Johnny the Cat, 2005–2024

His most recent boudoir photo. A handsome boy to the end.

There will now be a brief mourning break following the departure of my cat Johnny, who at 19 was roughly the same age as this blog, for the Western lands. This is sad, not tragic — he had a good long run and enjoyed his time. But he will be missed. I’ll be back with more of my nonsense in a day or two.

Year of the Scavenger, Side 1

Today, I am informed, is the 50th anniversary of the release of Diamond Dogs. A great album — or more accurately, an album with some great stuff on it.

I always thought some dubious choices were made in terms of track listing and sequencing, so a few years ago I made my own version. I sent it to a couple people but I don’t think they paid attention, not that there’s any reason they should have.

This seems like the right moment to dig it out. You’ll notice that it starts and ends (almost) the same as the original album, because those were absolutely 100% the right choices. In between things are added, subtracted, and rearranged. (Don’t hold your breath waiting for “Rebel Rebel” — the single version was OK, but it never belonged on the album. I will die on this hill.)

Here’s Side 1. We’ll get to Side 2 in a little bit.

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Question for the Beloved Readers

One of my ongoing projects is to clean up the older parts of this blog (fixing broken links, etc.). That’s how I came across this, written 18 years ago:

So here’s what I want, what I really really want: a computer program that will let you feed in the name of a song and the name of an artist, process for a few seconds, then spit out a believable cover version. For instance, I would like to hear Tom Waits doing “Joy to the World” (the Three Dog Night song, not the Christmas carol — can’t you just hear him croaking out “Jeremiah was a bullfrog”?), or Frank Sinatra singing the Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning.” I would pay real money to hear the Sisters of Mercy covering “You’re So Vain” or the Pixies’ version of “I’m So Tired.” In fact, I would probably have the Pixies do the whole White Album, just to hear what it sounded like.

(Here’s a link to the original post. Some of you reading this shared ideas back then.)

With the advent of AI, this is now most likely possible. And yet I hesitate to go there, sensing the presence of an infinite rabbit hole from which I might never emerge.

Your thoughts?

Cathartic Video of the Day

OK, so, yes, I have a weakness for these Downfall memes. This particular one is not only brilliantly done but therapeutic — Adolf gives vent to every feeling of frustration I’ve been experiencing over recent weeks and months and years.

Now doesn’t that feel better?

May 7, 2024

I’ve been workshopping new aliases for The Former President Who Shall Not Be Named. One option is Sleepy McFartsalot. I know the rumors that he has been filling the courtroom with clouds of noxious gas are probably just that, but it would be entirely in character.

There is no doubt that he has been, um, resting his eyes from time to time. And why wouldn’t he? He’s an old man, the proceedings are boring sometimes, and he can’t just press a button and get a Diet Coke. In truth it’s the most human and relatable thing he’s done in recent memory — you look at him and think, “That could be my racist grandfather nodding off up there.”1

Meanwhile the judge threatened to lock him up if he keeps violating the gag order, to which I say, “Juan, don’t tease me.” For years now I’ve been dreaming of seeing ol’ Sleepy in an orange jumpsuit. Ideally he would be without his bronzer and hair products for awhile, and America would finally get to see the withered husk beneath the shell. For all we know it would evaporate upon contact with the air.

“Where has the prisoner gone? There’s nothing in this cell but a terrible stench.”

Reading Report, April 2024

Books Acquired:
Star Trek: Log One, Alan Dean Foster
Sometimes a Great Notion, Ken Kesey

Progress Made:
The Rachel Papers, Martin Amis
The Alien Condition, Stephen Goldin (editor)
Loaded, Dylan Jones

Books Finished:
Great Jones Street, Don DeLillo

Great Jones Street is Don DeLillo’s rock’n’roll novel — his third book, vintage 1973. Its narrator, the whimsically monickered Bucky Wunderlich, is currently AWOL from his band’s ongoing tour, holed up in a dingy apartment on the titular thoroughfare. Despite a distinct and willful lack of action or movement, it has a rhythm to it, and pulls you right through its 265 pages.

But in the end I think DeLillo, like all your literary titans, doesn’t really get rock’n’roll. He’s just a little too much of an egghead to hunker down in the mud where the real music is. He wants to, bless his heart; his sensibility is just too refined.

GJS definitely has the feel of an Early Work, and the Pynchon influence is palpable, though it came out the same year as Gravity’s Rainbow. Maybe he was a big fan of V — which I realize now I’ve never read, and maybe I should — and/or The Crying of Lot 49.

I also read most of a book of science fiction stories called The Alien Condition but it was a mixed bag and toward the end some of them were so bad that I just skipped ahead. So I’m not giving myself credit for it. But I’m glad I picked it up — reading bad sci-fi gives you new appreciation for those who do it well, or at least competently, like my old friend Alan Dean Foster. I picked up Star Trek: Log One — the first of his collections of novelizations of Classic Trek episodes — because I already had Log Two, and I’m a little bit OCD that way. I don’t plan to get all 10, but I’m not promising I won’t either.

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Obituaries and Weddings Dept.

Of all the obituaries I’ve read lately, this one — of conjoined twins Lori and George Schappell — is the craziest. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, though it is full of details that will make you sit up and go “What?!?” It’s actually pretty inspiring that they were able to lead real lives despite all they had to deal with. Makes my bitching about how the wifi is slow today seem pretty dumb. Read the whole thing — it’s worth it, trust me.

Another recent departure was this one:

After he was paralyzed by polio at age 6, Paul Alexander was confined for much of his life to a yellow iron lung that kept him alive. He was not expected to survive after that diagnosis, and even when he beat those odds, his life was mostly constrained by a machine in which he could not move.

But the toll of living in an iron lung with polio did not stop Mr. Alexander from going to college, getting a law degree and practicing law for more than 30 years. As a boy, he taught himself to breathe for minutes and later hours at a time, but he had to use the machine every day of his life.

He died on Monday at 78, according to a statement by his brother, Philip Alexander, on social media.

He was one of the last few people in the United States living inside an iron lung, which works by rhythmically changing air pressure in the chamber to force air in and out of the lungs. And in the final weeks of his life, he drew a following on TikTok by sharing what it had been like to live so long with the help of an antiquated machine.

His story, too, is a wild one full of twists and turns, and similarly uplifting. Here’s a link to the whole thing.

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The Santa Claus of Murder

Upon hearing that O.J. Simpson had died, my first thought was: And he never found the real killers!

The O.J. saga was a tragedy, of course. It was also a comedy. It was a bizarre, enthralling spectacle with so many surprising twists that there was no way to keep track of them all.

For instance, I knew that O.J. had written a book called If I Did It, where he described how he would have killed Nicole and Ron, if he had. (He did.) I grabbed a copy out of a free library box a couple years ago, and though I’ve never read it and don’t intend to, I hold on to it as a talisman of… well, what?…. weirdness, I guess.

I knew but had forgotten that around that same time, he gave an interview where he more or less confessed, saying that he drove to Nicole’s house with a knife in the passenger seat and doesn’t remember what happened after that. I actually find this somewhat plausible — maybe O.J. committed the murders in a fugue state and was surprised afterwards to find out he had done it. And maybe he looked so surprised when the glove didn’t fit because he was thinking, wait, could it be I didn’t do it after all?

Well, it’s a theory.

But I never knew until this week that in 2006 O.J. starred in a reality prank show called Juiced. This is so grotesque on so many levels that I don’t know where to start, except to say that if he had played a prank on me, I would have run for my life.

But apparently I’m in the minority. In the This American Life segment where I learned about Juiced, Harmon Leon — who was O.J.’s sidekick on the show — marvels at how much people seem to love The Juice despite everything. (It was Leon who provided the title of this piece.)

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April 26, 2024

Yesterday was a bizarre day to be an American news consumer. On the left side of the split-screen — I can’t remember which channel I was watching, and I don’t guess it really matters — was a diagram of the nine Supreme Court justices and the lawyer currently being questioned, looking very much like a baseball diamond. This was accompanied by real-time audio as the SCOTUS (Christ I hate that acronym, but it is convenient) entertained the prima facie absurd notion that a president is immune from prosecution for anything he does while in office.

Somewhere the ghost of Dick Nixon is slapping himself upside the head saying “Why didn’t I think of that?” But then at that time, the Supremes had not devolved to the point where such an idea would gain traction.

Meanwhile the right third of the screen was devoted to text updates from the courtroom in New York where ex-pres Fuckface is on trial for Stormy Daniels shenanigans. It was a literal sideshow — which to be honest is more and more what it seems like as time goes on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of anything that inconveniences and/or incarcerates him. It’s just that this case — where the crime is fairly amorphous and somewhat trivial in the scheme of things — pales in importance compared to what was going on next to it.

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April 19, 2024

I admit it — I’ve been goggling at the spectacle of Fuckface on trial like the proverbial one-eyed cat. And there has been no shortage of spectacle to goggle at. Today a dude set himself on fire across the street from the courthouse, and the News Professionals carried on like it was the fourth biggest story of the day. Which I guess it was — the five last alternate jurors were seated, clearing the way for opening arguments on Monday; Mike Johnson got a foreign aid bill to the floor with help from Democrats; and more saber-rattling went on between Israel and Iran.

But you know all that already, because you are Plugged-In People.

Meanwhile, the Accused rants and fulminates as he repeatedly rams his head against a big iron door. Very entertaining but one thing worries me: When it’s one man against the system, the average American does not look on and yell, “Go system!” We instinctively root for the individual, right or wrong; and I fear this will redound to the Bad Man’s political advantage.

But I can’t be worried about that right now. It’s a beautiful spring day, a gray cat is writhing at my feet, and a fine dinner awaits.

And hmm, it looks like this is going to be a good old-fashioned blog for a while, where I pop my head up now and again to share thoughts on whatever. Hibernation season is over and the need to Communicate is upon me. Holla back.

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