Phialella Zappai

On the first day of Zappadan, I’d like to note one of the most interesting and/or silly things I’ve learned about Frank Zappa this year.

He has a jellyfish named for him.

Ferdinando Boero, jellyfish expert and Zappa fan from Genova (Genoa), Italy, identified and named the “Phialella Zappai,” hoping to meet his hero.

Mission accomplished. Read the whole story here.

@zappadan

Happy Zappadan Eve, everybody.

Last year, following the thrill of the Zappadan holiday, I bugged some of the founders to let me take on a new job for it: Zappadan Twitter Captain.

The Zappadan Twitter account is to be my main contribution to

the feast, though I will have some musings and some stocked-up walnuts I shall be sharing. But my main task, the way I see it, Barry, is to head up the effort on Twitter. It is a task I’ve worked on through the year.

For Zappadan, Twitter is a tool to bring a brand new audience. As of this, there are 209 followers, and they will receive links throughout the day to what clever, interesting things you folks have to write about Frank and, of course, there will be your reporting of the Zappadan Miracles.

I know that non-Tweeps find it difficult to grasp what I have come to refer to as “The Fierce Urgency of Twitter.” What’s the big deal, they say, that you can tell people what your having for breakfast and shit? I daresay nobody who claims this apathy for the tech has ever sat in a nerd conference listening to the speaker and that ongoing discussion while yet another burning discussion goes on in the Twittersphere, much of it zinging the guy at the front of the room. Or have watched a “Special Comment” with a buncha like-minded friends scattered across the country. Twitter is not about 140 characters. It’s not about breakfast. What separates Twitter from other social networking tech is its urgency, its purpose in the present. Many may find this quality to be fleeting. Those who stick with it, though, do so because they find it to be exhilarating.

If you’re not following @zappadan, please report immediately to www.twitter.com/zappadan and see what we’re up to. I think it’s really going to be something.

Here’s a few links already:

The Little House I Used To Live In

From my keyboard, it is difficult to blog here about politics and policy right now. President-Elect Obama is working in suspended animation; all he can really do right now is march out his cabinet picks and tell people that everything is going to be all right. So, what more is there to analyze at this point in the game?

So, Fred Armisen’s been working hard on his Obama. This “I Keep It Cool” sketch from last evening was just terrific.

Finally, an addition for Zappadan: From The Onion of April 2004.

Frank Zappa Fan Thinks You Just Haven’t Heard The Right Album
NEDERLAND, CO.—In spite of your insistence that you are not into Frank Zappa, avid fan Roger Von Lee believes that you would change your mind if you heard the right album. “You’re prejudiced, because the only Zappa you know is ‘Valley Girl’ and ‘Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow,'” Von Lee told you Tuesday. “Seriously, you need to check out Hot Rats or Absolutely Free. Zappa and the Mothers were at their peak, and Zappa’s jazz-rock fusion experiments predate Bitches Brew. That’ll totally convince you that Zappa’s the shit.” Von Lee added that if those two don’t get under your skin, he can recommend another 15 to 20 albums that will for sure.

Incidentally, Burnt Weeny Sandwich is one of my favorites as well, evar. One of Zappa’s great strengths was knowing what to do with other musicians. Jean-Luc Ponty was, I think, one of the finest examples of this. Good-NESS, how did that man’s fiddle not catch on fire?

Who Could Imagine?

I was a freshman at the University of Kansas in 1966 when I first heard Freakout. My roommate, a very hip musician from Chicago (he now owns a music store in Topeka) wanted the album badly but was broke. Me, a way unhip near adolescent kid from rural Kansas, happened to have money that week. So we made a deal. I would get a number of albums from Don’s existing collection and buy Freak Out for Don. I think I got four albums, maybe five. I only remember one of them. It was a Ray Charles collection that included Georgia on my Mind, which I played until I wore it out. Then there was The Mothers of Invenstion.

There was something particularly liberating about Freak Out. It catalogued my adolescence… (Ronnie helping Kenny, Helping Burn his Poots away) … satirized teenage angst (What about all those other guys…that’s why I had to get my kahki’s pressed), gave us all something of an identity… (Hungry Freaks, Daddy), let us make fun of the pretentious mindless shits that seemed to be everywhere in those days (I will go to the Haight, and I will join a Rock and Roll Band) and put The Establishment into perspective, whether it was Bow Tie Daddy, or the Brain Police or TV Dinners by the Pool. I later got my own copy of Freak Out and added Only In it for the Money, Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Cruisin with Reuben and the Jets. Brady has since provided a number of other Zappas to the collection.

Burnt Weeny Sandwich is still a personal favorite…its Frank’s first serious foray into Jazz and I think I hear references to it in a lot of modern music. Frank became a political hero at the PMRC hearings. Al Gore’s sponsorship of the hearings was one reason I was lukewarm to the Clinton ticket in 1992, and even in 2000 I had to swallow hard to overcome my feeling that Gore never really understood what the first amendment was all about.

I agree with Frank that parents should make their own choices about how much stuff they let their kids watch or read or listen to. I never censored anything Brady saw or heard or read, and have adopted a similar rule with his little brother. (The broader availability of pornography today has made me a little more circumspect about what he may have access to on television, however. I am not prepared to discuss cunninglingus with my 12 year old).

Happy Zappadan.

Go Cry On Somebody Else's Shoulder

I enjoy blogging, but it does sometimes lead to baffling adventures.

Case in point: The previous post, celebrating a “holiday” I’d just discovered online, Zappadan. I am excited that someone has thought of it and that there is an online community putting it into practice. I am excited because it is centered on one of the greatest people ever to have lived. I am excited because it gives me an excuse to write about and to think about and to listen to Frank Zappa.

Then, next thing you know, John Lofton comes along.

Which is really weird. I normally think of myself here as toiling silently in the dark. I don’t actually believe that anyone reads this crap that I write here. I have always considered any blogging project of mine to be little more than a foolish vanity project. To get a notice from a guy like Lofton—even if it’s just because I mentioned the guy in a post and embedded video that he’s probably sick to death of—that’s pretty damned weird.

I had noted within the entry that, while appearing on “Crossfire” with Frank Zappa, Lofton had resorted to Reductio ad Hitlerum, also known as “playing the Hitler card,” also known as “invoking Godwin’s Rule of Nazi Analogies” in his panel with Zappa. Not only that, but Lofton had used the reference to try to suggest that Zappa’s stance was that words and/or lyrics aren’t important somehow. Zappa’s point actually was that the PMRC needed to be razor-specific as to which issue, specifically, it addressed. Zappa’s concern was that the PMRC not get sloppy and lump the issue of lyrics, which the PMRC wanted to clarify with a ratings system, with the issue of music videos.

So. Because I pointed out Lofton’s reliance on the logic of Reductio ad Hitlerum, the last thing I expected the comment from him that we have received. It is, truly, stunning. He wrote:

Hitler, Zappa—both atheists.

There is so much wrong with this comment that it’s hard to fathom. For starters, it’s factually incorrect. Adolf Hitler was a baptized Catholic and was never excommunicated, and in fact much of his strident Jew-hating was actually born and bred in the Catholic Church. Second, it is an interesting tactic to fight off a charge of Reductio ad Hitlerum by engaging in Reductio ad Hitlerum. Perhaps Maslow was right about the hammer and the nail. Third, the intent I perceive of this very strange comment is, I think, to somehow put Frank Zappa and Hitler into the same genus, to suggest that Hitler was godless and that Zappa was godless, and so therefore, Zappa was…a Nazi? If God is love and love is blind…then Stevie Wonder is God!

Anyway, Mr. Lofton, thank you for commenting here. I really do appreciate it. However, I do hope you will consider donating your brain for medical research someday. We really do need to learn how that thing works.

(Courtesy Plug: John Lofton writes for a Web site called The American View.)

So, when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, if you go for all these fairy tales, that “evil” woman convinced the man to eat the apple, but the apple came from the Tree of Knowledge. And the punishment that was then handed down, the woman gets to bleed and the guy’s got to go to work, is the result of a man desiring, because his woman suggested that it would be a good idea, that he get all the knowledge that was supposedly the property and domain of God. So, that right away sets up Christianity as an anti-intellectual religion. You never want to be that smart. If you’re a woman, it’s going to be running down your leg, and if you’re a guy, you’re going to be in the salt mines for the rest of your life. So, just be a dumb fuck and you’ll all go to heaven. That’s the subtext of Christianity.

—Frank Zappa

An excellent post regarding Zappa’s testimony is at The Opinion Mill.

Putting Eyebrows On It

For my first official Zappadan entry, I must confess that Frank Zappa is directly responsible for the creation of the Ketchup Is A Vegetable blog.

Zappa fans will know exactly to what I refer. Their minds will automatically jump to Zappa’s throwaway line on “When the Lie’s So Big” on Broadway the Hard Way. It is that line, when Frank throws out the reference to the now infamous Stockman scheme, that was stuck in my head and that forced me to the registrar’s Web site to see if “ketchupisavegetable.com”—later abbreviated to kiav.net—was available. Many of our categories are as well inspired by Frank, as is at least half of everything I do.

Zappa is this much to many people, I am sure. It is why they started Zappadan, which I now understand to be a blogswarm that starts on the date of Zappa’s death and ends on the date of his birth. I hope this growing community will accept KIAV as a very enthusiastic participant. A bit about me and Frank Zappa: I am a second-generation freak.

Papa Bonk used to play Freak Out when I was like three years old. It scared the hell out of me. When you’re that age, there is nothing scarier than “Who Are The Brain Police.” Nothing. And I grew up as a child staring for hours at those album covers. Who are these people with all the hair? Why are they wearing bandanas? And why in shit are they wearing dresses?

Frank Zappa is at the top of my short list of heroes. He was, for many reasons, one of the greatest Americans of the 20th century, and that is not merely hyperbole. It is a fact. He was a prolific composer. He was funny, smart, and compelling. He was an absurdist genius. He was a unique and gifted guitarist. He had the best facial hair in the universe. He was the Head Freak. And, while I know that Frank Zappa considered himself a conservative of sorts (a “practical conservative”), he did rail against the goose-stepping ways of the Ray-gunner and the pompous Jesus-heads who supported him. Zappa certainly did share the vision of America that I have and that I think a lot of other liberal folks have. He said this of his children in his testimony at the PMRC hearings:

I want them to grow up in a country where they can think what they want to think, be what they want to be, and not what somebody’s wife or somebody in Government makes them be.

I don’t know if that’s conservatism or liberalism necessarily. But it is American.

Zappa saw it coming long before anyone else, saw the neo-cons marching up the square. I’ve referred to it at KIAV before, his jaw-dropping appearance on Crossfire. Zappa refers to our burgeoning fascist theocracy at at about 10:10. (John Lofton resorts to Reductio ad Hitlerum at 15:56. Update: As he has now just done again in the KIAV comments box. Thanks, John!)

Freak Out is an anthemic wonder, both spoof and tribute to Frank’s beloved doo-wop, both strong political statement and da-da masterpiece. For me, especially at about age 21, Freak Out was one of the most inspiring statements I’d ever experienced. It got me through.

History will be kind to Frank Zappa; it will eventually accord him the greatness he was. Because I do not know how to otherwise end this entry, I will end it with my very favorite Zappa quote of all time.

The most important thing in art is the frame. You have to put a “box” around it because otherwise, what is that shit on the wall?

P.S. Here are the kids who are down with the Zappadan, according to The Aristocrats.

After the Bridge | American Street, | The Aristocrats | A Modified Dog | Blue Gal | Billdungblog | BLCKDRGD | Chaos Channel | ChimpsterNation | CarlsPicks | Crooks & Liars | Danny Dries | darkblack | Dave Knows: Portland | duhbris | Give Peace a Chance Please! | Guys From Area 51 | heydave | iVoryTowerz | Ketchup is a Vegetable | Loud Mouth Soup | Mad Dog Media | Mock, Paper, Scissors | Perezoso | skippy the bush kangaroo | STEVENHARTSITE | Suburban Guerrilla | The Brain Police | The Far Left Side | The Jade Gate | Social Seppuku | Tiny Little Circles | today’s sermonette | Mark Twyman | Zencomix

Merry Zappadan

I don’t yet fully understand Zappadan, which I assume is Ramadan for freaks. It runs Dec. 4-21 and is celebrated by a number of liberal bloggies (12-21 is Frank’s birthday). As far as I can tell, this fine holiday was initiated by The Aristocrats.

Today that wonderful blog has a post on the nexus of Zappa and a band called Little Feat.

I will be celebrating Zappadan in my own special way here on this bloggiespace.