Thoughts On The Dead

Musings on the Most Ridiculous Band I Can't Stop Listening To

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Listen, My Enthusiasts, And You Shall Hear

A long time ago, in Boston…

“I’m only going to explain this one more time.”

“Paul, I’m thiiiiiis close to understanding it.”

“You’ve been saying that for twenty minutes, Jenkins.”

“It’s confusing!”

“It is truly not. If you see the British coming by land, then hang one lantern in the steeple of the Old North Church.”


“Oh, God, what?”

“Are we calling it the ‘Old’ North Church? From our perspective, it’s not that old.”

“I need you to concentrate.”

“Sure, okay.”

“One if by land. You got that?”


“And if they come by sea, then hang two lanterns.”

“What about the river?”


“The Charles. Big river here. What if the British come up the river?”

“That counts as the sea.”

“It’s freshwater!”

“Jenkins, you’re killing me. Land: one. Any variation of water whatsoever: two.”

“Gotcha. What about by air?”

“It’s 1775, jackass.”

“Surely we have hot air balloons.”

“Not for another ten years.”

“Huh. Gliders?”

“Jenkins, there will be no air assault.”

“If you say so, Paul. What if the British ride elephants over the Berkshires?”

“They won’t do that.”

“That’s the arrogance that led to Rome’s downfall.”

“There are no elephants in America.”

“You have literally no way of stating that as a fact. We’ve explored nothing of this continent. It could be elephant central.”

“Jenkins, there are no elephants here.”

“Are you saying we settled a non-elephant country? What’s the point?”


“What good is freedom without elephants?”

“Are you just trying to annoy me now?”


“Stop talking.”

“What if the Redcoats swoop in on the Eagles of Manwë?”

Lord of the Rings won’t be written for 150 years, man.”

“What a great surprise attack!”

“Jenkins, I need you to listen to me. Watch the harbor. Watch the fields. When you see the British, put either one or two lanterns in the steeple.”

“Should we be using the church?”

“What do you mean?”

“Separation of Church and State.”

“Not a thing yet.”

“Does anything exist now?”


“Anything good?”

“Sometimes someone you hate gets cholera.”

“The past sucks.”

“Regardless. One if by land. Two if by sea.”

“One if by land. Two if by sea. Got it.”

“And have you seen my apprentice anywhere?”

“Johnny Tremain? I think he’s boring grade schoolers.”

“Makes sense.”

It Started Way Back In History

Happy Paul Revere’s Ride Day, everybody.

Watch This Right Now

I have no words. Trust me. You’ll not have a finer five minutes, not this wretched year.

Do I Hear Two Thousand?

“Thoughts on my Ass!”

Where are you getting all these children from?

“The mall. Bus stops. Wherever.”

Stop stealing children, Billy.

“Nah. The markup on ’em is astounding. I’ve completely stopped kidnapping dogs for the reward money. All about kids now.”

This is no good for anyone.

“Hey, I’m good to the little monkeys. Feed ’em, buy ’em some toys, give ’em beers.”


“What? They’re not allowed to have alcohol. Just beers.”

Does he have a name?


Do you know it?

“Huh. Pancho?”



That’s a Dylan tune.

“Mata Hari?”

The boy’s name is not Mata Hari, Billy.

“What’s the difference? I yell out, ‘Hey, little fucker,’ and he pays attention. We’re simpatico.”

Give the child back.

“Give? No. Sell the child back. Do I have to explain this scam to you again?”

What if the parents don’t have enough money?

“Someone does. Someone’ll buy the kid. They’re a lot more valuable than you think. Gotta get white ones, though. People who buy children are racist as shit.”


“But until he goes back, or to the highest bidder, I’m gonna teach him some stuff.”

We know. Skank.

“Other stuff, too.”

Like what?

“Wearing red ballcaps.”


“Hating Phil.”


“And skank. You were right: most of the lessons are skank-based.”

Stay away from kids, Billy.

“We’re all slaves to the free market, Ass.”

Trump Lingered Last In Line For Brains…

As usual, Jennifer Boylan makes a good case over in the (failing, lying) New York Times comparing Trump to Gump; her thesis is based on a reputed conversation between Erick Erickson, who is to be taken exactly as seriously as his name suggests, and an anonymous Congressfucker in a produce section somewhere in Alexandria. This Rep–most likely the living avatar of Staten Island Peter King–describes Basketball Head thusly:

“It’s like Forrest Gump won the presidency But it’s an evil, really stupid Forrest Gump. He can’t help himself. He’s just an idiot who thinks he’s winning when people are bitching about him.”

Professor Boylan goes on to make her case comparing the two idiots. She writes beautifully, as always, but I must respectfully disagree with her. (And the Congressman, but without the respect. Fuck you, nameless government employee.) Yes, both Trump and Gump are mammals. Both, too, are nominally bipedal. The Krebs Cycle applies equally to both men.

But to posit a Forrest Gump who is “evil [and] stupid” is like talking about Darth Vader, but without the suit and he’s modest, kind to animals and children, and obsessed with hockey. We all–factual and fictional alike–have within us certain essentialities of character. A cruel Gump is not a Gump at all, just as a lazy Teddy Roosevelt is not a TR, or a giggly, loose-lipped Elizabeth II isn’t the Queen of England.

But, Enthusiasts, we surely must be able to compare Le Merde Orange to a fictional character. But whom? Moriarty doesn’t fit: while both men are clearly evil, Moriarty was a genius who could hold his own in a fistfight. (Sure, the fistfight was against a middle-aged opiate addict, but still.) Dracula is similarly wrong: both men suck, but Dracula could dress himself. Lara Croft? Both she and Turnip are children of privilege with big ol’ floppity tittyballs, but there is little correlation beyond that.

Perhaps Shemp? Shemp was a physically unattractive man, unpopular with the public, and replaced a much more talented and beloved performer.

Maybe Elmer Fudd. They are both perpetually confused, involved in disasters of their own making, antagonistic but cowardly, and convinced that the outcome will be in their favor no matter what the facts on the ground say. The two also resemble giant ugly babies.

Jabba the Hutt is too easy a comparison, so let’s move on.

What about Garfield? Hmm…

  • Fat.
  • Lazy.
  • Orange.
  • Use specialized glands in their cheeks to mark their territory.
  • Need to be taken care of.
  • Hate dogs.
  • Despise any sort of order or natural beauty.

And they both shit in a box in the corner! There you go, Enthusiasts: the fictional character Donald J* Trump most resembles is Garfield. You’re welcome.


*The “J” stands for “Jamoke.”

Comey Rules Everything Around Me

Dear 2018,

I give up. Officially and publicly, 2018: I give up. Full and unconditional surrender. Whatever it is you want, you may have or do. I’ll tell you where the money is. You can do unpleasant sex things on me. Uncle, I cry. Whatever it will take to make you act like a normal year, I will do that and I will do it with vigor and joy. 2016 and ’17 were just awful; you, 2018, are fucking weird and I can’t take it anymore. All I’m asking is that you at least pretend to try to make sense. It seems like you’re just free associating at this point, 2018. Please, please, please stop being like this.

Thank you,
Thoughts on the Dead

PS Also: please don’t kill any more Rock Stars.

Meadow, Beddo

“Josh, slow down.”

“You’re like 40 years off, Weir.”


Nothing says “professionalism” like a couch pillow lazily stuffed in a bass drum.

Wild West Facts With Only The Man With No Name Trilogy As Reference

  • The West looks shockingly like Spain.
  • People in the Wild West did not speak English, they were overdubbed into it.
  • If you hear Oooweeoo Bwah BWAH Bwah, you should fucking run.
  • Marksmanship is dictated by where your name comes on the poster.
  • Bad guys break into crazy, over-dramatic laughter at the drop of a hat.
  • You can be nicknamed Blondie even if your hair isn’t blond.
  • You can be nicknamed Lefty even if you shoot with your right hand.
  • If you come across a child or a cripple, flip them a coin; they will have information you need.
  • Everyone in the Wild West has heard of each other.
  • Sometimes, men with Mexican names will look Jewish as hell.
  • Matches will light when struck on anything, including human flesh.
  • You just might run into Klaus Kinski.
  • Shooting a rope in half from 100 yards off with a rifle from 1851 is eminently doable.
  • If you are left to die in the desert but rescued, you will briefly have some cheap-ass burn makeup on your face, and then be absolutely fine.

All Rise

There goes the judge.

The Middle Of The Night In Little Aleppo

The middle of the night’s got its own economy, heroes, political third rails. It’s a whole different place than daytime, which is why it takes so long to get there. There’s that first little bit, the couple hours after evening when folks fuck and drink and watch teevee and wash the children, and then there’s the final squeezings, that inky-purple patch that morning people and joggers claim as their own–because they’re greedy fucks, morning people and joggers–but between them is the middle of the night, which is ruled by cannot.

Can’t have a fancy wedding at two in the morning. (And bear in mind we’re not speaking of Las Vegas here, just normal locales.) Fan belt’s not getting replaced; shit, the bus isn’t coming by for hours. Translators and stenographers are of little to no use; piano tuners, even less. Your options for ethnic foods are severely curtailed. Art museums, pick-your-own apple farms, pool supply stores: no, no, no. You could not adopt a pet or a child in the middle of the night, at least not legally. The teevee went off at three. Draculette signed off–“Good night, boogers. Try not to die.”–and then you were on your own. You could get a drink, or a burger, or stabbed, but that was about it and some folks couldn’t even get out for the stabbing. Look up next time you’re walking through the middle of the night: always a few lights burning with the curtains drawn.  Listen, too, and you’ll hear the same voices. Babies crying out hungry, and dying men calling out lonely. Bong-induced coughing fits.

And the AM radio. AM radio lives in the middle of the night, and that’s when Mark Lake did his show on 770 KHAY.

He had competition, too. Draculette and the Late Show ruled the ratings because all the other stations literally stopped coming in clearly around eleven at night, and the FM stations from over the hills got crackly, as well, but the AM powered up at night. FM and teevee are line-of-sight transmitters, but the AM signal gets bounced off the ionosphere and back down to your car radio. When the sun goes down, the air cools and this sends the ionosphere hurtling upwards, increasing the stations’ ranges. It’s just trigonometry, but it brought in all kinds of sounds to Little Aleppo at night. The super-station blasting 150,000 watts from Tijuana, with that scratchy-voiced guy who seemed far too excited about introducing a Dion record. From New York, even: Jews pretending to be Italians, and speaking quickly as a magic trick. There was KJRC from El Paso, and they only broadcast about Jesus and never, ever played a Chuck Berry record, not even once, and you could sense it immediately upon setting on the station; you could listen for only two minutes and know–comprehend in your soul, dig?–that not only did these motherfuckers not play Chuck Berry records, these motherfuckers probably didn’t even own a Chuck Berry record, and by golly what kind of way is that to live? It was understandable to pray to Jesus in the middle of the night, but no one could bear being lectured at about Him at that hour. It was too late to rock and roll, and too early for Jesus.

So Mark Lake didn’t play records. There were recordings, but never records. Mark played stuff he’d get sent. Servicemen, and folks who served, but just not in uniform, and government contractors. Their names and ranks were never revealed.

“It might be as dangerous for you to know their names as it would be for them to be known,” Mark would say. He had a voice from the West: all his consonants got clipped and dropped and swallowed, and the vowels flattened out, and there was almost no nasality. His jaw did more work than his lips did; they sounded thin, and just along for the ride. In stories from his childhood, he would always mention the desert. He never mentioned which one.

“Caller, you’re on The Middle of the Night with Mark Lake. You got Mark.”

“Hey, Mark. Big fan.”

“Uh-huh. What’s your name?”

“I wanted to talk about the Silurian Hypothesis.”

“Oh, yeah. Fascinating stuff. Love to. What’s your name, caller?”

“I’d rather not give it to you, Mark. My safety is paramount on remaining anonymous. I know too much about this.”

“About the Silurian Hypothesis? That there was a lost society of reptile-people around 350,000 years ago? How could any knowledge about that put anyone in danger?”

“The amphibian-people.”

“Oh, okay. That makes sense.”

“Very jealous of the reptile people. It’s like an inferiority complex thing with them.”

“I can see that, sure. Now, caller, how did you come by this information?”

“Working for the amphibian-people.”

“In what capacity?”



“They have specific toilet needs that we as primates don’t take into account when designing buildings. I had to do a lot of modifications for them. They secretly own every racehorse. It’s like how that one company sells every brand of glasses? The amphibian-people own all the racehorses.”

“There’s a lot that never added up about horse racing that, with your contribution, now makes more sense. Why are you coming forward now?”

“They like to purge their human support staff every few years, so I felt my life was in danger.”



“Of course.”

Mark’d hang up on you, but he wouldn’t tease you. He took the confessions of the weird, and he had his vows just like a priest. No screeners. You called, and he answered. This was, he often told his listeners, the way of nature. The Lord meant for us to screen our calls, we would’ve been born with secretaries. You called, and he answered, and you could tell your story. He’d poke at it a little, edge it towards the juicy chunks, slap it back in play when it rambled towards the railing, but it was still your story. You could tell it on the radio, late at night.

Workers from Dulce Base had called in, with a strange clicking sound in the background like a tape recorder running. Folks had the wrong ideas about aliens, they said. They were time travelers. The gray ones with the necks and the big eyes? They were us from a million years from now, and all of them–there were currently 411 at Dulce Base alone–had broken the timestream getting here and had no way back; they were hellaciously pissed about it, hence all the anal probing. A sizable portion of the Defense budget went to entertaining them.

Fran Kukla called in every month or so. She had discovered what she called the Moving Mountain, which was a mountain that moved. Fran wasn’t great at naming things, but she could spot the fuck out of a mountain.

“It’s in Utah, Mark. I’m in Utah, right outside of Provo, and Moving Mountain is here. I’m looking right at it.”

“This is exciting news, Fran. I’m glad you call me first with these things, it really means a lot.”

“Oh, thank you, Mark.”

“Now, Fran, do you perhaps have a camera on you?”

“I do not, Mark. You’re just going to have to take my word for it. I could describe it for you if you’d like.”

“Yes, please.”

“It looks like a mountain.”

Fran was good at spotting mountains, not describing them. She and Mark would talk for a while, and then she’d hang up and call back in four or five weeks with Moving Mountain in her sights, this time in Mobile, Alabama or somewhere.

Lights in the sky hovered, zoomed, changed direction impossibly fast on The Middle of the Night with Mark Lake. Drexian warships loaded for bear play peak-a-boo behind skyscrapers in Chicago, Hong Kong. A case was made to give voting rights to maple syrup. Squatch still lurked in the hills and hallucinogenic mushrooms grew from their scat. Most of the Senate were cyborgs; most of the House were androids; the Supreme Court were all secretly related to the Royal Family, and also reptile-people. Virtually everyone is a reptile-person, if you think about it. Reagan (who is also obviously a reptile-person) set up a task force called Glorious-28, which was supposed to take a census of alien life on earth, but ended up collaborating with the Drexians and infiltrating the Department of the Interior.

“Oh, sure,” Mark would say. “Department of Interior doesn’t belong to us anymore. Not for a while.”

The world was shadowy, but a shadow needs a subject. There had to be a reason, Mark’s callers demanded. Someone did this. Someone is responsible. The world wouldn’t have done this to itself, after all. The world was too messy and confusing to be random; hell, it was too damned random to be random. There had to be someone behind all this. Moriarty’s out there. Satan dwells. Amphibian-people gonna getcha.

“Mark, I agree with the last caller. February clearly doesn’t exist.”

“The evidence is there. However you wish to interpret that evidence? Well, that’s up to you. But I do agree that there is strong, strong evidence that the month of Febraury is fictional.”

“It’s a way for the government to get an extra four weeks of work out of us for free.”

“It’s amazing it’s gone on this long.”

“It’s the Big Lie theory.”


“I actually called to talk about Operation: Full Moon.”

“Yes, yes. The Navy’s experiments into weaponized lycanthropics. I hear that they’re still working on it.”

“Me, too. My sources say that they’ve been successful and turned several sailors into werewolfs. I had one question, though, Mark.”

“I have many questions. But go ahead with yours.”

“Sure, okay. Uh, why the Navy? I don’t understand how it helps you to have a werewolf on a boat.”

“The Navy has people who leave the boat.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yes. They have guns and everything.”

“Huh. Okay. That’s good information, thank you. But it does bring up another question.”

“Questions tend to do that around here.”

“Would the werewolf sailors still have their guns?”

“Now, that’s interesting. It depends. Were your sources specific that they had been changed into werewolfs, and not wolfmen?”

“Quite specific, Mark. I pinned him down on it.”

“Then they would need some sort of custom weapon.”

Mark Lake took your calls until there wasn’t any more night left, picked up the phone himself and let you tell your story. He’d add yours to his, and the listeners would place it with theirs. You weren’t paranoid, Mark’s patience said; the world was stranger than it seemed, but you were not. His show was called The Middle of the Night because that is the only time it could exist, and it was on AM radio broadcasting live and strong from Little Aleppo, which is a neighborhood in America.


For Art Bell.

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