Thursday, September 28, 2006

Upcoming Show Ideas: Halloween!

Halloween approaches, with barely enough time to dig up the candy corn, which you use to keep away moths in your closet, to give to the unsuspecting kids who will never know nor experience the great Halloweens of our childhood, with the cool razors in the apples & the glass in the chocolate. Ah, Mr. Evans from down the way. How were we to know he was part of the team that invented LSD? He made our Halloweens truly a trick and a treat.

Too bad he had to die in prison.

Speaking of monsters, my Halloween show this year will be all about those lovable, misunderstood killing machines who range from the smallish - think Gremlins - to the famous human-sized-ish - think Frankenstein's monster - to the largish - think Mothra. In addition, I plan to play songs in which we describe others as "monsters," usually because they treat us mean. Like that woman you broke up with - she took your heart & threw it in the lake!

Ideally, I'd love songs about the crazy sort of monsters that Jack Kirby drew for Marvel Comics in the late 50s/early 60s. Like Gruto. Or Monstrollo. Or Fin Fang Foom. But chances are no musician is hip enough to write songs about those kinds of monsters.

(By the way, all those links above are from a very cool site called Monster Blog. I am in love.)

If you have idears for monster songs, do please start throwing them at me, either here on the blog, or mailing them to me. Halloween is about a month away! I want to be armed with all the coolest, deadliest, goofiest, stinkiest monsters I can find.

Thank you.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Whither Sleepy?

Why, in the name of all that's wakeful, would I want to do a show about being sleepy? (This is the sort of argument I have in my head all the time.) (I lose those arguments more than I win them.) (Which doesn't say a whole lot about my sense of self.) (I get a little carried away when I use parentheses for asides.) I mean, for Peter & Paul's sake, isn't my show on a Friday afternoon? Aren't people getting ready for a long, conscious, alert, drug-filled weekend? Why would anyone coming home from work after an exhausting week want to listen to songs about being sleepy?

Very good questions from my head. I have no very good answers. My show ideas come to me like spitballs from my enemies in 7th grade. (You guys know who you are.) I let them smack me in the head & sometimes they stick. A few weeks ago, while sitting at work & being astonishingly groggy for no good reason, I thought to myself, "What is this thing called tiredness? Do people really write songs about it?"

Sleepy can happen when you've just awoken or for a while before you go to sleep. But sleepy seems so innocuous compared to tired - tired is what you are after a long meeting, or after mowing your lawn, or after a conversation with your significant other about "where this relationship is going." Tired is sleepy times ten, & sometimes can't be helped with sleep. Sometimes a pint of whiskey will drive tired down to sleepy. But tired is nothing compared to exhausted.

Exhausted is one of those words that sounds like it feels. Exhaustion makes you thinks of the exhaust that comes out of tailpipes - you're so exhausted, you might have just been broken down to your component chemicals in a hot, nasty internal combustion engine & all that's left is the smokey, polluting haze of what you once were. Exhaustion isn't cured by sleep, but by your body completely, utterly shutting itself down. Exhaustion makes you put yourself into a coma. Hell, when I'm exhausted, tired seems like a vacation in San Francisco.

Of course, there's good exhaustion, when you choose to push yourself to your limit, or when you're having too good a time dancing to care about your fuel gauge. But even then - exhaustion > tired > sleepy (the > means "greater than" here, you algebra dropout), with each "greater than" an exponential factor rather than a geometric gradient.

Don't those words just make you want to nap? Sleepy, tired, exhausted. Whew.

I can promise you, however, that Friday's show will be full of information & energy, not a show celebrating the state of sleepiness but a wide-awake examination from an afternoon point of view. So don't be afraid my show will put you to sleep - any more than normal, that is - but instead tune in to find out, musically & in my airbreaks, what this sleepy feeling is all about. Hopefully it'll give you a virtual rest so you'll be able to stay up later for the weekend.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Preface to Sleepy: Am I Boring You?

We spend our days, for whatever reason, in a perpetual state between moderate alertness (you never know when the boss is going to be coming around the corner) & a half-doze. I myself am tired more often than not, & am usually only not tired when I am distracted. Why is that? Are we not engaged enough in our jobs, our lives? Do we simply not get enough sleep? & what is enough sleep? Is there too much sleep? Does that make us sleepy?

Sleepy as a physical condition was first identified by the great Egyptian/Greek scholar Lethargicos after what many archaeologists consider the first sleep study (& what many naughty sociologists consider the first sleep over) during "scroll rebinding night" at the great Library of Alexandria in the second century AD. Or CE. Whatever. While spending a long day dusting & tightly wrapping the library's immense collection of scrolls, Lethargicos noticed that many of the volunteers for the project yawned, nodded off, chewed an extraordinary amount of betel leaves, &, on one interesting occasion, one particular volunteer, who was covering his eyes while closely examining one apparently engaging papyrus scroll, actually fell face-first into the pages, smearing drool everywhere.

Lethargicos decided to try to quantify his observations by keeping the workers around as long as possible, thereby beginning the long-standing social scientist tradition of ordering out for pizza to prolong a study. He asked increasingly surreptitious questions about the mental state of his subjects, from the obvious "Did you get enough sleep last night?" & "Are you simply bored by this?" to such trickery as "Do you think adding more ostrich feathers to my bed will make it softer & comfier?" & stretching his arms out & emitting a long, drawn-out, overwrought yawn.

Though his landmark study, "Oh My Drowsy Colleagues" was lost in the great fire that destroyed the library some centuries later, his work was carried on by the Arabic scholar Hassin Al-Somnol, who was the first scientist to categorize the seventeen stages from wakefulness to sleep. As children, we learned them by heart in elementary school, but it surprises many westerners that they weren't, after all, invented by the British in the 18th century as crucial elements of the new "novel" form, but instead the result of a lifetime of scientific rigor & toil by Al-Somnol & his team at the Moroccan Sleep Number Center. Al-Somnol could be a stern taskmaster, especially when a subject fell asleep too quickly, without properly noting the stages; testees who failed to follow protocol were often engaged in what sociologists now call "pillow fights."

His landmark work, "Sleepiness & The Modern Moor," found its way to Medieval Europe & was Christianized so as not to draw attention to it. Despite references to it in Dante, Boccaccio, Chaucer, Cervantes & the forgotten Scottish poet Fred Hirmsch, it took several centuries (& a bitter dispute between Isaac Newton & Samuel Pepys) to thrust it into the English limelight. British people found themselves utterly exhausted by all the annoying posturing going around, & it became amusing to refer to royals, politicians & military men by the level of tiredness they aroused in the populace. Thus, though he thought it a worthy epithet, "Stupefying" John Locke was actually being made fun of by the people of England.

In our modern world, computers enable us to monitor our state of sleepiness, usually with downloaded porn &/or annoying screen savers. Yet many researchers think that the human being's ability to function in a kind of zombie-like state between actual repose & willful alertness remains a mystery, & studies are planned well into the 21st century, much of it involving television & recordings by Yanni. So the questions asked at the beginning of this essay are certainly as fresh & unanswered as they were to the ancients.

Perhaps this Friday, you can find illumination on Self Help Radio.

& if you're interested, last Friday's show is now available to listen to at the Self Help Radio web site.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Yellow Haiku Wrap-Up

I just got a strange email from a strange young lady who (not so strangely) likes Self Help Radio, & in particular has a fondness for the haiku. In case you haven't heard the show (& if so, why are you reading this?) (not to be a freak about it or anything), I read listener-submitted haikus at the end of each show, & there's more info about the haiku submission process over on

This email I just received, though, basically said this (I shall paraphrase): You just started doing this blog, dude, so why don't post haiku there? Sometimes you read them too fast! Sometimes I'm like late & miss a couple! Take advantage of the web, man. Post haiku!

So I shall. However, I won't post the writers' full names, as I do on the air, just because. If they want to google themselves, they need to do what I do: make my own web pages.

So, without any further folderol, are the winners of last Friday's Self Help Radio Yellow Haiku contest. I print them from the fourth place winner, up, although I got a last minute haiku right before the contest, so I gave it an Honorable Mention. It comes first:

Honorable Mention: David's haiku

Cowardly faded
The color of piss & pus
It's my favorite

Now, the winners:


Hey! I ain’t yella!
I could beat up all o’ y’all!
I just ain’t gonna.


Jaundice is my skin
Wet yellow are my sclera
Hepatitis B


I will fall in love
With she whose eyes are yellow
As Data’s eyes are


Yellow helps me breathe
& to photosynthesize
I’m a sunflower.

I'll try to make this a regular feature on this blog, if I can remember & when I'm not ashamed of your haiku submissions.