Thursday, August 17, 2017

Self Help Radio 081617: Machines

(Original image here.)

Ah, machines.  Whatever would we do without them?  Whatever did we do without them?!  We hung around the savannah, hoping not to get mauled & eaten, thinking perhaps that moving from the trees & standing up straight wasn't such a good idea after all.  Damn you, machines, for making life outside the trees possible!  Also, for radio.  Damn you for radio!  I might be doing something healthy now!

Ah, well.  What celebration of something isn't ambivalent?  So too it is with every Self Help Radio.  On this show, the unwieldy topic of machines gets a brief but loving examination, with songs about machines real & imaginary, as well as a discussion about a particular machine with the Rev. Dr. Howard Gently, about the end of machines with futurist David Fruchter, & with an actual machine, the doomed love machine Maxthrob 6969.  There's even a machine that guest deejays!  As a machine myself (see the Schoolhouse Rock song I play), I took extra care not to be too critical of machines.  But you know what?  Machines can take it.

Ah, me.  Listen to the Self Help Radio show about machines on the computer machine of your choice at the Self Help Radio machine shop.  You know you'll need a username (SHR) & a password (selfhelp), right?  I hope you know what those are.  The show is in two parts, & what songs & interviews are in the two parts are listed below.

Ah, machines!

(part one)

"Gene Machine" The Popguns _Sugar Kisses_
"Highly Dependable, Well Oiled, Smoothly Functioning Machine" Jamie & The Jury _Fundamental Notion_
"Time Machine" Starflyer 59 _The Changing Of The Guard_

"Rocket Machine" Opal _Happy Nightmare Baby_
"Circus Green Machine" Robert Pollard _Honey Locust Honk Tonk_
"Answering Machine" Todd Barry _Medium Energy_
"Answering Machine" Bruce McCulloch _Answering Machine & More Twisted Interludes_
"Saviour Machine" David Bowie _The Man Who Sold The World_

Interview with the Rev. Dr. Howard Gently

"Soft Machine" Drug Boyfriend _Soft Machine_
"Smash The Beauty Machine" Future Bible Heroes _Eternal Youth_
"Drum Machines Will Save Mankind" Mikrofisch _Masters Of The Universe_
"The Man Machine" Señor Coconut Y Su Conjunto _El Baile Alemán_

"Dream Machine" Gregory & The Hawk _Leche_
"Time Machine" Dante & The Evergreens _Dante & The Evergreens_

(part two)

"Sex Machine" The Flying Lizards _Top Ten_
"Death Machine" Suicide _American Supreme_
"My Little Machine" The Thermals _More Parts Per Million_

Interview with Maxthrob 6969

"Love Machine, Pt. 1" The Miracles _The Disco Years, Vol. 3: Boogie Fever_
"Lovin Machine" Wynonie Harris with The Todd Rhodes Orchestra _Best Of Burlesque_
"Love Machine" The Wedding Present _Mini Plus_
"Homework Machine" Shel Silverstein _The Best Of Shel Silverstein (His Words His Songs His Friends)_
"Body Machine" Bob Dorough & Jack Sheldon _Schoolhouse Rock: Science Rock_

Interview with futurist David Fruchter

"Bone Machine" The Pixies _Surfer Rosa_
"Tiny Machine" The Darling Buds _Crawdaddy_
"Slide Machine" The 13th Floor Elevators _Easter Everywhere_
"Simpler Machines" Shriekback _Life In The Loading Bay_

"Vending Machines" Allan Sherman _My Son The Box_
"Girl Machine" Donnie Brooks _Sway & Move With Donnie Brooks_

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Whither Machines?

(What does it do?  Maybe find out here.)

As is my fashion, I was rereading an old comic book from the 1970s a few weeks ago.  It's not one of my favorites, but the art was by one of my all-time favorite comics artists.  The comic was called "Machine Man."  The creator was Jack Kirby, & the first issue of the series came out in 1978.  Here's the front cover:

(found here)

I must've read the comic around the time it came out, back in 1978, or very soon after.  I read a shit-ton of comics when I was ten years old.  At the time, though I delighted in Kirby's style, & knew his name, I'm not entirely sure I would've sought after a comic just because Jack Kirby was involved.  I just liked the cool robot.

Turns out, another of my all-time favorite comics artists would also work on the series: the great Steve Ditko, who took over the art (but not the writing, which was done by Marv Wolfman - Kirby wrote & drew the first series) in issue # 10.  Here's the cover of that:

(found here)

(You can read the entire issue here, if you're so inclined, although it's fun to see Ditko's art in context no matter what.)

Anyway, I reread some issues, then scoured the web for info about the series, commentary from fellow nerds, trying to remember what made me like the series at the time, loving the art & being a kid again.  & so I began to think, Would machines be a good theme for Self Help Radio?

Of course, "machines" is a very general theme so I had to rein myself in somewhat, so I thought, looking over songs I might want to play, it would be easier if the songs were like, [insert a word] machine, like "time machine" or "answering machine" or "lie detector machine."  That's how I narrowed the search.  & still I had hundreds of machines to choose from!

Which ones made the cut?  You'll have to tune in to find out!  Self Help Radio is on from 8-10pm central, 9-11pm eastern on 93.9 fm WLXU in Lexington, Kentucky, & online all over the world (check your local listings) (no, don't, it won't be listed) at Lexington Community Radio online.  I hope you listen!  But if not, I'll save it on a machine somewhere.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Preface To Machines: My Favorite Machine

After ninth grade, a friend of mine, named Scott, left town (almost as soon as he arrived - he showed up in the middle of my eighth grade year).  He moved back to Illinois with his family.  I think the family came to Texas with his step-dad for work, but then his mother & step-dad split, & so, back home it was!  He was the first friend I ever made without my little brother - my little brother & I were pretty inseparable before then - & he was the first friend I made who had no interest in being friends with my little brother, which of course annoyed my little brother no end.

His leaving broke my heart.  The last phone call we had, we spoke very honestly about our lives.  We shared interests like comic books & Dungeons & Dragons, but we never really talked about our past. Are we allowed to rate phone calls?  That one was in my top ten.

In those days, phone calls were hella expensive & something about writing letters seemed...  Well, we must've written a few letters.  I remember I would send him comic books, although my mother told me it was too expensive after a while.  Anyway, at some point, someone told me - this would've been in 1984 - about something called bulletin boards.  For these you needed a computer.  & of course a modem.  Imagine!  Scott logged in, posted a message, or sent a private message, which I could get instantaneously. It was beyond imagining.

But.  My family was very poor, we could no more have afforded a computer than a mortgage - we were lucky we lived in apartments that weren't hovels.  No one really explained that to me, as no one really explained to me the value of money or the way money worked in the world, & so I harbored a great resentment about it.  Friends at school were able to use computers to talk to faraway buddies, & also they had word processors instead of crappy old typewriters.  Why couldn't I?

This isn't really about Scott, with whom I stay a little acquainted on Facebook these days.  (The damage of years apart means, alas, we'll never be friends like we were thirty-five years ago.)  It's about those computers.

Some ten years later, I worked in a language lab which played cassette tapes (recently upgraded from reel-to-reel tapes) for students studying this or that foreign tongue.  One person in the department - perhaps its only visionary - a fellow named Eric - somehow convinced the powers-that-be to turn the lab into (partially, at first) a computer lab.  It was equipped with Mac Quandras, & being in charage of the lab, I got one, too.  While I had previously used an old Mac SE to write papers on, & probably to play Solitaire on, I had never been connected to what I was told was called the internet.  It was late 1994.  Suddenly I was sending email, surfing the very limited web, & discovering Usenet.

It's very hard to believe it's over twenty years later, & the computer has been for almost all this time my favorite machine.  At one point I might've said it was the turntable.  But I spin tunes from my computer every day.  Maybe I might've said it was a car, but I travel farther & faster with little complication by pointing my browser someplace & clicking.  In 1994, I started deejaying, so maybe for a time the radio was my favorite machine.  But maybe more people listen online to any radio I do than capturing waves with a receiver.

Which is not to say, of course, that the computer is perfect.  But if I am honest with myself, I have to say that it's my favorite machine.  Except the living machines I have in my house with me.  But I suspect all this time we have been discussing human-made machines exclusively.  Weren't we?

Monday, August 14, 2017

That Baronet Went Extinct

Here are two things I learned today:

1) Baronets can go extinct.
2) "Intestacy" mean :the condition of the estate of a person who dies without having made a valid will or other binding declaration."

I mean, I know what "intestate" meant, but I had never heard the word "intestacy."  I shall endeavor to use it awkwardly in conversation all the rest of the month.

Also probably I could add:

3) I guess I didn't know what a Baronet was but now I do.

Baronets, you see, are whatever the least of the cream of the crop are, being "a member of the lowest hereditary titled British order, with the status of a commoner but able to use the prefix 'Sir.'"  Call a commoner Sir?  I'd rather put my rashers on my crumpets!

Please don't ask me why I found myself at this Wikipedia page (but if you guess it has something to do with the word Twizell you might be on to something), which contains this passage:

He (Sir Francis Blake, 3rd Baronet of Twizell Castle) married Jane, daughter of William Neale, in 1827 but had no legitimate children & the baronetcy became extinct on his death. His illegitimate son Frederick Blake (1835–1909) suffered severe sunstroke while serving as an army officer & was confined to a mental asylum in 1873. His father granted him a life interest in property at Seghill and also bequeathed Helen, the widow of his brother Robert Dudley Blake (1776–1860). Blake's principal beneficiary was Captain Francis Blake (1832–1861) whose son Francis Douglas Blake was created a baronet in his own right in 1907. The family repurchased Seghill Park from the Treasury Solicitor following the intestacy of Helen Blake.

So one baronet went extinct & another was created.  But how?  Awarded by the Crown, of course!  They let baronets die out because they can simply create them out of thin air.

Twizell Castle, by the way is in ruins now.  It was attempted to be renovated during Blake's father's life, but ended as a folly.

& look there!  Another word I didn't know!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Meet My Pets (Again) # 1: Beatrice

About five years ago, I used this blog to introduce my pets, of which I only had six at the time, so I thought it might be time to reintroduce you to them.  Here's what I said about Beatrice back then.  She was a wild kitten, & a mean, often stand-offish adult.  She's now seventeen years old, & more sweet than crotchety, though just to me - she doesn't really like anyone else.

She has a few places in the house she likes to be - one of them is under the kitchen table, where I took this picture.  Earlier today I saw the other three cats hanging out together on a pillow, but Beatrice never does that.  She's a lone wolf, er, tigress.  Though always happy to take some time out of her day to hang with me.  I love her so.