jwgh: (book)
I stumbled across this thing I wrote in 2004 when [livejournal.com profile] lots42 commented:
Whatever you do, don't listen to Miss Manners. I seriously think that woman is insane
my response )
jwgh: (accordion santa)
For quite a while I've been singing 'Leaving Home', which is Charlie Poole's take on the Frankie and Albert theme, and I remembered reading that Frankie and Johnny has been speculated as being based on one or more real-life crimes. I like the idea of writing something based loosely on real life events that did not actually happen to me. But where could I find a story with the appropriate resonances? I thought about it a bit and thought: Snopes. After a lot of clicking around, I came across this story of love betrayed and thought: that could be it.

And there things stood for many months.

But tonight at the coffee shop the logjam broke and I wrote down a set of lyrics. It's all still pretty rough, and it hasn't been set to music yet, but I think it has potential. We will see! (Mind you, in terms of an accurate report of the events in question, it's about as accurate as Frankie and Johnny is.)
jwgh: (TILT)
I got the August issue of Harper's in the mail yesterday and read the essay by Kevin Baker titled "A Fate Worse Than Bush: Rudolph Giuliani and the politics of personality". I was interested in reading this, because my opinion of Mr. Giuliani is not very high and I was interested in reading a critique of him. This is what I got.

The article begins: "Rudolph Giuliani has, by far, the most dubious known personal history of any major presidential candidate in American history, what with his three marriages and his open affairs and his almost total estrangement from his grown children, not to mention the startling frequency with which he finds excuses to dress in women's clothing." Oh, give me a break -- I don't believe that he has the most dubious known personal history of any major candidate. More dubious than Jefferson? Also, is the fact that he has worn women's clothing as a joke seriously supposed to make me think he'd be a bad president?

But of course that's just the first sentence, so maybe the rest of the paragraph will put this into perspective. The paragraph continues: "Many of his fellow Republicans despise him for his support of gay rights and abortion rights and immigrants, for the confiscatory gun laws he enforced while mayor of New York City, and for having a personality that is irreducibly New York." Then Baker quotes Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention and James Dobson as saying they would never vote for Giuliani. But these things by and large are all things I likeabout Giuliani. So what's going on here?

The next paragraph says that he is following in the path of Bill and Hillary Clinton, then pauses to say "New York has always been where America happens first. As the nation's most populous city, as its financial and intellectual capital, and as a magnet for ambitious and creative immigrants from all points, domestic and foreigh, it has set the course for most of the nation's history." This New York boosterism continues for a couple of paragraphs, then there's a bit about how New York's problems also presage the country's problems. Then it glosses over the fact that Hillary Clinton is from Illinois -- this is unimportant because "she nonentheless fit perfectly into the city's political landscape, in large part because she was instrumental in creating it."

After that, on its third page, the article settles down for a while. It traces Giuliani's success to his success in getting liberal upper-class white folks to vote for him by exploiting fear of crime and a feeling that the city was being taken over by non-white folks. This thesis is developed for four pages. Then there are two pages that argue that Giuliani didn't do much when he was mayor and that his popularity was on the wane until September 11, after which he still didn't do much and lied about it. Then there's a page in which it is indicated that his approach to the Presidential race is similar to his approach to the mayoral race. Then there's the concluding section, which includes the following argument:

"Just as Bill Clinton was able to silence labor, the advocates of racial and gender equality, and all of the Democrats' other so-called special interests in the wake of his party's repeated presidential defeats, so Rudolph Giuliani may be able to mute the Republicans' religious wing in the wake of George W. Bush's disastrous administration. Yet what will this mean? Many of us would welcome any setback for the Christian right [. . .] Yet to expel evangelical Christians from the body politic would also be to dismiss millions of Americans who are profoundly disturbed by the amoral cynicism that now permeates this nation's elite classes; by the waves of misogynistic pornography and ultra-violence that inundate our popular culture; by the growth industries that have grown out of gambling and hedonism. To dismiss these evangelical Christians would be to dismiss millions of Americans who genuinely believe in something greater than themselves, a whole population that has been slowly but steadily won over to such causes as environtmentalism and social justice in recent years. And where would such people go? The obvious answer would be, into some sort of coalition with all those the Democratic Party has tried to banish from its ranks -- that is, the poor and the working poor, people of color, and all those dislocated by the global economy. This would mean a party of the religious and the disinherited -- exactly the combination that has given rise to the sort of extremism we so deplore in the Islamic world."

Then there's a paragraph that says that today what's important in the president is personality, and that Bush's failure is the result of his personality, and that Giuliani would probably be about the same.

I think it would be fair to say that this is not exactly the article I'd hoped for.


Jul. 5th, 2007 08:32 am
jwgh: (Hat)
His eyes drifted down to the bottom of the contract, where there was a unchecked checkbox marked 'Heaven'. "What about this?" he asked.

She snorted. "You don't want that. It's not worth it."

He was surprised. "Really?"

"Imagine avoiding saying 'Damn' for the rest of your life just so you can get into a country club with no booze."
jwgh: (Default)
I've never sold anything I've written, but I wanted to do a little something special today anyway. So here's a story I wrote a while ago ... I know that I've posted various versions of this out there before, but I don't think anyone's seen this exact version yet.

I've also made a recording of it for your listening pleasure, such as it is: 523 words and just under three minutes. The title of the piece is 'Plastic Fantastic'.

Read more... )
jwgh: (Hat)
There's been an extremely slow-moving literary argument/discussion going on in Harper's. In 1996, Harper's published an essay by Jonathan Franzen in which he blamed the fall in readership of serious literature on the tendency for it to be difficult to read. Then in 2005 Lionel Trilling posted a response, also in Harper's, titled 'Why Experimental Fiction Threatens to Destroy Publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and Life As We Know It: A Correction', which was a sort of defense and celebration of hard-to-read books.

In the current Harper's there's an essay by Cyntia Ozick titled 'Literary Entrails: The boys in the alley, the disappearing readers, and the novel's ghostly twin', which enters into this discussion.

Ozick thinks that the problem with modern-day literature is that there isn't enough literary criticism, which she distinguishes from reviews, reviews being focussed on whether books are good or bad while lit crit tries to find links between books, if I understand the essay correctly.

None of this is particularly important, but it is background for this quotation, which I was amused by, because it seems like an unusually nasty and unmotivated attack on Amazon's reviewing system, and also for another reason:
Less innocent is the rise of the non-professional reviewer on Amazon -- though "rise" suggests an ascent, whereas this computerized exploitation, through commerce and cynicism, of typically unlettered exhibitionists signals a new low in public responsibility. Unlike the valued book club reviewer, who may be cozily challenged by companionable discourse, Amazon's "customer reviewer" goes uncontested and unedited: the customer is always right. And the customer, the star of this shoddy procedure, controls the number of stars that reward or denigrate writers. Amazon's unspoken credo is that anyone, or everyone, is well suited to make literary judgments -- so that a reader of chick lit (the term defines the reader), will howl with impatience at any serious literary fiction she may have blundered into. Here is "Peggy of Sacramento (see my other reviews)" grudgingly granting one ill-intentioned star to a demanding contemporary novel: "boring slowness, hard going, characters not even a mother could love." Or Tim: "A thoroughly depressing book. The home life was not a pleasant atmosphere in which to raise children."1 Most customer reviewers, though clearly tough customers when it comes to awarding stars, are not tough enough -- or well-read enough -- for tragic realism or psychological complexity. Amazon encourages naive and unqualified readers who look for easy prose and uplifting endings to expose their insipidities to a mass audience.
Wow. OK.

As I said, I was impressed by how mean this passage is, and of course by its elitism (I think the phrase 'unqualified readers' is pretty funny), but I also was a little puzzled by the quoted reviews; to me they didn't seem very typical of Amazon reviews.

Oh, but wait, what's that footnote?
1 These are, admittedly, inventions, but with recognizable verisimilitude.
I'm not sure why it's necessary to make up stupid Amazon reviews when the real thing can be found so readily. Possibly copyright or other legal concerns?

A cynical person might wonder if Ozick herself had gotten rated poorly on Amazon at some point. (However, most of her books get 4-5 stars.)
jwgh: (Default)

This morning I had an idea for what to do for the song about 'Childhood Photographs' that I have to write for this coming Sunday (January 14)'s 'Songwriters in the Round' show at AS220 (which goes from 7 pm to 9 pm). I think it's supposed to get its debut performance at the show, but here's the first verse I've got at the moment so you can see where I'm going with it.

first verse )

I'm also thinking about what other songs to play at the show. I think I'll just bring my guitar, so that eliminates some songs immediately.

I'll do a total of four songs, one of which is the new one. I'll probably make the final decision about what I want to do while I'm onstage and listening to what the other participants (Ryan Fitzsimmons who also organizes the Songwriters in the Round shows, ilyAIMY, and Allysen Callery) play, but it will probably be three of the following:

  • Editors at War
  • Hybrid Car Blues
  • Kitten Knitting Blues
  • Lady Luck
  • Pickle Postcard
  • "Pumpkin, Mrs. Farnsworth"
  • Watching Killer Robots Eat Your Head
  • Worst Meal
  • You're The Tea In My Teacup
jwgh: (Van Halen)
[livejournal.com profile] palmitas268 asked me some questions about my musical career, and the response is turning out to be pretty long, so I'm going to split it into parts and post it to my livejournal over the course of the day. The first question is about my influences and inspirations.

my response )
jwgh: (Default)
Here's a bit of nonsense.
One fine day after a show I'll got in my time machine,
And I'll went back forty decades just to see what I can seen.
I was walking down the street and I found a bright penny,
So I took it to the market and invested it wisely.

And I came back to the present and I had three million bucks.
(When you've got compound interest then you don't need any luck.)
I'll invest in a research firm to invent time machines,
And in less than sixty months, they'll exceeded all my dreams.

Then I'll take one back to now, and I'll gave it back to me,
And I'll sang this little song that I once had sung to me,
And I think that brings us up to date, excuse me if I'm terse.
I think I'll take my leave and do the things in the first verse.
jwgh: (Default)
It's more involved than you think!

I'm going to head up to Boston shortly, so thought I might as well fill up the rest of my time talking about how I wrote 'T for T. Rex', which I think will be interesting to me if nobody else.

As is often the case, I got the idea as I was falling asleep. Jimmie Rodger's 'Blue Yodel #1' (aka 'T For Texas') went through my head with 'T. Rex' instead of 'Texas'. I got a phone call around midnight, woke up, remembered the line, thought it was funny and thought, hey, I could do that for the whole song!

So I had to begin with the lyrics to 'T For Texas'. They are:
behind this cut! )
I also had a list of dinosaur-related terms that I got from some website. After fooling around with the first verse:
T for T. Rex, T for [????]
T for [???], the [???]
I realized that that was going to be pretty hard and went back to bed.

Over the rest of the night, I remembered the term 'Theropod' and realized that it more or less rhymed with 'dog'. (This is arguably more cheating than Jimmie Rodgers himself indulged in in his song, depending on how you feel about rhyming 'barrel' with 'gal'.) Theropods were around in the late Triassic, so that gave me the rest of the second verse.

Onwards. The 'If you don't want me mama' verse is probably a little too obvious, but it's not like I was aiming for an extremely nuanced, complex satire, so after trying a few different dinosaur names in that verse I stuck in 'Apatosaurus' and left it at that. Verse #3 was complete.

I didn't see much that could be done with the 'water drinks like cherry wine' verse, so I figured I'd finish verse #1 and do a verse about guns and call it a song. Returning to verse #1, I decided to try:
T for T. Rex, T for Tarbosaur.
Then I tried to figure out what else 'T' stood for and what that person or thing did that rhymed with 'Tarbosaur'. In keeping with the original song, it seemed like it should be relationship-related somehow.

Finally I thought that instead of being Thelma, it should be someone she left me for. ('For' rhymes with 'Tarbosaur!') This led to me trying to think of names that began with 'T', but that wasn't all that helpful. I was quite relieved when 'time traveller' came to me -- two 'T's, and it made the presence of dinosaurs make sense, sort of.

That makes the gun-related verse easier to figure out, because for some reason when time travel is discussed people always bring up the possibility of killing your own grandfather as a potential problem. (It never seems to be your grandmother or any other blood relative. Also, whether it is your maternal or paternal grandfather isn't specified. There is also a lot of concern expressed about being your own father or grandfather [I guess if you think about it the former implies the latter], but I decided to leave that alone.) So, yeah, if you're willing to accept that 'Theropod' almost rhymes with 'dog' then perhaps you'll also forgive the attempt to rhyme 'tall' with 'grandpaw'. Also, you will maybe not worry too much about whether Thelma is supposed to be the singer's grandmother or not.

And there's your song. Not a very original song, or a particularly good song, or even a song that is especially worth recording (since if you've heard the original Jimmie Rodgers song then you know exactly what this one is supposed to sound like, and if you haven't heard the original then you won't understand what the point is), but a song nonetheless.

jwgh: (piano)
T for T. Rex, T for Tarbosaur.
T for T. Rex, T for Tarbosaur.
T's the time traveller my Thelma left me for.

I'd rather drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log
Drink muddy water, sleep in a hollow log
Than to be in the Triassic and be eaten by a Theropod.

If you don't want me, mama, you sure don't have to stall.
Don't want me, mama, you sure don't have to stall.
'Cause I can get more women than an Apatosaurus can haul.

I'm gonna get me a pistol just as long as I am tall.
I'm gonna get me a pistol just as long as I am tall.
Gonna shoot that time traveller, even if he's my grandpaw.
jwgh: (Default)
Just got this email:

Dear Mr. Haller:

In one of your essays which starts “Another sampling from the Sky Mall catalog, you make mention of the availability of purchasing a mouse pad with the theme “The essence of survival”. I have been trying to purchase this item for sometime now and would appreciate if you could give me a phone # or the name of the Company to contact that has this item.

Thank you in advance


Mary Lou Georgia
which refers to an essay I wrote about Successories a while back.

New lyrics

Apr. 18th, 2006 02:54 pm
jwgh: (Hat)
As I mentioned to [livejournal.com profile] cgoldfish at lunch today, while I was dreaming (or maybe waking up) I came up with some lyrics last night. If I have time today I might record them for the podcast (although my recording setup has been acting a little weird for the past week or so, which is a little worrying).

As far as what it means to write lyrics in my sleep: I remember hearing a couple of these lines (specifically the first couple of lines from the second verse) and singing them to myself over and over. The melody I used in my dream was from the Randy Newman song 'Rider In The Rain', and the song is kind of Randy Newman-ish in other ways, I think, so I am a little worried that I subconsciously ripped the whole thing off from him, or from some other preexisting song. Anyway, I wrote some more lyrics after I got up, and I fooled around with the chord progression and the melody so it no longer sounds like 'Rider in the Rain', so hopefully it is relatively original now.

It would have been relatively easy to write a whole bunch more verses, but I decided that three verses got the idea across well enough. I'm not sure if anyone else will like the song, but I think I do. Well, we will see.

tentatively titled 'habit' )

Addendum: The more I think about it, maybe Liz Stahler has a song with a similar conceit? Does this ring a bell with anyone?
jwgh: (Default)
I did a search and found everything I've ever written about mittens.

Edit: The related search about bacon probably has higher entertainment value (?). (I kind of like this poem about bacon.)
jwgh: (rescue)
This particular brand of joke seems to have been invented by Ranjit Bhatnagar.

Here are the ones I came up with. Write your own!

my 'yo' god so false' jokes )

jokes written by other people )

jwgh: (Default)
One of the songs I performed tonight is a little ditty called 'Watching Killer Robots Eating Your Head'. This song title was suggested by [livejournal.com profile] saucypunk and the song was more or less written for [livejournal.com profile] cgoldfish and I played it at her birthday party. Other than that, tonight's was the first public performance of the song. People seemed to like it a lot!

Anyway, here are the lyrics. )
jwgh: (Default)
Spoilers? Yes, spoilers! )

[livejournal.com profile] sunburn can be held to be partly responsible for me writing this, since he threatened to give a cute robot an MRI if I didn't!
jwgh: (Default)
On Sunday I went to the Boston Museum of Science with Kibo, [livejournal.com profile] mmcirvin, [livejournal.com profile] samantha2074, and Joshua Cope. One of the things we did there was watch a one-man play about the life of Nikola Tesla titled Battle of the Currents. That inspired me to write the following (which was also posted to alt.religion.kibology).
Tesla: The Life of a Genius )
I always am tempted to explain what I'm talking about in stuff I write, but it's probably a mistake to do so.
jwgh: (arrrr)

For some reason I wrote a bunch of dirty poetry yesterday. And this morning. *cough*

[livejournal.com profile] doctroid posted this dirty limerick to alt.religion.kibology:

This one! )

and Kibo posted a challenge to turn it into a Shakespearian sonnet. I wrote something that was four lines short of a sonnet, [livejournal.com profile] doctroid called me on it, and I wrote this expanded version, which I think is superior anyway, despite containing what might be considered 'fat humor', which I don't really approve of:

More toilet humor )

Next, [livejournal.com profile] plorkwort challenged people to write dirty limericks about Daleks. I came up with three:

Three dirty limericks )

The entire dirty Dalek limerick discussion can be found here. My favorite one is this one by [livejournal.com profile] doctroid.

(A couple of the poems above differ slightly from the versions I posted to a.r.k.)


jwgh: (Default)
Jacob Haller

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