been drafted & will be sent as soon as an envelope & stamp are found, we promise, this year.

5) The lunch week has been reassigned thus: Nachos Monday; Tempeh Tuesday; Wino Wednesday; Tofu Thursday; & Every-Man-&-Woman-For-Themselves-Buffet Friday.

6) A "Sigh Jar" & an "Eye-Roll Jar" have been added to the shelf with the "Um Jar" & the "Expletive Jar."

7) Prank-calling homeopaths, naturopaths, aromatherapists, & rolfers will no longer be allowed on company time, except during breaks.

8) You know those atomizer things that announcers in old movies would use to spray into their mouths to clear their throats or dry their saliva or whatever the hell they were for?  You know them?  We're totally going to get one of those.

9) Obscurity is the new obviousness.

10) It's probably too late to turn back now.

Get ready for 2017!  It may actually be exciting!