Theory and Conjecture

The other day, I mentioned that some time ago I found the complete series of IN SEARCH OF… featuring Leonard Nimoy on DVD at a reuse store for $5. Before the kung-fu movies on cable I enjoyed in my ‘tween years, these were the kinds of UHF weekend shows that caught my fancy.

I hear the background music of wah-wah guitars and Moog synths, see the washed out video quality, and I’m taken back in time to those grainy films shown on the best 8mm projectors my Catholic grade school could buy two decades prior, when John XXIII was the Pope.

Anyway, there was always a disclaimer that came after a brief teaser at the start of each episode…

This series presents information based in part on theory and conjecture. The producer’s purpose is to suggest some possible explanations, but not necessarily the only ones to the mysteries we will examine.

Of course, there are tons of shows in this vein these days, mostly on cable channels that purport to be all about History and Discovery. Only, they don’t seem to bother with the disclaimers much, at least not matter-of-fact disclaimers. When they do, they’re delivered with a wink and a nod. There’s something about it that seems, strangely, like innocence lost.

That’s my conjecture, anyway.


USA Network’s Kung Fu Theater was as much of a Sunday ritual growing up as going to Mass. Weekend after blissful weekend of kung fu movies, and not all of which were The Classics, either. Probably, most of them weren’t. But one in particular stuck out to me and for nigh on 30 years I’ve been trying to find some trace of it. I’d long forgotten the title, I had no idea who starred in it, when it was made, or who made it. I just remembered the plot, in which a kung-fu master trains a bunch of reprobates for basically a suicide mission.

Googling it was pretty much useless, so I’d pretty much given up hope of ever seeing it again. And then, browsing through Prime Video at an ungodly hour the other night, I found it!!

The film is 1979’s KUNG-FU COMMANDOS aka INCREDIBLE KUNG FU MISSION. Kung-Fu Commandos does have the ring of familiarity. It was the era of G.I. Joe figures and movies like COMMANDO about, well, commandos.

It’s not every day you get to recapture a bit of your lost youth!

#Weeknotes S04 E05: Pressed for Time

I had a couple of “vacation from the vacation” days but after that, this past week was all about getting back on track with daily life. I still haven’t gone through all the photos I took from Boston.

Okay, you know what? Let’s start there, then. I have just the thing, a metaphor for how I’m feeling — a little pressed.

Life-sized diorama of a "pressing" taken at the Salem Witch Museum.

Yeah I feel you, buddy.

Anyway, one of the places we visited was the Salem Witch Museum, which starts off with “an immersive look into the events of 1692” using life-sized dioramas and narration that sounded like it was recorded in the late 1970s — kind of like the intro from Tales from the Darkside — to underscore the prejudice and injustice behind it all.

Yes, this is where I got that Margaret Hamilton photo I posted a couple weeks ago.

I haven’t gotten a lot of reading done, beyond poking away at Garielle Lutz’s complete story collection after finishing ESSAYS by Wallace Shawn, which I talked about the other day.

I did make a little movement on this front, though! There were a couple of calls for submissions that I noticed last week, so I put something together for one and am in the process of a new piece for another. Because, why work on the other things you have going right now, when you can just start new shit on the spot, right?

You know, I think that’s all I’ve had in me this week. Along the lines of stuff from the 1970s, maybe what I need now is to rebuild some Cognitive Salubrity…?

Not Approved for Therapeutic Use

I’d buried this tidbit in a Weeknotes post a few weeks back and it’s been bugging me ever since. This really deserved its own space.

The Witch on Horseback Institute for Cognitive Salubrity was a short-lived new age education center and performance space founded in Trumansburg, New York in the nineteen-seventies by former employees of the Moog synthesizer company. These forgotten recordings with disgraced Ithaca experimental psychologist Noving Jumand were discovered at a library sale in Ithaca, New York in the early 2020s, and have been restored from the original LPs by the musical entity known as Witch on Horseback, named in the Institute’s honor.

“This recording has not been approved for therapeutic use,” is the disclaimer that appears at the beginning of each track. I haven’t decided yet. Maybe I should listen to it a few more times…

“Something tells me I’m into something good…”

I’m not complaining, but I’m just stating the fact that 2011 hasn’t been a very productive year.  Oh, I’ve produced things.  I pulled off my first academic presentation and am still awaiting word of what could be a huge publication score.  I have things coming down the pike in the next couple of months.  But you know, I think part of my damage is that for a couple of years now, I’ve been writing “made-to-order” stuff.  I think I need to write something for me.  But what?

I don’t know a lot about the Brill Building.  I have a sense about its place in musical history.  I have a vague notion of what they talk about when they talk about the “Brill Building Sound” (and of the controversy behind that term).  I kinda know some of the big names involved.

But here’s the thing: I know is that it’s the place where I want to set my next short story. 

I first learned about the Brill Building as I was looking up a bit of background on songwriter Laura Nyro.  I always knew I was going to write something inspired by her or her music from the first time I really started really listening to it. But this idea of the Brill Building really grabbed me.  Something about this music factory, this place that was (arguably) just as much about commerce as it was about art, where people competed to get their songs heard by an executive, published, and made into a hit record is resonating with me somehow.

Apparently, it’s the subject of a documentary due out soon.  Tell me this doesn’t sound more or less like the racket we writers are involved in, huh?

Anyway, I have no idea what this story is going to be about, or how much of it will actually involve the Brill Building, Laura Nyro, or her music.  I do know that this is the story’s playlist so far (all by Nyro):

  • “The Confession”
  • “Billy’s Blues”
  • “Stoney End”
  • “And When I Die”
  • “He’s a Runner”
  • “Wedding Bell Blues”
  • “Lu”
  • “Eli’s Coming”
  • “Timer”
  • “Stoned Soul Picnic”

One of These Is Not Like the Others

I was doing research down a line similar to this–I guess you could call it music video anthropology–and I stumbled on some live performances from the Tower of Power of their classic song “So Very Hard To Go,” performed by various line-ups of the band over 35 or so years.

Now, I’m not saying anything about quality.  Just that one of these is not like the others.

I’m just saying.

Going on an Office Depot Run

I’m actually too tired to check if this is real or sheer BS…

In the current issue of the journal Nature, Dr. Putterman and his colleagues report that surprisingly fierce flows of electrons were unleashed as the tape was unpeeled and its gooey adhesive snapped free of the surface. The electrical currents, in turn, generated strong, short bursts of X-rays — each burst, about a billionth of a second long, contained about 300,000 X-ray photons.

How does one even think to check for something like this? It’s like wondering who exactly was the first human being to discover that licking certain species of toad could get you high.

The Evolution of a Rock Band

There’s a story to be had in this this (not necessarily Chicago-related) about how look and sound evolve–or maybe I should say adapt–over a few decades.

Only the beginning…

Playing free, or in the three, or agreeing to attempt something new…

Disco wasn’t quite dead yet…


80s hair…

90s hair…

Almost full circle…

Full circle, and going back around…again…