A “Play,” “Sound Opinions” vs. “It’s Alright Ma, It’s Only Music,” Guest G2T, a Litter Inventory, Gas Stoves, and Driver’s Ed

This week’s “zine.” Something for everyone? Maybe, maybe not.

by Mark M

The complete text of a “play” I wrote and published along with one other in my chapbook 2 Plays:

[UNINTELLIGIBLE]

Short play by Mark M
(c) 2004

CHARACTERS

MALE, a male
FEMALE, a female

ACT ONE (OF ONE)

A room with no view. One chair. MALE and FEMALE, standing, face one another.

MALE [talk, blab, speak, mumble].

FEMALE [yawn, smirk, smile, grin].

MALE [yell, shout, scream, shriek].

FEMALE [whimper, cry, weep, moan].

MALE [console, whisper, reassure, plead].

[FEMALE and MALE briefly, awkwardly embrace.]

[Curtain]

Watch it here.

The early silent part is due to YouTube removing “Eleanor Rigby” strings due to copyright.

Performance at the 6th Street Theater, Racine, WI, Saturday, January 29, 2005 by Over Our Head Players.

So Phil Schultz suggested I put a copy of my 2 Plays chapbook into the mail slot of 6th Street Theatre, and so I did and thought little more of it.

Awhile later, I saw they were taking submissions for their first Snowdance short-plays festival.

I didn’t enter as I figured both “plays” were way too short.

Then, near the deadline, Rich Smith contacted me and asked if he could enter [Unintelligible], the better of the two “plays,” and, of course, I said yes.

I thought they did a marvelous and creative job of adding a few embellishments to flesh it out.

Thanks, Rich!

Chicago’s “Sound Opinions” vs. Milwaukee’s “It’s Alright Ma, It’s Only Music (and then some)

Both of these are radio programs with two hosts each that play primarily rock music.

I listen in to both hoping to learn of new artists whose music I like. Recently, for instance, I am quite liking what I’ve heard by Wet Leg.

Of course, things are a matter of taste, but I think Sound Opinions wins hands down.

Sound Opinions, an hour long per show, plays, by and large, way hipper stuff.

Ma,” two hours per show, is a father and son duo (Bob Reitman, son Bobby Reitman) with the father sounding vocally crusty and ancient who very slowly speaks with a lot of pauses. Annoying. (I’ve heard him on occasion read announcements for the station at a normal speaking speed, so it’s not like there’s no hope for the guy. Maybe if he wrote out his song comments and stories beforehand and read them to us.) The son sounds all nasally. Sometimes they are joined by the grandson who sounds to be about 4 years old, but knows how to read because sometimes they have him read off what they just played. Fans of cute will dig that.

There have been numerous times where the father starts playing a tune that was not his intent and stops the music to then put on what he wanted to play. Oops. Jarring!

The literacy level of the father once was exposed when he questioned his son as to why isn’t “vain” as in “Love in Vain” spelled “vein.” Embarrassing!

The son’s picks, a shorter segment of the show, are often way hipper than the father. The son’s segment is often preceded by a recording of a short burst of unidentifiable noise with pa asking, “What was that, Bobby?” Actually, I kind of like that noise whatever it is. Maybe a guitar and amp being “abused,” I’m not sure.

They have an annoying habit of playing a batch of songs that all feature, say, trains in the lyrics. Seems kind of like a juvenile idea.

But once they played about 20 different versions of “Louie Louie” in a row. I enjoyed that.

Incidentally, “Louie Louie” is in large measure a rip of “El Loco Cha Cha.”  

The father is a Dylan devotee and also favors playing a lot of acoustic numbers and blues. Oh, and country-flavored stuff which I assuredly dislike,

For me, acoustic guitars are sonically boring. Give me creatively-distorted electric any day. (Shoegaze!) An electric guitar, practically silent when not amplified, doesn’t have to be played loudly.

I never understood the unplugged fad.

I think King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp once called the acoustic guitar an anachronism. Even if he didn’t, that’s what I think, by and large, of the acoustic guitar.

OK, I must confess when the acoustic guitar on “From the Same Hill” on self-described non-musician (I can relate to that!) Brian Eno‘s Music for Films makes its “attack,” “piercing” the “ambient” intro, it is quite striking. When I played it for guitarist friend, Jerry Tarwid (more on him below), years ago, he was quite impressed when he heard it as well.

As for the blues, I like Howlin’ Wolf, but, overall, I’ve heard way too many blues songs in my life. I’m talking about what I’ll call the obvious blues, I fully realize the blues is one of the “parents” of rock.

Speaking of hearing something way too much, my friend, Jeff Baker (pen name Atman Way), once wise-cracked that he’d pay money to never hear song X again. Fill in X with something like that song whose title is indicative of a West Coast hotel or that Central European rhapsody (unless that song title instead was referring to an unconventional person in its modifier to “rhapsody,” don’t ask me); I’m not going to even honor those songs by citing their actual titles.

As far as I’m concerned, they’ve long long ago outlived their usefulness.

They are JUNK ROCK!!!!!(!)!!!

The father redeems himself somewhat by also liking the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, and Jonathan RIchman.

As for the Sound Opinions Chicago dudes (Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot), as stated, they play way hipper music, but the guy who sounds like the heavy-set one has this GUFFAW! laugh that crops up way too often and for things that aren’t even funny. “The latest album is called First Drum Set — GUFFAW GUFFAW GAFFAW!!” What’s so funny about that? Surely he’s been in the biz long enuff to no longer be nervous! The other fellow sometimes sounds a bit wheezy.

And both of the Chicago guys will often drone on and on (and on) when introducing a tune, and I get impatient and think to myself, “Just play the fucking tune already!

They often agree on liking artists, but it’s interesting when they pointedly but respectfully disagree.

In fairness, Sound Opinions probably has a bigger budget because they sometimes are interviewing an artist (such as Aimee Mann on her five albums that most influenced her — approximately five surprises there — as I recall: Neil Young’s Harvest; Steely Dan’s first (“Brooklyn (Owes the Charmer Under Me)”!; hey, does that song have the same chord changes as “Queen Jane Approximately”? — I like both songs; some Elvis Costello album several albums into his career by which time I was no longer paying attention to him; and two albums by guys I had never heard of who each sadly committed suicide as it happened; shows are archived), and they sometimes also air in-studio performances by bands. Sleater-Kinney, when they still had superlative drummer, Janet Weiss, was memorable for me.

I catch Sound Opinions on WBEZ-FM 91.5 on Friday evenings at 8 pm. (I think it gets repeated 24 hours later on Saturday evenings.) After the Friday evening airing, at 9 pm, this guy (I don’t recall his name and can’t find it on the station’s website) has an hour-long program called “Radio Z” which also is pretty hip. I also rate him higher than the “Ma” guys. And he has no annoying laugh nor wheezes.

So while I’m on taste in music, meaning my poor taste, of course, I’ll add that I never understood the appeal of reggae. It sounds like the world’s laziest music. Give me its way more uptempo predecessor, ska, any day.

I’m not a fan of country, nor heavy metal. Not much for classical. And, sorry, forget that Mexican “oop-pah” stuff! I can handle Selena, for what that’s worth.

And since, for me, music almost always takes precedence over lyrics, rap is generally too verbal for me to really get into.

I have to admit I was impressed recently when I stumbled upon a bit on-line from the Ellen DeGeneres show where some white guy energetically extemporized rapping to random words that were furnished by the audience.

Anyway, often, if I can’t figure out a song’s lyrics, I don’t much care. There are no lyrics to a sax solo either, for that matter.

Oh, and in the rock realm, a solo that’s “just” a lot of rapid-fire notes does nothing for me. Though it clearly takes much skill to play, the effort is lost on me. Sorry, Eddie.

Speaking of Jonathan Richman, he was a major Velvet Underground fan who saw many of their gigs and even, if I recall, slept on their manager’s couch.

He founded the Modern Lovers whose first album was produced by the Velvet’s John Cale, a classic album, but Jonathan said about it by the time it got recorded he was “way sick” of those songs and he subsequently moved on to playing much more quietly.

It’s amazing therefore that that first Jonathan/Modern Lovers album (which included Jerry Harrison, later of the Talking Heads, and David Robinson on drums, later of the Cars) was so influential given his feelings about those songs by the time they got recorded.

So loved is “Roadrunner” from that album that on February 13, 2013, then Massachusetts State Representative Marty Walsh introduced a bill to have “Roadrunner” named official rock song of Massachusetts. Richman however came out against this saying, “I don’t think the song is good enough to be a Massachusetts song of any kind.” !

Another very influential album, Television’s first album had songs on it that the band had been playing for about three years with few changes in arrangements. One would have thought they too were way sick of doing those songs, but I’m sure glad they did them.

In interviews, Lennon would deride a number of his/Beatles songs. For instance, concerning a big favorite of mine, “And Your Bird Can Sing,” in one interview, he called it “a horror” and, in another, “a throwaway.” A number of the Beatles songs he calls “throwaways” or “garbage.” Many bands would give their collective eye teeth to have come up with, on their own, such “garbage” as some of the songs Lennon derides. (I believe it was McCartney who told someone that often critics would declare a Beatles song to be about thus and so, something they did not necessarily have in mind, and if it was not something objectionable, they would just keep their mouths shut. There were some songs of Paul’s that Lennon felt were about him, such as “Hey Jude” (no) and some songs on Ram, but the only Ram song about John was “Too Many People,” a song which pissed him off along with the others he thought were about him, so he way overreacted with “How Do You Sleep?” with George on guitar adding insult to the injury. Not too long thereafter, John and Paul agreed to not slag each other off in public — “All You Need is Love,” right? Lennon had a weird way of “apologizing” to people, later simply telling Beatles producer George Martin who he slagged off in a famous, long, Rolling Stone interview ca. 1970 that he was out of his mind on drugs when he said the mean things, and, 11 years after the fact, admitting to Carole King who essentially at that time sought an apology for when he had said a string of vulgarisms to when she met him in 1965, that he actually was in awe of her but didn’t want to stupidly gush, so he very nastily insults her instead! At that time, in 1976, she had to first remind him what it was that he’d said.)

But then artists often come to dislike some of their work, painting over a prior art work or throwing a manuscript into the fire (what James Joyce did with a draft of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; someone in the family saved it).

De Chirico, an enormous influence on the Surrealists, came to essentially dismiss the work they loved so much and had moved on to an entirely different style when they discovered him about 10 years after he painted what was called his metaphysical paintings. They essentially dismissed his post-metaphysical work. Acrimony resulted.

I highly recommend Lenny Kaye’s book, Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments in Rock and Roll. He really knows how to tell a story complete with frequent, clever turns of phrase.

Speaking of Dylan, I used to idolize him but that ended for me back in 1979 with his preachy Christian phase and now his voice is such that the age-old criticism that he has a bad voice is irrefutable.

Also, he doesn’t meet his own “Absolutely Sweet Marie” standard for “living outside the law” since he is often not honest.

In The Double Life of Bob Dylan: A Restless, Hungry Feeling, 1941-1966 by Clinton Heylin, the author points out right at the start of the book that the first time Dylan’s name saw (news)print, a lie was conveyed about where Dylan was from. As I recall, the news bit said he was from Gallup, NM, not Hibbing, MN.

He went on to tell tall tales about his origins until a journalist outed him, ca. 1963.

But he didn’t learn his lesson.

Dylan biographer Clinton Heylin has shown skepticism concerning the factualness of the book Chronicles: Volume One by Dylan: “Jesus Christ, as far as I can tell almost everything in the Oh Mercy section of Chronicles is a work of fiction. I enjoy Chronicles as a work of literature, but it has a[s] much basis in reality as Masked And Anonymous, and why shouldn’t it? He’s not the first guy to write a biography that’s a pack of lies.”

Concerning the release of the song “Murder Most Foul,” Dylan said it was “an unreleased song we recorded a while back that you might find interesting.” This spurred speculation that the recording may have been years old and perhaps even an outtake from his 2012 album TempestFiona Apple later confirmed, however, that the song had in fact been recorded only one month previously, in February 2020.

And in many interviews, Dylan seems to be in an uncooperative, put-on mode.

But, dishonesty and put-ons aside, I have to admit his greatest achievements are truly great achievements.

As one needs to be able to hear in order to enjoy music…

Can you hear me? (and this post’s “guest appearance”)

The high-decibel flatulent sound Harley-Davidson motorcycles make is a bane on summer. (Yard work is a Sisyphean endeavor.) I don’t dig loud vehicles with any number of wheels.

A musician friend, Jerry Tarwid, pen name G2T, a Racine native and, until recently, a Racine resident (now Milwaukee) has a powerful motorcycle, but not a loud one, and he once observed that the mentality behind a loud motorcycle (or any loud vehicle) is exactly the same as the child who fastens playing cards to his/her pedal bicycle to have them slap against the whirring spokes to make some noise.

I did that too.

When I was like 9 years old.

Here are some of the relatively cleaner fake want ads of a bunch that Jerry composed under the pen name “G2T” for laffs back in December 1986 in the S. BULL zine:

Ronco “Weenimatic,” toaster, bed, handkerchiefs (asstd colors), diamond-studded toothpick, foot powder holder, & hubcap display case. Best offer or trade for Volkswagen. Ph. 666-1111 days, 111-6666 eves, 222-6666 Sat and 555-5555 on the third Sunday of the month. (555-7777 if during the solar eclipse.)

Help wanted: Person to plug in my TV. $11.50/hour, benefits. Send resume and references to: P.O. Box 666, East Bungfuck Egypt, NM 99999

SAM the HANDYMAN will clean up puke, dogshit, sperm, clean dentures & braces and a lot of other disgusting things. Call for free estimate, 999-2222.

STOP thieves!! with NEW Lawnmines (TM). You’ll never have to worry again if you’re on vacation or simply trying to get a good night’s sleep. Call now and get a FREE barbed-wire bracelet, 555-2525.

Somewhat less clean:

For sale: Vibrator. Used only once. Too small. All attachments incl. $50. Ph. 666-6666 weeknights after 6.

(c) Gerald Theodore Tarwid

This is Jer playing guitar — wait! I guess I’m mistaken, sorry.

Back to Mark M:

What would David Brower do?

I get around town largely by bicycle, using my car nowadays only once/week to fetch food for the Hospitality Center downtown, when I also buy groceries for me. (Sometimes people think I don’t own a car; once I went nearly 6 months between fill-ups.) And so I observe literally all kinds of litter as I bike. Besides the common litter of bottles, cans, wrappers, and grocery bags, I have seen stainless dinnerware — spoons, forks, knives — lots of clothing from shoes to jackets to coats to socks, t-shirts, tank tops, jeans and other pants, shorts, men’s and women’s underwear, baseball caps, stocking caps, gloves, mittens, you name it.

It seems increasingly common to see the leftovers from a fast food/deli meal pitched into the road, a plastic bag containing Styrofoam containers, condiment packets, plastic dinnerware, napkins, drink containers, and the uneaten food.

Also, used diapers, masks (wildlife can get entangled in the straps that go around your ears!), hair extensions, hair nets, blankets, towels, washcloths, prescription bottles, hunting knives, box cutters, wire, tools; I’ve seen it all. Oh, and lots of nails, screws, nuts, and car-wheel lug bolts.

Wait! There’s more!

Condoms, sometimes used, often still wrapped

CDs

Hangers, metal and plastic ones

Latex gloves (I saw a photo in National Geographic showing how a small fish had swum into the thumb of a littered latex glove and so was trapped to die there. Heartbreaking!)

Cell phones, intact and not

Books

Magazines

Mail, both junk and not

Fruit, such as an apple, with a bite out if it — at least that’s biodegradable

Pens, pencils, markers

A Milwaukee public library book in the middle of Jerome Boulevard, wet from rain and badly damaged from being run over, probably more than once.

A solar-powered yard light which makes a handy night-light in my house. Useable clothing I give to Value Village.

Seems many of the amateur Independence Day explosives have a lot of plastic components, the remnants of which I see in the street.

No doubt I am 4getting some items. It’s a lot to remember.

I try to pick up at least some of it, particularly Styrofoam and plastic on the brink of going down a storm drain, and thence to the lake. Stopping for as much of it as I do makes my average biking speed little faster than walking, and often I end up filling my bike basket to overflowing when biking only a 3-mile trip.

My “pay” is sometimes finding money, usually only a penny, but sometimes money made of paper.

I wish the littering slobs would cut it out, especially glass bottles. Why am I swerving on my bike from the road’s edge into your lane? I am probably dodging broken glass, trying to avoid a flat tire, thank you very much.

There is so much plastic littered about and it’s not biodegradable but breaks down into ever-smaller pieces ultimately into dust such that it is estimated we are all eating or breathing in what would amount to a credit card’s worth of plastic every week. Birds innocently eat plastic bits, hardly healthy. In fact, many then starve because they feel full and not hungry. Litter bugs, please refrain.

While picking up litter, recycling, and so forth, it never even remotely occurred to me:

Men Resist Green Behavior as Unmanly

Sheesh! Sounds like Harley-think to me.

Besides me, being a guy, being a “data outlier” to that, here is a female “outlier,” at least in the past:

Back in the pre-curbside recycling era, when at my then girlfriend’s, I would offer to take her recyclables to the drop-off center. I wouldn’t harangue or nag about it; only when at her place once or twice a week, I’d make my offer to take her recyclable refuse that was on hand. I wasn’t asking her to save up the items for me between visits, though that would have been fine with me.

After awhile, she ended up getting angry with me for this.

“It’s my trash!” she fumed.

She was a feminist, but apparently not of the eco-feminist stripe.

Actually, her feminism turned out to be conditional; she once chided me when we were leaving a restaurant for not helping her put on her coat.

What a clod I was! No wonder we barely lasted a year.

Wait! More female outliers: She sweetly once reported to me that at a party she had at her place for her feminist friends, they made fun of my recycling ways. God/dess bless them.

By the way, if you have a gas stove, new or old, it is leaking methane, a greenhouse gas worse than CO2, even when turned off!

An acquaintance observed that one likely rarely uses more than two stove burners at the same time, and, since I am such an unfoodie (if I didn’t have to eat, I just might not bother to eat!), I haven’t used my oven in decades and only use one stove burner at a time. So I bought an electric induction “hotplate” and a “hob” to go with it so I don’t have to buy “magnetic” stainless or iron cookware which is otherwise required (and turned off the gas supply to my stove):

Plus, unless you have a hood over your gas stove that actually exhausts to the outdoors, when using your gas stove, you are notably polluting your indoor air.

Driver’s ed:

The other day, there were cars waiting at a stoplight on Washington Avenue in west Racine and an approaching car slammed on its brakes too late and smashed into the last car making it smash into the car ahead so that car ended up with rear and front end damage. Word to the wise: when pulling up to cars in a stoplight line, keep your distance.

The end.

Boilerplate: As part of my community project as Racine Writer in Residence, I hereby invite Racine-area people to send me prose or poems of 250 words or less for me to consider for inclusion in my posts as a “guest appearance.” I don’t know as I write this if this will cause a flood of responses or hardly any responses at all. If a “flood,” I will obviously have to pick and choose. If you want, also send a photo and a very short “bio.” You will retain the copyright for the material you submit. Thank you. Send to m.mk at att.net

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