By the time I met Harlan Ellison in 1975, he had been a powerhouse of American science fiction and pop culture for about 15 years. Unfortunately, I met him on the day he was booked to make an SRO presentation to students at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. i had just picked the lock on a glass display case in the student union and was helping myself to autographed copies of Ellison’s publicity photo.
Suddenly, Ellison stuck a steel index finger into my 17th vertebra. “You’d better wait ‘til this guy is dead before you start pilfering his promotional totems.” Without turning to look behind me, I improv’d fastest, dumbest retort I could think of: “Why should I bother? As near as I can tell, this midget is no bigger than you are, Shrimpie!”
On that note, Ellison spun me around. “Do you know who I am?” he growled. “No,” I said, “but I’m pretty sure your owner is losing his or her mind right now. Come with me, and I’ll take you down to the Lost and Found.”
What can I say? I have a magic way when it comes to making first impressions.
Crackling with infectious energy, :Harlan Ellison: Dreams With Sharp Teeth” pays homage to the dark prince of American letters, Harlan Ellison. Master of his craft, Ellison has heroically produced over 75 books and more than 1,700 classics of fiction and non-fiction on one of his Olympia manual typewriters, including the single most popular Star Trek episode (“City on the Edge of Forever”) —from Trailer’s promo
Yes, indeedy. Floyd The Barber, Gomer Pyle, Deputy Dimwit And Baalok the drunken alien nemesis in a futuristic chaise-longue. Ron Howard’s slightly older brother Clint returns after nearly sixty years to reprise his tiny tippling tyrant in the Star Trek episode, “The Corbomite Maneuver.”
Priceless, endless, thoroughly no-strings-attached thanks to Betty Cracker for the much-needed ST inspiration. I hadn’t thought much about America’s first dusty Western in outer space in a very long time, but now I can’t escape the feeling that I’m vibrating on a Barcalounger filled with Tribbles!
And by “THAT” I mean whatever it was three days ago that purported to be the annual comedy roast that mocks big government and the political press. I didn’t see it on the ‘Net, and nobody seems to be covering it…so forgive me for not believing it actually happened.
By “William Henry Pratt,” I mean the actual Christian name of Hollywood legend Boris Karloff. Early on in life, Pratt realized that no one named “Pratt” would ever be hired to zombie-walk through back-lot villages and papier-maché castles. Karloff made the most of his Potemkin name, his size 40 feet, and his ability to powerfully snarl the words “FIRE BAD!”
Without my walking stick
I’d go insane
I can’t look my best I feel undressed
Without my cane
With two broken vertebrae, a dead sciatic nerve, and my maiden aunt Bernice’s choking fear of nightfall, I had enough walking canes, sword canes and decorative Civil War cudgels to equip the road company of Red Badge Of Courage. By and large, that all happened before Leon released Without My Walking Stick, a tune I grew to love like a rock n’ roll groupie.
Now that I am additionally tied to several different flavors of Blind Guy canes as tall and thin as a willow rod, this song is practically my marching theme.
One last thing: the actual provenance for “Without My Walking Stick” precedes Leon Redbone by at least forty or fifty years. Below the fold, you’ll find a 78 RPM version of the song recorded by Tommy Dorsey. Oh, and BTW, you should never forget that the tune was written by (*gasp!*) Irving Berlin!!!
A “Tokamak” is a doughnut-shaped fusion reactor—often as much as hundreds of miles in circumference—that can control the plasma-scale temperatures of fusion energy by channeling thermal streams around a super-powered magnetic racetrack.
After decades of research on prototype Tokamak designs, the Iter project has recieved a final go-ahead from 34 international governments. That’s really satisfying to me, because fusion power is one of the few “sure bets” for sustainable power generation in the future. Not quite as important as that, I should note that the last time I presented a technical pitch on fusion technology at an international science conference, the topic was the Iter project. Not saying I made the Iter project happen, just that—like thousands of other people—I gave it a nudge.
When I was a kid, I collected Phil Ochs albums. Phil was a protest singer who never seemed quite certain whether the songs he sang were political or simply topical…but as this commenter notes, there was never any doubt in the listener’s mind:
Seasass 1 year ago
How about an update in light of recent events at Penn State:
“Oh, look into the shower, there’s a schoolboy being raped
I saw the old man dogging him, but now he has escaped
Guess I could have done more than call Dad and tell JoePa
But what do lowly grad assistants know about the law?
And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody …”
In April, 1976, Ochs hanged himself after a long period of depression and creative exhaustion…so he “ain’t marchin’ any more,” but obviously his tunes are still strutting across the politcal frontier. Bravo, Phil!
Jacques Brel is well-known as a hellacool songwriter who redefined many genres of love songs in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
Everyone who knows Brel has a favorite tune already. However, ‘70s legend Scott Walker may have claimed a new title with this version of “Mathilde”—a bipolar Apache dance of a love ballad that’s punctuated by impossibly complex instrumentation you couldn’t duplicate with a computer algorithm.
Take my word for it, gang—you have no choice but too enjoy this tune. Scott Walker was the greatest neglected talent of the last forty years. And now the movie, folks:
Forty years after the National Lampoon was a monthly addiction for snarkologists, Cheech Wizard remains an Amusement Destination for those of us who like our snark mixed with rare plant juices, stage magic and acute testicular swelling.
Even in clunky computer claymation, the Zydeco Hat is the Cultural King of my g-g-generation. DUCK, LIZARD!
By which I mean, questioning the foundation of several centuries worth of scientific inquiry by providing students with the option of a “Build Your Own Bullshit” Bar at the old studiatorium we used to consider a classroom.
In biology class, public school students can’t generally argue that dinosaurs and people ran around Earth at the same time, at least not without risking a big fat F. But that could soon change for kids in Oklahoma: On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Common Education committee is expected to consider a House bill that would forbid teachers from penalizing students who turn in papers attempting to debunk almost universally accepted scientific theories such as biological evolution and anthropogenic (human-driven) climate change.
Gus Blackwell, the Republican state representative who introduced the bill, insists that his legislation has nothing to do with religion; it simply encourages scientific exploration. “I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks,” says Blackwell, who previously spent 20 years working for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. “A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations.”
HB 1674 is the latest in an ongoing series of “academic freedom” bills aimed at watering down the teaching of science on highly charged topics. Instead of requiring that teachers and textbooks include creationism—see the bill proposed by Missouri state Rep. Rick Brattin—HB 1674’scrafters say it merely encourages teachers and students to question, as the bill puts it, the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of topics that “cause controversy,” including “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
If someone wants their kid to be a nice little coddled egg or shit-fed mushroom, why is it so difficult to just homeschool the little larva without trying to impose one’s vast ignorance on everyone else’s brat? I mean, really! Making up stuff as you go along is to science as drinking cleaning fluids found under mother’s sink is to eating. In other words—that’s just wrong, son. The freeedom to write a paper claiming that the earth is held up by an infinite number of turtles is the freedom to step out in traffic—just because you can, doesn’t make it right. To understand science is to be able to ably defend your propostition because it has been tested and you understand what the tests meant and what the results meant. Parroting back the bullshit you were raised with is no more science than a dog shaking hands means that the canine in question is attempting to introduce itself into human society—except that a dog, at least, might expect a treat. Or petting. But a child who parrots nonsense and expects an A for failing to be educated isn’t introducing hirself to science. That child is rejecting it. And is no more educated than a child who rejects spelling or claims 2x2=a million.
Making bullshit a law doesn’t make it anything more than bullshit. They might as well call ice cream a vegetable.
Big band colossus Woody Herman didn’t cover hack songwriters or marquee bands. In fact, he preferred to duplicate the songmaking of artists whose fame and talents rivaled his own. That became apparent yet again when Woody dedicated half a vinyl album to a cream-of-the-crop selection of Steely Dan tunes.
Herman’s Dan collection was hard to find (and expensive once you found it) when I acquired mine 15 years ago. I don’t know whether that situation has improved in the intervening years. But just in case the tracks are still fugitive, here’s what Polly and I excavated on YouTube. Enjoy the signature Fagen/Becker medley of American blues styles, with a steaming dollop of woodchoppers’ winds and horns on top!
The world is on fire
Your body doesn’t burn
Kill yourself before receiving
Something out of all this breathing Don’t you ever learn
“Don’t you ever learn?” is a song about temptation, easy solutions and stupid decisions. Playing it just the other day reminded me yet again that the first 56 years of my life were a long pleasant boulevard through time, lined on either curbside by things that had fallen out of my pockets over the years. Wandering this street at my leisure after living it in real time has yielded many treasures comparable to finding money wedged between two cobblestones or a brand new Portofino cigar still in its tube. I plan to spend a lot of time here from now on, and I intend to equip myself with a pair of high-capacity swag bags to hold all the tips and trinkets and memorabilia that I encounter in my travels. ETW, this is my last self-serving tribute to Todd—at least for today. Some other day, I may feel an urgent need to write my long-delayed master’s thesis on “International Feel,” the kick-ass bookend tune from A Wizard, A True Star.
Two things that never appeared previously in the Superman Comics Universe:
• Fashionably color-dampened Superman without his bulging red underpants.
• Stylishly-bearded Cluck Bent answers Bruce Campbell’s immortal book title, If Chins Could Kill.
Sad to say, that’s all I know about The Man Of Steel franchise that debuts its first $1.95 burger platter later this year. For all intents and purposes, it looks like The Man Of Steel will more nearly resemble That Guy From Last Night or audition-losing talent who weren’t selected for the Brawny paper towel wrapper. If Jor-El sucks as badly in this film as he did during ten years of hyperventilating fatherhood in the TV series Smallville, the next Superman film will be the last one ever…starring Michael Richards.
Back in the mid ‘80s I spent most of my weekends chilling on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where I dated one of the daughters of America’s original “Beat” writer, Chandler Brossard. One day, when she was engaged in her casting job for TV’s “Another World” soap opera, I received a phone call from Andy Warhol’s nephew, James, who lived in Queens. It seems James needed a human model for a book cover he was painting, and he thought I could fill the bill. And since my gal was busy tending to the needs of a TV show cast which included a budding juvenile Jane Krakowski, I decided to help him out.
Forty-five minutes later, the L train dropped me in front of James’s industrial-style loft in Queens. He didn’t have any official props, but he equipped me with a mop-bucket helmet, a bathroom-rug cape, and a plastic broom handle to stand in for my ray gun.
You can see the results above, in the appropriately titled, “Nightmare Machine” installment of the Battlestar Galactica chronicles. And thanks to James for visiting me in the trauma hospital, remembering that he had painted this, and offering to send me the original canvas to hang in my home. How’s your life, cousins?