Friday, May 7, 2021

New Recording!: "Generic Smokes"

This is another of the songs on the first Yeast? 7". It's about a bored teenager who is thinking about killing herself one minute and then what color she should paint her nails the next (really, it should be a woman singing it, but you get stuck with me). Being only two chords, it's a lot of fun to play. For this version, I jammed out a little bit at the end, so if you want the garage rock version, then stop listening in the middle when the singing stops. I recorded an even longer version, but it started heading into Led Zeppelin The Song Remains The Same territory, and I had to pull the plug on that.  This version is a nice compromise between the short, tight version that ends when the lyrics do, and the crazy jamout the song can become.  I Vince Neiled it and doubletracked the vocals (apparently, the Motley Crue recordings were actually collages of dozens of takes, taking the best from each; fortunately, I didn't get that crazy).  For the weird instrument, I was going to use a tin whistle, but it didn't sound good, so I utilized it as a percussion instrument instead (it's that trebly metal sound); I don't recommend that as the whistle is now considerably bent, but it did make for a nice percussion sound.  

To hear the original version of "Generic Smokes", get the Dick Bennett ep.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

"Johnson Wants To Rant" Video!

Since the song is on the first Yeast? 7", I put the record in the video.   There is something hypnotic about a record spinning.  That record is on clear vinyl, so it looks especially cool in motion.  I followed the lyrics a bit as usual, but when the dancing Easter Bunny decoration is out on display I could not resist including it for a fun visual.  It's a little early for a summer beer, but I bought a six-pack of Red Stripe anyway, so that pale lager has to substitute for a pale ale in the video.  The shiny circle is actually the moon.  It looked cool that night, and with a cheap camcorder, everything gets impressionistic.  The chase scene is my son and I playing tag.  His new Hot Wheels track also makes a guest appearance.  Again, I can't resist a good visual.  My hands also make a couple of appearances here, but, no, I am not crafting a demo reel for being a hand model (feel free to send any hand modeling offers my way though).  The midget squirrel (I don't know if a squirrel and chipmunk mated or what happened) makes an appearance for the visual (he lives in a tree in my backyard); he's pretty cute.  The plants are this year's garden starting inside as babies.  Ending with the snow scene is just me making use of the overshot unused footage from the "Firm, The" video.  It was a cool shot, so I used it here.

For more fun, read Edna's Employment Agency!

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

New Recording!: "Johnson Wants to Rant"

This is one of the songs on the first Yeast? 7".  Dave and Damon helped flesh it out.  Our original guitarist, Chris, disappeared before that recording session, so I don't think he contributed anything to the song.   Stripping down to a power trio and being the sole guitarist was interesting.  I guess now I've stripped down even more to just one band member for this rerecording.   For the weird instrument, I added a bit of accordion to the choruses (something the original lacked, but singing and playing guitar was enough of a challenge back then).  The song itself is about a frustrated young fellow who has trouble expressing himself.   There are probably even more of those these days even with all the social media blather.  I read a statistic recently that something like over a quarter of young men under 30 weren't having sex, which, assuming survey respondents were reporting accurately and were representative of the general population, is pretty darn weird.  I remember reading something years ago about how the Palestinians retired a terrorist cell by helping the young men get laid more regularly (probably by marrying them off).  I suppose sexual frustration could make one tense and ready to explode like a bomb, but the song involves a bit more than that as the protagonist feels put upon and oppressed/repressed by a number of factors.  I don't know if the "talking cure" cures everything, but people generally feel healthier when they can get feelings and ideas out by talking about them and feeling like they can express themselves freely (even though many of us don't want to hear it).  The reference to The Black Whale is a reference to a dive bar in New Castle, Pennsylvania USA that was probably on its last legs back when I wrote the song.  It was not a place I frequented as a dive bar in New Castle is probably among the grimmest places anywhere, but I liked the name.  I always hoped it was a play on Herman Melville's Moby Dick and its white whale.  I can picture Captain Ahab just giving up on the whole thing and going to have a beer instead in some hopeless place.  He might corner some fellow creature of despair and talk his ear off about the one who got away.

To hear the original version of "Johnson", get the Dick Bennett ep.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Yip!*: U.S. Right To Know!

It's spring, so unfortunately some of my neighbors are falling for the chemlawn ads and dumping unnecessary chemicals on their lawns, basically paying to poison themselves and then probably wondering years later why they developed cancer.  Well, I hope in the future that more people wise up that natural lawns with dandelions, clover, and other nice edible plants are better than the sterile, industrial green lawn.  To help that consciousness raising, it's nice to know that an organization such as U.S. Right To Know exists.  They investigate environmental, food, and health issues such as the recent rash of lawsuits surrounding Monsanto's Roundup being linked to lymphoma (meanwhile, I still see ads for the product in the postal mail store ads and neighbors walking around spraying it, seemingly unaware of the well-documented idiocy of using glyphosate). They've also been covering another nasty weedkiller called paraquat, which seems to be linked to Parkinson's disease.  Please, people, just pull or dig out any plants you don't like.  Don't poison the soil, yourself, or others spraying and applying these toxins.

*Yips! are good things!  So is my latest novel, Edna's Employment Agency!

Monday, April 12, 2021

drinkdrankdrunk: "Excerpts From Fragments Of Samantha" by Christopher Johnston

Fragment: January

The night that I left, the wind was blowing.  It was really high up in the trees.  Wafting the limbs up and down.  I guess they were waving goodbye.  The snow falling, toppling in waves from the hidden sky, wound and stitched its way into and through the branches, wrapping them with a mantle of lace.

Like my grandmother’s tatting, the stars and snowflakes she gently crafted for our Christmas tree.  I loved them as a child.  We always knew what the box contained underneath the burgundy aluminum foil paper she preferred, and the little red ribbons and bows.  The card she deftly drew, usually featuring Santa or a mischievous, colorful elf, maybe even Rudolph blinking, bigger than the other reindeer, waiting patiently below our chimney!  But I didn’t realize until a few years after she died what an enduring gift she had given each of us.  For our trees.  That box was among the few I had secretly stashed in my trunk the night before I drove away, sped dangerously along slippery, switchback streets into whatever twisted future I would have.

Anyway, I knew I had to get going before he woke up, saw me gone, felt me … missing … physically.  I had check out months ago mentally, emotionally, spiritually-–in every way but bodily-–the  mistake that kept me there longer than I should have remained.  Months and months.  But I had to watch this beautiful symphony play before me at least for a little while.  Soaring to accompany my exit through the white curtains.  Ha!  So I stood there in the dark.  Motionless in the midst of all the movement.  Inhaling the fresh winter night.  Drinking in the chilled breeze.  Listening to the river running under the ice, whispering “Farewell! Remember me!” as it passed.  I still will always love that place.  That brief time.  Relegated to memory concise but quick.  Perhaps fleeting, but I don’t know yet.  I’m still young.  Yes?  Ha!

Fragment: Coffee Lovers

They both lean in close.  Over the table.  Over their steaming coffee mugs.  She smiles.  Broadly.  Lifts her cup to her mouth but lets her fingers touch her cheek as the mug dangles under her smile.  Or maybe the wee glass mug of dirty espresso.  Dirty chai.  Something dirty.  Her eyes and his look down at their fingers.  Interlaced.  As if they were the first two humans to touch.  And not in anger or aggression.  The first to love.  No one else has experienced this.  Ever.  No.  One.  Because they are no longer two.

Let me switch pronouns now.  Pull myself out of the distance.  I pulled my hair up. Back.  Scrunchied it in that cute, sweet, come-hitherish way only I do.  I looked into his eyes.  I thought there was nothing more magical than the coffee foam heart pulsing, steaming in the decaf mochas between us.  How could there be?  How could there be?

We lifted our interwoven fingers in unison.  Palms pushing into one another, melting into one extended limb.  We lock foreheads.  We lock eyes.  We lock lips.  No key, I think.  There is no key to unlock--Suddenly, something flies into my eye.  A mother and her screaming toddler spawn follow directly behind the squishy frog toy she had thrown into my face.

Liam dissolves into laughter.  I rub his wrist, massage his forearm, kiss his flexing fingers, but something had changed.  Bliss had been baby bashed.  I got up to get a drink from the iced water urn, knowing every man’s eye in the shop lasers in on my ass, in my tight little skirt, the supple white lines of my stocking-laced thighs interrupted solely by the black lines rising from my buff new riding boots he had given me my for my birthday.

Well, every man’s eyes but Liam’s.  He was focused on the other little “darling.”  Entrancing his eyes with her chewed-up sippy cup, wailing to the stamped-tin-ceilinged heavens.  Apparently, he desires a new kind of screamer.

I sit.  I look into my mug.  The heart starts whirling in blinding circles, morphing through a disturbing evolution, from wobbly heart … to tornado … to baby cradle … to flat tire … to Hangman’s Tree … to withered leaves swirling away from a cracked and spalling tombstone … I can just make out a decaf epitaph:  Here lies the latte, er, late Samantha’s slightly used and battered body, her heaved heart, her suffocated soul …

(starts to sing from Joe Bonamassa song “Drive”) “Put on an old blues song … Let all my troubles be gone …”

Fragment: Dancing Shadows/Bad Woman Blues

I saw her shadow first.  Limber, large and looming.  On a garden wall.

Yes, I met the dancer’s dark silhouette before I met the dancer.  Her well-proportioned contours were greatly exaggerated in height–-a couple stories tall, almost to the roof of the courtyard-–but still graceful.  Flowing.  I couldn’t see her at first because it was so packed.  I ended up behind some trees and shrubbery, entranced for a few moments before I could get a glimpse of the body casting the haunting shadow.  I’d been enticed into the garden from the lobby by this seductive shadow through the French doors.  The Spanish guitar music wafting in was equally enchanting.  Enough to make me set down my mango daiquiri and plate of harissa and walnut-stuffed baby eggplant.

Yeah, the hot chili pepper paste was hot, but a dancer doing a pas de deux with her shadow in an early autumn garden was hotter.  Phew!  I am not susceptible to hypnosis, but I was mesmerized.  The scents in the air, the trickling water in the fountain, the jangling notes on a 12-string acoustic guitar …

After her shadow came to rest, after the line of admirers all got to squeeze her hand or hug her supple shoulders, I got up the nerve to introduce myself.

Concerned about her health, her shape, her top-form athleticism, she let me buy her a virgin daiquiri.  Fortunately, that was the only virgin in the room.  The filthy rich arts patron who paid for the party invited her to stay in his suite in the hotel for the weekend-–without being filthy enough to invite himself to stay with her.  Doubly fortunate:  Her hunky, hirsute, and swarthy Argentinean guitarist and his wife, freakily figure-eighting an almost nonexistent black chiffon and lace cocktail dress, were staying in an Airbnb downtown.  So, she–-Marissa--invited me to join her in this vintage palatial joint built in the 'burbs back in the '20s.

That night I fell into bed with a beguiling shadow dancer.

Emmmm, M definitely put the cherry on my chocolate cake.

Yeah, I woke up singing.  “Good girls always lose. I got the bad woman, bad woman, bad, bad, bad woman blues …”

                        SAMANTHA laughs heartily.

Fragment: An Seabhac

I feel like a squirrel being eaten inside out by a hawk, my father said.  This all came rushing back to me as I sat outside Becca’s house in Shaker Heights.  It was late fall.  Brisk and breezy.  She asked me to meet a guy from Dominion to get her gas shut off.  She’d sold the house.  She and her husband Russ had moved to San Diego.  They hadn’t been able to sell it, so it was being foreclosed.  They didn’t care, I guess.  I could never do that.  Anyway, the guy was two hours late.  I had to leave the engine running to stay warm.  Bounced around on the radio.  I should have brought a book, but I didn’t think it would take this long.

Bored.  Bored.  Bored.  After a while, I made it to extremely bored.  A circling hawk, wings outstretched as it pinioned on the wind, caught my eye.  It was beautiful to watch.  It had air supremacy.  Then I watched the mailman.  Then I watched a landscaping truck pull up.  Three guys jumped out, deployed their riding mowers, weed wackers, leaf blowers.  Excitement.

Then I saw the hawk again.  This time it meant business.  It wasn’t just circling.  It was fully employed in tracking some poor little creature.  It dove behind a house.  Then it came whipping back toward the street, close to the ground, with something not so little in its mouth.  Jesus.  A squirrel.  I didn’t think they ate anything that big, but the hawk was huge.

It landed in front of a brick bungalow across the street.  Right in front of their porch.  Had the family exited their front door, they would have achieved new levels of grossness, I’m sure.  I was sooo ewww disgusted, and I was several houses away.  How quickly my hawk-watching devolved from airy beauty to brutal death.  One of those Discovery Channel programs about shark feeding habits that you can’t take your eyes off of.

The poor little squirrel had no chance.  My hope was that it died quickly.  Those talons holding it down while it briefly squirmed in the hawks heartless clutches.  Ripping the squirrel’s stomach open with its butcher’s hook beak, tearing out its little guts, gobbling them down.  Ugh.

Then it reminded me of what my dad had told me, there in the hospital.  Between the stomach cancer and the surgeries.  How the prodding, poking, pulling, all the procedures made him feel like he was lying helpless in a field being picked apart by a hawk.  I started to cry.  Thankfully, someone at the house backed out of their driveway, and the hawk flew away.  I didn’t envy whoever found the poor, damned squirrel first, disemboweled.  Blech!

(beat) An irony seeker are ye?  My dad’s family in Ireland called him “An seabhac.”  The hawk.

Thanks, gas man.  You useless, late motherfucker.

Christopher Johnston is a playwright and journalist from Shaker Heights, Ohio USA.  I am quite happy to feature his work on drinkdrankdrunk!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

"Spring Comes To El-Rio Beach" Video!

I would have liked to have made this video at the real El-Rio Beach, but I was busy and didn't have a day to drive there, film, and drive back, so this will have to do.  It was fun to make the video, as always.  Mostly nature shots here since following the lyrics for the shots would have been challenging for this one.

Edna's Employment Agency is my latest novel.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

An Interview With Mark Justice: Author Of Death's Head!

Mark Justice's latest novel is Death's Head:  The Eye Of Samedi.  I was lucky enough to read an advance copy, and you can find a quote from me on the back cover.  I caught up with Mark over the weekend and conducted a short interview.

1) What attracted you to writing pulp fiction?

I grew up reading it. My first comics were The Phantom and Flash Gordon.  I got them the day I was born, and I loved reading them over and over again.  Our newspaper carried both The Phantom and Flash Gordon daily strips, so I read those, too.  I fell in love with the quick pace, the outlandish premises--which seem entirely real--like dinosaurs roaming with The Phantom and fighting pirates.  It's terrific fun.  I also admired some of the pulp writers and how much output they had.  Walter Gibson wrote a book a month for like 20 years.  That is staggering.  I kind of wanted to see if I could do something like that, so I set a goal to write Death's Head in a month.  And I did.

2) Wow!  That is really fast!  I read a book called The Pulp Jungle once, by a former pulp writer, and I was astounded by how quickly the pulp writers wrote, so you are right in line with them.  The setting of Death's Head is in the pulp heyday of the early 20th Century.  What led you to set it during that time?

Death's Head is my homage to The Phantom, which takes place in the 1930s, so I wanted to create a little of that feel.  It's a good time because it's on the tail end of a sense of mystery about the world.  The Phantom I grew up with was high adventure.  Setting Death's Head in Haiti and Cauchemar--the fictitious island I created for the story--allowed me to capture a sense of that high adventure and jungle setting while making it my own.

3) You also make good use of the culture in Haiti in the book.  What interested you in Haitian mythology?

I grew up watching movies like I Walked With A Zombie and White Zombie, so there was a lot of voodoo and zombies, which I absolutely love.  That fascination with the crossover of religion and the supernatural still fascinates me.  When I knew I was going to incorporate these elements into DH, I wanted to make sure I had it right and that I wrote about voodoo and Haiti respectfully.  I spent weeks researching voodoo, Haitian history and mythology, zombies, as much as I could.  As any writer will tell you, the research is done so you know what you're writing, but it shouldn't feel like research, you know?  I really wanted to show proper reverence for the Loa and the whole spiritual realm, so besides research, I listened to an awful lot of voodoo music, which I found utterly captivating.

4) The mythological aspect of the book is one of my favorite aspects of the book.  I also enjoyed the use of radio technology, creating a mix of ancient and modern, perfect for conflict in a pulp storyline.  The book also is a mix of high adventure and humor.  How did you balance the two approaches?

I think it came down with trying to make sure everything was period correct, first and foremost, for as much of the actual objects and history as possible.  The weapons, radio, the type of ammo belts they wore, the events with U.S. involvement in the 1920s and up through 1934 when we left.  All of that was researched to be accurate as possible.  The Devil is in the details, as they say, so if you have the details correct, you establish that sense of reality, or at least plausibility.  Once that is established, you can let your imagination run wild because the foundation is grounded in something real. As far as humor goes, my original intent was to make the book very comic booky. Some of the first lines I had DH speaking were utterly campy.  Then, well, Doctor Sardon. He's just such an over-the-top villain.  He's actually my favorite character.  The more I wrote and thought, the darker and more serious the story came, with the horror elements becoming prominent.  When I researched the Loa, I found that they each have their own personalities.  There are dozens of Loa.  Samedi is death personified, but he's also very lewd and funny, loves telling broad jokes.  I knew then that I could keep some of that humor I originally had and bring it through Samedi, and what was great was that it was also very respectful of him as an entity.  I tried to write him as authentically as I could.  He's just a funny kind of spirit, which worked out great for me.

5) It certainly did.  It seems like it could be the start of a series.  What's next for Death's Head?  And Mark Justice?

It was my intention all along to make it a series.  Whether it's a short series, like three or four books, or an ongoing thing that I could still be writing in twenty years, is still wide open.  I do know that Doctor Sardon has big plans, and DH is going to find himself in more adventures on a larger scale.  With a villainous organization like the one he's against, you can't just finish the story in one fell swoop now, can you?  And Mark Justice ... I'm writing the next book in my Season's Change cozy mystery series.  I hope to have that out by summer.  I'm also doing novel adaptations of my three movies I made with my movie production company, Cyclops Movies.  I thought, hey, I have tons of absolutely brilliant dialogue sitting around doing nothing.  How about novelizing my movie scripts?  Why not?  Haha!  90% of the books are already written, so it's just a matter of tossing in some goofy narrative and bringing it together.  So I will have those three out this year.  Lastly, I have a Gothic horror anthology I'm hoping will be out by Christmas.  A series of connected short stories that all form a larger story arc.  I'd started this idea ages ago and never did anything with it, so I'm kicking myself in the butt and getting in my DONE pile this year.  For 2022, I have a sci-fi/horror novel planned and either another movie with Cyclops Movies or perhaps the 2nd book in my Gauge Black trilogy.  Grim, violent, splatter western.  That's about as far out as I can realistically plan, but I am also working on a large fantasy book--perhaps a trilogy--don't all fantasy novels have to be trilogies?  This one is a monster. It will take me a few years of planning and researching before I feel remotely like tackling it.  It'll be my Dune.  Haha!

If you still need something new to read after reading Mark's new book, then be sure to check out his other books.  And, of course, don't forget my latest, Edna's Employment Agency.