Thursday, May 25, 2006

My favorite Harlan Ellison Quotes

Everyone is entitled to an *informed* opinion.

The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.

My philosophy of life is that the meek shall inherit nothing but debasement, frustration and ignoble deaths; that there is security in personal strength; that you CAN fight City Hall and WIN; that any action is better than no action, even if it's the wrong action; that you never reach glory or self-fulfillment unless you're willing to risk everything, dare anything, put yourself dead on the line every time; and that once one becomes strong or rich or potent or powerful it is the responsibility of the strong to help the weak BECOME strong.

Jeffty is Five


Me, that is. I am deeply touched by the outpouring of affection from my loved ones on my birthday and very grateful for all the amazing presents -- and the coolest cake ever.
Man, I am never going back to January.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Dylan, that is. Born May 24th 1941 in Duluth, Minnesota.
Even people who’ve never heard had the pleasure of hearing me sing “Subterranean Homesick Blues” in the shower know that Bob Dylan is important to me. I named my youngest son after him, after all.
I once broke up with a girl years ago because she proved herself unworthy of sharing my adoration for the great folk singer. We were listening to Dylan’s album “Blood on the Tracks,” specifically the song, “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.”
She said, “So, you like that song?”
“Yeah, I like it a lot. I just wish I knew what it meant.”
“Oh, I can tell you what it means,” she said smugly.
“You can? What?”
“It means the Jack of Hearts was cool.”
Which, I’m sorry, just was not an astute enough analysis of the song for me.
And I probably should explain for those of you who haven’t heard it, that “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” is not just some mindless piece of tripe about some guy whose face resembles a face card. It’s a complicated saga of safe-cracking, show business, betrayal, revenge, murder and monk-impersonation. It requires some thought on the part of the listener to figure it all out, specifically who really killed Big Jim with the pen knife. I don’t guess kids these days have to try to figure out what songs mean anymore. That’s because all the songs today are about what a tough guy the singer is and how much he likes some girl’s butt.
(I should mention too that I did eventually get it all straightened out. Rosemary killed Big Jim, the drunken hanging judge executed the right person.)
And “Lily. . . ” is not even my favorite Bob Dylan song. Barring any unlikely last-minute surprises, that honor will always belong to “Brownsville Girl.” I didn’t realize it until shortly after our Dylan was born that “Brownsville Girl” was co-written by modern day renaissance man (playwright, writer and actor) Sam Shepard. Had I had known then my youngest son might be named Dylan Shepard instead of Dylan Tyler.
One last thing about the birthday boy. He’s now a disc jockey and absolutely hands-down the best one I’ve ever heard. He’s the host of Theme Time Radio on XM satellite radio. You can read more about it here) Every week he picks a theme and plays records from his own collection (which must be ginormous). Last week the theme was Mothers, and he played everything from an old obscure Buck Owens track “I’ll go to Church Again With Mama,” to some truly twisted thing called, “Mama, Get a Hammer, There’s a Fly on the Baby’s Head.” And in between he does snappy patter – no, really. It is amazing. There’s so much to love about XM, but Theme Time Radio is worth the price all by itself.
Happy birthday, Bob. And thanks for everything.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

I call that a bargain, the best I ever had

We never forget your first love, do we? Mine was named “Carrie-Anne,” and she is still with me, although the years have not been kind to her, and she no longer spins around and entertains peoplelike she used to. But if you come into my office you’ll see her there – pinned to the bulletin board.
You see, my “Carrie-Anne” was a 45 from a British band called the Hollies. (And for those of you too young to remember 45’s, they were like CD singles only we played them on our Flintstones Pterodactyl stereos.) The Hollies are best known today for bigger hits like “Bus Stop” and “Long Cool Woman in a Black Dress,” but it was “Carrie-Anne” that won my heart. Every time I heard that song that summer (and it isn’t it always summer when you fall in love for this first time?) I was transported to a beautiful, ethereal world that I wanted more than anything to explore further. The problem was though that 45’s cost 59 cents and I was eight years old and chronically unemployed.
The only money I had to my name was a silver dollar that my grandfather had given me, and so I took that to the department store and bought the “Carrie-Anne” 45, took it home and played it at least ten thousand times.
But that’s not the end of the story. A couple of years after that. I became briefly interested in numismatics, and one day I looked up the silver dollar I had spent and found it was worth 1,800 dollars.
Shortly after that, my brother was jumping around on my bed and he stepped on my beloved “Carrie-Anne”, which is why the 45 I’ve got on my bulletin board is cracked and unplayable.
Now, I have not kept this memento to remind me to spend my money wisely or to look before you leap or anything so prosaic as that, nor have I kept it to remind myself not to keep valuables laying around where my brother's might jump n them. I keep it because it is a reminder of how my lifelong love affair with music began. “Carrie-Anne” led me to the Beatles and to Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard and the Ramones and Bruce Springsteen and Big and Rich and. . .
Well, you get the idea. And all it cost me for a permanent pass to this land of endless enchantment was a mere 1,800 dollars.
It was the best bargain I ever struck.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Today's history lesson

Phryne the courtesan was so beautiful that she posed for several of antiquity's most famous statues of Aphrodite, including one at Delphi. A travel book dubbed it a "monument to Greek lust."

Phryne was brought to trial accused of a crime that called for the death penalty.... When her lawyer Hypereides realized he was losing the case, and that the judges meant to convict her, he summoned her to the center of the courtroom; then he tore off her skimpy tunic and revealed her naked breasts for all to see. And he started wailing hysterically at the sight of her spectacular beauty. The judges were flustered and awestruck by this handmaiden of Aphrodite and, feeling merciful, they didn't put her to death.

But once they acquitted her, a decree was passed that no lawyer may ever wail hysterically during a plea, and that no accused man or woman may ever be stripped in the courtroom ---Athenaues

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bad Movies I Love

A few years back I wrote a series of articles for Country Standard Time magazine about movies based on country songs (or starring country singers). Invariably these movies were bad, and I entitled the series (with a nod to Johnny Paycheck) "Take This Movie and Shove it." Naturally, the worse the movie was, the more fun it was to write about, and there may not be a worse movie than "Ode to Billy Joe." If you've seen it you know what I mean, if you haven't, you should; it is unintentionally hilarious.

Part Two of CST's look at movies based on country songs

It all started with Bobby Gentry's 1967 smash crossover hit "Ode to Billy Joe." This sultry song told the story of two young lovers who threw some unnamed object off the bridge. People all over the country were wondering and debating about just what the heck this object was and why they deep-sixed it. I was in fifth grade at the time, and the consensus among my classmates was that it was a baby. (It should probably be noted that we were all pretty obsessed with baby-making at the time.) Whatever it was, Billy Joe, the male half of this star-crossed pair, shortly thereafter threw himself in after it and drowned.
In 1976, some Hollywood hotshot saw the cinematic possibilities in this unsolved mystery. To write the screenplay, they hired Herman Raucher, who was fresh off a resounding success with "Summer of '42" and he appeared to be well on his way to becoming one of the biggest writers in Tinseltown. But he made one mistake (this movie) and was never heard from again.
The question of who would direct was a vital one. It would require a sure, sensitive touch to assure this Southern gothic tale was treated with the dignity and decorum it deserved. So after a long exhaustive search who did they pick? Max Baer, Jr. That's right, Jethro Bodine from the "Beverly Hillybillies".
The movie opens with Billy Joe waiting on the bridge for his friend Bobbie Lee (all names of characters are leftovers from "Petticoat Junction"). They discuss bra sizes. She's up to a 32C, but Billy Joe predicts she'll be wearing a 96 before her papa lets her date. He is so bedazzled by her bosom, he doesn't ask her the obvious question "Why are you talking so weird? Is that supposed to be a Southern accent?"
Bobbie Lee's mother is worried (rightly so) about her daughter's sap rising (a pseudo-Southern expression for hormones running amok). What she really ought to be worried about is that the girl is fifteen years old, and not only has a very high sap level, but also still has an imaginary friend named Benjamin that she talks to.
What Bobbie Lee's dad is worried about is getting the eggs to the market. Halfway across this rickety one-lane bridge he and Bobbie Lee meet up with a carful of drunken rednecks. Nobody wants to back up and let the other pass so they solve this dilemma by the time-honored Southern traffic control method of ramming head-on into each other several times. Dad loses this game of chicken and ends up in a truck hanging halfway off the bridge. Bobby Lee runs to the sawmill where her brother James and Billy Joe work to get some help.
She doesn't appear to be real worried about dear old dangling Dad however, because as they're driving back to the bridge, Bobby Lee is lustily eyeing Billy Joe's bald chest and playing footsie with him. Sap is running everywhere, and I don't mean just the dialogue - although that's plenty sappy, too. For example, when James calls Bobby Lee a brain (for getting the redneck's license tag number) she actually says (believe it or don't) "I'm a body too - with desires. Somebody better pay attention to that cuz my blood is racing and my ample breasts are bursting."
Although her bosom doesn't go boom just yet, others are also concerned about Bobbie Lee's breast health. When she tells Billy Joe her father won't allow her to receive gentleman callers because she's only fifteen, he reminds her she's also 32 (C cup) and she better start using them boobies before they go bad and fall off.
Dad thinks they're on pretty tight, however, and refuses to change the rule. Billy Joe is stubborn and he comes a'courting anyway. Bobby Lee tries to dissuade him. "If you have any feelings at all for me, suh," she says, "and any hope of squeezing my soft and pliant flesh this evening, you better stop and consider what I'm saying."
(Are you starting to see now why Herman Raucher was never heard from again?)
They end up having a deep, philosophical discussion. Bobby Lee wonders whether she's adopted or depraved. "Of the two, I prefer depraved," she says. (Which is probably why she chose to be in this movie.) Just as soon as Billy Joe moves in to squeeze her soft and pliant flesh, these two stumblebums fall into the baptismal pond.
There's a big hoe-down jamboree that week, and Billy Joe tries to put the moves on Bobby Lee again there, but one of his buddies from the sawmill pulls him away and forces him to drink massive quantities of Schlitz. (Either Schlitz was a major sponsor of this fiasco of a film, or there wasn't much choice of brews in Mississippi in 1953 because everybody is drinking the Beer That Milwaukee Famous - except Bobby Lee. She doesn't drink at all - maybe she's afraid it'll make her ample breasts explode.)
Billy Joe gets drunker and drunker. A carful of loose women from Yazoo City arrive, wearing nothing but sheets. One of them drops her bedclothes and beckons to Billy Joe, who for some reason just stands there sweating.
After the jamboree Billy Joe disappears, doesn't come home for a couple of days. One of the ladies from Yazoo City was beaten by a customer who didn't have the price of a dalliance, and Billy Joe is a prime suspect. Bobby Lee is walking down by the baptismal pond, dreaming her usual X-rated daydreams. Her playmate Benjamin, who up to now has been invisible and imaginary, is now a cowboy doll, and he's with her, just in case she runs into Billy Joe and just in case he wants to throw something off a bridge.
Billy Joe comes up through the woods looking bedraggled. She asks him what he's been eating for the last two days, and he says "mushrooms and onions." Although she's glad to see him, she wisely keeps her distance.
All of a sudden, Billy Joe is crying, and it's not just from eating onions for two days. "I got drunk the other night. Something happened. Something real bad, Bobby Lee."
She asks him what the heck he's talking about, and he responds with the following homegrown love poetry, "I'm onto your scent. I'm downwind of you everywhere I go. You're wiggling your old tail feathers and I'm responding. If we were squirrels or cotton-tails out there in the forest we'd be snortin' and ruttin' in a very healthy manner."
Well, no girl can resist that kind of sweet talk. Bobby Lee wants to make out, but Billy Joe is too busy wailing and gnashing his teeth. He won't tell Bobby Lee what the matter is, and he eventually throws Benjamin off the bridge in a fit of pique. Bobby Lee realizes the symbolism of the moment, that her childhood is now at an end, and she can finally start rutting and snorting. She and Billy Joe roll around for a while, but he pulls away and says, "It's no good, Bobby Lee. I can't."
She tells him it's all right, but he says, "It ain't all right. I have been with a man. Which is a sin against nature. A sin against God."
She tries to reassure him that it's no big deal. Dr. Ruth and Dr. Joyce Brothers will be along in a few years to say that a lot of young people experiment with homosexuality, but Billy Joe just slinks back into the woods, his tail between his legs.
The next thing we see they're dragging Billy Joe's body out of the river. They find Benjamin too, but it's not imaginary playmate season so they have to throw him back.
The McAllisters sell their house and move to Vicksburg. James is sure Bobby Lee is pregnant and he urges her to abort. "I am not going to be an illegitimate uncle."
She picks flowers and drops them off the bridge, while she voice-overs some bad poetry about the winding road we left behind. After a while she packs up her clothes and her phony accent and she runs away from home. On her way to the bus station she meets up with the man that took advantage of Billy Joe on - of all places - the Tallahatchee Bridge. He wants to confess but she advises him to keep mum. She wants Billy Joe to become a legend.
"We can't have people thinking BillyJoe jumped off the bridge because of a man. After all, there is my good name and reputation to be considered." (Well, she has a reputation, no doubt, but I don't know about a good name.) He asks her where she'll go and she says she doesn't know, someplace far away, like maybe Switzerland. Someplace where its cold and her ample bosom will be less likely to overheat.
"I'm only fifteen," she says. "What do I know of the world?"
Not much if she thinks you can get to Switzerland by bus - or that appearing in a movie like this is going to help her good name and reputation.