Ten-ish Albums

Credit: Unsplash  License: CC0
Credit: Unsplash
License: CC0
The rant against social media will happen, but until then, a meme challenge of the sort that used to be blogging’s bread and butter:

List 10 (or so) albums that made a lasting impression on you as a TEENAGER, but only one per band/artist. Not in any particular order. FYI- it can be an “old” record you discovered in your teens.

My teen years were ’88-’94. In no particular order, I came up with:

Dramarama — Vinyl

I’m actually writing a weird monograph using this album as a lens on the early ’90s, popular culture, the fickleness of popularity versus the staying power of true quality, and possibly whatever other random thoughts enter my head.

Dramarama, and this album in particular, are important in my life. I “discovered” them myself, and they were the first band I got quite annoying about trying to get other people interested in. Their sound, especially here, ran almost precisely contrary to the just-about-to-explode grunge sound from Seattle, which was a typical circumstance in the underappreciated band’s career. People who love them, love them. People who don’t get weirded out by the passion of fans, because their sound is deceptive.

And, unless you’re a very devoted Rolling Stones fan, you’ll probably miss the fact that one of the songs is a Stones cover — Dramarama nearly always did a cover song, and it was nearly always a very obscure song from a well-known act.

Mary’s Danish — American Standard

Another unjustly obscure band, this album was Mary’s Danish’s closest brush with hitting it big — they played the Letterman show, got at least some press coverage, and even got a cover song onto the Buffy the Vampire Slayer soundtrack. Why that didn’t translate into their becoming a big name act is beyond me.

American Standard was the album where the whole band began to work together, instead of in two or three subgroups, and it delivers fully and completely on the promise of their two earlier studio LPs. There’s not a bad song, not one moment out of place, unless you really want to get nitpicky and include the cover of “I fought the law” (a good, energetic cover, but which just doesn’t fit the mood of everything that went before), which wasn’t even listed on the album art. Several songs here are on my permanent Life Soundtrack, and a few I quote frequently, without anyone ever catching on.

Social Distortion — Somewhere Between Heaven & Hell

Seriously, who can say “no” to rockabilly punk?

Cowboy Junkies — black-eyed man

Not only is it haunting and sad and hopeful and perfect, this is where I first encountered the genius of Townes van Zandt’s songwriting. “To Live Is To Fly” is one of my favorite songs, and the Junkies’ cover of it is the definitive version, to my mind.

Lou Reed — Magic & Loss

I vaguely knew Lou Reed prior to this album, being familiar with “Walk on the Wild Side” and “Dirty Boulevard” and probably a few other songs. But this was the first time I ran face-first into the sheer emotional power he could infuse into his words.

And a good thing, too. A year or two after absorbing all the thoughts and feelings of this meditation on losing two friends to cancer in the space of a year, I myself lost a high school friend to cancer. This album helped me cope with that.

3rd Bass — Derelicts of Dialect

I generally don’t care for rap. I still freaking love this album, juvenile diss tracks and all.

Nirvana — Nevermind

I was a teenager in ’91. Duh.

REM — Automatic For The People

“I will try not to burden you
I can hold these inside
I will hold my breath
Until all these shivers subside
Just look in my eyes”

It spoke to me then, it speaks to me still.

They Might Be Giants — Apollo 18

What’s that blue thing doing here?

Frank Allison & The Odd Sox — Hokey Smoke

The most obscure album here, since the Odd Sox were a regional band that, despite getting a positive record review in the New York Times, never got a record deal with a major label.

I saw Frank Allison perform live many times, sometimes solo in very small rooms, other times at the Blind Pig with his full band. His tunes were unique, his lyrics were bracingly smart and weird, and his view of life was amiably downtrodden and funny.

And if that doesn’t sell you, well, it seems to be a well-known fact that Frank Appreciation is a “you had to be there” sort of a thing:

Cracker — Kerosene Hat

“I know the whiskey, it won’t soothe my soul
And the morphine won’t heal my heart
But if you take me down to the infirmary
Oh yeah
I won’t have to sleep
Or drink alone.”

Jesus Jones — Liquidizer

Not even going to lie: I am still disappointed that this isn’t what Future Music sounds like. I’ll take this album over almost any techno.

Yeah, yeah, that’s twelve. Be happy I didn’t list thirty.


Extreme Nerditude

agent-1294795A little over a month ago I shared a Music Monday album with which, due to circumstances, I feel more of a connection than most. lo-fi is sci-fi’s first album The Black Hole is one of four albums they did, and which I personally saved from digital oblivion thanks in part to the band’s use of the Creative Commons Attribution license.

I’ve been listening to select songs off of it quite a bit, both before and after I shared it with you as part of Lyrical April.

The first song, “You’ve Got The Body + I’ve Got The Brains”, is one I put in heavy rotation, might even put it in my Free Culture podcast if I manage to get that going again. And it has a piece of audio, a dialogue exchange, under the bridge, that has been nagging at me.

Yesterday, I decided to put down lyrics to a few of the songs from the album as best as I can understand them, and when I got to the bridge on this song (go and listen to it here ), a few words of the dialogue were unclear to me, so I went hunting.

The actress playing the woman making the call sounded, to me, like either Jean Arthur or Barbara Stanwyck, but that didn’t help me, so I searched the phone number she gives the operator to try calling: Murray Hill Four Oh Oh Nine Eight (MU4-0098).

And I was almost right. Sort of. In a way.

The first hit I got was for the film noir Sorry, Wrong Number, which starred Barbara Stanwyck.

Except that when I watched the clip on Youtube, the numerals are different and both Stanwyck’s and the operator’s deliveries were off. The dialogue is close, and it’s a Murray Hill number, but it wasn’t right.

So, I went to IMDb and looked to see if the film had been remade or redone for TV, or adapted for Lux Radio Theater.

Which it had. But that turned out to be irrelevant.

Because, as it turns out, the film had been based on an original radio play of the same name, first aired on the national program Suspense (one of the most famous Old Time Radio shows). And it had starred Agnes Moorehead, which immediately gave me a forehead-slapping moment, because yes, she, too, could have delivered the lines with that same odd affectation that made me think Stanwyck or Arthur.

So I went to the Single Episodes page for Suspense on the Internet Archive (virtually all Old Time Radio is in the public domain, due to the way copyright law worked at the time), and listened to the first broadcast, from May 25th, 1943.

And that was wrong, too.

Wrong phone number, the operator was way wrong in her delivery.

So I scrolled. Oh. Turns out the play had been popular and was re-performed that August, also with Moorehead.

Still wrong.

Look some more. Ah, okay, maybe it was the February 1944 re-performance. Or maybe I would have to go looking for the Lux Radio Theater adaptation of the film back to radio.

But that was it. February, 1944, note- and word-perfect.

And you know the weird thing? I freaking enjoyed doing this search.

At some point, I’ll upload a text file with all the lyrics to the album’s page, since that would aid in other writers using them in their writing. But today, I am simply satisfied to have solved this tiny mystery.

I am such a nerd.

Irene Gallo, Unrepentant Bigot

(There is an update at the bottom of the post.)

Bigot n. A person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance.


Irene Gallo, the Creative Director for Tor Books, is a bigot.

This is not hyperbole. Over the weekend, on a Facebook post promoting an upcoming book from Tor, she posted the following:

There are two extreme right-wing to neo-nazi groups, called the Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies respectively, that are calling for the end of social justice in science fiction and fantasy. They are unrepentantly racist, misogynist, and homophobic. A noisy few but they’ve been able to gather some Gamergate folks around them and elect a slate of bad-to-reprehensible works on this year’s Hugo ballot.

source, alternate source, in case of memory-holing

As somebody pointed out (I’m afraid I’ve lost track of who it was), there is exactly this much truth in her statement: there are, indeed, two groups, called the Sad Puppies and the Rabid Puppies. Everything else is a lie.

The statement set off quite a firestorm across social media and the blogosphere.

There were several reasons it set people off, not least of which is that it tarred at least two of Tor’s own authors, John C. Wright and Kevin Anderson.

Many of us have been waiting to see what Tor would do, as an institution. Especially in light of the fact that this bigotry was unleashed in direct relation to promoting an upcoming book from Tor. Patience was counselled by many, since this past weekend was the weekend that the Nebula Awards were announced, meaning that the adults at Tor were all likely to be busy with convention activities and festivities.

Well, the weekend is over, and two things have happened.

First, Tor’s Facebook page has taken the official position of “not our problem, dude”:

Happy Monday! We appreciate your comments & would like to remind you that the views of our employees do not reflect those of the publisher.


Also, somebody seems to have advised the redoubtable Ms. Gallo that her spewing of hatred was perhaps a bit unwise, especially since some of it splashed onto the people who actually produce the product that her employer sells, and therefore upon whom her livelihood depends.

So she apologized. For how other people took what she said, of course, not for the content of her statement:

About my Sad/Rabid Puppies comments: They were solely mine. This is my personal page; I do not speak on behalf of Tor Books or Tor.com. I realize I painted too broad a brush and hurt some individuals, some of whom are published by Tor Books and some of whom are Hugo Award winners. I apologize to anyone hurt by my comments.


This, as I pointed out in the reply pictured, is not an apology.

It is a passive-aggressive insult: “I’m sorry you’re so stupid that your feelings were hurt when you didn’t understand what I was really saying,” more or less.

She does not apologize for impugning the characters of a very large number of people. She does not apologize for impugning authors who work for her employer, in particular. She does not apologize for her immaturity in prancing about demonstrating that she’s not part of a tribe she hates. She does not apologize for her bigotry in any way, shape, or form.

She only apologizes for the feelings of people who might have been hurt by what she said.

What she said, then, must still stand.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the very essence of the non-apology apology. She said the words “I apologize”, but in a form that makes it clear that she is not at all sorry, and she damn well wants everyone to know she’s not.

And Tor Books, so far, seems perfectly willing to accept this smearing of its authors, its colleagues, and its reading customers.

Tor used to be a good company. They used to publish an ideologically wide range of authors. They used to treat their readers and their authors with respect.

Also, they used to get no small amount of my book-buying money.

But not anymore.

UPDATE: Tor’s publisher, Tom Doherty, has made a post on the matter. In part:

Tor employees, including Ms. Gallo, have been reminded that they are required to clarify when they are speaking for Tor and when they are speaking for themselves. We apologize for any confusion Ms. Gallo’s comments may have caused. Let me reiterate: the views expressed by Ms. Gallo are not those of Tor as an organization and are not my own views. Rest assured, Tor remains committed to bringing readers the finest in science fiction – on a broad range of topics, from a broad range of authors.

This is good, and Tor’s now-official stance that the Sad Puppies are simply organized fans is also good.

However, I do not deem it enough.

First, Ms. Gallo did not apologize for her bigoted remarks, she did the passive-aggressive non-apology for anyone whose feelings might have been hurt. Her remarks and her bigotry are unacceptable, and letting her off with an “I’m sorry you didn’t like what I said” doesn’t cut it.

And secondly, while she has since made clear that her views do not reflect Tor’s, she expressed them while promoting a Tor book. That reflects on the company, no matter how much it is now disavowed.

I am, in short, unmoved in my decision to give Tor no more of my money.

Ethos, Pathos, and Thymos

Yesterday on Reddit, I had the pleasure of being targeted for abuse because I committed the sin of pointing out that Ayn Rand was not, in fact, a hypocrite for both advocating the abolition of the welfare state (because it was legalized theft) and for taking social security and Medicare. (If you care actually to understand how it was not hypocrisy, instead of just snarling curse words and insults at anyone who disputes it, you can find it on the Ayn Rand Lexicon, and at greater length in the essays quoted there.)

One charming fellow answered a comment I made with swearing and insults, for which I mocked him. The mockery, apparently, got up his nose a bit, for this was one of his replies:

Let’s try a fucking thought experiment, motherfucker.

You own some fucking land. It’s not fucking big enough for you to fucking live off (and you’re not fucking smart or fucking hard enough to do so, even if it fucking were). If you don’t fucking go out and buy some fucking food, you’ll fucking starve.

I want to exercise my God-given fucking right to run my fucking business. I buy up all the fucking land surrounding your fucking hovel and set up my fucking factories and shit. Due to the sensitive fucking nature of my fucking business, and my desire to live a private fucking life away from the prying fucking eyes of fucking parasites (because muh freedoms and A=A and fuck you), I allow no fucking trespassing, no fucking overflights, and certainly no fucking tunnels.

Resolve for maximum fucking freedom.

He got even more enraged when I declined to answer his “argument”, instead opting to mock his demeanour further.

It is a dictum of mine that lefties cannot abide being treated the way that they treat others (in fact, they generally react with insensate rage), and he has spent a good part of yesterday and today demonstrating just that.

But as I have seen this “argument” before, presented as if it were unanswerable, I felt I should put the answer out into the ether, just to show what a piece of silliness it is.

So, here it is:

Imagine I walk up and encircle you in my arms, without touching you at any point. If you actually think that breaking free of my imprisoning you in such a way would constitute you initiating force against me, then possibly you find the above scenario to be a convincing refutation of of freedom and property rights.

If, on the other hand, you see that I was guilty of imprisoning you, congratulations, you understand the common law idea of easements, not exactly a new or groundbreaking concept, and not a thing against which any Objectivist thinker has ever argued, to my knowledge.

The first digital watch in 1972 cost $2,100…

"Casio 3157" by Reg Natarajan, CC BY 2.0
Casio 3157” by Reg Natarajan, CC BY 2.0
Something to consider:

[In April 1972,] Hamilton introduced the world’s first commercial electronic digital wristwatch. It retailed for the pricey sum of $2,100.(It would go for about $11,400 today.) By the end of the 1970s, however, the price of the average digital watch dropped drastically; they would regularly retail for under $10 a piece. And in the 1980s, they became a novelty. You could even find them in cereal boxes as cheap giveaways.

That’s how the free market works. A new gadget comes out, people like and want it, and inside of eight years the price point drops to less than 0.5% of the initial price.

Think that if somebody in the government had decided what digital watches “should” cost, that would have happened? If you believe that, you probably still think you can keep your doctor if you like your doctor.