Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A Hard Day's Blight

The Walking Dead now talk - and have library cards!

It's been a hard day's night, and I've been been working like a dog dealing with a bizarro alternate universe of humans known as library patrons. Though I was trained as a journalist, lately my missives about my job sound more like science-fiction prose describing the far reaches of the cosmos. I swear, I can't make this stuff up...

The Scorpion Lady
A woman came in tonight asking about the status of her movie "hold". 

"Remember that one I was talking about?" she said, assuming that I could remember an alleged transaction from months ago and that I hadn't helped anyone else with "holds" in the interim. I replied that, sorry, I didn't recall it. (I love it when people you helped a long time ago come in and say stuff like "That book I wanted come in yet?" like it was yesterday; Janice, a woman I last saw two years ago, when I had security escort her out of the building for pulling plugs out of a public computer ("It's OK, I took an online course and am an expert in computers" she assured me, to which I replied "Great, practice on your own personal computer!"), actually asked me that recently.)

Of course, she didn't have a library card but, exhibiting a modus operandus I've noticed in many idiot savants, had memorized her library card number. And, of course, she had no holds. (Maybe she placed a hold in the astral plane. Who knows?) She was looking for Woody Allen's Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001) because she claimed her sister's house in Ellicott City appears in it - but she didn't have a VCR, a DVD player, a computer, or a TV set to watch it on.

I told Scorpion Lady that a) we don't own a copy b) no library in the state has a copy available for loan (though I placed an interlibrary loan request out-of-state for her) and c) we don't have viewing stations and, no, if she does score a copy she can't come down to the library to watch it at the PC on my desk. She then whined that she wasted a trip riding the bus down to the library "around all those smelly people." I suggested perhaps she should call first next time. But, natch, she doesn't have a phone. 

She then asked if I would sign her up for Netflix though she doesn't have any platform to watch anything she would get from them. Is it just me, or was she kinda needy?

(Upon reflection, I feel kinda guilty that I didn't use my credit card to sign her up for a Netflix account or invite her over to my house to watch this movie, as I know how important it must be to see a 10-second shot of her sister's house in it.)

I thought it was rather odd that the New York City-based Woody Allen would have shot a film in Maryland - that is, the old pre-World Tour (Barcelona, London, Paris, Rome, San Francisco) Woody of the Noughties - so I subsequently looked up the film on the Internet Movie database and learned that The Curse of the Scorpion Lady was filmed in New York (natch), Long Island and Los Angeles. Maybe her sister moved. Maybe her sister moved to My Sister's Place. Who knows?

The Snake Man

Then some rough-looking guy with wild hair and a cigarette stub tucked behind his ear (who reminded me of Taxi's Reverend Jim Ignatowski, minus the charm) and wearing a mud-encrusted camouflage jacket and baggy, decomposing pants, came in 5 minutes before closing.

"Ya got any DVDs about Snakeskinplesskin?" he mumbled as he leaned over my desk.

"I'm sorry," I replied, trying to deconstruct the phrase "Snakeskin something-or-other," "Snakeskin, what was that word?"

"Snakeskin Plesskin," he re-mumbled, slower this time, with a look that seemed to add "You Ee-di-ot!"

"I'm unfamiliar with that term," I said, adding, "We have one VHS tape on snakes and reptiles, but that's about it." (Yikes! I didn't even mention Snakes on a Plane.) Wait, maybe he said Rumpletstiltskin?

"No man! You mean you haven't ever seen Escape from New York City (sic)?!?" he shouted. "I can't believe you're a librarian, man, and you haven't seen Escape from New York City? What, the library doesn't carry it because, what, it's too violent or something?"

"Oh, you want Escape from New York? Sorry, I'm afraid we don't have it," I replied, now comprehending that he was referring to Kurt Russell's eye-patch-wearing character "Snake" from John Carpenter's 1981 cult film, which also spawned the sequel Escape from L.A. (1996).

"I cannot believe you've never seen it man, and you call yourself a librarian, man!" Rev. Jim snarled. (I made a mental note to give him bonus points for pronouncing my profession correctly, instead of the "lie-barian" pronunciation 99% of my patrons employ to describe "lie-berry" staff.)

"Sorry about that, I'll get right on it," I said. "I'll add it to my Netflix bucket list."

"So what do you watch, like pornos, I guess?" he snapped dismissively.

"Sure, but I also watch a variety of things," I countered.

"Like what? Like Mary Poppins or Doctor Doolittle?" (I sensed this was also said in a dismissive tone. I got the distinct vibe that Rev. Jim didn't care for family entertainment.)

"No, all kinds of things."

"Like what, like name me one thing you've seen, man!"

"OK, Blade Runner."

"Oh that," Snake Man snorted. "Isn't that that freaky movie where all these freaks are running around with machetes cutting shit up and - "

"No," I cut him off, "Not at all. It's a futuristic sci-fi movie starring Harrison Ford. No machetes." (Was he possibly think of the Danny Trejo-starring action spoof Machete?)

Stumped momentarily, Rev. Jim now reverted back to Conspiracy Theory Mode (public libraries are "the government," after all, man!).

"So you're saying the library doesn't have Escape from New York City (sic) because it's too violent or something?"

"No, I'm not saying anything other than we don't appear to own a copy of that film, but we probably should. I'll see if our distributor has it."

I looked it up and found that, indeed, it was carried by our distributor and placed it in a suggested purchase cart. I told Rev. Jim that I had placed a suggested purchase of Escape from New York for him.

"It's Escape from New York City, man, not Escape from New York!" he spat out contemptuously.

"Well, you can call it anything you want," I countered, "But the named listed on the poster, DVD and the Internet Movie Database is Escape from New York. See?" With this I turned my PC monitor around so he could see the cover of the DVD.

I sensed this encounter was turning into Monty Python's "Argument Clinic" skit. This guy was obviously looking for a fight, verbal or physical, and, of course, what better place to take out one's aggressions and frustrations than at the library, where one can tangle with those power brokers, The Mild-Mannered Librarians? (Forget the Bilderberg Group, librarians rule the world! Didn't everyone see those Noah Wyle Librarian movies?)

"Yeah well..." His voice trailed off before he came back with his stinging zinger. "Nice sweater, man...That's a [snorting] nice sweater." 

He was pointing at my Argyle sweater vest. I guess he thought it was laughable compared to his Sunny Surplus-style commando gear. I was waiting for the inevitable "faggot ass preppy" or other dis as a followup (yes, I've heard every imaginable dis regarding my sexual orientation from patrons, over the years - I'm so glad they take an interest with my social life!)

"Thanks!" I replied. "Nice camo jacket on you." (It was tres Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver; all it was missing was the blood and splattered brain remnants.)

Flustered, Rev. Jim now took his case to the security guard who was announcing, as the lights went out, that the library was now closed. I heard him rant about the outrage of the library not carrying Escape from New York.

Officer Greg came over to me and smiled. "We see everything here, don't we Tom?"

Unfortunately, we do, we do.

Watch Escape from New York trailer.

Prophet Man
Oh, almost forgot Prophet Man, who came in earlier in the day. Like many of our road scholars, he was a would-be Religious Studies scholar (they're always the best and the brightest! No, really.). Just as Cornel West has to preface everybody's name with a "Brother" or "Sister" (which I find most annoying), this gentleman, newly converted to Islam but seeking out all sides of The Greatest Story Ever Told, had to preface everything with "Prophet."

"Do you have anything on the prophet Muhammad? Do you have anything on the prophet Jesus? Do you have anything on the prophet Abraham? Do you have anything on the prophet Moses?"

The only prophet he didn't want was the Prophet Chuck, aka Chuck Prophet, the American singer-songwriter guitarist formerly of Green on Red, even though he has an album called Temple Beautiful.

Another day, more brain cells lost on the front lines.

I live to serve.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Viva La Difference: French Football's Naked Ambition

A Nation is Happy To Sing Les Bleus

Even if you don't follow world soccer (the real "football"), you have to applaud the after-effects of the French national team's dramatic qualification for the 2014 World Cup finals last Tuesday, following an improbable come from behind, two-leg playoff win against Ukraine, 3-2 on aggregate (0-2, 3-0). Apparently the libido of the nation was riding on the (soon-to-be) climatic outcome of the dramatic victory. Following are the titillating updates from the online edition of my favorite footy mag, World Soccer.

French weather woman does indeed strip naked
(World Soccer Daily, 21/11/2013)

Doira Tillier stays abreast of Les Bleus fortunes

Doira Tillier, a weather girl on Canal+’s Le Grand Journal programme, who made a promise on Tuesday’s show that if France beat the Ukraine to reach the World Cup she would read her weather report on Wednesday in the nude, has come good on the pledge – although perhaps not in the way that her myriad admirers would have chosen. Running around a field sporting nothing but a pair of boots, Ms. Tillier did her report without any clothes on, although viewers, even those who freezed the footage frame-by-frame, were unable to make out any detail.

Watch Doria Tillier's Naked Forecast.

French fans celebrate with free porn
(World Soccer Daily, 21/11/2013)

A French porn producer was left red-faced after France defied the odds to qualify for the World Cup finals on Tuesday.  

Marc Dorcel offered football fans free access to his X-rated website if the national team turned around a 2-0 first leg deficit and defeated Ukraine in the World Cup play-off. After a 3-0 win for France fans were clicking on expecting to celebrate the win in some style.

However, such was the demand that Dorcel’s server crashed under the weight of traffic. And that was before French duo Franck Ribery and Karim Benzema had logged on to peruse the barely legal section.

But, frustrated French fans will get a second chance to take advantage of Dorcel’s offer with the producer promising to keep his pledge when the site was up and running again.

He tweeted ‘ exploded on the whistle. Mail your details to to receive your film tomorrow.’

Naked weather forecasters, porn on demand, it would seem that the libido of the entire French nation was riding on the outcome of Tuesday’s game.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Kitty Kultists

My girlfriend Amy and I are still unpacking boxes from our September move into a new house. We packed a lot of junk, of course, that we are having second thoughts about holding onto in our new, smaller digs. But there are also some legitimate treasures buried in all those Home Depot and Extra Space Storage boxes. Like Amy's 1984 diary/journal in which she saved a City Paper clipping that mentioned her and her former husband, the late musical legend Mark Harp (1957-2004), as "Kitty kultists" talking about their Hello Kitty collections.

Amy was very excited to find this clipping, pasted in between her exemplary cursive handwritting (a beautiful thing to observe, if you're a Cursive Cultist!).

Amy is vaclempt after finding her name published in the "City Paper."

"Wow," I said, scratching my head. "That sounds like something I would have written up back in my days at the City Paper. I remember I did a story on Hello Kitty back in the '80s."

Amy pulled out her journal, and lo and behold, it was written by me! I recall I went down to the big East Coast Sanrio outlet in Tysons Corner, Va., to research the story and I have a vague memory of  visiting Mark and Amy's Charles Village apartment at some point (it may have been during a party) and being impressed by their Sanrio collection. Amy doesn't remember that, but then again this was almost 30 years ago and we are now AARP members with sometimes faulty memories. (Like, we've been together eight years, but we only vaguely knew each other back in the day as acquaintances because we were part of the same Punk-New Wave social scene that frequented clubs like the Marble Bar and Galaxy Ballroom. Then we didn't see each other for decades until we ran into each other at a musical tribute-wake for Mark Harp in January 2005.)

It may seem trite today to see a story about the Hello Kitty phenomenon - after all Sanrio products are seemingly available everywhere one looks and for every imaginable use (from stickers and pens to TVs and even vibrators) -  but the first Sanrio shop in America didn't open until 1976 (and that was in San Francisco), so Kitty curios were still a relatively new thing in 1984.

The full article, called "Hello, Good Buy: Pet Peeves," appears below. (Naturally there were factual errors, which fact-checking proofreader extraordinaire Amy clarifed in her cursive script comments; to wit, she was asked how old her kids were at a Highlandtown store selling Hello Kitty items, not in Tysons Corner. Geeze, everyone's a critic! Did I mention I was a hack writer, Ames?)

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Dylan's Baltimore Song Still Raising Cane 50 Years Later

by Tom Warner

(October 23, 2013) - The northwest corner of Baltimore and Calvert streets, where the main office of the SunTrust Bank now stands, was the setting for one of Bob Dylan's best songs and one of Baltimore's worst moments. Dylan's "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" - recorded 50 years ago today (it appears on the The Times They Are A-Changin' LP) - is a moving, although somewhat inaccurate (call it poetic license), account of a real-life incident that occurred there on the night of February 9, 1963, in what was then the Emerson Hotel.
William Zanzinger killed poor Hattie Carroll
With a cane that he twirled 'round his diamond-ringed finger
At a Baltimore hotel, society gathering
And the cops was called in and his weapon took from him
And they rode him in custody down to the station
And charged William Zanzinger with first-degree murder
Listen to Bob Dylan play "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll."

Bob Dylan - The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll

It's true that William Zantzinger (Dylan inexplicably dropped the "t" in his song), a 24-year-old white tobacco farmer from Charles County, was attending a society ball at the Emerson Hotel that night. And, by all accounts, he was drunk, disorderly, and offensive, especially with his lightweight carnival cane, which he liked to tap people with to get their attention. And it's also true that he struck a black waitress, Hattie Carroll, once above the right shoulder with that cane when she didn't fetch his bourbon and ginger ale as fast as he would have liked it.

Illustration by Tom Chalkley (City Paper, December 7, 1992)

Though she collapsed moments later, she neither fell "under a rain of blows," as some press reports claimed, nor was she killed by that single stroke of William Zantzinger's flimsy cane. Rather, it was the inhumanity of the racial slur that accompanied this blow - "You black bitch" Zantzinger bellowed - that triggered, in the medical examiner's words, a "tremendous emotional upsurge" in the 51-year-old mother of nine (not ten as referenced in Dylan's song).

"Matron Felled by Cane in 'Old Plantation' Setting (Baltimore Afro-American)

Given that Hattie Carroll was not in the best of health (she suffered from arteriosclerosis and hypertension) and was described by her friends as accutely sensitive, most likely it was the shock of William Zantzinger's words that brought on the cerebral hemorrhage that claimed her life eight hours later at Mercy Hospital.

On August 28, 1963, Judge D. Kenneth McLaughlin sentenced William Zantzinger to six months' imprisonment, declaring, "We find that Hattie Carroll's death was not due solely to disease, but that it was caused by the defendant's verbal insults, coupled with an actual assault, and that he is guilty of manslaughter."

Those were the facts, but they were dwarfed in significance by what the case had some to symbolize in those nascent days of the civil rights movement. To the press, to civil-rights leaders, and to a folk singer in New York City, William Zantzinger represented the plantation-owner mentality of the still lingering antebellum South, while Hattie Carroll represented the oppression of all underprivileged people, regardless of race, creed, or religion. Details didn't matter in what became, in Sun reporter David Simon's words, a "morality play." (Simon's excellent analysis, "The Case of Hattie Carroll," appeared in the February 7, 1988, Sun Magazine.)

You'd think being the villain in a morality play would be enough infamy to last anybody a lifetime, but William Zantzinger managed to outdo himself and was in the news again in late 1991 when he pleaded guilty to 50 misdemeanor counts of unfair and deceptive trade practices for collecting rent on run-down Charles County properties he no longer owned. Before the county seized Patuxent Woods shanties from Zantzinger in 1986 for failing to pay taxes on them, his record as a landlord was far from exemplary. Patuxent Woods was a virtual rural slum, with dirt roads and no indoor plumbing. In January of 1992, Zantzinger was sentenced to 18 months in jail (he spent only nights in jail), fined $62,000, and ordered to perform 2,400 hours of community service for local groups that advocate low-cost housing. Having lived down his image as a racist plantation owner, Zanzinger managed to gain new notoriety as its modern equivalent - the slumlord.

(Portions of this article originally appeared in my "Raising Cane" contribution to the December 7, 1992 City Paper article "Baltimore Babylon.")

For more on this story, see WYPR's podcast "The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll" ("Maryland Morning," October 23, 2013), which includes Dylan biographer Howard Sounes' 30-minute BBC Radio 4 documentary about the song. Sounes' Dylan biography Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan (2001) is the best I've read to date and his BBC report is fantastic; not only did Sounes track down William Zantzinger's notorious cane, but listeners get to listen to Zantzinger "cursing Dylan unrepentedly" in what is believed to be his only recorded interview before his death at age 69 on January 3, 2009.

Related Links:
True Lies: The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll (
Fifty Years Later, Hattie Carroll's Death Remembered (Afro, March 8, 2013)

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

God's Angry Man

Dr. Gene Scott is mad as hell and (R.I.P.) he's not taking it any more!

Directed by Werner Herzog
(West Germany, 1981, 16mm, color, 45 minutes)
This is an amazing one of a kind documentary that probably could only have been made by Werner Herzog. - Documentary Heaven

I recently found this unusual film while boxing up my treasures in anticipation of an imminent move. I only have a crappy low-res black-and-white bootleg of this documentary (filmed at a theater screening - you can hear the 16mm film projector running!) about the indescribable televangelist Dr. Gene Scott (August 14, 1929-February 21, 2005), but am elated that a few discerning fans have uploaded it to the Internet, like the folks at the wonderful site Documentary Heaven (, where the 45-minute unreleased documentary can be watched in its entirety in six nine-minute segments.

Click here to watch God's Angry Man on Documentary Heaven's site.

God's Angry Man is also available online at YouTube, where someone named novoiluminismo has posted the German-language film version in its entirely (with Herzog himself providing his inimicable, soothingly Teutonic narration), as shown below:

God's Angry Man (43:45)

The film consists mainly of interviews with Scott and his parents and selected clips from his television show Festival of Faith; the highlight is undoubtedly the wind-up toy marching band Scott rechristened "The F.C.C. Monkey Band."

The F.C.C. Monkey Band
The more the merrier: The F.C.C. Monkey Band

From Documentary Heaven's capsule review:

This is a portrait of Dr Gene Scott a televangelist who ran into problems with the FCC in the late 1970′s and early 1980′s. Scott was eventually shut down, briefly, by the FCC. The documentary, which consists of little more than interviews with Scott and clips from his show [Festival of Faith], doesn’t really deal with the reasons why the FCC was after him, rather it tries simply to show a man on a mission trying to save people while battling his inner demons.

This is an amazing one of a kind documentary that probably could only have been made by Werner Herzog. Herzog isn’t interested in showing anything other than the man. There is no judgment as to what Scott is all about, there is just Scott talking to Herzog and to his audience. The result is a portrait of a man on a mission, who is doing what he feels to be right. The result is that you walk away from the film feeling that you’ve just met a real person and not a manufactured man of god.
Perhaps Herzog was drawn to Scott because of this "man on a mission, who is doing what he feels to be right" aesthetic, one eerily similar to that of Klaus Kinski's mad conquisdator character in Herzog's classic feature film Aquirre, the Wrath of God (1972).

San Francisco's answer to New York City's Spy Magazine was The Nose, and years ago they ran a terrific feature on the world's angriest televangelist (which I also stumbled across while packing!), as shown below.

See also:
Dr. Gene Scott - God's Angry Man tribute site (www.godsangryman); "He will not be forgotten by the saints  he made aware - God speed DOC!"

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

What Is and What Should Never Be

On June 19, 1987, Baltimore's City Paper celebrated its 10th anniversary of publishing with a giant special issue called "10 Years in Baltimore." One of the outstanding features, previously never archived on the Internet, was Michael Yockel's history of Baltimore's music club scene. It's a great reminder of "What Is and What Should Never Be." Along with John Strausbaugh, Yoke was one of CP's greatest writers ever. Fans can still enjoy his prose at the online site, Baltimore Fishbowl (

Following is the full scanned-in article; click on each page to enlarge it, then use the magnifying tool as needed to magnify the text to your taste.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

My Back Journals: "Gonzo" Screening, 2008 Maryland Film Festival

In the midst of life we are in death, and in in the midst of moving I am in near-death as I keep finding all sorts of scribblings, clippings, journals, zines, magazines and post-it notes that have - or at one time had - meaning to me. As a Material Boy in a Material World, I find it hard to part (such sweet sorrow it is!) with these things. My solution is to upload as much of my life as possible, so that some poor Web Editor of The Future is left to edit (or shit-can) my dubious presence on Earth after I shuffle off this mortal coil.

OK, here's one such item, a 2008 Journal I started and abandoned (mainly because I lost it until just now!). Under the first-page entry "MFF 2008 NOTES":  


ALEX GIBNEY, dir. of GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF HUNTER S. THOMPSON documentary was cool and clever.

He intro'ed film with Thompson quote, "You bought the ticket, so enjoy the ride!"

Q&A: Woman asked why Hunter S. Thompson always wore shorts. "Do you know why he always wore shorts?" [Wow, the thought-provoking things viewers take away from documentaries; the mind boggles.] Laughter. Long pause from Gibney, after repeating the question, then a simple: "No."

McGovern anti-war quote during film about stopping wars that send ouryoung men to death got an auditorium-wide applause! Anti-Bush sentiments run high. Jimmy Buffett wished Hunter was still around to write against Bush - "We could use him now" - but, in effect, Bush killed him. Hunter was described as "depressed" after the 2004 election re-elected Bush. Killed himself in 2005.

Dumbest question of night: as usual from (loveable but no-flair-for-the-obvious) Charles Johnson. "Where did Dr. Thompson get his doctorate?" Gibney said he believed it was a joke and mentioned that he himself is a "Dr." from Universal Life Church.

Someone else asked why would anyone interview Pat Buchanan, the man who worked for Hunter's nemesis Nixon and who helped destroy Hunter's boy George McGovern. Gibney said Buchanan was a great interview - anyone not an idiot can see that. I mentioned afterward to him how much I enjoy Buchanan's wit (if not his politics), that he's cool enough to talk to Ali G [Sascha Baron Cohen's over-the-top hip-hop character] and always shines. Gibney said that Hunter would hang w/Pat and drink beer and Wild Turkey w/him, to Mrs. Buchanan's horror! I'd dink a beer and shot with Pat!

 I sat next to the most annoying woman. Middle-aged, I first noticed she wouldn't turn her cell phone off. Hid it under a shawl the first 15 minutes of movie. Then she systematically chewed her fingernails - all 10 of 'em! - throughout the movie (thank God it was only 2 hours, any more and she'd prolly move onto her toenails!). Then she would transfer her remnants to her left hand and delicately rub the detritus off like she was rubbing away the salt from pistachios or chips ontop the floor near my camera bag. TOTALLY DISGUSTING. She saw me staring at her - I was hoping to shame her, but she was well beyond shame, and I had to cup my head w/my right hand, like blinders, so I could escape her wretched, and most unfortunate, presence in the last good seat in the house in the front row." 

Related Links:
"My Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival Journal - Part 3" (Gibney's films reviewed)