Saturday, August 08, 2020

Preface To Zebras: Zowie!

 If you're anything like me, you're a hopelessly insecure fifty-two-year-old man who is on the radio but can't seem to do that very well.  You also grew up reading comic books & that's probably where you first heard the word "zowie."  Is "zowie" really a word?

An online dictionary I checked says it is, & defines it as an interjection, which is "used to express keen pleasure, astonishment, approval, etc."

One of my favorite sites, the Online Etymological Dictionary, notes that it's an "expression of astonishment" & dates from around the year 1913, but has no other information about its origins.

Most probably it came about because we humans love to rhyme words for emphasis.  You can find many examples - hoity toity, helter skelter, golly wolly, holy moley.  The standard English injection for amazement is "wow!"  & for extra amazement, we might stretch it out, saying, "Wow-wee!"  Add a little rhyme, you can get "wowie zowie!"  Eventually "zowie" itself branched off - apparently around a hundred years ago - & became its own interjection.

& good for it!  The life of an interjection is hard.  Some interjections - like "wow" - choose to play clean, but as time goes by, we have more & more profane interjections, you know the ones I'm talking about: the so-called f-bomb or s-bomb.  An expression like "wow" can hardly compete, even if it decides to become a "wow-ie."  But you want something novel? almost poetic? maybe slightly European?  I give you "zowie."

Please note it does not rhyme with David Bowie; it doesn't even rhyme with Jim Bowie!  I have recently been informed that there is a New Zealand pop star called Zowie, but since her real name is Zoe Fluery, I am going to assume that it rhymes with "Zoe" & is therefore not really related to the interjection "wowie."  & anyway, it's going to sound weird in that Kiwi accent no matter what.

Why do I think I first heard (or more probably saw) the word in comic books?  Look at this:

(image from here)

It's true!  The word is often associated with Batman, said often by his sidekick Robin, & probably was uttered a lot during the 1960s television show.

Does this have anything to do with zebras?  Maybe.  I've never heard a zebra say, "Zowie!"  Have you?  Frankly I've never heard a zebra say anything.  So I'm going to say, reservedly, "In private, zebras say 'zowie' as a statement of astonishment more often than you think."

Zowie!  Imagine if that's true!

Friday, August 07, 2020


You're asking me what rhymes with zoned?  It's your poem!  What have you written - caravel?  No, that reminds with caramel.  If you have caramel on a caravel, be careful!  The boats were swift but the sea was cruel.

Come on, you can think of something that rhymes with zoned!  Let's see - ambush?  Not even close!  But I will point out that "ham-crush" doesn't quite rhyme with ambush, although perhaps it's okay because it looks like it rhymes.  Let's consult the Big Book Of Poetry Rules!

Uh oh!  We misplaced it again!

Why are you having such a hard time thinking of something that rhymes with zoned?  What did you just say?  "Stoked"?  That's a little closer, because of assonance - the "o" sound is the same.  But would it be enough to fool your sophomore poetry teacher?  No, it would not!  She was a hard-ass!

Seriously, I love you but you really need to come up with a decent rhyme for "zoned."  It's really not that hard, it's not like orange or purple or... What did you write?  "Sesquicentennial"?!?!  Are you out of your mind?  How could that ever in a million years in a million languages on a million different planets rhyme with "zoned"?

You're fucking with me, aren't you?

What - you've finished your couplet?  Let me see.  Hm.  I think that's fine.  Let's go get something to eat now, shall we?

No, leave your couplet behind.  I'll just put it here.  Where it'll bother no one.  It certainly caused some consternation didn't it!

Inside the industrial park, newly zoned
She had honestly never felt more aloned.

Thursday, August 06, 2020


In preparation for the longest voyage of my life, I brought with me this diary in which I imagined I would record all my thoughts & dreams & observations as I watched the world pass by.  I had been warned that a bumpy carriage would not be ideal for continuous writing but I did suspect I'd get used to it at some point & perhaps even develop a kind of shorthand for common sights which would come in handy on particularly treacherous roads.  Surrounded as I would be by dear Mother, who was perhaps too unwell to take this journey, & by my darling sister Carolyn, whom I couldn't imagine sitting still for the days & maybe weeks we'd be traveling, & also by our faithful Jerves, without whom we almost certainly couldn't feed ourselves, I truly thought my mind would need the distraction of putting pen to shaking paper, not just for my sanity but also to aid my memories once I was too old to vividly recall my youth.

It was all for naught, of course, thanks to the untimely intervention of Zilch, the talking banana.

Have you ever in your wildest dreams imagined a banana could talk?  Of course not!  The common banana has no mouth, no face, no larynx or lungs to push air out to make sounds.  & yet, as the carriage drove straight & slow down one monotonous road after another, I found this banana - who told me its name was Zilch - talking to me.

Afraid I was quite losing my mind, I asked dear Mother if she too could hear the fruit speaking.  She said of course she could.  & my darling sister Carolyn?  Yes, she had already met Zilch.  Faithful Jerves?  What about you?  He had expressed some doubts that it had actually formed words, but now that we had all agreed it had, yes, he had taken notice of the unusual situation.

Which of course begged the question: why was the banana talking to me?  The truth is, we had hardly even seen a banana before.  It may have been at the Davenports when their son Richard returned from a naval tour.  A banana was quite the novelty.  There was something else: I was quite certain we hadn't packed a banana.  I even asked faithful Jerves if he had packed a banana, & he told me he assuredly did not.

Needless to say I had very little time to write during that journey as Zilch almost literally talked my ears off.  For such a small thing, it had a lot to say.  It fancied itself well-read, & quoted a phenomenal amount of literature, all of which I had never heard of.  The Papaya Debacle, for example, a rousing tale by the eminent writer Freenick Zolph.  Or the set of witty poems by the estimable Princess Yardbo Zull, many of which Zilch knew by heart.  & not just literature - no, I heard many extracts from the great Yogot Beelee Chronicles, which dispassionately told the story of the continent from which Zilch & its kind came.  I wished I had been an historian of some kind, to capture some of these facts which were hitherto hidden from our own scholars.

Alas, I had reason to believe Zilch may have been fabricating many of these stories.  I shan't accuse it of outright lies!  But it was a young banana, it spoke broken-heartedly of being separated by its bunch, its large family transported across the sea to be torn apart & consumed by humans.  This was a theme it returned to again & again, often getting angry if it had shared a little wine with me - I would let it soak a bit if it seemed parched - & though I didn't fear it, it often muttered words of malice, spoke of revenge, & even shouted once - not at me - but at dear Mother!

But before the journey ended, Zilch ripened, blackened, & died.  So many questions remained after its demise.  These are questions I hoped to ask other bananas I might meet in my journeys, but fate & circumstances conspired to keep that fruit from me for most of my life.  Certainly since Zilch, I haven't seen nor heard from a banana.  & after dear Mother died in the suicide-pact she formed with faithful Jerves, my grief prevented me from even remembering Zilch for many years.

It was a chance encounter with a plantain named Ziggy that brought these memories to the fore.  But that tale, surely, is for another time.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Self Help Radio 080320: Flight

(Original image here.  For some reason.)

This morning - I'd like to tell you - the radio show called Self Help Radio took flight!  It took it & frankly it took it too far.  Why does it feel the need to take a very nice topic like "flight" & beat it to death?  I'd suggest it has a problem.

Never-the-less, that show - which many would say never really got off the ground - has landed & has been taxied back to the hangar at the website Self Help Radio dot net.  Some say it's gone there for repairs & for refueling.  Others say it simply sits there most of the week & licks its wounds.  Still others say, "What exactly are you talking about? A self-help radio show?  What?"

But can't a show at least dream of flying?  Can a show dream at all?  Why are we placing restrictions on dreams all of a sudden?  This supposition has taken a very dark turn.  If Self Help Radio wants to doze & speed into the air like the radio waves that carry it, who are you to be so freakin' literal to tell it it can't?  Oh my gosh!  What happened to you?

Anyway, show at website.  Username: SHR.  Password: selfhelp.  Two hours, many songs, a few interviews.  Details below.

It's like I don't even know who you are any more.

Self Help Radio Flight Show
"Flight" A Certain Ratio _Early_
"Flight" Tanya Tagaq _Animism_
"The Flight" The Hellers _Singers... Talkers... Players... Swingers... & Doers_

introduction & definitions

"Flight 101" Etta James _Queen Of Soul_
"The Golden Age Of Aviation" The Lucksmiths _Staring At The Sky_
"Airline Announcements (Part One)" George Carlin _Jammin' In New York_
"Once Upon A Flight" Os Mutantes _Fool Metal Jack_
"This Flight Tonight" Joni Mitchell _Blue_

interview with the Rev Dr Howard Gently

"Fight Or Flight" Stereophonics _Keep The Village Alive_
"Non-Stop Flight" Spanky Wilson _Speciality Of The House_
"Airline Announcements (Part Two)" George Carlin _Jammin' In New York_
"The Flight Of The Wild Geese" Joan Armatrading _Love & Affection: Joan Armatrading Classics (1975-1983)_
"Flight Tonight" The Avalanches _Since I Left You_

interview with flight instructor Simon Armstrong

"Nite Flights" The Walker Brothers _Nite Flights_
"Flight Reaction" Calico Wall _Pebbles Volume 3 "The Acid Gallery"_
"Airline Announcements (Part Three)" George Carlin _Jammin' In New York_
"On The Love Flight" Lee Shot Williams _She Made A Freak Out Of Me_ (Ecko Records, 2000)
"Orly Flight" Nico _Drama Of Exile_ (Cleopatra, 1993)

interview with anthropologist Dr Madeline Munch

"Flight 13" The Dearly Beloved _Let's Talk About Girls! Music From Tucson 1965-1968_
"Flight Path" The Apple Pie Motherhood Band _Long Live Apple Pie_
"A Flight" Sheer Agony _Masterpiece_
"Final Flight" Melbourne Cans _Moonlight Malaise_

conclusion & goodbye

"Flight IC408" State Of Bengal _Talvin Singh Presents Anokha (Soundz Of The Asian Underground)_

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Whither Flight?

(Image from here.)

Human beings can fly.  You have always known that.  You have always felt that you could fly.  You like to be high up in buildings.  You want to climb to the very tops of trees.  You go to the amusement parks & ride the rides which take you to where birds swoop & whirl.  It's not merely flight envy.  It's a kind of genetic memory: you remember that you can fly.

So why don't you fly?  Why do you fly only in dreams, or in airplanes, or (if you can) in gliders or helicopters?  Why don't you simply lift yourself off the ground & take your rightful place in the heavens?  Sleeping on a cloud, racing a sunbeam, avoiding the rain by climbing above it - these are all things you could be doing this very moment.  Why aren't you?

Have human beings forgotten how to fly?  Has gravity somehow betrayed us?  Have we let something as old as fear diminish the inborn desire to soar through the skies?

You may find answers on this week's episode of Self Help Radio, which airs from 8 to 10am Monday morning (that's tomorrow) on 90.3 & 98.3 fm Freeform Portland, online at Freeform Portland dot org.

Yes, there may be answers there.  But.  Maybe not.