Thursday, November 16, 2006

I Am Still Answering Your Letters!

It's Thursday - the day before my show - & so, I am answering your letters yet again. Please remember that I am an open sort of fellow who is never offended by free inquiry unless it's about my body, of which I am ashamed. So feel free to send me an email, & my address is slug at mail dot utexas dot edu.

Today's letter is from Tony, who writes me in all small letters:

i am not familiar with your show but i have a question for you. this is writing because of serious issues with the teaching of socalled science in the classroom. do you or have you ever think that it's good idea to tell lies to your children with the goverment money? if you have time to discuss this on your show i am available at the following times at the numbers below. i have spent many years researching this very issue of social import and would gladly discuss it on your show with you. thank you.

Tony will not be on my show tomorrow, alas, because his email does contain a hint of trouble, if not an entire spray can of trouble about to be opened upon the children of America like so much processed cheese spread.

Damn right, Tony, I have an issue with the teaching of socalled science in the classroom. My friend, I have a problem with the teaching of anything of the socalled variety, be it socalled math, socalled history, & especially socalled home economics, which (I have found) is neither economical nor homely.

Your concern heartens me, mainly because I see just the opposite of what you say each & every day - everyone is more concerned with that which is socalled, rather than that which is. We go to socalled work, we eat socalled lunch, we read the socalled newspaper, we make love to our socalled spouses (unless we're socalled gay, in which case we can't make love to our socalled spouses because it would destroy the institution of socalled marriage). It scares me, you know, that these things we do are socalled, but who exactly is calling them so? Is it me? Is it you?

Do write me back & we'll see about having you on the show. Or maybe we can just schedule you to be on socalled Self Help Radio, & at this point we'll have vanished into socalled irony & so be available for download on the socalled internet. There! That was easy! Thank you, Tony.

Keep those letters coming! I may even answer them!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Whither Trouble?

I have a friend, who's really not much of a friend, because this friend's kind of a critic, but not a critic in the good way, you know, nothing constructive, just a lot of sniping & grumbling, usually beginning with comments about how fat I sound on the air, & getting more personal & irrelevant as time goes by, but occasionally, when I am least expecting it, this friend'll say something that is mean & lowdown & cutting, but it turns out to be something quite apt. So this friend said to me, today, when asking me what my show's theme would be this week, & I answered, "Trouble," my friend said, "Aw, man, that's a gimme ain't it?"

What my friend meant, of course, was that it was an "easy" theme. There are bound to be millions of songs with the word "trouble" in the title, even if they don't mention trouble or talk about particular kinds of trouble. The Allmusic Guide lists 524 songs called "Trouble," & even if a lot of them are covers or repeated versions, that's surely at the most conservative fifty (50!) songs called "Trouble." There are hundreds of other songs with "trouble" in them, songs with names like "Boy Trouble," "Car Trouble," "Testicle Trouble" & "The Trouble With Tribbles." & this doesn't count songs about trouble in which "trouble" is not mentioned in the title.

My friend expected me to defend it with something like, "Au contraire, ass pirate, I picked this theme because of a particular meaning of the word 'trouble' as it applied to a recent experience of mine of great import, like quitting smoking or being beat up by the checkout person at the CVS pharmacy because I accidentally called it an Eckerd's." This friend, so used to my thin skin & my irritability to the typical lame-ass poking & prodding, expected me to bust out the etymology of the word or some alternate meaning that only I & a few other weenies who like that sort of thing would know. My friend wanted me to disagree on the more fundamental of levels, angrily, vehemently, an argument worthy of Plato or, if my friend were completely baked (as is usual), some second-generation Tarantino dialogue.

Instead, I agreed. What else could I say? I chose "trouble" as a theme precisely because it'd be simple to find songs to fit. I mean, my previous show was songs about staring. That was fucking hard. Sometimes I need a gimme. You know?

Of course, that meant that I did have to stumble through some five hours of music this weekend, & more still today. So it wasn't nearly as easy as I'd hoped, which turns out to always be the case with "easy" themes. A show about the sun will always have more songs than a show about Alpha Centauri, but you still have to listen to a million songs about the sun before you find the perfect ninety minutes.

Tune in Friday - I'll have ninety perfect minutes of trouble. It's not quite the gimme my friend thought it would be, but it'll be good nonetheless.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Preface To Trouble: I Didn't See Nothin' Officer

This week, Self Help Radio is in trouble. Or is it that trouble is on the radio? I am sitting here talking to one of the students who works for me about Henry David Thoreau, while I am writing this, so instead of writing stuff & nonsense, I think I'll try to write down some of my favorite Thoreau quotes. Like this one:

I love a broad margin to my life.

But having said that, Thoreau had his own fair share of trouble in his life. First of all, he was apparently an ugly cuss. As Nathanial Hawthorne noted:

He is as ugly as sin, long-nosed, queer-mouthed, and with uncouth and rustic, though courteous manners, corresponding very well with such an exterior.

His brother, who was also a friends, died of tetanus when they were both young men. He also spent time in jail (famously). Some might say that these troubles helped him become a better person, but then you might start sounding like some kind of creepy spiritual person who believes that suffering increases one's character. Or, as Batman once said famously:

Hunger is good for the soul.

None of this, perhaps, has anything to do with trouble, nor with why I want to do a show about trouble. Perhaps I am attracted to the negative in this world, & perhaps I like to spook the superstitious with shows that they may see as lightning rods for unhappiness. Maybe one day I'll rate my show themes & find out if there are more "minuses" than "plusses." But tomorrow I'll tell you what troubled me so that I will make a show about trouble.

Meanwhile, you can go here to listen to last Friday's show.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Staring Haiku Wrap-Up

It was uncomfortable on Self Help Radio last Friday, seeing as everyone's eyes were on me. I just couldn't help feeling exposed & scrutinized. Luckily, others felt the same - & shared their haikus with us. Here are the winners.


Cable news networks
Bloated, ego-filled train wrecks
Can’t avert my eyes!


Don’t stare at the sun!
It’ll burn your retinas!
Look at me instead!


Though he can’t see me
Behind the two-way mirror
I still feel his gaze


Listen, friend Blinky
You can watch me all you want
But you cannot touch

This week's show is all about trouble, & you might be in trouble if you don't write a haiku for the trouble show. So do it now.