Tag Archives: wfmu


I think I’ve mentioned this before, but writing a novel is kind of hard. One the main reasons it is so hard is the time needed to complete it, time that can be spent in so many ways that don’t involve sitting at home by yourself in front of the computer screen. Not to mention that simply being at a computer screen offers so many distractions. I’m constantly worried that I’m “missing” something on Twitter; breaking news about the Mets, perhaps, which I am semi-professionally obligated to keep on top of, or perhaps a hilarious meme that cries out for my contributions.

One of the biggest enemies of novel writing is lack of focus, be it internet enabled or just the wandering of mind that tends to happen when you have to do one thing and one thing only. My biggest problem is I’m a multitasker by nature. I find it extremely difficult to work on one single thing when I have ideas for a dozen others, all of them vying for headspace. When it comes to shorter nonfiction stuff, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with working on more than one project simultaneously. But that method is deadly for fiction writing in general and novel writing in particular.

Colson Whitehead (whose novels The Intuitionist and John Henry Days are in my own person canon) wrote a great piece about this a few years back for the Times, “What To Write Next.” The intent was humorous, but even more so than the jokes, what struck me about the piece was its subtext: The writer’s fear that you’re toiling away on one thing when you can and should be working on something else, an impulse that can prevent you from doing anything at all.

An excellent way to combat this lack of focus is through music. I’m far from the first person to point this out, but I feel compelled to share my thoughts anyway, as I owe a debt to all the music I listened to while writing this book. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do it without clasping headphones to my dome and letting music push the outside world away for a while.

I found listening to albums (remember those?) helped the most. A complete album–a good one, anyway–immerses you in a universe, which helps you focus your energies and attention for the running time and hopefully beyond. The albums I listened to most often while writing Love and a Short Leash were:

  • Miles Ahead, Miles Davis
  • Double Nickels on the Dime, The Minutemen
  • Mikal Cronin S/T
  • David Comes to Life, Fucked Up
  • Under the Bushes, Under the Stars, Guided By Voices
  • Get Happy!, Elvis Costello
  • Singles 06-07, Jay Reatard
  • The Tyranny of Distance, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists
  • Melted, Ty Segall
  • Murmur, R.E.M.

In addition to these records, I also got sucked into various boots of Petit Wazoo/Roxy and Elsewhere-era Mothers of Invention shows (1972-1974). I can’t quite explain why; I listened to a ton of Frank Zappa in high school and college, but only rarely since then. This was an addiction I thought I’d conquered. Whatever the reason, my desire to listen to this music again reemerged right when I was finishing up my final draft, and I’m glad it did. I found the funk-and-jazz charged jams of this era of Frank Zappa’s oeuvre to be helpful for this particular stage of my toil.

I found that commercial radio doesn’t help me all that much, with its incessant breaks and complete lack of imagination, but listening to WFMU definitely did. I did most of my work on the weekends, and the Saturday afternoon block of Michael Shelley, Fool’s Paradise with Rex, and especially Terre T’s Cherry Blossom Clinic powered me through many marathon writing sessions.

To honor this debt, I wanted to share a playlist of songs that were often drilled into my ears when writing the novel. Some have particular resonance for reasons related to novel’s plot/subject matter, some are mood setters, and some are just bitchin’ tunes. I’ve arranged them in an order that helps my own process: Get pumped up, settle in, shot of energy, scale back again, repeat. I’m not sure if this will be instructive to anyone or if it really shares anything except a glimpse into my weird headspace. But hey, you get some rad tunes, so shut your noise. Playlist available here, deets after the jump.

Continue reading Soundtracking

My Annual Plea

I've used this pic four years running, and if it was good enough for 2008, dagnabbit, it's good enough for 2012

Every year around this time, I entreat you, the Scratchbomb reader, to consider donating some funds to WFMU, the Fun 91, the Freeform Station of the Nation. That time is upon us again.

WFMU does not get any money from the government (federal, state, local, what have you), nor does it get any money from corporations. It also refrains from constantly begging for money throughout the year a la PBS. WFMU has but one two-week pledge marathon that raises the bulk of their operating costs for the year. That is why it is crucial to add your support at this time.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but radio in the New York area is bad. Like, really bad. Atrocious, one might say. For a city that likes to think it’s the Center of Everything, particularly when it comes to the arts, New York’s radio stations are unlistenable, robotically programmed swill. WFMU is an island of goodness amid this raging sea of garbage.

Because they are not owned by some huge Conglomco, and because they are not beholden to any taskmasters governmental or corporate, WFMU gets to do whatever the hell it wants (within FCC confines, of course). I don’t love everything I’ve ever heard on WFMU, but I do love the fact that all of it is made by real humans who love music and radio, which definitively cannot be said for everything else on the airwaves.

I first started listening to WFMU well over a decade ago. A roommate turned me on to Terre T’s Cherry Blossom Clinic, which was exactly the kind of punk/garage/glam show I’d been searching for my entire life to that point. I made my first WFMU donation to her show when I was still powerfully, crushingly unemployed, because I believed in it that much, and if I couldn’t share what little money I had with something that made me that happy, well, what was the point of money anyway?

I still love Cherry Blossom Clinic and listen every Saturday I can; in my push to complete my novel over the last few months, I probably wrote 75 percent of it listening to Terre T. And so I feel somewhat indebted to WFMU for providing me with a soundtrack to my industry.

WFMU is also home to The Best Show, which is not only one of the funniest things humans have ever done, but which would be impossible on any other station. To do the kind of humor that Tom Scharpling does on that show–be it sparring with callers, chatting with guests, or performing comedy with Jon Wurster–requires large swaths of time that other spots on the dial would never allow in a million years. Even if you don’t listen to The Best Show, chances are you enjoy some form of comedy that has taken inspiration in some way from The Best Show. (SNL, for instance, counts many Friends Of Tom among its writers and performers; peep Bill Hader’s t-shirt in this video for visual evidence thereof.) That alone makes it, and WFMU, worthy of your attention.

I’ve volunteered for WFMU events for last few years and it is always a joyous experience. I am not blessed with a huge amount of free time, but I make time for WFMU, because being a tiny piece of what makes it happen is so rewarding. For instance, two years ago, I got witness this bit of amazingness–a Nerd-Off between John Hodgman and Patton Oswalt–live and in person.

My wife and I will be assisting in The Best Show’s first marathon program this evening. We will also be donating funds in addition to our time, and if you have any change to spare, I urge you to do the same. If you can part with 5 bucks, I assure you it is appreciated. I’ve manned the phones at the marathon and received pledges at that level, and I can promise you that every little bit helps.

However, if you care to listen during tonight’s show (which will feature special guests Ted Leo and Julie Klausner) and care to donate $75 or more, you are entitled to the Hammer of the Gods Best Show Demon Summoning Pack, which includes:

  • A Best Show magazine with contributions from such luminaries as John Hodgman, David Rees, Robert Popper, Michael Kupperman, and more, plus an interview with Michael Nesmith and many other awesome tidbits and treats.
  • A flexidisc with an exclusive song from Kurt Vile
  • A CD of brand new comedy from Scharpling and Wurster.
  • A free download of the audio from last year’s Radiovision Conference panel, featuring Tom, Marc Maron, and Ira Glass.
  • A new Best Show sticker! A Vance the Puppet stressball! Some other stuff, I bet!

If all of that ain’t worth $75, I don’t know what is.

High rollers can donate more and get premiums from other DJs, which are always fantastic; the premium CDs from Terre T, Rex, and Evan “Funk” Davies always contain some amazing vinyl finds you simply can not get anywhere else. Think you can just get anything from anywhere in our digital age? You are completely wrong, and WFMU’s DJ premiums prove it every year.

I believe I’ve made made my case. This concludes my annual plea on behalf of WFMU, one of my favorite things in the world, until next week when I bug you again during Marathon Week Two.

TomThon Part Two: Nerds in Paradise

This is a friendly reminder that the second installment of TomThon takes place tonight. If you have not yet pledged some cash to keep the freeform station of the nation on the air, now is the chance. If you have pledged already, you are awesome. Maybe you can be even more awesome and dig a little deeper? Give it some thought.

Last week, I gave everyone a litany of reasons to donate funds to WFMU. I won’t repeat all of those points, though if you want some more, Julie Klausner posted her own reasons for donating at Gothamist. But I will reiterate why you may want to donate during tonight’s installment of The Best Show on WFMU. A mere $75 dollars will not only get you some great swag from the station itself, but also:

  • A Best Show poster drawn by legendary comic artist Charles Burns (Black Hole, Dog Boy)
  • The amazing Wu-Tang-esque Best Show t-shirt seen here
  • A 7″ called “Rated G.G.,” containing cleaned-up versions of G.G. Allin songs performed by Ted Leo, Fucked Up, Ben Gibbard, and many more
  • A digital download of said 7″, which also includes not only the single’s contents, but some ultra-rare material from Scharpling & Wurster, among others

For TomThon Phase One, host Tom Scharpling gave away some amazing random prizes, too, such as a Monty Python DVD boxed set signed by Terry Gilliam. If you donate this week, you will be in the running to win prizes that are just as fabulous. What could possibly be as fabulous? How about:

  • A single and LP signed by Conan O’Brien
  • A copy of I Am America signed by Stephen Colbert
  • Books signed by Chris Elliott, PLUS a copy of Daddy’s Boy signed by both Chris AND Bob Elliott

As if this wasn’t enough, there will be other fantastic giveaways autographed by tonight’s in-studio guests. That includes Mr. Leo and Carl Newman, who will stop by the studio for the second week in a row for your musical enjoyment. They will be joined by songsmith Kurt Vile and wordsmith John Hodgman, and I’m sure all of them have awesome things planned for the event.

What if you can’t actually donate during the show for some reason? Just email toms@wfmu.org with your pledge. You will be in the running for any and all prizes given away during the show. Sound good?

I did some phone slaving this weekend at the WFMU studios, and trust me when I say that every donation is welcomed. I took more than a few $15 donations, and if that’s what you can spare, it is more than appreciated. Altogether, we raised over $11,000 for Terre T’s awesome show. Every little bit helps.

Tom has also issued a challenges to see who can get the biggest celebrity to RT this event on Twitter. I’m just throwing this out there on the off chance that I have any big shots who frequent this site. Or, maybe you’re a regular schmoe reading this site who knows some big wigs yourself, in which case you could get them to RT and win said challenge. By all means, do it. That way, we all win.

And again, if you can’t spare cash, spare some time to spread the word on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, any message boards you frequent, random telephone poles, whatever. It all helps.

Tune in, turn on, and turn out (your wallets), tonight at 9pm. DON’T STOP NOW.

The Freeform Station of the Nation Still Needs You

As I stated in this post, WFMU is currently in the midst of its annual pledge marathon, and could sure use your help. I will be pitching in tomorrow from 3 to 6pm during Terre T’s show. She’s the first WFMU DJ I listened to many moons ago, and I still tune in every Saturday to hear her spin the best punk/garage/glam/psychedelia on The Cherry Blossom Clinic.

This year, a donation to her fine program gets you not only a CD with many rockin’ rarities which you will not find anywhere else on Earth so don’t even try, but also a special Cherry Blossom Clinic apron! And what could be more rockin’ than keeping your clothes free of flour while making a souflee?

So call tomorrow from 3 to 6 to donate to her fantastic show, and to WFMU. You might even get to speak to yours truly and have me ask you to repeat the spelling of your last name eight times. If you can’t wait for 24 hours, feel free to use the handy dandy pledge widget to your right. DO IT.

TomThon 2011 is Go!

The annual WFMU Pledge Marathon has begun, and The Freeform Station of the Nation needs you. Yes, you. And you. And even you. If you can swing it, please use the handy dandy WFMU Pledge widget to your right to donate today.

Just in case you are not aware: WFMU (91.1 on your FM dial in the NYC area, streaming at WFMU.org) is a 100 percent listener-supported radio station that broadcasts out of Jersey City. None of their funding comes from the gubment. Very little (if any) comes from corporate entities. None of the DJs are paid. The vast majority of the labor needed to keep the place up and running comes from volunteers.

Why? Because it is one of the only radio stations in the tri-state area–and America–where people can play pretty much whatever they want. In a world where most frequencies are programmed, and in many cases DJ’ed, by robots, WFMU remains a bastion of The Human Element.

Perhaps the very idea of a radio station seems quaint to you, in our world of MP3 players and fax machines, but I strongly disagree. I have been introduced to so much awesomeness thanks to WFMU, whether it’s music or comedy or just plain talk (although nothing they do could be described as “just plain”). Things that I never would have heard of otherwise, and wouldn’t even think to seek out. And I know that I would not have heard any of it on any other radio station. On any other thing, period.

My love for The Best Show on WFMU is well documented. What Tom Scharpling and Jon Wurster do on that show would be impossible to do anywhere else. No other station would give them the amount of time needed to make their “mayhem” happen. Not NPR, and certainly not Clear Channel-dominated commercial radio. And The Best Show is just the tip of a very deep iceberg. That is why WFMU needs and deserves support.

Continue reading TomThon 2011 is Go!

Chris Elliott on the Best Show – TONIGHT!

I usually shy away from topical announcements on this site, particularly for events that are occurring within a 24-hour window. However, I did so a while ago when one of my comedy heroes, Martin Short, appeared on The Best Show on WFMU. So I feel duty bound to do it again, because on tonight’s installment, host Tom Scharpling will share the airwaves with Chris Elliott.

Good god, I love Chris Elliott. The mere mention of his name brings a smile to my face. His appearances on David Letterman basically invented the Late Night Talk Show. Without Chris Elliott, whither Conan O’Brien? Nither, I say.

For Get a Life alone, he deserves to be bronzed and placed atop a comedy pedestal. Get a Life was like the Velvet Underground of comedy nerd-dom. Few people watched it, but everyone who did went on to do amazing things. Oh, and I watched it, too.

If you haven’t seen Eagleheart, Elliott’s new Adult Swim show, get on it. It’s basically Walker: Texas Ranger starring him as an ass-kicking, name-taking marshall, and is every bit as great as that premise implies.

To hear him be awesome on the radio tonight, tune into 91.1 on your dial at 9pm sharp. Or if you’re not in the NY area, go to WFMU.org to listen over the interwebs. DO IT.

“Bottled in Cork” Video = A Fount of Awesome

I’ve already tweeted about this, and Facebooked it, and mouth-talked it. But on the off chance you have yet to see this masterpiece, here ’tis: the video for Ted Leo’s “Bottled in Cork”, directed by Tom Scharpling, starring Paul F. Tompkins, Julie Klausner, John Hodgman, and a slew of other awesome folk, as they bring Ted to the Great White Way in his musical The Brutalist Bricks! (No Refunds).

Sharp-eyed WFMU-ophiles may spot Terre T, AP Mike, Therese, and some other righteous people. Fortunately for your eyes, you can not see me.

Ya see, I volunteered to be in the crowd scene (brag), but the shoot time got moved up to 4pm, when I would have still been at work. I toyed with the idea of sneaking out early to make the scene, but my German half demanded that keep my nose to the grindstone. (My Irish half was totally down with splitting work and giving everyone the finger as I left.)

Thus, I was denied a shot at rock n’ roll immortality.* And a month later, I was let go from this job. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, though I’m not quite sure what it is.

*Actually, I may have already achieved rock n’ roll immortality, since my enormous bald head can be briefly seen in crowd shots in the following concert films: Fugazi’s Instrument, The Make-Up’s Blue Is Beautiful, and the aforementioned Mr. Leo’s Dirty Old Town. If you can find those movies and spot me in them, you win absolutely nothing.

This video is, quite obviously, a play on the trend of musicals based on a particular band’s/artist’s oeuvre–particularly ones that don’t quite gel with traditional Broadway mores. Like, oh, I don’t know, let’s just say Green Day. So I assume, anyway. Because there is no way in hell I will ever see any of these quote-unquote musicals without the aid of hard drugs and harnesses.

Especially after seeing this clip someone tweeted earlier today (forgive me for forgetting who, whoever you are), which comes from the Bob Dylan musical. Hey, remember when there was a Bob Dylan musical? No? You’re lucky.

The Difference Between a Chump and a Champ is U!

Thanks to the graciousness of host Tom Scharpling, I was able to visit the WFMU studios in beautiful downtown Jersey City during the second Best Show marathon program this Tuesday. To say this was a thrill would be a vast understatement. To say that it made me one with the cosmos and eternity itself…that’s probably an overstatement. So let’s say the experience was somewhere in the middle.

It was amazing to see the sheer amount of work that goes into the marathon, from all of the Phone Slaves taking pledges to wrangling all the premiums to feeding the assembled host (which was amazingly done by WFMU’s own Terre T, one of the coolest people in existence). It felt a lot like being backstage at a Broadway production or a live TV show circa 1957, with folks coming and going at breakneck speed in confined quarters to make sure everything ran as smoothly as possible. Except that not a single person involved received a dime for their work. It was all, literally, a labor of love.

And as if witnessing The Best Show raise an unbelievable $80K+ for WFMU wasn’t enough, I got to see funnymen Patton Oswalt and John Hodgman lend their talents to the cause. I also captured some of these moments on video, thanks to my lil’ iPod. The picture quality is not stellar, but the audio is pretty good, and their historic import compels me to share them with you. (You can hear the actual show here.)
Continue reading The Difference Between a Chump and a Champ is U!

Good Guys Continue to Win in 2010!

goodguys.jpgLet this post serve as another friendly reminder that the WFMU Marathon is spinning along, and the station still needs your help!

The goal for this year’s marathon is $1.2 million. As of this writing, they stand at about $500K. So there’s still a tough road to hoe. Anything you can contribute will be greatly appreciated.

How much do I believe in this cause? I’ve actually altered my site to include an Insta-Pledge widget over there to your right. Now, you don’t even have to leave this fabulous webbed site to show your support! (If you want to alter your own site in such fashion, go here.)

The mere fact that you can aid such a fabulous cause should be reason enough to do so. But a pledge of $75 or more entitles you to at least one DJ premium, which are all amazing, full of stuff you can’t get anywhere else, and will bring you hours of amusement.

Case in point: I just rediscovered an unbelievable CD that Terre T gave out as her DJ premium way back in 2003. It features live performances from a plethora of bands who played on her show: The Dirtbombs, Corba Verde, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Electric Eel Shock…there is nothing not awesome on this collection, and none of it can be found anywhere else.

Where can you find this CD now? YOU CAN’T. Unless you have a time machine and can travel back in time and pledge to her show, which would be an excellent use of a time machine (right after you killed Hitler, of course).

What I’m saying is, do you want to look back on your life without regret? Pledge now, get these premiums, and lord it over your less savvy friends in the years to come.

I heartily recommend you tune in to tonight’s installment of The Best Show, because–well, I’d recommend doing that every Tuesday night. But on this Tuesday, if you pledge, you won’t just receive this year’s Chump Steamroller Fun Pack, which includes a bumper sticker, Best Show trading cards, and a DVD whose participants and contents are far too awesome to recount here.

No, as if all of that weren’t enough, a pledge tonight puts you in the running for a number of fabulous additional prizes. Like what? Oh, how about the entire Monty Python Complete Series DVD set AUTOGRAPHED BY TERRY GILLIAM?! Seriously, how about that, nerds? I can actually hear 12-year-old me getting a boner over the very thought of such a thing.

And if Monty Python ain’t your bag, there’s also a fabulous set of rare, rare, super rare stuff from Boston Spaceships (Robert Pollard of Guided by Voice’s current deal), which includes (among many other things) a 7″ test pressing. How rare are those? That rare. (I’m holding my arms out very far.) You can’t get a test pressing of anything unless you’re in the band, produce the band, or sleep with the band. Pledging is a much easier means of acquiring this thing.

Oh, and there will be fabulous celebrity guests in studio, of course: Patton Oswalt and John Hodgman, who will contribute live hilarity to the festivities (Patton’s peformance as The Famous Flamer during the 2008 is one of the funniest pledge drive come-ons you will ever hear).

If you don’t tune in, you will miss awesome stuff such as what happened last week, when Ted Leo played a few songs from his brand new album The Brutalist Bricks (out today!). He also sang a duet with frequent Best Show caller/Newbridge’s biggest cannabis enthusiast, Bryce, on “We Built this City on Rock and Roll”.

Your country needs you. Your airwaves need you. So don’t think about it, DO IT!!!!!!

Good Guys Win in 2010!

goodguys.jpgThe annual WFMU Marathon is upon us! Huzzah!

Every year, The Freeform Station of the Nation asks you, the listener, to kindly lend some change to keep their doors open for another year. To which I say, in word of Henry Rollins (via The Pink Fairies), DON’T THINK ABOUT IT, DO IT!!!!!!!!!!! !

Look, I know things are tough all over. I know that we’ve had a few horrible things happen in the world recently that definitely deserve our time and attention and cash. But if you have any dough to spare for the only radio station worth listening to in the tri-state area, please consider doing so. Got five bucks? Send ’em five bucks. Every little bit helps.

But if you can send more than five bucks, you will get quite a bang for those bucks. For instance, if you were to pledge to, say, The Best Show on WFMU with Tom Scharpling, which airs tonight from 8 to 11pm EST. Tune in and hear Ted Leo play songs by request. and Tom’s partner in crime Jon Wurster do his magic live in studio. And if you pledge $75 or more, you will receive The Chump Steamroller Fun Pack. That includes a set of Best Show trading cards, a bumper sticker, and the first ever Best Show DVD, which I’m told will contain all sorts of celebrity contributions, bits by frequent callers, and much much much much more.

If you can spare even more change, you can pick multiple DJ premiums, and there is no shortage of awesome DJ premiums. Terre T, Evan “Funk” Davies, Rex, Dave the Spazz, Night People–a cornucopia of a smorgasbord of an orgy of awesome. Pick any one of them and you can’t go wrong.

Click here to pledge or call 1-800-989-9368 during the show of your choice. Do your part! YOUR AIRWAVES NEED YOU!