• Tonight at work I will unload a truck with Joe, who has been part of my crew for going on five years now. Joe won’t be in the truck because the first rule of unload crew is The Truck Is Trying to Kill You and working safely in there means being able to hear when the piles of freight start to slide into an avalanche and Joe, who’s pushing 70, lost most of his hearing years ago in the coolest way possible. He was in a rock band for most of the ’70s and ’80s.
“So you played guitar?” I asked him once. “I played lead guitar,” he said. And the way he said that made me think he was probably pretty good at it.
The name of the band was Desert Sky. They were a regional touring band that played in and around Kansas City and St. Louis for more than a decade. Somewhere, probably, there are cassette tape recordings of some of their shows. Maybe film, but this was long before VCRs made it possible for there to be “video.” And somewhere, surely, there’s a band photo.
Alas, that photo and those cassette recordings are probably buried in a box somewhere. They’re not online. I’ve looked — searching and Googling to no avail.
So this is an extreme long-shot, but I’m putting it out there to anybody with better Google-fu than me or maybe even to anybody who thinks they might have a trove of old local Midwestern rock band memorabilia in a trunk somewhere. I would very much like to find a photo of Desert Sky and its lead guitarist. And if anybody knows of any existing recordings, that’d be even better.
• “Enhanced Authoritarian Techniques.” Adam Kotsko looks at the refusal to name fascism as such and finds this casuistry, denialism, and desperate need for euphemism reminds him of two things: the pretense that the Bush administration’s torture of detainees was somehow not “torture,” and the remarkably creative propensity that white evangelical teenagers have for limning the bounds of “technical virginity.”
• Atlas Obscura on the Public Universal Friend Exhibit in Penn Yan, New York:
In 1776, after recovering from a serious fever, Jemima Wilkinson claimed to have died and been revived in a new form, neither male nor female. They left behind their old name and life and began preaching as the “Public Universal Friend,” or simply the Friend.
And, yes, the Friend went by they/them. In 1776.
The town of Jerusalem, founded as a religious community by the Friend, still exists as part of the village of Penn Yan. They were burning over the Burned Over District a full generation before that was trendy.
• Speaking of the Burned Over District, Erik Loomis visits the American graves of Margaret and Catherine Fox.
He emphasizes the same thing I found most compelling about the Fox sisters: the brazenness of their fraud. From the minute their whole seance scam started, skeptics debunked the scam by saying they were probably just making “rapping” noises themselves, under the table, rather than communicating with spirits from the Great Beyond. And that’s what they were doing. It was even what they eventually, and very publicly, confessed to doing. And yet, as Loomis says, “the parapsychology world today … still hold the Fox sisters dear and just ignore all the confessions of the truth.” Yep.
I wrote about the Fox Sisters here back in June: “Twice on the pipe if the answer is no.” And here’s a good Smithsonian piece from several years ago by Karen Abbot, who goes into greater detail about the ways in which the sisters confessed and debunked their own malarkey, “The Fox Sisters and the Rap on Spiritualism.”
“And I think that inaccurate definition is a big part of why most people (myself included until relatively recently!) think that haiku are kind of… dumb? unimpressive? simple and boring?”
A fun little Tumblr rant that succeeds in its goal of making haiku more interesting than you might’ve been led to believe.
• RIP Marty Kroft: “As the fire engulfed a large portion of Goldwyn Studios, this A.P. ran up to near where Marty was and yelled, ‘We may be able to save some of the sets!’ Marty, he told me, instantly yelled, ‘F–k the sets! Make sure nobody gets hurt!’ And nobody got hurt.”
• I’ve previously expressed my mixed indignation at how global disaster movies almost always snub Philadelphia. This was even true for Independence Day, in which the evil aliens couldn’t even be bothered to blow up Independence Hall. Philly doesn’t even show up on the NORAD map of alien attack sites in that movie.
Here’s another map illustrating the Philly snub: “Where Humans Think Aliens Are Most Likely to Land.” The only Philadelphia-area dot on that map is here in Chester County, marking where The Blob invaded Phoenixville back in 1958. Such fictional invasions are so rare in these parts that we celebrate them — the annual BlobFest is always a good time, giving residents the chance to re-enact the running-out-of-the-Colonial-theater scene.
That map of Hollywood alien landings neglects to include the Lancaster location of M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs — an exception that proves the rule, showing that the only way movie aliens will ever invade the Philly area is if local movie makers make it happen.
• Speaking of B movies … “How Rocky Horror Became a Cult Phenomenon”
My favorite part of this was the prescient excerpt from Roger Ebert’s 1976 review:
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” would be more fun, I suspect, if it weren’t a picture show. It belongs on a stage, with the performers and audience joining in a collective send-up. … The choreography, the compositions and even the attitudes of the cast imply a stage ambiance. And it invites the kind of laughter and audience participation that makes sense only if the performers are there on the stage, creating mutual karma.
• The title for this post comes from U2’s “In God’s Country.”