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.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Literary Fan Magazine #3 Out!


King Wenclas has revived his Literary Fan Magazine zine!  The last issue came out probably in the 2000s, so this is a welcome return.  It's glossier this time around, and the design is less cut and paste and more pop art, but it's the same fun gossip of the literary world, though he's a little kinder to mainstream literati this time around.  It's always nice to see a good zine return after a long absence.  I got to be part of it as well, as announced a few weeks back on the blog.  My contribution is on page 13, an installment of "What Wred's Reading".  In this column, I write about The Longman Anthology Of British Literature.  I had to stick to 500 words or I would have said more.  It's a big book, even though the volume I was reading dealt only with the 20th Century.  Anyway, the new issue of LFM has much more to offer than just me, but I had a lot of fun collaborating with the King again!

If you've already read LFM and need some more fun, then please read Edna's Employment Agency!

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Read An Ebook Week!

 

Hey, it's Read An Ebook Week!  For me, that's every week, but if for you, it's not, then this is your week to join the fun!  I love print, but ebooks are great also (and they weigh less to boot).  And some books don't have print editions available, so they're only available electronically.  Some times, the eversions of print books are cheaper than their print counterparts.  I also find it nice when I get caught somewhere without the print book I'm currently reading, which I tend to take most places, but don't bring into the grocery store, for example, so when I'm caught in line waiting there or a place like that, I bust out the ebook I'm reading on my cell phone and use the time to read.  Anyway, to celebrate all things ebook this week, Smashwords is having a sale, including on 3 of my novels:  Blog Love Omega GleeFrequently Asked Questions About Being Dead, and Edna's Employment Agency.  Grab 'em at a discount while you can and celebrate Read An Ebook Week with me!

Monday, March 1, 2021

New Recording!: "Spring Comes To El-Rio Beach"

El-Rio Beach is a little beach right by a bridge in a backwoods part of New Castle, Pennsylvania USA.   In the late winter/early spring as melting snow and rain increased the water flow, the Neshannock Creek could often be heard from my home far above the creek.   I always knew spring was near when I heard that sound around that time.  This song, written in 1993 or thereabouts, is basically a little reflection on spring fever after a long winter.   El-Rio Beach comes to mind because it was a weird place along the creek.   Every spring there always seemed to be somebody getting murdered there or a body washing ashore or something.  Despite the sinister undertones of the place and its general weirdness, it was a fun place to play as a teenager.  It had caves not far away to explore, plus the surrounding woods leading down to the creek, plus the creek itself, and even some ruins from an old factory or something abandoned a half-century before.  The people living down there were also a different breed, reminiscent of the characters in Deliverance.  It was a little bit of country right in the middle of a small city.  I remember one time even getting chased by a brood of chickens down the beat up road down there.   The road was so beat up, that part of it, called Snake Hill, now is closed, but when I was a kid you could still drive if you were adventurous enough to try a twisty, barely maintained road on the edge of a gully.   By the time I left town, it was pretty much only traversable by bike.   Now, you'd have to be half-nuts to even try walking down the hill.  In any case, some of the song's lyrics are based on fact, some on fancy.  There really was a strange man wearing only underwear who would jump out of the bushes and try to surprise passerbys down there.  Conversely, the reflection on death at the end is just a general reflection that historically spring was the deadliest time of year.  Nowadays, if you're hungry in the spring, you just head to the local grocery store and find foods grown from all over the world so that it doesn't really matter what season it is.  In the past, even a hundred years ago, that wasn't the case.  By the spring, the store from the previous harvest was pretty much gone, and the new crops hadn't come in yet, so people had to make due with foods such as dandelions that one would only eat perhaps when one was really hungry.  The various spring fasting rituals such as Lent seem to basically be a cultural way of clamping down on people complaining too much about the lack of food.  Spring's my favorite season, but that's based mainly on the hope spring provides that things are getting warmer and better after the winter, not on everything being hunky-dory right away.  Yeast? played this song a few times, but it always seemed to be better solo.  In this recording, I fleshed it out though.  For the weird instrument, I tried a keyboard drone that just sort of flowed through the track like the creek does past the beach.  I like the guitar sounds near the end, particularly when everything pauses before the last line of the lyrics.

For more music, check out this Yeast? 7".

Sunday, February 21, 2021

"Firm, The" Video!

This song is so short, I shot way too much footage for it.  Oh, well, I guess I can always use the unused footage somewhere else.  While it would have been awesome to just use a trailer for The Firm movie for the video, I doubt whatever media behemoth (what are there, 5 left out of the original 50 or so Ben Bagdikian warned about in the first edition of The Media Monopoly?) owns it would have gone for that, so I had to settle for some fair use clips.  I tried to make the connections between the verses obvious with the old military recruiting ads used on a couple of the choruses.  I also threw in a couple of shots of the Yeast? cassette that has the original recording of the song.  Other than that, I went for a creepy mode like the graveyard shot for the character of the book, movie, and song who feels persecuted.  The video gives the stupid song a bit more depth than it has on its own oddly enough.  As usual, I had fun making this video (if I didn't, I suppose I would stop making them).

For more tomfoolery, please read my latest novel Edna's Employment Agency!

Monday, February 15, 2021

New Recording: "Firm, The"!

This song was a Yeast? attempt to write a song even dumber than "Belsen Was A Gas" by The Sex Pistols.  I don't know if we succeeded, but it is pretty dumb.  It's also pretty fun to play, which is why it's managed to hang around for almost three decades.  It's all of three chords, so maybe it's just easy to remember.  It first appeared as the bonus track on the Party At Kitty & Stud's cassette.  We left some silence at the end of the cassette and didn't list it as a track, so anyone who was enjoying the silence would be surprised by one more song.  The best add-on track like this is, of course, The Clash's "Train In Vain", which was added to London Calling at the last minute when a flexidisk deal or something fell through.  Another favorite is the end track on Nirvana's Nevermind, which always gave good value on the jukebox at The Town Tavern in Kent, Ohio USA.  I could put on "Something In The Way", then enjoy a few minutes of silence (and confusion from other patrons when no music was playing) before a very obnoxious Nirvana song came on.  This might have also been one of the last songs our original guitarist, Chris, was involved with.  He disappeared before the next recording session, and we became a power trio unexpectedly (I was a much better guitar player at that point, so maybe he knew subconsciously he wasn't really needed anymore).  Lyrically, the song is based on the commercials for the Tom Cruise movie The Firm playing incessantly on television at that time.  Based on the popular John Grisham novel, the film seemed ridiculous, and the commercial seemed especially melodramatic.  To this day, I've never read the book nor seen the movie, but thanks to this song, I certainly remember them.  Most of the lyrics are an absurd reduction of the plot of the book/movie based on what the commercial related, but it also includes some lyrics inspired by the recent Persian Gulf War.  Really, mafia protection rackets and military invasions of other countries aren't that dissimilar.  They're both awful and expose the greed of some humans to bully others up to the point of killing them.  Unfortunately, at this point in my songwriting, the irony was probably lost on some listeners who might think it's a violent punk/metal song instead of a satire of the macho insanity of military recruiting, thriller movies/novels, and gangsterism.  I hope this arrangement makes that aspect of the song's reason for being clearer (though, of course, ultimately, it's still a pretty dumb song, though dumb can be more fun than smart at times).  For the weird instruments, I added some keyboard pipe organ, and a chair as a bass drum.  Other than that, it's the usual guitar, vox, percussion, and fake bass keyboard.  I don't know how long this song will remain in the current set, but it's definitely tenacious, outlasting many more sophisticated songs that I've written.  In some ways, it's the last song of my early songwriting.  The songs that would come after would be a little more complex.

To hear what Yeast? sounded like after this song, check out the first 7"!

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

"My Man Frank" Video!

Once again, I tried to follow the lyrics in this video, but, you know, it was winter, so I skipped the whole "lie naked with me outside" line. Some of the juxtaposed images were amusing such as the similarity between the Reagan speech crowd and the Capitol Mob. I also skipped most music shots because a lot of those videos are kind of boring. I went for interesting images to complement the music. If some music shots fit well, then I would have used them, but a one man band isn't exactly the most exciting things visually, though I did think about showing the chess game shaking. I filmed (videoed?) a lot of this video outside, which explain why the camera at times has water spots on it from the rain/snow mixture at the time. I don't know what the cops were doing (I tend to avoid anyone walking around with guns), but there were a few of them milling around the shopping area I was in. I tried to mix in the depressing economic scenes that matched the song lyrics, so there's a bit of retail apocalypse mixed in here (even Game Stop, despite the stock surge, will be unlikely to survive as video games go more and more purely online). I don't know whose grocery list that was, but, never fear, I made sure to recycle it after it got abandoned in my shopping cart. Alas, I did not buy the items on the list though (it looks like they had a fun night, however!). As usual, I had fun making this video (if I didn't, I suppose I would stop making them).

For more tomfoolery, please read my latest novel Edna's Employment Agency!

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

New Recording: "My Man Frank"!

This song dates from the Yeast? era.  It wasn't on Crisco Disco, but it made an appearance on the first full-band cassette (not counting the little demo we made to get gigs at The Penguin Pub and stuff), Party At Kitty & Stud's.  Then the song kind of disappeared until The Joslyns dug it out of the closet, and it's hung around ever since.  It's a fun song to play.  Written in 1992, the lyrics reference being the president's kid, which would have been George W. Bush, which made it odd in 2004 or so to be then singing about his kids (Of all the people in America, did we really have to have two Bushes as president?  Say what you will about Donald Trump, but at least he saved us from the horror that would have been a Jeb Bush presidency).  Most of the song comes from watching H. Ross Perot run for president and his worrying about the deficit and national debt.  That's certainly where the subchorus comes from ("I didn't throw the party.  I just clean the room").  Though old Perot never got to be president, he certainly laid the seeds, for better or worse, mostly worse, for the political rise of Donald Trump with his failed Reform Party politics (in fact, Trump first ran for president as a Reform Party candidate).  The chorus just comes from being amused when drunk people would tell me how much they liked me but think my name was Frank.  All this silliness eventually coalesced into the song, though it does make some serious points such as the strangeness of working class people voting to give rich people tax cuts and for the rich people to be able to more freely loot the public treasury (a major factor in the rise of the aforementioned Trump).  For this recording, I got to try out recording on a new computer.  After working out some latency issues, I managed to get a recording I am fairly happy with.  I assume future recordings will be easier having worked some of the bugs out here.  As usual lately, I got a bit drum happy, so what should be a garage rocker goes slightly techno mental.  The weird instrument this time is a chess set that folds in half (the pieces sound great when you shake them).

To hear more music from this era, check out the first Yeast? 7", not reissued, just never sold!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

drinkdrankdrunk: "The Hand Of Montenado" by Mark Justice

I am a dead man.  I know that now.  My greed has brought about my death.  I can already begin to feel the cold chill of the grave pressing against me, tightening around my throat.  Is that a shadow?  Is that Death?  The howls outside … are those merely cats, trees bending in the wind, or is that Montenado?

I should explain.  I received a package today, a plain box, with my name on it; but my name is irrelevant.  All you need to know is that I will soon be dead, thus my great haste to share my story.

I opened the package.  Inside was a small bag made from the most exquisite purple velvet.  I opened the bag, and inside was the hand of Montenado, Count of Spain.  The hand was severed, its fingers grasped tightly in a vicious claw as if it still were in the grip of pain spasms from being chopped from its arm yet still looking as if it were trying to clutch at something.

Inside the hollow of the palm was a small manuscript.  I took the parchment out and began reading.  When I finished, I knew I had brought about the deaths of three others as well as my own demise.

Count Montenado was rich, powerful, vain, and arrogant.  Upon his right hand, he wore a signet ring, a deep blue sapphire with a diamond set into its face, the Count's emblem on it.  Rumor had it that this ring had properties far beyond the sapphire, diamond, and gold from which it was made.  That's what gave the Count all of his powers.

I wanted that ring.  I wanted that power for myself, so I hired three men.  Their names aren't important.  Three men from the lowest strata of civilization, if you could call it that.  Petty thieves and thugs.  Their mission was to steal the ring off the hand of Montenado and return it to me in exchange for a hundred gold pieces.

I sent word to these men, months ago, and heard nothing in return.  I thought they had vanished, had run away with the ring themselves.  Then, when the King's courier came into town, crying that Count Montenado had been assassinated, I knew they had been successful in their mission; but where were they?  No word had been given, no message, nothing.  I thought I had been betrayed by the thieves who I hired, myself stolen from the very thieves I hired to steal.  Now I know my suspicions were wrong, as this parchment plainly shows, written in the hand of the last thief.

They snuck in, past the guards, to where the Count was.  He had had a party, had been drinking heavily, and was entering his chamber to sleep.  The thieves snuck in and attacked the Count en masse.  One stabbed him in the heart, and another stabbed repeatedly over his writhing body, enough times to kill many men.  The Count lay still.  Surely, he was dead, but the Count was not.  He grappled with them, cursing and muttering something under his breath.  Finally, the Count succumbed to the repeated stabs to his belly and chest, the blood pouring freely and spilling onto his bed.

They struggled but could not pull the ring off.  It was as if the ring were inexorably part of his hand.  They took out their long knives and began to cut through his arm, severing the hand at the wrist.  As one thief tore the severed hand free from the bloodied arm, the fingers contracted into the claw I now see before me.  Startled, the thief let loose of the hand, but the fingernails sank deep into his flesh, causing him to scream.  Ripping the nails out of his skin, he put the hand into a bag and ran from the room, just as the palace guards made their way into the bedroom, to the floor that was now slick with spilt blood.

The thieves celebrated their victory that night in drunken wantonness.  They began to squabble about who was to watch the hand.  There was fear that one would to try and take the ring and kill the others.  No one trusted the other.

They decided who would keep watch over the hand by a game of contest.  They threw knives at a wall in their sleeping room.  One of the thieves won and took the bag with him.  The next morning, the two thieves went to his room and knocked on the door.  There was no answer.  They began to get suspicious, to think that they had been duped, and that he had stolen the hand in the night.

They kicked the door in.  Inside the room, lay the thief on the bed, his head twisted completely around, his neck one large purple and blue bruise.  His tongue was hanging out of his mouth, swollen, bloated like a slug.  The smell of death filled the room.  Some kind of eerie scratch marks were found along the walls of one side of the room, from the window to the thief's body.  On his throat and face were distinct impressions, like fingers.

Quickly, the two remaining thieves grabbed the bag and looked inside.  The hand was still there.  The ring was still there.  They were frightened and didn't know what to think.  They decided to stay and watch the hand together in case someone, or something, tried to prevent them from returning the hand.

The next night, the thieves were staying in a common room, waiting for the passage that would bring them back here to me so that they could get paid.  They could feel the chill in the autumn night.  A thick cold mist began to move around like a shroud in the night air.  The noises outside ceased.  They could feel their hearts pounding in their chests, throbbing in their foreheads, beads of sweat dropping.  Their breath came quicker, fast and shallow.

They began to see the shadow in the fog, but it wasn't quite a shadow.  There was a strange, uncanny blue glow to its translucence.  Was it the moon, a trick of the eye?  They looked closer into the form and saw a man's face begin to take shape.  He raised his left hand up and began tapping on the window.  He raised his right arm, and there was no hand.  They knew right then that this was Count Montenado.

They began to scream and pass the bag back and forth, trying to pawn off the hand to one another.  "What do we do?  What do we do with the hand?" they cried.  "Do we give it back?  How do we prevent a ghost from getting us?"

They tried in vain pushing the chest of drawers against the window, but it fell like a child's toy as the glowing, ghostly presence entered the room, the outstretched hand, the stump of the other.  The thieves saw the look of evil, of anger, of hatred, of hell itself burning in the eyes of Montenado as he began to slowly move toward them.

They began to panic.  One held the bag, then the other.  They screamed and clawed at the room's door, but it would not budge.  They beat against the door and screamed mercilessly, howled as if their lives depended on it; but it was as if the entire world was dead.

The ghost began to move toward the thief who held the bag.  The thief’s knees buckled, and he collapsed on the floor, sobbing, whimpering "no, no" as Montenado continued toward him, his hand outstretched.

The ghostly fog enveloped the thief and muffled the sobs and pleas for mercy.  The other thief could see Montenado's hand reaching as it clutched around the throat of the thief on the floor and began squeezing.  The other thief heard the man choking, gasping for breath, then the sickening wet snap, the grinding crunch of neck vertebrae breaking.  The dead man's head fell limp; he dropped to the floor with a heavy thump and released the bag.

The thief looked at the ghost, who turned around, looked toward him and smiled.  A cold snap and flash of red and white flashes in the thief's head made him woozy.  He waited, not breathing for he forgot what it was to breathe, then watched as the ghost oozed back out the window, his eyes never leaving their fixed gaze upon his, his smile never changing.

The thief wasn't quite sure what to make of this.  Why didn't he kill me? he wondered.

The next night, the lone thief took the bag, put it in a box, and shipped it away, happy to be rid of the hand of Montenado.  That night, he lay down, happy, thinking that all of his troubles were over.

He began to feel the cold air again, the night grow silent, the fog thicken and billow in around his window; and he knew that Montenado was waiting there for him.  He knew there was nothing he could do to prevent his death; so he began writing quickly, hurriedly, as he had only minutes to go.  He wrote this note, the very one I now hold in my hands, that Montenado would not rest until all those who took part in his thieving of his life, in the thieving of his hand, in the thieving of his ring, would meet their own dooms.

As he finished the note, he put it in an envelope, slipped it under the door, put my name on it, with a gold piece.  Now, I have to assume that the thief is dead, as he writes:  "I can feel Montenado's presence in the room.  He is starting to congeal right now in the fog.  He is coming for me; I am undone, doomed for stealing from him.  You are next, doomed for hiring us to do the wicked deed …” 

That's the last thing he wrote, and now I have the hand of Montenado.  My greed, my undoing.  What have I unleashed?  What have I done by sending these thieves out to steal this man's ring?  I have unleashed this harbinger of doom, this evil avenging spirit.  How can I put it to rest and save my own life, for I now believe that Montenado is after me?

What?  What is that?

There is a sudden cry outside, a shrill shriek as if an animal was in danger; then it suddenly stops.  I feel the wind howl.  I think it's the wind.  The moon is bright tonight, and there's a fog creeping in, but we're nowhere near the water.  What is this fog, and what is that mysterious shape within it?

My heart begins to pound.  I know this is Montenado.  I can feel his presence growing thick in the room.  I must write this to you, to anyone who'll believe.

I know that he's after me.  I know that my time is short.  I will soon no longer dwell among the living.  I can feel him already.  Damn my greed!

I write this now to warn you.  Because you now know the secret of the hand of Montenado and of his ghost who roams, you have become a co-conspirator in my crime.  When you lay down your head to sleep tonight, look outside.  If you feel the wind begin to change and grow cold and feel beads of sweat grow on your forehead, and if you see a fog roll in, know that it is your doom.  Know that Montenado is after you and will not rest until all who know this dread secret are dead like him.  The fog will thicken, the room will grow dark, and you will feel his hand clutch around your throat, slowly strangling the very breath you take until you are dead.

Now that you know, good luck to you; but I fear nothing will save you, for we will all be dead men by the hand of Montenado.

Mark Justice is the author of several books.  His latest is Toxic, a nonfiction work.  I am pleased to run on his work on drinkdrankdrunk!

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Literary Fan Magazine

King Wenclas of New Pop Lit has revived his old print zine Literary Fan Magazine!  I quite enjoyed the original, so I applaud its return.

On a sidenote, I wonder if there will be a return to print now that many Internet companies are censoring content (Wenclas's revival has nothing to do with this by the way as far as I know).  Regardless of the creepiness of the content they are yanking down, freedom of speech as a principle generally is only for speech we don't like since no one has a problem with speech they do like.  The answer to bad speech is good speech as always, not trying to erase the bad speech.  People tend to think bad thoughts whether they feel free to express them or not.  The expression can actually be healthy as the cognition will emerge at some point, probably in a less pleasant manner if it's been repressed for some time.  Conversely, it is wise to pay attention to nasty speech as it is often the precursor to nasty action.  Anyway, I never liked the social networks much.  There was too much garbage on them, and they were creepy in general (I thought this long before I saw the interesting Social Dilemma movie).  I deleted most of my accounts a few years back.  A blog may be so 2003, but it's also a lot more fun.  Since I own my own domain name, even if my webhost took this site down, I would just pop up elsewhere.  Maybe I would even have fun experimenting with running my own server.  As the old line goes, freedom of the press belongs only to one who owns one.

Anyway, back to the King!  He asked me to contribute something, so I wrote a new "What Wred's Reading" for him.  I will let you know when the zine is published (keep in mind that zines publish irregularly, so it might be a while).  It's nice to see the King still publishing.  Many of the other old zinesters have faded away, not publishing in print or online (in some cases, this is a good thing, however).  That makes sense because many zinesters had a particular need to publish and once that need passed, so did the publishing.  Some of us are lifers though.  Fortunately, most are the interesting ones (alas, some are not).  I'm about halfway through my rereading of my Zine World collection and about to the point where I left the staff to concentrate on writing The Pornographic Flabbergasted Emus, and at that time, there was a big debate about online publishing (one bonehead even strangely hijacked a staff meeting, which was basically a zine itself, to complain about the dissertation I wrote that explored how electronic publishing was affecting zines, and it was clear that she nor any of the others she roped in didn't actually read the dissertation).  It is interesting to note that the most strident voices against publishing online then have almost all disappeared from publishing in print or online with only one exception I can think of (but he's been boring readers since 1969 or something).  The people who saw online publishing as yet another interesting tool in the toolbox, even if they took a while to come around to it, such as Wenclas, seem to be more likely still publishing.

In any case, I look forward to the King's new venture!

If you can't wait to read my contribution to the King's zine, then please read my latest novel, Edna's Employment Agency!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

"Burning In 5/9" Video!

I had fun making this video! I even managed to get one of the cowriters, Dave, to make a cameo appearance in it. I also managed not to set myself or the camera on fire during the filming, which was nice. I followed the lyrics a bit, but since the lyrics tend to be a bit surreal, the video is as well. Thanks to Dave and Tyler for appearing in it!

For more tomfoolery, please read my latest novel Edna's Employment Agency!

Sunday, January 3, 2021

New Recording!: "Burning In 5/9"

This song stems from an old Angry Housewives session.  We might have been the Lenin Spoonful by then, as Dave and I had added our pal Damon to the mix.  Mainly, the gag was to just jam until we came up with some fun music, then pass around a notebook Exquisite Corpse style to create the lyrics with sometimes the reverse happening.  Though we had a lot of fun doing this, rarely did any substantial songs result.  This one is a rarity and survived into Yeast? when the three of us turned that from a solo project of mine into a band.  It was on the Crisco Disco cassette, which was me solo mainly, and was one of our early songs as a band.  It's fun to play, which may explain why it periodically surfaces in my sets to this day (it just dropped out again, but I will not be surprised if it resurfaces).  In any case, it hung around long enough this time that I recorded a new version of it.  The older versions didn't have the Slayeresque lead guitar intro, which I added to flesh out the song, which was otherwise just verse chorus verse chorus verse chorus.  It is not in 5/9 time, which sounds like something only a prog rock band would attempt anyway.  The lyrics are generally silly.  The "atomic delivery, sign a release form" refers to Sharon, Pennsylvania USA's iconic Quaker Lube restaurant (apparently, they had some gimmick then, and maybe still do, where if you ordered the hottest wings, you had to sign a liability release).  The "George, Barbara called" line is a reference to the then president, the awful first George Bush (and the sequel was even worse).  I think my favorite line is "Please, please, the doctor's name is Rudolph!" which makes no sense but just amuses me.  The chorus means nothing really, just a reference to what living in the USA with morons in charge does to the mind of anyone sensible over time (sadly, that has not changed, perhaps explaining the song's continued relevance underneath all the surrealism).  As usual on these recordings, I played everything.  The weirdo element this time is a Christmas decoration that makes sound.  Not that this song needed anything extra to be weird . . .

To hear more music by the trio of me, Dave, and Damon, check out the first Yeast? 7", not reissued, just never sold!