Wednesday, April 30, 2008

New Memory

Hey kids! I've got a new installment of my epic online serial, Memory, up and live over at No Fear of the Future. Up until now, mind you, we've seen Flavius MacDuff and Parric operating, plot-wise at any rate, independently of each other. That's all about to change. Of course, Interesting Things happen first:
"Aye, that's it, beastie!" he bellowed. "Face me like a man, and I'll beat ya to death with my bare fists! I'll knot yer coils and fight ya to Hell and back. Cumberland'll ken then what it means to rile a highlander whose heart beats with the blood of Clan MacDuff!"

The raindrops surrounding him, Flavius suddenly noticed, seemed to hover motionless in relation to him. It was an odd thing to note, he thought, particularly with the muddy field seconds away from hitting him very, very hard.

"Och," he muttered. "This gonna sting a mite."

Check out the rest at No Fear of the Future!

Now Playing: Dr. Love & the Erogenous Zones Dr. Love & the Erogenous Zones

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Home again, again

Maybe I should just stop going anywhere. Or maybe stop going home. Things happen, after all.

Yesterday as I'm heading home, I turn into the short access road that Ts into the street that loops through our subdivision. Pretty simple and straightforward, right? Only there's a big, white crew cab pickup flying at me from the left fork of the T. Startled out of my lassitude, I hit the brakes. Just in time, too. Because from the right fork comes a trashy, white Trans-Am looking thing dragging a trail of wire fencing, black tarp and a broken fence post from its rear bumper. Would've slammed right into me had I not stopped moments earlier. As it is, the car weaves between myself and the truck, with the truck jumping in pursuit.

At this point I'm wondering if some idiots are racing through the neighborhood or something equally stupid.

The main road, from which the afore-mentioned access road connects to, is currently barricaded right past said access road because of construction on the new school going up next door. The car makes to go around these barricades, but ends up going into the ditch as another white crew cab pickup comes around the barricade and cuts him off.

The fact that these may very well be work trucks from the construction site finally begins to sink into my baffled brain.

The car lurches out of the ditch into the road, pretty much out of control by this point. Tires are squealing all over the place, and that fence, tarp and broken post are whipping all around. He seems on the verge of tearing off down the road in the direction from whence I just came--and making for the interstate--when a third truck cuts him off from that direction. So he takes to the opposite ditch, which is deeper and steeper, and apparently gets stuck.

Cue the police car. It comes flying in from the construction site, lights flashing, and screeches to a halt on the road adjacent to the stuck car, which is gunning its engine trying very hard to become un-stuck. The officer jumps out, instantly draws his gun and runs around to the passenger door.

That snapped my out of my slack-jawed spectator mode. If there was even the possibility of bullets flying, I didn't want to be anywhere near there. In the paper this morning, there were no arrest reports that obviously related to yesterday's events, but there was one in which a fellow was arrested for cocaine possession, failure to appear, violating court orders, criminal mischief and a laundry list of other moral failings. I figure he's our man.

And that ruined fence, tarp and post are still lying out there in the ditch beside the road, a monument to low-budget Dukes of Hazzard reenactments.

Now Playing: Eric Clapton Unplugged

Monday, April 28, 2008

I rant

The soapbox may be a bit wobbly, but I get up on it real good over at No Fear of the Future to vent some feelings regarding recent goings-on during the SFWA business meeting held over the weekend during the Nebula Awards events. I'm not saying it's a particularly good rant, but any time you get to see spittle flying for free...

Now Playing: Aerosmith Pandora's Box

Sunday, April 27, 2008


This is probably as close as I'm ever going to get to having my own Nebula Award.


If Ted Chiang happens to be reading this, he shouldn't worry if his trophy seems oddly wet. That'd just be my drool. Should wipe right off pretty easily.

Now Playing: Peter Gabriel Secret World Live

Home again

I'm back from the Nebula Awards in Austin. Another 15 seconds and I wouldn't be.

I'm driving down I-35 just a few miles out of Austin, whipping through the concrete-lined "Death Star trench" on the north side of Buda where a lot of construction is taking place to add some impressive-looking overpasses. This is about a mile or so north of the huge Cabella's store there. Which isn't relevant to this story, but something I feel compelled to include.

So I'm driving along, taking a swig from a bottle of Diet Dr Pepper as I'm wont to do, when motion in my rear view mirror catches my eye. Not 20 yards behind me, I see a red pickup (maybe an older model Ford F-150. Maybe not. I wasn't focused on branding at the time, mind you) move from the right lane into the left. Which is no big deal, except for the fact that I watched it do this in profile. The truck rotated from a head-on perspective to a full 90-degree right angle profile. In front of a monster tractor-trailer rig. The pickup rode up into the big rig's front bumper, and the rig veered left into the concrete barrier lining that side of the highway. The trailer went right, blotting out the cluster of cars coming up behind.

You know how those kinds of wrecks take place in slow-motion in Hollywood films? They do the exact same thing in real life as well. I have no idea how many cars crashed into the pileup, but there must've been several. With the concrete barriers in place, there was no place for anyone to go, and with traffic moving at around 70 mph, there was no time to slow down.

The highway was instantly empty--just myself and one other car made it through before the interstate was utterly blocked off.

I was instantly on the cell phone dialing 9-1-1. I gave the dispatcher the exit number where it happened, the sequence of events and vehicles involved. More construction equipment and a slight bend in the road took me beyond sight of the wreck. It then started to sink in that if I'd delayed my departure from the Nebula Awards even a few seconds more--I saw Geoffrey Landis as I was leaving, and exchanged a few words with him before reluctantly pulling myself away--I'd have either been caught up in the ensuing traffic jam, or worse, caught up in the pileup itself. I consider myself very lucky indeed.

Now Playing: Peter Gabriel Secret World Live

Saturday, April 26, 2008

SFWA announces 2007 Nebula Awards® winners

Well, the Nebula Awards have just ended, and I'm 50 miles to the south sending out the media announcement. I figured I might as well share it with my loyal blog readers. Now I'm out the door and heading back up to Austin. Cheers!
The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Inc., has announced the Nebula Awards® winners for 2007.

The Nebula Awards® are voted on, and presented by, active members of SFWA. The awards were announced at the Nebula Awards® Banquet held at the Omni Austin Hotel Downtown in Austin, Texas on Saturday, April 26, 2008.

The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon - HarperCollins, May 2007

"Fountain of Age," by Nancy Kress - Asimov's, July 2007

"The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate," by Ted Chiang - The Magazine of
Fantasy & Science Fiction, September 2007

Short Stories
"Always," by Karen Joy Fowler - Asimov's, May 2007

Pan's Labyrinth, by Guillermo del Toro, Time/Warner, January 2007
shooting script)

Andre Norton Award
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling - Scholastic Press,
July 2007

Famed British author and Austin-area resident Michael Moorcock was honored as the Damon Knight Grand Master during the ceremonies, with long-time fantasy and science fiction writer Ardath Mayhar honored as Author Emeritus. East Texas literary icon Joe R. Lansdale served as toastmaster during the awards.

Also during the weekend, Melisa Michaels and Graham P. Collins were honored with 2008 SFWA Service Awards. The award is made at the sole discretion of the president, and has previously been called the "Service to SFWA Award."

Both Michaels and Collins received the award for the work they did on the SFWA website. Michaels single-handedly founded the website in 1995 and was webmaster from 1995-2000. Collins took over in 2000, and was webmaster from 2000 until he stepped down early this year. Both donated prodigious amounts of time and effort to maintaining SFWA's presence on the web, and were influential in making a valuable resource for members and non-members alike.

This is the eighth time that the award has been presented. Previous recipients were Chuq Von Rospach, Sheila Finch, Robin Wayne Bailey, George Zebrowski & Pamela Sargent (joint), Michael Capobianco & Ann Crispin (joint), Kevin O'Donnell, Jr., and Brook West & Julia West (joint.)

About SFWA
Founded in 1965 by the late Damon Knight, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America brings together the most successful and daring writers of speculative fiction throughout the world.

Since its inception, SFWA® has grown in numbers and influence until it is now widely recognized as one of the most effective non-profit writers' organizations in existence, boasting a membership of approximately 1,500 science fiction and fantasy writers as well as artists, editors and allied professionals. Each year the organization presents the prestigious Nebula Awards® for the year’s best literary and dramatic works of speculative fiction.

Now Playing: Ray Davies Working Man's Cafe

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday Night Videos

Good news! I've finally finished Jack Vance's The Compleat Dying Earth cycle, and I can't help but imagine Vance had a ball writing it. Cugel the Clever indeed.

I'm about ready to head up the highway to Austin for the Nebula Awards where I'll be roomies with the great John Picacio, but before I go I'll leave you with Billy Squier's "Everybody Wants You," because, well, it's kind of a Billy Squier day, isn't it?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Fools.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Falling off the wagon

Okay, I said I wasn't doing this anymore (or rather, I said I was laying off the stuff, since the lure of a guaranteed payday is quite intoxicating, if time-consuming) but the Nebulas coming to Austin is one of those events that conspire to undermine the best of intentions. Authors mingling everywhere, free-flowing liquor... not to mention the enablers striving to undermine my resolve. So. I've given in.

I'm interviewing Joe Haldeman this weekend. And may God have mercy on my soul.

Now Playing: The Dr. Demento Show November 14-15, 1998

Much love from the Dallas Morning News

I've been on the phone a bit this week dealing with media issues for the upcoming Nebula Awards in Austin. This is a good thing. The Austin Chronicle ran a somewhat snarky piece this week, but as P.T. Barnum said, it's doesn't matter if it's good press or bad press as long as the name is spelled right. But in dealing with Edward Nawotka of the Dallas Morning News, I had a very comfortable feeling. The man had already done a good bit of homework, and after our conversation kept in touch with me via email, clarifying points here and there and generally doing what a good reporter should. The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and Nawotka's pudding, published today, is pretty darn tasty indeed:
People always judge science- fiction writing by its worst examples," says author Joe R. Lansdale. "Sci-fi is more respected than when I was a kid – when it was considered that old hokey stuff. People are beginning to appreciate what a unique genre it is and what an interesting pocket universe we have here in Texas."

That universe will get some international attention this weekend as the 2008 Nebula Awards are presented in Austin. Mr. Lansdale, a prolific author of mystery, horror, comics and sci-fi works, often set around his hometown of Nacogdoches, will serve as toastmaster.

The Nebulas are one of science fiction's top honors, dating to 1965, when Frank Herbert won the inaugural best novel prize for Dune. Winners are chosen by members of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Sci-fi's other top awards, the Hugos, are voted on by fans. "The Nebulas are essentially like the Oscars, while the Hugos are like the People's Choice Awards," said Jayme Lynn Blaschke, a communications officer at Texas State University who also serves as the Nebulas' publicist.

Texas is home to 71 members of the writers group. "That makes it third only to California and New York," says Betsy Mitchell, the editor-in-chief of sci-fi publisher Del Rey books.

Ms. Mitchell will be on hand to honor the 68-year old British-born (and part-time Austinite) Michael Moorcock as a grand master. Another Texan, 78-year-old Ardath Mayhar of Chireno, author of some 60 books of fiction and poetry, will be deemed author emeritus.

Other luminaries expected to attend the Saturday night awards ceremony are Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, whose The Yiddish Policeman's Union is nominated for best novel, and Bruce Sterling (a part-time Austinite), whose story "Kiosk" is shortlisted in the novelette category, as is "Memorare" by another one-time Texan, Gene Wolfe.

I wonder how much flack I'm going to take for the Oscars/People's Choice comment. There's no malice there, obviously, but you know how easily those wacky genre types get bent out of shape.

The article is really most excellent. I can't stress that enough. Read the whole thing at the link above.

Now Playing: Aerosmith Pandora's Box

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Night Videos

This is a really crummy live concert video of The Fools, but as far as I can tell no professional video of this song exists. Which sucks, because it fits my mood right now. You folks eager to see Young MC's "Bust a Move" are going to have to wait for some other time.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Rockwell.

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Well, hell

Karma's just having a field day kicking the shit outta me this week.
We had decided to do a second volume, for stories from 2007, and I had chosen the contents. But what with the delays of the first volume, and basically the publisher feeling a bit overextended, we've had to cancel this second book.


Anyway, here's the planned TOC for the SPACE OPERA 2008 volume ... noting by the way that the authors hadn't been contacted about this, and some may have refused permission ...:

David Moles, "Finisterra" (F&SF, December)
John Scalzi, "Pluto Tells All" (Subterranean, Spring)
Richard A. Lovett, "The Sands of Titan", (Analog, 6/07)
Ken MacLeod, "Who's Afraid of Wolf 359" (The New Space Opera)
Charles Stross, "Trunk and Disorderly" (Asimov's, January)
Gareth L. Powell, "Six Lights Off Green Scar" (Infinity Plus)
Jayme Lynn Blaschke, "The Final Voyage of La Riaza" (Interzone, June)
C. W. Johnson, "Icarus Beach" (Analog, December)
Robert Reed, "The Caldera of Good Fortune" (Asimov's, Oct/Nov)
Jay Lake, "The Fly and Die Ticket", (Subterranean, Fall)
Dan Simmons, "Muse of Fire" (The New Space Opera)

Remind me later to piss and moan about a conflict that's come up and screwing me royally with regards to the upcoming Nebula Awards. I'm too despondent to go there right now...

Now Playing:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


At a local park, there are these "spinning seats" that I've thought would lend themselves to a nifty layered composition. I've had the idea for a while but not had the opportunity to shoot it, because the park's usually too crowded. Yesterday, unexpectedly, I found myself watching Bug and Fairy Girl play there for 30 minutes.

The seats are thick molded plastic, shaped vaguely like a three-petaled flower. They're set on a 3" metal pipe and spin freely. Under normal circumstances, this would be no different than your run-of-the-mill bar stool, but the pipes themselves stand at a 5-10 degree angle off vertical. The kid's upright weight causes the seat to rotate to try and achieve equilibrium, but this moves the kid out-of-balance, so they shift to regain balance, resetting the equation. The seat can get to spinning very fast very quickly--eventually the rider either sets their feet down to stop or they tumble off. I'd never see one either, until they redeveloped this section of the park about six month back. Pretty ingenious, if you ask me.

I didn't have my tripod, but as I had my camera I figured I'd give it a shot and maybe test out the "proof in concept." Hand-holding as steadily as I could, I shot about a hundred frames of my daughter spinning on the seat. I chose four and put them into layers in Photoshop, varying transparency and erasing where necessary. The hand-held shots didn't line up that well, but I cropped and erased enough to fake it.


It doesn't look half bad at this size, but when blown up to pixel-resolution it's obviously a rough hack-job. Still, it shows me that the idea has some merit. Now to just find the time to head back over there with the young 'uns when the park ain't crowded...

Now Playing: The Monkees Then and Now... The Best of the Monkees

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday Night Videos

Does anyone remember Rockwell? He may have been a one-hit wonder and Berry Gordy's son, but I loved "Somebody's Watching Me" when it came out. I had the album (the second single, "Obscene Phone Caller," was fun, and I even liked is R&B cover of "Taxman." There was a definite paranoia vibe running through the album) and taped myself a copy of the video off of--you guessed it--Friday Night Videos. His career didn't last long, but this is definitely one hell of a creepy video. Enjoy!

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

An academic odyssey

My newfound photography obsession, well-documented here, has not abated in the past six months or so since it first manifested itself. If anything, it's gotten worse, culminating in what may very well prove to be one of the smartest or stupidest moves I've ever made.

Other men buy a hot new car (I'm still holding out for my '37 Studebaker) or a hot new girlfriend (I floated the idea, but The Wife nixed it). So, what's left for me to plunge into for a last, desperate grasp at youth before the looming big Four-Oh crushes my will to live?

I'm now a college student.

I have successfully--knock wood--enrolled in nine undergraduate course hours for the fall 2008 semester (that's three classes in English). As I've said before, the fact that I never took any photojournalism courses while earning my degree at A&M has long bothered me. Not bothered me terribly much, but it's been there. But once I started thinking about it, it became a really nagging obsession on my part, prompting me to start selling off my beloved Dr. Demento collection in order to purchase a goodly amount of digital photography equipment. But just having the stuff wasn't enough. I wanted to know how to use it, and reading books on the subject only takes you so far.

So. Texas State has a program in place where staff members can apply for tuition and fees to be covered by the university for 9-12 hours' worth of classes. This discovery was quite exciting to me, I can tell you. But because my department is under-staffed, I can't afford to take any time off. So, full-time student, full-time work. Already this becomes challenging. Little did I know that this was just the start.

Texas State offers a photojournalism course through the School of Journalism. No prerequisites, and it's essentially the same course I didn't take at A&M. That's a good start. No problems there. But I also discover the Department of Art & Design offers a full-blown fine art degree in photography. Oh, my! There are quite a few photo courses here that are quite enticing to me. Only here's the hangup--there are prerequisite classes. Two, in fact--2/D Design and Basic Drawing. Both must be completed before taking any photo courses. Well, I went and met with a counselor, explained my needs and wants, and ironed some things out. I'd apply to Texas State as a transfer student, and since I already had my B.A. from A&M, I'd be a second degree-seeking student (which has its own set of unique rules to play by). I'd get a waiver in which I could enroll in the fine art photography courses concurrently with the prerequisite classes in consecutive semesters. After two semesters, I'd have a pretty solid photographic foundation, at which point I could either decide to pursue that second degree in photography or look into graduate school (MFA in creative writing) if my grades warranted it. Great. Everything was all set.

Except, once I got ahold of the course offerings for the fall, photojournalism wasn't listed. This is Double-Plus-Ungood. I can't stress this enough. Without photojournalism, my plan falls apart--I have to have at least three courses otherwise I don't qualify for the university's tuition/fee program. Ouch. So I contact the professor who normally teaches it, and learn that it may be offered--taught by adjunct faculty--if funding can be found. But it wouldn't be added to the course offerings until long after I need to be registered. Still, because of my journalism background, he suggests an Independent Study. He describes it to me, and it'd definitely be challenging, akin to learning Spanish by being dropped off in Oxaca for a month and having to learn the language or else. But I'd learn an obscene amount of photography in a very short time, which is what I want to take the classes for in the first place. And not having a set class period would very much help with my work schedule. Okay, great. We'll do Independent Study.

So I get all the approvals and signatures. I'm approved. All set. Monday arrives. The first day of online registration, for faculty, staff and student workers. I log in to the system. It won't let me register. I'm a new student, it says. Well, yes. It says I can't register until I've gone through new student orientation. First I've heard of this. I call the Registrar's office. It's a first-day glitch, I'm told. It should clear up tomorrow after the system resets overnight. The next morning, of course, the system still refuses to let me register. Geeze, Louise!

I keep hearing the refrain that the system has me as a "New Student" (true) and that I must go through orientation before I'll be cleared to register (not true, but what can I do?). Waiting until June for a day-long orientation with 18-year-old freshmen isn't an option. There's an online orientation for transfer students, though. In desperation, I take it. What is supposed to take an hour takes me 15 minutes to successfully complete. I've undergone orientation, so the system should let me register now, right? Of course not. Silly of me to think otherwise.

Meanwhile, the Intro to Digital and Photographic Imaging class I need is filling up. There are 18 seats available Monday morning when I begin my futile quest to register. I check now--after just one day of staff and special classification registration--and see that it's down to just 12 openings.

Did I mention my schedule is an academic house of cards? I have three courses, but to make the job and schooling mesh in a workable way, I have to get into specific sections. My schedule won't work at all otherwise. Panic sets in. Quickly.

I pick myself up, gather reams of documentation, emails and other such things and hie me over to the Registrar's office. Whereupon I'm greeted with the refrain that the system thinks I'm a new student and I have to go through orientation in June. Egads. I bury them in paperwork, showing that no, I'm not required to go through orientation, and that even if I were, I'd already completed the online orientation which satisfies the requirement. Duly impressed, they retreat to the computers in the back, and 20 minutes later return to inform me that some file that needed to be created for me hadn't been, which was causing the system hangup. They'd corrected the oversight, and I was now cleared to sign up for my classes.

So, with some trepidation, I retreated to my office, logged in and... successfully landed all three courses as well as the proper sections. Yay!

This fall, I will be taking 2/D Design and Intro to Digital and Photographic Imaging back-to-back on Mondays and Wednesdays, with a photojournalism Independent Study course tacked on for good measure. It's going to be challenging, but even if I fail miserably and humiliate myself and my family for generations to come, I figure I'll pick up at least a little bit of useful knowledge.

I feel an overwhelming urge to watch the "Homer Goes to College" episode of The Simpsons now...

Now Playing: The Gipsy Kings Volare!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Jayhawks triumphant

Congratulations, Kansas, for a well-earned national championship. It's high time the Big 12 brought home the hoops trophy. But next year A&M's going to beat you good up in Allen Fieldhouse!

As for Memphis, sorry guys. I really appreciate the way you pantsed that overrated UCLA team, and in any other year I'd have been pulling for you. But after the way most Kansas fans took umbrage at the way UCLA thieved that second-round victory away from the Aggies a couple of weeks ago, well, we Big 12 schools gotta stick together. Better luck next year.

Now Playing:

And she was shakin'....

One of the advantages of living in Central Texas is that of all the natural disasters in the world, earthquakes are numbered among those we don't have to worry about. Uh, not normally, at any rate...
No injuries have been reported after a pre-dawn earthquake Monday shook parts of South Texas, about 45 miles southeast of San Antonio.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the 3.7 magnitude quake happened at 4:51 a.m.

The quake was detected about 6 miles southwest of the Karnes County town of Falls City, in an area near the line with Wilson County.

The U.S. Geological survey reports the epicenter was at a depth of about 3.1 miles.

Karnes City is about an hour's drive south of us. We go through it regularly on our way to Corpus Christi or Port Aransas to hit the beach. The terrain is pretty flat prairie there, not an obvious abode for active faults.

I actually woke up around 4:30 a.m., but I'm afraid the reasons had to do more with nature's call than any preternatural sensitivity to temblors.

UPDATE: The USGS has all the information about the quake that you could possibly want.

Now Playing: The Moody Blues Time Traveller

Friday, April 04, 2008

Nile Crocodile

There's a new "Africa Live!" section open at the San Antonio Zoo, and they've just recently added a young Nile crocodile. It was lurking in the water, not offering much to shoot, when it suddenly decided to climb out and start sunning itself. I started clicking away, zooming in tight for close-up, zooming out for full-body shots, the works. I wasn't sure if anything would be good, so I went with the shotgun approach.

I like this one because 1) the croc fills most of the frame and B) it's in a pose you don't normally see them in. I think the composition works, striking a nice asymmetrical balance. I was using my Canon 75-300mm. The image isn't cropped. Post-processing consisted of lightening the image and improving contrast slightly. I'm actually pleasantly surprised at how much color there is--at the time of shooting, I thought I was getting gray on gray.


Now Playing:

Friday Night Videos

Wasn't it the Dead Milkmen who sang "If you don't have Mojo Nixon then your blog could use some fixin'"? If so, consider that sad oversight on my part now corrected. I played "Elvis is Everywhere" for the girls the other day, and they decided it was one of the most brilliant songs ever recorded. I think they want Hannah Montana to cover it now.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... The Romantics.

Now Playing: Sheena Easton The Lover In Me

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Dr. Love rises from the ashes!

Curious how synchronicity works. How else can you explain the timing of my putting my Dr. Demento Show collection up for auction on Ebay (as Johnny Cash would say, "One piece at a time"), and the famed comedy band Doctor Love & the Erogenous Zones rising from the dust with its very own MySpace page? They have some of their songs posted as well--available for download. Bliss!

It gets better. Back in my college days, I worked on the student newspaper, The Battalion, wearing a number of different hats. The summer of 1992 I was Lifestyle Editor, and the very first feature I wrote and ran was on the Dr. Demento Show. I'd written it for a feature article class the previous semester (actually, just a week or two prior) but like many of those long-ago stories, I'd lost my copy in the intervening years. Apparently some of the guys in Dr. Love & the Erogenous Zones were more organized in their filing system, because they not only saved said article, but posted it on their MySpace page. Which I hereby appropriate for my own uses and present to you in its entirety:
Comedy Reigns Supreme for Dr. Demento
By Jayme Blaschke
The Battalion, May 27, 1992

"The Doctor is IN!

So begins another episode of the Dr. Demento show, a syndicated radio program that has influenced American music and musicians for more than two decades by poking fun at the soft underbelly of mainstream life.

DementoRecord_smDr. Demento’s declaration of war against normality assaults the airwaves weekly from more than 180 radio stations worldwide. Although his program now originates from KLSX studios in Los Angeles, the program’s early genesis began in 1970, when he was hired as a disc jockey at the now defunct KPPC in Pasadena, Calif.

“Nothing was standard at that station, and they wanted my program to be an off-the-wall oldies show," Demento said. "I started mixing a little weird music in with the standard fare, and quickly found out that the weirder the music was, the more requests we got.

“Within six months to a year, the program had become dominated by novelty songs,” he said. “The show was first syndicated in 1974, and was picked up by the Westwood One network in 1978. We’re the only program like it on the radio.”

The major reason for the show’s longevity and success is its bizarre nature. Ron Elliot, program director for KKYS in College Station, said the station has carried Dr. Demento for more than five years. The show is aired Sundays from 10 p.m. to midnight, and is one of the station’s more popular features.

“It definitely serves a purpose,” Elliot said. “It broadens the scope of the music we play, featuring something besides today’s top 40 hits.”

“Sneaky” Pete Rizzo, a biology professor at Texas A&M University who has had six songs featured on the Dr. Demento Show, said the program serves an important role in American Music.

“It’s hard to say the world needs a Dr. Demento, but it’s nice to think it does,” he said. “There is obviously a niche for people like me, and a lot of morning radio shows have started injecting humor into their programming.”

“Novelty tunes rarely make the Top 10,” Rizzo said. “But out of all the songs in the Hot 100, those novelty songs are the ones people remember. Purple People Eater, The Streak and Fish Heads never made the Top 10, but 20 years from now, those will be the songs people remember.”

Kelly Shatzer, lead guitarist “Guido” with Dr. Love and the Erogenous Zones, a College Station band that has been played on the program, said the show’s off-the-wall nature opens many creative avenues.

“Creatively, you get to do what you want,” Shatzer said. “Since we’re a comedy band, the Dr. Demento Show’s being comedy-oriented helps a lot too.

“The music on the show isn’t avante garde, but its stuff you can’t find anywhere else,” he said. “The music you hear on Dr. Demento is not afraid to take chances.”

One demented song, I’m Too Sexy, by the group Right Said Fred, debuted on the Dr. Demento Show in 1991, made the Billboard Top 10, and sold thousands of copies.

Most songs featured on the program are not as successful, but the unrestricted atmosphere of the show knows few, if any, bounds. Unusual songs by such diverse artists as Fred Astaire, the B-52’s and Lyle Lovett have found their way onto the program. The Dr. Demento Show attracts starts that wish to take advantage of the show’s “try anything” attitude.

“Brian Wilson (of the Beach Boys) had a new song (Smart Girls) that his record company didn’t like,” Dr. Demento said. “He wanted to get it out, so he called me, and we featured it on the program.

“There’s all sorts of celebrities that have made songs people haven’t heard of,” he said. “I have over 200,000 records in my collection, with songs by Katharine Hepburn, Mae West, Leonard Nimoy and even Muhammad Ali when he was known as Cassius Clay.”

Although many major celebrities have been played on the Dr. Demento Show, a high percentage of material featured on the show is from new artists, most of whom do not have a recording contract or any previous exposure. This policy of showcasing new talent alone makes the program something of a maverick in the radio business.

When Dr. Love and the Erogenous Zones first formed, they had no idea how to get their songs on the radio, Shatzer said. They had heard of the Dr. Demento Show, but it wasn’t until Pete Rizzo told them how to record a demo tape and how to submit it that they began to hope for national exposure.

The first song they sent in, Hefty, Hefty, Hefty, was rejected because its subject matter, overweight love, had been overdone, Shatzer said. It did, however, merit a personal call from Dr. Demento, and their second effort, Stamp Collecting, made the cut.

“It was great to hear our song on the radio,” he said. “We had no idea of what our chances were to get on, but knowing our song was being played nationwide was incredible.”

Even though his program offers national exposure, and several performers who got their start on the show--most notably “Weird Al” Yankovic--went on to sign recording contracts with major labels, the Doctor does not claim to be a career-maker.

“Being played on my show may help someone’s career move farther along, but major labels are not falling over themselves to sign the artists on my show,” he said. “That may be a shame, but that’s the way it is.

“First and foremost, I’m an entertainer, and my job is to entertain,” Dr. Demento said. “I love to help musicians out and am happy to play new music, but that’s not my purpose.”

Although a major recording contract would be nice, Shatzer said the chance to be heard by thousands of people across the country was a measure of success in itself.

“Dr. Demento provides an opportunity for anyone who makes an effort,” he said. “You can’t get that kind of chance with normal music.”

"And don’t forget to stay dee-mented!"

Now get over to the Dr. Love page and demand they post all the hilariously raunchy songs previously available only on their ultra-rare bootleg tape.

Now Playing: The Dr. Demento Show August 22-23, 1998

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Snow Leopard

My photography obsession continues. I got this shot of a snow leopard at the San Antonio Zoo on March 27. I'm delighted the shot turned out as well as it did, since I took the shot through a chain-link fence.

Snow Leopard edited

Now Playing: The Dr. Demento Show September 25-26, 1999