Category Archives: The Unexpected

Rambling Lips Dylan

I was standing in line at CVS, when a youngish, tattooed skater burst into the store, declaiming conspiracies as he stalked around. He was clearly in the grip of psychosis, and I caught bits of proclaiming the god-law on top of the Texas capitol and refusing to submit to the demands of various authorities, both earthly and supernatural. I confess I was a bit concerned as he careened about, but was able to make my purchase, and I noticed that he had selected an Odwalla juice of some sort as I walked out the door.

I got back into my car, and as he passed in front of my windshield with his juice on the way to who knows where, my playlist resumed to the declamations of Bob Dylan singing “It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)”, and in that moment, I realized what a paper-thin and probably arbitrary line it is that separates visionaries from madmen.

[“Rambling Lips Dylan” is cribbed from “Rambling Lips X”, the name Jon Handelsman gave to a well-known schizophrenic man who roamed Ann Arbor in the '80s.]


I expect to read something interesting ))

The best spam email I’ve received in a long time, courtesy of one Eulah Pillsbury:

Hello gorgeous! (:
I really wanna know you!
My name is Eulah.
I expect to read something interesting ))


This makes me smile every time I read it.

From the “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished” Department


Greedbag 1


About a month ago, I placed an order for some records through a British merchant, Greedbag, that maintains storefronts for artists– in this case, two of the five original Throbbing Gristle albums that had been remastered and reissued on vinyl. Directly after placing the order, I noticed on TG’s website that there was an American distributor, Forced Exposure. I realized immediately that the shipping costs would be dramatically lower, so I sent an email to Greedbag requesting to cancel the order. They replied the next morning saying that the order had not gone through, and that I would not be charged. At that point, I placed the order through Forced Exposure.

Several weeks later, on the morning that we left for California for Thanksgiving, I received an email from Greedbag indicating that my order had shipped! I immediately emailed them back to remind them that the order had been cancelled, and forwarded the earlier email thread to them. They emailed me back saying ‘not to worry’– the email had been a mistake, and nothing had been shipped. Great.

Upon arriving back in Austin, I was surprised to discover that I had a package from Greedbag with the record order I thought had been cancelled. I checked online to see if I had been charged for the order, and I discovered that I had been charged AND refunded, so I was faced with a dilemma (and not the one you’re thinking of…):  there was no question that I was going to let Greedbag know about the error, and my first thought was that I would contact them and request a shipping label to send it back.

However, in the meantime, I had learned that a local record store, End of An Ear, was also carrying the reissues, and so I thought that, provided End of An Ear were willing, I would save Greedbag the shipping costs by exchanging the duplicates for two of the other reissues. They were, and I did. I then set out to contact Greedbag with this information, and here is the conversation that ensued:


From: Stefan Keydel <>

Subject: Re: Your Throbbing Gristle Store order (ref #4897250170147)

Date: December 3, 2011 2:40:18 PM CST

To: Throbbing Gristle Store <>



I appreciate that you refunded my money; however, you DID send the merchandise 🙂

I was able to exchange the two records at a local record store (End of An Ear) for the other two Gristle LPs, so if you would like to charge me for them (perhaps less postage), that would be fine.

Please let me know how you’d like to proceed.




From: Throbbing Gristle Store <>

Subject: Your Throbbing Gristle Store order (ref #4897250170147)

Date: December 4, 2011 1:26:15 PM CST

To: Stefan Keydel <>


Hi Stefan

Why did you not contact us prior to exchanging them with an unknown record store? As we had refunded you these records they technically remained our property

We would therefore be very grateful if you could place an order for the 2 vinyl you received immediately.

Please send us an email when you have placed the order.

Thanks! Greedbag on behalf of the:
Throbbing Gristle Store


Okay… So, I volunteer that I’ve received merchandise in error at no charge, and then I get scolded for having tried to do the right thing? Indeed, my intent in exchanging the records was to save Greedbag the cost of shipping them back to the UK.

And I replied as such:


From: Stefan Keydel <>

Subject: Re: Your Throbbing Gristle Store order (ref #4897250170147)

Date: December 5, 2011 8:01:29 AM CST

To: Throbbing Gristle Store <>


Wow! I confess that, when I imagined your response upon learning that the records had been sent to me in error, it never occurred to me that I would be scolded for having done the honorable thing in letting you know. Indeed, I thought that, by exchanging them with a local record store and having you charge me for them, I was doing you a favor by saving you the expense of paying for the postage to return them to you.

Well, as Oscar Wilde put it, ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’

Be that as it may, I’m happy to place the order; however, I would prefer not to be charged for postage, as it was in order to save those costs that I cancelled the order in the first place. Just let me know how I can do this, and I will place the order.


Thank you,




And the reply?



From: Throbbing Gristle Store <>

Subject: Your Throbbing Gristle Store order (ref #4897250170147)

Date: December 5, 2011 10:03:37 AM CST

To: Stefan Keydel <>


Hi Stefan

Please re-order the 2 records on the store again.
We will then process your payment.
Throbbing Gristle Store


Are they total dicks? Or am I being too sensitive? What would you do in my position?

This is the one to read if you want to understand what’s going on


When it comes to Christianity, it’s fair to say that I’m a non-believer who has wanted for many years to be a believer (not even necessarily of Christianity, but of any spiritual tradition that presupposes an essence or spirit that exists apart from our physical immanence on this mortal coil). The closest I’ve come has been through my membership in the Friends Meeting of Austin.

Every December, I hold out hope that somehow, some way, I’ll be swept up in the spirit of the season and transformed into a person of faith. And it’s passages like the following from the Geneva Bible version of the Gospel of John (known by Quakers as “the Quaker Gospel”) that make me believe it just might be possible:

“He was not the light, but was sent to bear witness of the light. This was the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” [John 1:8-9]

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we saw the glory thereof, as the glory of the only begotten Son of the Father) full of grace and truth.” [John 1:14]

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every man that is born of the Spirit.” [John 3:8]

The last verse may be the best description of the mystery of the human condition I’ve ever come across. And so this Christmas, as with those of the past, I ask myself, “Whence?” and “Whither?”



SXSW draws to a close

Frankly, I haven’t paid much attention to SXSW in recent years, as the demands of parenting and providing have diverted my attention from the independent music scene. About the best I can do is follow a couple music blogs (Tsururadio, Aquarium Drunkard, Motel de Moka) to get a taste of what’s out there.

This year, however, a project I’m involved in (The Victor Mourning) performed not once, but twice, during the festival, so I did get a bit of a taste of the festivities. Our second performance was a very brief 25-minute set at the Saturday Yard Dog Party; we preceded one of the idols of my college days, Jad Fair, who, along with his brother, David, formed the legendary band Half Japanese, which I guess makes both of them one quarter Japanese? Here’s a pic of Jad from his set:


His cord shorted out very early in his set, so being the consummate showman that he is, he proceeded to play unplugged in the midst of the audience– worked pretty well for him, despite the fact that an unamplified non-hollowbody electric guitar sounds a bit like the rubber-band guitars that we built in our 3rd grade art class, but he is Jad Fair, after all. So, quite an honor in my book (although I’m sure it wasn’t intended as such).

In a bizarre footnote, my ex-wife walked into the performance area about halfway through our first song (she was there to see Jad, not us). I hadn’t seen her in about 6 years, and considering that my actual wife was in the audience, too, it made for an interesting experience 😉

The German response to Winnenden

I’ve spent the past few days watching German television coverage of the school shooting (Amoklauf) in Winnenden. The Germans have the dubious honor of being second only to the US in the frequency of these types of acts, a fact not lost on the commentators and reporters covering the shooting, and having lived in Germany, I suspect it has something to do with the level of societal repression found in both countries. Availability of firearms may also be a factor, although I don’t really have any solid evidence to support this with respect to German law (it’s worth noting that the perpetrator’s father is a gun freak, and the weapons and ammunition used in the shooting came from his stockpile).

On the other hand, the sober, serious coverage of this incident in the German media stands in stark contrast to the hysteria and “slow down to gawk at an accident” style that we’ve become accustomed to in this country. Whereas the sensationalistic circus goes on here for weeks afterward, when I listened to my daily Deutsche Welle podcast on the way home from work today, I was surprised and rather gratified to find that there wasn’t a single mention of the incident. This is not to say that there isn’t continuing discussion of the shooting as the country tries to come to grips with the horror of Wednesday (there is); however, it’s somehow reassuring to see that the grownups in the German media recognize that this event, horrific as it is, is not something that will have a long-lasting and fundamental impact on German society. It’s an aberration.

Ironically, in this essay, a Deutsche Welle commentator bemoans the media frenzy that occurred in the hours directly after the incident, complete with unsubstantiated rumors and claims; he should only spend a couple days in this country after some Middle-American bride gets cold feet and runs away for a few days.

I’m going to learn to fly the clouds

In another edition of “How in heaven’s name did I miss this?”, I give you Kenneth Anger’s “Puce Moment”, with the elusive Jonathan Halper providing the soundtrack:

Don’t mourn for The Victor Mourning

We made it into the February issue of Budget Travel, in an article entitled ’25 Reasons We Love Austin:’

The Victor Mourning performing at Yard Dog

Wish I could say that we were one of the 25 Reasons, but in fact #19 is Yard Dog, the gallery where we’re playing in the picture linked above.