Lydia Callas, ASL interpreter on left, unknown dude at podium on right.

UPDATE: 7:40 PM, Tues. PM.
I can’t stop watching Lydia Callis’
sign language translation of NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s press conference on Hurricane Sandy. She’s mesmerizing! She’s a virtuoso, a sexpot, the Jimi Hendrix of sign language, awesome, magnetic, charismatic! For years I had a friend who was 90 % deaf and ended up being fairly functional in signing, and during that time I learned how cool and even sexy sign language can be. My friend, Robert Wise, was a very funny, witty guy, and I learned that a lot of jokes and other forms of communication don’t necessarily translate to regular verbal language. But Lydia’s awesome, sexy command of body language and facial expressions is so beautiful.

CLICK to watch Lydia Callis’ sign language translation of Mayor Bloomberg if you haven’t already.

What a media star. NPR calls her “a bright light during dark days.”

Over on, Sam Ley compared her to Shakespearean actors!

“Interpreting does require a bit of exaggeration in order to communicate visually over a medium without a lot of pixels. Similar to how Shakespearean performers have to develop a highly exaggerated speech pattern in order to be clearly understood as ‘whispering’ even though they are really shouting to a large crowd. It can be a bit goofy at times, and people emulate Patrick Stewart’s voice all the time in cheerful parody, but they notice it because it works.”

More on here and here’s a cine for you

Created with



End of update. now, back to our regular programming:

Children of the night, what music they make… And if you can do a passing imitation of Bela Lugosi, go ahead, say it out loud. Bela is such a reassuring presence in these scary times.

The inimitable Cramps. I miss Lux.

I got an email from Peter Mongillo at the Statesman, asking for tips on compiling a list of cool Halloween songs. No problem, I said. The article is pasted below. Happy to oblige. I gave him probably ten times more material than he needed, starting off with my favorite original spooky songs, some of which I’m doing currently, along with songs like “Death Letter” and “St. James Infirmary Blues,” and also songs from my past, like “Something About You Scares Me” from the Skunks in 1978, and then I also sent several follow-up answers, including a number of Roky Erickson’s best solo tunes (some of which made the top ten), plus a comment about the Cramps, and he wrote back that “there’s always a thing up here, every Halloween, a ‘Misfits vs. the Cramps’ debate.” I’m down with the Cramps, not so much the Misfits. Lux Interior wanted to beat me up once. I think I mentioned this in my memoir, Never the Same Again. Funny story. I talked him out of it. Here’s the Halloween Top Ten piece from the Statesman. (the online edition has a photo of Roky Erickson and also an unintentionally scary one of me, my terrible self.)

Updated: 6:35 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, 2012 | Posted: 6:35 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, 2012
Music Source: Try ‘Threepenny Opera,’ and other recommendations for a spooky Halloween playlist

By Peter Mongillo
American-Statesman Staff
“I think about this stuff a lot,” musician and author Jesse Sublett said last week in an email. The subject? Halloween music, or at least music that matches the mood of the holiday.
“The truly scary songs are the ones that are very ambiguous,” he said. “They’re not necessarily overt about the actual event, the violence, or whatever, but the combination of words and melody truly haunt the listener. Johnny Cash, for example, will use lyrics that sketch in just a few details, but the sparse instrumentation and knowing voice combine for a knock-out punch. ‘Cocaine Blues’ and ‘Delia’s Gone’ are good examples.”
As for what might be among the scariest songs of all time, Sublett named the “The Cannon Song” from “The Threepenny Opera” — a gang of underworld characters singing about chopping up their enemies for steak tartare. Mmmm.
Shearwater’s Jonathan Meiburg also named “Threepenny Opera.” He chose “Pirate Jenny,” specifically the version from legendary singer Nina Simone. “Then one night there’s a scream in the night and you wonder who could that have been?” Simone sings. “And you see me kind of grinnin’ while I’m scrubbing, and you say, what’s she got to grin?”
I’ll add the “Ballad of Mack the Knife” and later versions by Louis Armstrong and Bobby Darin.
KUT assistant music director and DJ Matt Reilly offers a couple of classics: “Monster Mash” by Bobby “Boris Pickett” and Roky Erickson’s “I Walked With a Zombie.” Reilly also recommended another song from an Austin group, “To All the Trick-or-Treaters” from Li’l Cap’n Travis.
Below, the full spooky Halloween playlist from people in Austin’s music world. Click here to listen to it on Spotify.

1.“Pirate Jenny,” sung by Nina Simone — Jonathan Meiburg of Shearwater
2.“Devil’s Juicebox” by Some Say Leland — Dana Falconberry
3.“It’s Halloween” by the Shaggs and “Halloween” by Sonic Youth — Lauren Hess of Agent Ribbons
4.“Concubine Rice” by Lone Pigeon — Natalie Gordon of Agent Ribbons
5.“I Walked with a Zombie” by Roky Erickson; “Monster Mash” by Bobby ” Boris” Pickett; “To All The Trick-or-Treaters” by Li’l Cap’n Travis — Matt Reilly, KUT
6.“I Put A Spell On You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins; “Black No. 1” by Type O Negative — Aaron Behrens of Ghostland Observatory
7.“Under the House” by Public Image Ltd. — Shawn Carpetbagger of Love Collector and Lola Cola
8.“Jack The Ripper” by Screaming Lord Sutch; “You Should Have Never Opened That Door,” Ramones — Jon Chamberlain of Rubberneck magazine
9.“Haunted House” by Jumpin’ Gene Simmons; “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” by Bauhaus — Thor Harris of Swans
“Black Box” by Jon Dee Graham; “Death Letter” by Son House; anything by the Cramps — Jesse Sublett

Here’s “Kanonensong from Threepenny Opera from Threepenny Opera, the original 1931 film version of the play. Skip to the END to see the fabulously gruesome lyrics of this song.

AND here’s Nina Simone, singing “Nina Simone sings "Pirate Jenny"” from the same play. Also quite scary, but then again, Nina Simone could be intimidating at just about anything.

BTW Nina Simone’s version of “Feelin’ Good” (written by Anthony Newley) is one of my favorite songs ever, and it’s one of those songs that neatly illustrates the point I underscored to him, that the scariest songs, or the songs with the most emotional power of any kind, are the ones in which the lyrics are pretty ambiguous, or at least skeletal, and it’s the melody, usually also comparatively unadorned, that puts the chill into the empty spaces. Here’s “Nina Simone sings "Feeling Good.".”

English Literal: “Cannons Song”.

from Bertelt Brecht’s “Three Penny Opera”.

Johnny and Jimmy were both on the scene
And George had his promotion order
For the Army doesn’t ask what a man has been:
They were all marching north to the border.
The Army’s story1
Is guns and glory
From the Cape to Cutch Behar.
When they are at a loss
And chance to come across
New and unruly races
With brown or yellow faces
They chop them into little bits of beefsteak tartare!

Warm whiskey went to Johnny’s head
And Jimmy was cold every night,
But George took them both by the arm and said:
The Army lasts forever, and might is right.
The Army’s story
Is guns and glory
From the Cape to Cutch Behar.
When they are at a loss
And chance to come across
New and unruly races
With brown or yellow faces
They chop them into little bits of beefsteak tartare!

Now Jim is missing and George is dead
And whiskey has sent Johnny barmy
But blood is blood and still runs red–
They’re recruiting again for the army!!
[they all sit there, marching with their feet]2
The Army’s story
Is guns and glory
From the Cape to Cutch Behar.
When they are at a loss
And chance to come across
New and unruly races
With brown or yellow faces
They chop them into little bits of beefsteak tartare!

(Three Penny Opera, 1928)

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