*Ezra Klein Show, Sept 4th, with Chris Bailey. www.vox.com/ezra-klein-show-podcast
The Project to Document Every Damn Thing: T-Shirts of My Life brings you a shirt from grade two.
I signed up to play softball because my little friends had. They knew how to play. I had absolutely no idea. My family didn’t watch sports. The coach - an old school bully - sussed out my inabilities fast, and gave me a token position - substitute right field. Mostly I sat on the bench.
I played one game. I still understood nothing about how the game was played. I sat and watched from the bench the whole ga - nope! At some sudden moment, the coach, angry at the seven year old third baseman for something, cursed and yelled at me to take his place! I did! A kid got a hit, and the ball was thrown to me! I caught it! I touched the base with my foot like a pro! - and watched, uncomprehending, as he ran by me and towards home plate. The whole team screamed at me: Throw the ball! Throw the fucking ball! And I did, but not successfully.
On the bench Bryan yelled at me to explain that you had to tag the guy AND touch the base.
Because I had been put on base, I learned, I had to be put up to bat. Nervous as heck, I took my place at bat. I swung at the first pitch, and CRACK! hit it hard. I dropped my bat and started running, but learned I had hit it directly to the first base person’s glove. I was out.
I was sad after. Naturally. My Dad, who had been there and had watched, didn’t say anything - not unusual. Partway home, he pulled into the parking lot of JC Penney's, and said “Wait here.” He returned, and handed me a brand new baseball. It’s a weird moment to retell, but I remember it fondly. I never played another organized sport. But I kept the shirt for 40 years.
Found in the filing cabinet. Circa 1999, done in a staff meeting. I have always found the Micronauts hilarious. I was then playing at drawing all people as Fisher Price people (below). I haven't gone much further, actually.
The first of many, I'm guessing.
The autogenerated response uses Doug's old "clever trick" of increasing font sizes so that a one-page report "can only have, like, twenty words, dude!" "Huh Huh, geeenius!"
A comment or two about the NYC Female, Feminist Pig, and some autobiographical stuff, and some stuff about music in 1991, and a starter list for aspiring not-assholes. Typical Mister Jep bullshit. ;)Read More
I have grand plans to create a podcast about music (and me, everything is now part of my plan to document Every Damn Thing in my life), and the first episode is meant to be about the Monkey Power Trio. They're a very special band to me, and they should be more widely known. In 1995, they released their first 45, The First Hour. It was a six song document of "whatever happened that day", and it contained a very dangerous hidden track (metaphorically speaking): a VOW.
The vow was to stay a band forever, but only one day a year. MPT will record and release a record of some kind each year - until they're all dead. They've been at it now for 23 years, and if they're a few years behind in releasing the actual documents, I'm not judging - I can't even start a podcast. I'm keeping lots of notes, and hope to eventually do it. But I bite off way more than I can chew, most of the time.
Not these guys. They bit off only a little too much - they can still chew. This year's release contains two sessions, from 2014 and 2015, on a ten-inch record called The Ballad of Christian Woodcock. And as usual with an MPT record, it contains some real nonsense, some moments of musical inspiration, and some genuinely hilarious shit. The band do not practice or write in between sessions (it's an achievable vow, unlike Sufjan's unfulfilled promise to make records about every State), and of course you can tell. They're not geniuses. They're just school friends who found a compelling artistic project that would keep them in touch, which I find amazing and wonderful. I couldn't find 5 people from school to hang with in an emergency, nor could I pull together any collaborators on any long-term projects. This project is a thing of beauty, and the fact that they're funny guys puts a bell on it.
I've been listening since 2000, and am used to the way things break down on a typical MPT record, but I don't know who does what. I shall have to imagine. Which member writes the ragers? Mark? Dave? Four? They're usually my favourite songs - someone in this band can really yell. He's previously yelled things about being a pussy ("I Run From Fights"), or drinking gin ("Gallon of Gin"), or Fatty Arbuckle's rim job skills (look it up). This time he's yelling "I'm underwater! And I want to stay! My lungs are full and I like it that way!" which I find inspired and inspiring. ("Bottom of the Lake"). This member is all Ego (the Freudian kind), and probably the engine, but who knows. I do not. He has a different hairstyle every year, I imagine.
Somebody in the band writes songs like movies - previously, about cop-buddies Fuzzy and Jenkins, for example - and this time they hand in "Gordon Muir, Time Traveller." I picture this Monkey Power Member as bespectacled, besweatered, bemused (stop it). He may have written "The Land of MPT" (video below). This may be the same person who plays the recorder, which is always in the mix somewhere. He may keep it in a knitted tube.
There's also a sax player, intermittently. This member loves Half Japanese, I think, and could be the mind behind the dry-wit numbers (historically, "Butt Science", or "When I Save Time, I Save Money"). This time they bring "Hello Cleveland". This member is sentimental and answers fan mail, I bet.
I assume the guy named Deadhand Dan plays the guitar, just cuz of his name. He gets an autobiographical song in this batch, and guess what? When he's not in MPT, he spends 364 days a year in charge of the Mutually Assured Destruction nuclear situation. This is what a close reading of lyrics and liner notes can get you. Get digging! ("Deadhand Button")
I wonder about the feelings of whoever does the drumming on these songs; of all of the instruments, really, the drummer is the one who must practice, and I don't think they really do. But that's part of the thing - floundering beats happen often on MPT jams. Imagine my (and his?) surprise that THIS time, the band seems to have employed a drum machine (or app on a phone, or something). Was it contentious? Or was it his idea? In any case, it makes for a regular beat. With the madness of this band, that is helpful.
To be clear, I'm not blaming the drummer for all of the rhythmic inconsistencies. (I'm not "blaming" anyone, just describing.) On some tracks, it's obvious that the players can't all hear each other (Gordon Muir!); at other times, a song could clearly be nailed if they had, say, three days to make the record instead of one. This is a feature, inherent to the vow. I'm always, always impressed by how many good ideas these guys bring to each record, and the wincing doesn't ruin it. There's something exceptionally brave about this whole thing. Back to the record:
"Black Wig", another yeller, is a good take on Bone-Machine-era Tom Waits. "Under the River" is a very nice Neil Young song, all jammy and minor key, with a less ominous story: little kids play on the shore. The guy from "Bottom of the Lake" may be nearby. It's one of three songs that feature a rap-break-bridge, by the way, and those are both awkward and great.
I really like this record. MPT have on- and off-years, as you can imagine, and this is an On Record. It doesn't matter to my fandom, I am in for as long as they are, but I can imagine how fun it must have been to play and release The Ballad of Christian Woodcock, and I am envious.
Do yourself a favour and go check them out - their website has MP3s of all of their music, as well as evidence of their occasional flirtations with being appreciated: a play and discussion by John Peel (!), a clip in a Fox Sports commercial, and a FOUR HOUR show from 2008 on KFJC. (There's even a dead link to the one attempt I did make, back in 2008, at doing a podcast. One episode, and of course it was all about MPT.) I can't imagine anyone, after checking them out, not falling in love. I look forward to the 40th year of the band and hope to have my brand new podcast ready for it so I can finally interview them and find out which one likes jellybeans.
Just found a very thoughtful review of my work at High-Low by Rob Clough. The guy's got my number, and it is extremely gratifying to be read closely. My tank is refilled for another chunk of time. It's a small little tank. :)
The philosopher Ice-T once said: "If god had wanted us to vote, he would've given us candidates." I'm not saying he made it up, but that's where I heard it.
A couple of days ago, I read a T-Star piece called "How the Tories’ move to shrink Toronto council could be turned on its head". It cheered me up a lot - Dofo's profound shit-headedness was bumming me out, and I couldn't spend any time thinking about it. But this idea - of decentralizing, of local-local government - has been popping up this year, and I am very attracted to it. I could get behind that. I would even go to meetings.
Today, Lanrick Bennett knocked on my door. I only opened it to tell whoever it was to go away, but when he said he was running for City Council, I invited him in. I apologized for not having a shirt on - it's 31 degrees today and my whole brain is hot. I gave him a glass of water, and asked him what he stood for, and now I am excited.
He believes in term limits. He believes politics should be an action and not a career, and he believes in Ranked Ballots. He wants to be proactive (!). He's an environmentalist, and wants to communicate, and is into Libraries and digs the East side. I really liked him.
I told him I was tired of Paula Fletcher. I'm tired of all the careerists. I have been occasionally happy with her - she was responsive and helpful about an issue I was having at Cherry Beach (I'll tell that story sometime). But she took a chickenshit stance on ranked ballots, leaving the room for the vote, probably because she's an incumbent who benefits from inertia, and I can't back that. I'm grateful to politicians who serve, but I'm not interested in lifers. Sorry.
I'll be following this guy. I'll probably be voting for him. I may get involved. Nice to feel hopeful.
Found THIS too - I have to look around more. It must be from around my despairing Fights comics, last summer? You can tell, because it bored ME enough that I didn't post it. It's from just Before I wrote Elizabeth. Anyway - I read some bad things about Elon today and thought the coincidence was worth... zzzzzzzzz
OH- the monkey is Lynda Barry's. I love Lynda Barry.
from around 2010.
I'm battling jealousy, after seeing this news story over and over: guy falls in tracks, people help. Heroes. When I saved someone in the subway, nobody said SHIT. Hoping to restore my equilibrium, I share the story again. (This comic is from 2010.)
Also found while scouring around - this is not mine, and it is incredible. Seanbaby has collected all of those crazy Hostess Ding Dong comics, at one spot, with a 1999 design. Dig around the site for more: racist ads, insane comics, and crazy old shit.
Found this while I was scouring around in old files. In and around 1995, I drew a series of comics about the further adventures of Piglet. He was always mad because of all the attention Pooh got so effortlessly. Most of these comics were done on little notepads, in pen, and handed to friends at work, taped to a wall, or tossed. I brought old Piglit out for one adventure of The Little Dead Kid, about ten years later. See that here if you care so much.
Vandalism works. This piece of rubble has to be at least a bit old to have become part of the shoreline, but most of old mister WALTER's name is still there for the cormorants and ducks to read. If you want to be remembered, carve your name in some stone.
I wrote this thing - this Fireworks giant png file - after my lovely, hard-working first car, which I bought when I was 30 for 1600 dollars. It's a long time since I saw it. Write your journal online, I recommend it.
It's been more like a month, actually.
I did not know who Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade were before this week, but they're kin to me now. Vic Chesnutt described himself as a suicide long before he did it, and I was struck by the comfort it gave me to privately call myself the same thing. Always nice to have a name for a thing. I'm not a likely candidate, having the amazing life I have, but I have understood the impulse forever, and have an unhelpful homunculus who suggests it regularly. I never exclaim "Why?!": I know.
People are wondering, wondering, with each death, and this article really has the answer (thanks to the Info Pusher for sharing). Things are shitty. Depending on where you're looking, and who's around you, it can be unbearable. Why lie about that? I don't believe we can change it until we admit it. Consumerism, unbridled greed, passive overstimulation, the murder of the environment, the decimation of war, radical individualism - these are shit. They kill people's souls - why wouldn't they kill people?
I'm not pretending to know why these two people became suicides. I'm not even interested. I didn't read the details on that dude in the States who lit himself on fire in a park... I just see the headline and go, Yep, I get it. I'm interested in the general idea, and the general reasons, and in joining honest conversations.
I imagine dinners, shared, being the solution. I suspect that admitting and discussing our need for love, our need for company, will help us. That talking about how things are - rather than overdosing on shitty news, all alone with our phones - will be healing. And that talking about nothing - fucking sports, even - is healing. I want to throw more parties. I think it's a good alternative to suicide, and in terms of solving things, a reasonable course of action.
I will always respect a person's choice to check out. It is not stupid, or cowardly, or evil. It's lonely and sad. Suicides need a hug. They need community and love, and trees and water and dinner.
The lesson of our age might be that Too Late is Too Late. Act now.