Mark Your Calendars!

Those who know me are aware that I am not a fan of the President. However, a few days ago he commemorated National Poetry Month with the following:

This has led a number of folks on the right to hoot and jeer. However, I’m not so blinded by politics that I have to try to put the worst face on what I think is a decent, wise statement.

Is poetry a necessity in the same manner as food and shelter? Obviously not. Indeed, more than a few people seem to do just fine without regard to it at all. However, I think there is more than a little truth to the President’s statement, and not surprisingly, I find it in the writing of Northrop Frye.

When asked to justify the study of literature, Frye argued that it is a means — perhaps the best means — of developing the imagination, and further, that without imagination, man very well might not have survived. To quote him inexactly, the moment at which we go from “I don’t like this” to “I want it to be like this instead”, we are engaging in imagination. And if we look at the development of the expression of imagination we think of as literature, poetry in fact comes before prose. Even as children, we learn through song and rhyme before we learn through prose. Even the alphabet itself we learn through means of a song — a poem.

And of course, there’s the matter of quality of life as well. Without poetry, we may exist, we may get by. But we get by much as do the ants. As Frank Zappa observed, without music (and poetry is a kind of music), life is simply a series of dates by which bills must be paid. That, to me, is existence, rather than life. It’s poetry that keeps us from being what another poet described as “a bare, forked animal.”

In the harshest times of my life, it has often been poetry that has helped to bear me along, from the 23rd Psalm to the sardonic consolation of A.E. Housman. Would I have continued without them? Perhaps, but I know my life is what it is at least in part because those poems were there.

So, while I think the President has done plenty that warrants opprobrium, sneering at his praise of poetry seems off the mark. May we all be more imaginative than that, as imagination will help us envision the world we want to inhabit.

Posted in Culture, Literature, Politics | Leave a comment

Prom Report

Well, I guess it was memorable.

The Spawn’s prom squad arrived and headed downstairs for the final application of makeup…

When up from the stairwell arose such a clatter,/ We stirred from our chairs to see what was the matter. Apparently, the combination of high heels and a tray full of makeup supplies combined to unpleasant effect as the Spawn took a header down the stairs. No bones were showing, and she pronounced herself fit to continue, so the preparations were concluded and we got a few pictures of the quartet.

The bruises hadn't started to show yet.

The bruises hadn’t started to show yet.

The Spawn and her "date" for the evening.

The Spawn and her “date” for the evening.

The Spawn with her roommate for this fall.

The Spawn with her roommate for this fall.

So off they went. A few hours later, the Spawn returned, reporting that most of the promgoers had bailed, either for an amusement park in Real City or to go clubbing. A classmate suggested that they do the same, but the Spawn and her roomie-to-be didn’t want to do that without parental permission. When someone said, “[Spawn], you know your folks will let you do what you want to do,” she replied “And they trust me because they know I’ll make good decisions.” So she and her friends made another one and came home.

She’s upstairs now, dealing with some scrapes and bruises from her tumble, but she’s okay, and I’m really proud of her. I guess Mrs. M and I must have gotten something right.

Posted in Family, Why I Do What I Do | 1 Comment

Whales, Nightingales, and… a Senior Prom?

It’s Saturday afternoon, and the Spawn is prepping for Senior Prom. In the absence of a suitable male escort, she and several of her friends are going as a group. Her “date” is one of her teammates from the color guard, and a small gaggle of her friends (some other band kids, and next fall’s roommate) will be gathering here at the Midcentury Mondohaus for final primping before heading to the high school. Doubtless, pictures will follow.


The publisher of Dark City Lights posted information on the anthology’s release on Facebook this morning. A little later, I noticed a comment on his post from someone who had ordered a copy — Judy Collins. While there’s a part of me that wants to ask her if she’ll look at the book from both sides, now, there’s a larger part of me that finds this really cool. Among other things I inherited from Mom and Dad, I got the LP collection, and one of those albums is Whales and Nightingales, by Ms. Collins. I imagine they got it for her version of “Amazing Grace”, which was one of Mom’s favorite songs — it’s also on the only Rod Stewart LP they owned.  But every once in a while, they’d give it a spin. So I know her work gave my folks some pleasure, and now Ms. Collins will own some of my work. I hope the circle is completed.


And speaking of music, it’s Saturday, so here’s an odd little bit of British psychedelia from The Attack, a band most notable for having featured Davy O’List (later of The Nice, and very briefly of Pink Floyd) on guitar. It’s the kind of song that could only have been released by a British band in 1968, and weirdly enough, it was later covered by actor Peter Wyngarde. For all you gardeners out there, here’s “Neville Thumbcatch.”

Happy weekending!

Posted in Family, Music, Pixel-stained Wretchery | Leave a comment

Free to Be… In Agreement with Me

The witch hunt continues. Should there be a scarcity of witches in your area, please allow a few news cycles for a fresh shipment to arrive.

The long nose and wart have now been strapped on someone I’ve never met named Cheryl Rios. Ms. Rios had the temerity to post the following on her Facebook feed:

If this happens — I am moving to Canada. There is NO need for her as she is not the right person to run our country — but more importantly a female shouldn’t be president. Let the haters begin . . . but with the hormones we have there is no way we should be able to start a war. Yes I run my own business and I love it and I am great at it BUT that is not the same as being the President, that should be left to a man, a good, strong, honorable man.

While I shan’t be supporting Ms. Clinton in 2016, I find Ms. Rios’s statement … a bit goofy. But the world is filled with goofiness; indeed, I likely contribute more than my share. Ms. Rios has done me no injury, and “Woman You Don’t Know Has Goofy Opinion” hardly seems newsworthy.

But I guess that’s why I’m out of the journalism biz, because a Dallas-area TV station decided to commit resources to Ms. Rios, and in turn, the internet gong farmers at HuffPo picked up on their report, and so it’s off to the social media pillory or dunking chair, or at least all over my Facebook feed from folks engaged in the tree-ape hooting of solidarity.

As Ian Tuttle notes at NRO:

Political opinions are always, must always be, subject to criticism. But there is a marked difference between opinions about public matters expressed publicly, and toward public ends, and those expressed privately, even if that is the pseudo-privacy of a personal Facebook page. A media that sets to publicizing those opinions — to boost a narrative, or just to boost its own traffic — is not a part of a free press, but a functionary of a culture increasingly comfortable criminalizing free thought.

I also find this sort of joie d’assaillir particularly repulsive coming from the same people who are all too willing to condemn what they call “punching down.” Ms. Rios is a businesswoman in Dallas. HuffPo is pulling in “hundreds of millions” in revenue. Who is the underdog, here? Bullying for the unicorn of “social justice” is still bullying.

Who cares? There are witches to burn!

Posted in Culture, Politics | 5 Comments

Mondo’s Day Out

Although I went to Real City just last week, I learned this week that a musical equipment superstore opened down there, so bassist and companion Justin joined me for a trip to the new place.

It wasn’t as large as I might have hoped, but the staff were very attentive, and there was enough gear to mess around with, so it was a pleasant visit. I’m sure I’ll visit pretty often. And since we were down there anyway, we swung by the used book and music store across the street, where I picked up an autographed copy of a book from a writer Lawrence Block had recommended to me, the lesbian pulp bildungsroman Beebo Brinker by Ann Bannon.


And speaking of Larry and writing, I may as well remind you that there’s still time to place an advance order for Dark City Lights, an anthology LB edited that includes your genial host. Better still, it contains some of his work, as well as numerous other terrific writers. So do that ordering thing. (And I’ll have some more publishing news in the near future, so stay tuned.)

Since it’s Saturday, why not conclude with a shot of music. This is a rare slab of horror-themed garage from 1968, and it sounds like it was recorded in an unbalanced washing machine. Original copies of the single reportedly go for $2500 or more, but you can listen to it for free here. Without further ado, here’s the “wolf-type howl” of the Graveyard Five with “Marble Orchard.”

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Posted in Culture, Literature, Music, Pixel-stained Wretchery | Leave a comment

Continuing Struggles

Some months ago, there was a big to-do about some editorial changes and wholesale resignations at The New Republic. Although TNR has been a tattered brand for quite some time, none of this shook the foundations of my world. Spending six years in the magazine biz, I learned that magazines come and go, and even a collapse of this sort is not uncommon.

But now things are getting personal. Two and a half years ago, I discovered a British magazine called Shindig! It quickly became a go-to publication for me, and I began to subscribe (with a one-year sub going well over 50 bucks, a large hit to the Mondo Media Budget). I’d see the announcement of the latest issue on Facebook, and dash to my mailbox each day until it made its way across the pond to Mondoville. Garage, psychedelia, prog — the magazine covered both the greats and the newer exponents of these forms, with articles of remarkable depth and passion. I liked it — a lot. Indeed, it became one of my ambitions to get something from The Berries reviewed in Shindig! — even if the review was a bad one. I admired and respected their obvious intensity and love for this stuff, a love I happen to share.

But a few days ago, things seem to have ganged agley. The Volcano Publishing Co announced that it was folding Shindig! into a new publication called Kaleidoscope. This seems to have come as a surprise to the founders/editors, and the rather condescending press release from Volcano probably hasn’t helped in that regard.

In short, I’m bummed, but hope remains. The Shindig! guys have stated that they will continue with their magazine, which doesn’t surprise me — love is like that. I hope they succeed — I still want to get a review from them one day.

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So Long, Stan Freberg

When I was a kid, my mom gave me a stack of her old 45 rpm singles from the 1950s. Some of my favorites were “Peek-A-Boo” by the Cadillacs, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Shotgun Boogie”, and “June Was the End of August”, by the Arcades. However, my very favorite (and so naturally the one I ruined first, being a kid) was this one:

That was my introduction to Stan Freberg, and perhaps an early encounter with medievalia, but I discovered much more of his work as I got older, via the Dr. Demento show. Of course, as a fan of Warner Brothers cartoons, I also found this one.

Mr. Freberg died today, at the age of 88. So long, and thanks for the laughs. And I still have the St. George record, although it probably won’t play anymore.

Posted in Culture, Family, Medievalia, Music | Leave a comment