Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Excerpt From "Le Star" by James Nowlan

How does it really feel there under those lights in front of the camera?  Hot, uncomfortable, a bit like being on the stand as the witness to a heinous crime?  But they look happy and maybe they are.  Seems as though a lot of people dream of nothing but that and if you’ve gone through everything you have to go through to get there, get to this place where it is, that is the place that everyone is supposed to want to be, then you couldn’t admit to yourself that it wasn’t worth it; you’d have to force yourself to enjoy it or take whatever sort of substances necessary to help you to project a simulacra of joy.

The man on the stage, the halogens shining into his eyes so brightly that he could barely glimpse the audience, didn’t seem to need encouragement.  The expansiveness of his gestures and the extravagance of his facial expression seemed to be desperately trying to seize the attention of a large studio audience and a continent-wide television public.  One could compare him to a desperate man lost at sea frantically signally at a passing ocean liner in the hope of at least one passenger remarking his flailing shouting form amongst the waves.  The strange color of his skin, a sort of boiled lobster red, might also bring to mind a shipwreck victim, but in his case this inflamed hue had been caused by various skin lightening and darkening agents that he had frequently resorted to in order to conform to the shade of ethnicity demanded by Internet announcers that he assiduously responded to, applying the bleaching cream or swallowing the suntan pills before even receiving an answer, believing that his very willingness to enter in the skin of the character would be felt by whomever it was that might be in charge of the casting and so increase his chances. His morphology contributed as much to the frantic image as his complexion.  Behind flabby jowls that trembled spasmodically an overly developed jaw was clenched.  Massively muscled arms hung alongside a belly that threatened to gush forth from the girdle that was holding it in check, evidence of serious hormonal imbalances provoked by years of abusing steroids that a studied eye would easily discern.

The language that he spoke, something like French or at least something that could be understood as such, in which lapses of grammar attempted to excuse themselves by misuse of argot added a fitting narration to the travesty of his appearance, a badly articulated commentary upon a ruined landscape that we would never wish to visit but might watch on the evening news fascinated by the devastation.  And like a hastily recruited native journalist he recounted a version of events that had more than a bit of bias.

“You don’t know me!  You don’t know what I’m capable of!  Me, I come from the street.  Bourgeois Bohemians like yourselves can’t understand.  I didn’t want to become a violent person; I was forced to.  I grew up amongst the chaos and had to learn to survive with it.  Most of my childhood friends killed someone or were killed by someone.  How many killers or murder victims do you know?  I’ve known too many, too many to ever become just a person like other persons, but by chance I’ve found this craft, acting, that has allowed me to channel my rage in another direction, so I won’t have to hurt anyone.”

This short speech finished, the lights dimmed and revealed that the speaker had been addressing an audience not at all equal to this dramatic revelation.  A group, who seemed to have been the sort who had spent to many years in college to be good for anything else, looked on.  A tall grimly thin individual in a black turtleneck sweater and beret who stood off to one side seemed to be in charge of things.  They looked away from the glare of Rudolph who was squinting against the light to discern their reaction and towards the man who had put him onstage.  Seeing him softly tap the tips of his fingers together in a gesture more like a children’s game than applause they imitated him.  This tiny sound was amplified by Rudolph’s ecstatic post performance revery into the first hint of an acclaim that would soon come thundering forth from a world that was not even capable of anticipating his greatness.  He began to clap as well, and the sound of his prodigious palms being driven together by his swollen biceps reverberated through the empty theatre where this sad conclusion of a pathetic acting seminar was happening.  He clapped louder and louder as if wanting to fill the seats with his enthusiasm quelling what little there was amongst the others who let their arms fall at their sides to watch him impassively as he gave himself an encore.  Glancing over at a monitor that happened to be set up he caught a glimpse of himself, a ludicrous figure with an undersized head thrust forward at the end of a large neck like a performing seal, and he fell silent, looking down at feet that shuffled back and forth trying to escape his embarrassed gaze.

To break this uncomfortable moment the professor stepped forward with a placating gesture, waving jazz hands trying to recapture the paltry energy that was even now dissipating he said, “Let’s do our motivational mantra.”  Robotically everyone made a circle that deformed as Rudolph approached, no one wanting to find themselves next to him holding his hand but at the same time wanting to hide their repugnance.  It even broke apart and came back together several times like a folk dance performed by foreigners ignorant of the social etiquette governing the exchange of partners but then the professor came like a native master and forced everyone into place and intoned by himself the first bar, which was then taken up by the others.

“Je serais riche, je serais célèbre, je serais aimé”, a refrain which caught the ears of some American tourists passing by on the street outside, following the itinerary of a trashy overmarketed best seller, and was taken to be the litany of an ancient cruelly depraved sect.  They stopped.  The garishly covered, overpriced, and flamboyantly written pulp thriller that was their murky guide to the city of light held psalmodical in their pudgy hands.  The tempo accelerated and chanting grew louder, “je serais riche, je serais célèbre, je serais aimé,” and they gazed at one another with bovine wonderment.  Not knowing what was being said they gave all sorts of arcane significance to these three short phrases, “I will be rich, I will be famous, I will be loved”, but if it might be translated for them would they recognize it as a sentiment having its origins in the same country as themselves or would they still refuse to accept its banality?  Inside, heedless now of any eavesdroppers of any language, the chant had taken on the throbbing intonation of a prop plane waiting to takeoff.

“JESERAISRICHEJESERAISCELEBREJESERAISAIMEJESERAISRICHEJESERAISCELEBREJESERAISAIMEJESERAISRICHEJESERAISCELEBREJESERAISAIMEJESERAISRICHEJESERAISCELEBREJE
SERAISAIME JESERAISRICHEJESERAISCELEBREJESERAISAIME”.

The low cultural tourists looked around themselves drugged by the strange energy emanating from the door.  The stone buildings blackened by pollution looked stained with evil and the press of passersby hurrying home to heat up a meal to eat before the evening news seemed animated by some awful force.  They hailed a taxi to flee to their familiar hotel room with the comfort of its mini-bar under a reassuring CNN voice and face beamed into the television by satellite.

In the dilapidated theatre that seldom hosted any more exciting performances or attracted a more enthralled crowd the departure of this audience was somehow sensed, and the bubble of the group’s enthusiasm burst to leave them looking blankly at each other.  Though they had all planned to go off somewhere together afterwards to discuss the months long course that had ended that night they couldn’t seem to conceive a strategy whereby the awkward presence of their cumbersome classmate could be avoided.  So, they hastily left with barely perceptible nods of farewell and the cartoonishly bloated principal player found himself alone with the director of the drama, whose last scene was now to be played to an empty theater.

Rudolph had been staring into the high seats with what he imagined was an expression of arrogant disdain in anticipation of being surely invited somewhere by the numerous admirers he was sure he had made.  So transfixed was he by the idea of the grandiose figure that he must have been making he didn’t even notice the departure of the other students until a harumph of the professor, who was curiously named Henri Ruisseau, brought his attention back to painful realization of his solitude.  But Henri at least seemed to be interested, he was certainly looking at Rudolph with an inquiring gaze and in anticipation of the flattering words that would soon be pronounced by the gazer he put his best attempt at a smile (he would have spent more time in front of the mirror practicing it but he wasn’t looking for smiling roles) onto his face.

But the lines that his instructor fed him were not at all what an extra with such a bit part merited “By the way you haven’t paid for the course yet.”

Since the script that he had already rehearsed in his head for several days, abundant praise and the offer of a role with persons more important than this teacher (the sort of person he been raised in contempt of), hadn’t been followed he was forced to improvise.  With an insolent tone he responded, “Well you know the welfare board they’re supposed to take care of that, you see this is part of my vocational rehabilitation.”

“The welfare board?” muttered the professor vaguely, as if it was an organism of an obscure faith whose beliefs he was unfamiliar with, “well I’ve heard nothing from them, never even heard that I should hear something from them. You see we’re showbusiness professionals not social workers.”

Rudolph was on the point of becoming threatening but this word “professional” gave him pause.  He had basically become a semi-professional welfare recipient because he had failed in his endeavors to become a professional of violent crime.  His failures in this domain shamed him still.  By an unusual series of events he had come or perhaps been encouraged to see the opportunity of portraying violent criminals who appeared much more successful in their violence and their criminality than he had ever been as a sort of compensation.  So, he was at a loss until looking around him he found inspiration.  “And you, mister professor, you think you’re a real professional here in your empty theater?”

Rudolph had expected either aggressive arrogance or cowed abasement in response but the professor, rather like a ninja in a martial arts film that the aspiring actor was very inspired by, seemed to cloud the thoughts of his opponent with a so sudden change of identity that it warped the spirit.  Pacing off in a circle, his hands held before him their fingers splayed in a frozen jest he intoned a murmur that recalled mantra of the group.  “I was a professional, or what they call a professional because I knew the people that one has to know to be called a professional but something happened something too terrible to speak of, a sort of vengeance of the divine Dionysiac forces through my excess and now I’m condemned to perform paltry pieces of works to no audience.”

Rudolph gave him the contemptuous smirk that he held in reserve as the parting response to any who he felt held nothing more of interest to him and he strode away giving a kick to a stray chair that had the misfortune to find itself in his path.  He was going to slam the heavy door with no backward glance but for some reason believing that the professor must have been watching his departure with some disappointment he looked over his shoulder before slinging the door shut to see the professor standing in a ray of light that the sun had contrived to shine down upon him through a shutter that had been left open.  The darkly clad man appeared to be a disembodied head floating in space staring off into the void.

This vision continued to haunt Rudolph on his long train ride out to the housing project that he inhabited.  The faces on the commuters all seemed to know things that he would never understand.  He was relieved to finally get home and turn on his television, the most luxurious element in his home that he had only been able to buy when the social services department had accidentally sent him an extra check.  Its expensive light seemed to chase away the dreariness of his life and the squalor of his surroundings.  And as often happens the television was by chance tuned to a program that might have been made just for him.

The high-tech screen displayed the image of an industrial building from another age, the terrible teeth of its jagged roof biting its final morsels from a sky that it would soon no longer touch ever again, and the cheerfully designed title of the emission "Star Factory" that was to lead the postindustrial audience into a brighter future.  The robotized camera which was capturing this panned vertiginously down and to the right to reveal the host of the show who was actually having trouble hiding his distaste for the proceedings but the pained look upon his face would be interpreted as a sort of empathy by thousands of viewers more or less like Rudolph (but hopefully very few as like Rudolph as Rudolph was like Rudolph).  As the camera zoomed in, the assistant director cued him to speak, and he detached his lips which seemed stuck together with some invisible glutinous substance.  "Welcome dear viewers to a spectacle that will surely expand your vision of this world we all live in together".  The pursing of the lips and squinting of the eyes that was provoked by the idea of his being "together" with the filthy repugnant mass of mindlessly drooling spectators provoked for some reason a sort of infantile response similar to that many of them had felt when their parents stared down at them in their crib and they hesitated to the channel.  A spectacle so perverse that a sane mind would find it more reasonable to go out in the street and start randomly shooting people than continue watching was to be presented for their edification.

Star Factory had been conceived by a strange cocktail of factors that had coalesced in divergent sundry and sordid locations to give birth to a strange hybrid: an industrial restructuring program and a top-rated TV show in one.  The bizarre liaisons that had led to such brutally banal product being put on the market (that ranged from perverse acts in cheap hotels and nightclub toilets to hushed discussions between highly paid corporate lawyers in corner offices) were known to few and better forgotten by everyone.  And now the unfortunate host (or rather fortunate considering his salary) was trying to peddle it to the public like a meth-whore back on the sidewalk after just having turned a quick trick.

As described in voice by him and artfully illustrated by a series of expertly edited images, the soon to be laid off workers of the sinister factory he was standing before had been presented a proposition that would open an undreamed-of world of opportunity for them.  Instead of continuing in their dreary repetitive tasks, they had been given the chance to become stars!  Yes, experts of the entertainment industry were now teaching them to sing and dance and they would soon be on stage before the world or at least the French television audience.  Those whom destiny had chosen to be stars would be propelled to the stratosphere, their image beamed by satellite around the world, not much mention was made of the fate of the rest but one would imagine a badly paid service job, limited health care, and a miserable life.

Some stray synapse (he had quite a few of these having had an eventful life and many of the events of it having been cerebral [not in the sense of intellectual but more of blunt trauma induced brain damage]) made his finger twitch upon the control button and switch to a news program that was being watched at the same time by his recently ex-drama teacher in his even dingier apartment in a rapidly gentrifying quarter of Paris.

Henri Ruisseau always watched the evening news in hope of hearing of something nasty business having happened to the well-known individuals that he had once knew and he felt had betrayed him.  By some coincidence, or perhaps a tactic of counter programming the news was presenting the same scene as the entertainment program but from a slightly different perspective.  The aging factory where the improbable reality show was to take place looked even grimmer in the background behind the rusting spike-topped gates.  A ragtag group of sign waving protestors was assembled before these gates the color level settings in the video processing computer of the remote news van investing their faces with a ruddy hue which made them look as if they had been drinking more than they had been.  As the camera zoomed in on the leader of the group a technician cranked up the red level till the face on his monitor glowed and the union representative’s image almost bled into a blur as he started to speak.

“It’s all a hoax!  The winners of this competition were chosen in advance.  They didn’t know how to do their jobs but they were hired anyway.  Afterwards I caught them several times singing and dancing in the toilets.  I thought it was some sort of kinky stuff I’d never heard of.  When they announced this goofy restructuring program I knew right away what it was.  None of us who’s been really working at this factory for years has got any chance of becoming a 'STAR' anyway I think the idea of becoming a star is completely stupid they’re all a bunch of bisexual scientologists or something it’s probably being promoted by some kind of crypto-royalists to stupefy people to the point where they’ll accept anything.”

James Nowlan is the author of the novels Security (from which this chapter is an outtake), Killebrity, and Shock And Awe.  He is also a filmmaker, and I am quite happy to feature his work on drinkdrankdrunk!

And here's some bonus Yeast? for James and you!:

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

New Recording!: "Why Honey Sings"

"Why Honey Sings" was one of the early Wred Fright solo songs when I was releasing a song a month on the Internet.  It and "The Calling" are the only ones I still play.  Even though it was written first, it can be viewed as a companion piece to "Hey, Honey!" with that song being the before or happy stage of a relationship and "Why Honey Sings" being the after or unhappy stage of a relationship.  For this rerecording, I sang and played the usual guitar, keyboard bass, and drums.  My son wanted to play tin whistle on it, but plain tin whistle didn't fit the song, so I played with it and made it a nifty sort of subway train screech.  This is yet another track from the What's Your Flow Setting, Baby? album.  Thanks to The Tinnitist for adding last week's single, "Sheridan Market", to his playlist:  https://tinnitist.com/2022/05/17/tuesday-mixtape-101-songs-to-refill-your-cup-side-2/.  

If you want to hear more music, then listen to the first Yeast? 7"!

And speaking of Yeast? . . .

Friday, May 20, 2022

drinkdrankdrunk: "Ship Of Fools" by The Midnight Rider

even though the campus is closing, we still had faculty workshop week . . . in the old days that would equate to the various departments bragging about their relevance, 12 home-office douchebags from kalifornia giving human resources ted-talks and the lesbian nun doing a 2nd (completely unnecessary) roll call . . . from 2006-2010, the workshops were held at a swanky resort on the mississippi river in illinois--complete with golf outings and lobster dinners . . . in 2011-2012, the corporation flew the entire campus out to kalifornia to stay at a 5 star resort on an island--there were luaus on the beach, bands, and open bars . . . in 2013-2014, the workshops were on campus, and we got coach’s water and a gift bag (pencils and mints) that the book store lady graciously donated out of her own pocket . . . in 2015, there was absolutely nothing . . . of course, the lesbian nun still took roll, and there was one webinar on domestic violence . . . a lot of the faculty were absent, and the ones that did show wore shorts, hawaiian shirts, and didn’t shave . . . when the provost-from-kalifornia opened up the meeting for faculty questions/comments, there were threatened lawsuits and conspiracy theories that shady state’s “10 year plan” was designed to have our campus go bankrupt at the end of that 10 year period . . . the psych professor spoke up and complained that it felt like he had been “slapped in the face by the organization,” and the math professor screamed that he needed assurances that “the front gate wouldn’t be padlocked” when he drove in to work the following monday . . . there were also audible groans from the crowd as the provost assured us that we would be paid through august 2017 . . . she said that the powers-that-be were working on a severance package (2 weeks' pay for every year the employee had been with the company), but that was met with shouts of “i’ll believe it when i see it” and “fraud” . . . of course, there were still a few brownnosers who choked back tears as they thanked the provost for “the best job that they’ll ever have,” but overall the mood was tense and potentially violent . . . hot lips houlihan (the education dean who was conveniently sitting next to the provost) stood up and told us that if “we continued to shoot for the moon, we could still land in the stars” while lil’ frank burns (the tiny, cowboy-booted science dean) pounded on the table and told the faculty that it was “time for us to sink or swim” . . . the first (company-endorsed) speaker of the week was a retired, education professor whose son had died in a car accident--he told stories about how he dealt with his son’s death and stressed that we needed (biblical) grace to finish up strong for our students . . . on the second day, i intentionally sat behind the provost and tried to read over her shoulder as she texted--unfortunately i couldn’t read what she was writing, so i started wondering if anyone would come to her defense if i tried to snap her neck (and sadly they would because saving her would be the key to a phat new job for the pack of born-again-christians on my left) . . . most of the domestic violence webinar dealt with campus protocol, and it made me reflect on the 2 most serious issues i’ve encountered during my 9-year-tenure at shady state . . . while meeting with one of my female advisees last spring, i noticed that jessica was shaking and that she had bruises running up and down both arms . . . i asked her what was wrong, and she immediately started crying and said that her boyfriend had beaten her . . . i had met her boyfriend at a halloween party at their house the year before, and i knew what he was like . . . i also knew that their primary source of income was the meth lab in their garage . . . and i know what the human resources manual says about students being abused and teachers reporting domestic violence, but if i had reported it, they would have both been arrested and a perfectly good meth lab would have been destroyed . . . i gave jessica water and a granola bar and told her that i was real sorry . . . i also gave her a 10/10 on her homework--what else do you want me to do, man?--we’re at shady state, usa . . . the 2nd human resources near-incident occurred in my african-american lit class 3 years ago . . . a white countrygirl from iowa and a fat/gay/black dude from chicago had been jawing at each other all semester, and their beef finally came to a head when she screamed at him to shut up because she couldn’t hear what i was saying . . . this was at the beginning of class while the attendance sheet was still going around, and the gay kid wrote that he “was from chicago and would cut her if she didn’t shut the fuck up” . . . mercifully, the roster made its way back to me without anyone noticing/taking a picture of it, and i immediately broke out the whiteout when i returned to my office (and before turning it in to the registrar’s office) . . . i didn’t think much of it at the time, but that could have led to a major incident if the roster had fallen into the wrong hands (namely the nazi-cum-registrar) . . . the girl could have sued, and the dude could have been expelled or arrested . . . flash-forward to 2015:  the girl-in-question goes to my gym, and i was talking to her one day last fall when the dude-in-question sashayed into the yogurt shop across the street . . . without missing a beat, she looked at me and mouthed “little faggot” before continuing her story about where she had gotten drunk the night before . . . oh, i guess i should finish my story about faculty workshop week . . . one of the born-again christians cried on wednesday and had to leave the room, the lesbian nuns announced that the 8 professors (i counted 10) who missed the webinar would have to re-watch the presentation online, and the music professor picked his nose in public 13 times over the course of 4 days--i guess in times-like-these, there’s something to be said for consistency

The Midnight Rider prefers to remain mysterious.  You could visit his website, but he won't say where it is.  You could read his books, but he won't say what they are.  You could email him, but I'm pretty sure spam@gofuckyourself.gov is not a real email address.  In a world where everyone is repping their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, sex tapes, line of clothing, new microbrew, virus panic vaccine status, and overall brand, I find that refreshing.  I am happy to have The Rider ride on drinkdrankdrunk.  

And, here's some bonus Yeast? for The Rider and you!:

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Razorcake Funnies!

I've known the Razorcake guys since they started, but I finally contributed something to the last mega punk zine standing.  I saw they were looking for webcomics, so I made them one.  You can see it here:  https://razorcake.org/webcomic-529-by-wred-fright/.  

For more laughs, please read my latest novel, albeit not a graphic one, Fast Guy Slows Down!

And, speaking of punk, here's some bonus Yeast? for you:

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

New Single!: Sheridan Market

Growing up, it seemed like every neighborhood had its own corner store, basically a place you could buy milk, other staple groceries, pop, magazines, candy, even lunchmeat if they had a deli counter (and they usually had a deli counter).  Pretty similar to today's convenience stores, these were a tad different.  Usually run by a mom and pop operation, the corner store wasn't in a strip mall or a commercial district; it was usually on the corner of a residential area, usually on the main street that ran through that residential area, thus the name, corner store.  There was a certain charm in being able to pop down to the corner store if you needed something.  They generally went under because they couldn't compete pricewise with the volume wholesale buying of the larger supermarkets, but they also disappeared from the landscape because the owners got older and retired and died and the next generation wanted to do something else with their lives.  There were a bunch of corner stores when I was a kid in New Castle, Pennsylvania USA.  Today, I think one of them, Tic Toc on Highland Avenue, is still around, and Tic Toc probably survived because it appears to be part of a chain of stores.  My personal corner store, The Sheridan Market  as we called it or The New Sheridan Market as it was officially named, wasn't actually on the corner.  It was one or two houses in from the corner for some reason, but it otherwise had all the hallmarks of the corner store.  It looked like a family ran it.  I usually bought comic books there until they went out of business sometime in the 1980s.  Today, there's a yard where the store used to be and driving past it one day I wondered if the neighbors even knew there was a store there once.  Thus, this song was born.

Musically, it has the usual guitar, vocals, keyboard bass, and drums.  I played a tin whistle for the weird instrument (you can hear it in the instrumental break or third input as I like to call it, based on The GoGoBots song).  The trebly bit of the percussion is an old broken musicstand that folds together with a nice clank.  I liked the riff of the chorus and wanted to feature it on its own at the end, but the song sounded better with the chorus going all the way to the end, so that will have to wait for a remix someday if ever.  I also didn't have a low enough B note on the keyboard, so I had to do the third input bassline acappella and it sounds like I channeled Allen Ginsberg collaborating with The Clash for that.  It sounds pretty cool, so I might do that again.  I also like the echoey bit at the end of the song.     

Lyrics are below:

I'm going down to the Sheridan Market.
It's not on the corner, but it's a corner store.
I'm going to buy an issue of All-Star Squadron
and maybe some Swedish Fish.

I'm going to
the corner store

Today, there's just a yard where the market used to be.
The people living next door probably don't even know there was a store there.
Now I can't just walk down to the corner store
because the corner store ain't there any more.

No more corner
store

Now if I need something I have to drive to the Walmart,
and if I don't like that Walmart, then I can drive farther to another Walmart.
They say it's the greatest time ever to be alive,
but I kind of liked walking to the corner store.

I miss my
corner store

More tracks from the Gang Of Foreigner album will appear in future months here, but next week, we'll get back to the songs from the What's Your Flow Setting, Baby? album.  Thanks to The Tinnitist for featuring "Hey, Honey" on a playlist!  It also looks like he featured "The Calling"--I didn't even know about that one!

For more Wred Fright music, listen to the Yeast? 7"!

And, speaking of Yeast?, here's some bonus Yeast? for you!: 

Friday, May 13, 2022

Crazy Carl Robinson Reviews Fast Guy Slows Down!

Crazy Carl Robinson was nice enough to read Fast Guy Slows Down and send me a review.  Thanks, Carl!  The review is below: 

full disclosures: 1) i used to be smart, but then i started working at a community college in west texas…..i haven’t read a book in five years, and i haven’t written anything….2) wred fright has been my friend for 30 years, and i certainly love him----i want to write this review as a psychoanalysis of wred (not the narrator), but i know that would be wrong…..3) i grew up as a fat kid in the blue ridge mountains of Virginia…..when i went to the drug fair to buy pro wrestling illustrated, there was a small comic rack with batman, spiderman, and archie comix----that was the entire selection……and i’m sure some comic book aficionado will correct me, but i don’t remember bruce wayne or peter parker ever saving a fat kid…..occasionally there was a fat supervillain like king tut, but i never remember batman driving off with a fat chick in the back of the batmobile…..reggie mantle may have hit a fat girl in the face with a pie, but i don’t remember jughead jones ever asking one to the prom…..i’ve never really believed in superheroes either----just professional wrestlers from 1979 and rockstars (and jim morrison was real and left a beautiful corpse when he overdosed in that paris bathroom in 1971)……wred fright says in the afterword to Fast Guy Slows Down that he “loved superheroes, but they're a 20th Century thing, and it's the 21st Century” and i think that’s a good way to approach his novel as well as life in 2022……superheroes were pretty scarce (at least for fat kids) in 1982, and they’re seemingly obsolete in 2022….i like it that way, and the concept of an aging superhero questioning his mortality seems a shitload more real to me

i’m supposed to be an academic, but i don’t even remember the big words that i’m supposed to use….i think i’m going to try to review the novel through bits and pieces of pop culture….and the first idea that keeps coming back to me = johnny depp’s the lone ranger (2013)…..i didn’t even see the entire film, but i remember the critics hated it…..my 86-year-old dad used to listen to the lone ranger on the radio, and i remember thinking that a 1940s white cop with a native american sidekick aint gonna sell to postmodern social media…..that concept is certainly a part of harry fox’s (the hero of fast guy slows down) mindset, and i would have to agree that our world doesn’t need white cops as heroes anymore…..the 2022 justice league = whoopi goldberg, joy behar, sunny hostin, and sara haines----you know, the old hens from the view…..and i’m certainly not the comic master that wred fright is, but i think it would crush me that that part of americana was now dead…..my dad asked me why no one went to see depp’s lone ranger, and i didn’t have the heart to tell him…..i think he knew though as does wred fright----and that sadness/melancholy is one of the key components to fast guy slows down……the second part of pop culture that i want to use in my review is a portlandia skit commonly referred to as “early onset grumpiness”……the character (fred armisen) goes to the doctor to see what is wrong with him, and the doctor’s diagnosis is that he has e.o.g. (early onset grumpiness)……the character is supposed to be in his late 40s, but constantly says shit like “who are these people” while telling the neighborhood kids to “get off his lawn” like he was in his early 60s----and lest you think i’m free-riffing, there is a section in the novel that deals with lawn care…..the point is, i’d argue that both harry fox and wred fright have a case of e.o.g…….and the last time i reviewed one of wred fright’s novels, i described him as a good-natured, comic strip character (think calvin from calvin and hobbes experiencing the mean streets of cleveland while retaining his boyish optimism)……well, that review was 10 years ago and the world is considerably more awful in 2022…..covid came, and i think calvin was obliged to spend more and more time inside with hobbes……the third pop culture reference that i want to mention in relation to fast guy slows down is a podcast that i listen to called “hold my order, terrible dresser: the wkrp in cincinnati podcast”….the moderators, mike grasso and rob macdougall, are canadian, business professors who essentially argue that everything we do in 2022 = 1982 in high definition---in other words, nothing (except the technology) is original or innovative anymore…..and if i didn’t need (practical/grounded) superheroes in 1982, i damn skippy don’t care about the social media award for best cgi in 2022…..i imagine this hurts wred fright a great deal, and this cynicism/pessimism is very much a part of narrator harry’s world…..wred fright still resembles calvin from calvin and hobbes, but the boy and his tiger remain trapped inside a covidian wasteland if they dare to go outside

YIPS (and yips are good things): 1) i like what wred fright argues about covid in the novel….i didn’t kiss any strange grandmas in 2021, and my school gave me the afternoon off and paid me $100 to get the shots, but i didn’t particularly give a shit about covid (and hillbillies take care of their own)…..it disappoints me that the punkrockers fell all over themselves agreeing with the government and/or chris cuomo----the same goes for 1960s counter culture hippies----it seems to me that all that’s left of our culture is lining up to get a cookie from human resources…..2) i was intrigued by the character of the witch in fast guy slows down, and it made me wonder about wred fright’s lost love life……was the witch the girl who gave me a pain pill every time she saw me or the one who wore so much goddamn makeup that i don’t even remember her name or what she looks like…..wred fright would want me to issue a disclaimer that “the witch was a fictional representation of several character types,” but i think you should ask him about the witch when you see him….3) if i’m telling the truth, my favorite part of the novel was the afterword…..wred fright has always had a big brain, and many times in my academic career i’ve taught from the cliff notes…..i don’t necessarily know anything about the workings of big comix (corporate comic books), but i 100% believe everything wred fright said in the novel (even if i didn’t understand what he was referencing)----the same goes for his shout outs to legendary comic book creators…..i would imagine there are dozens of references in every chapter that i completely missed----and if you’re a comic book aficionado, i dare you to keep up with wred fright’s encyclopedia brain…..i think the #1 theme of “fast guy slows down” is that the world doesn’t need superheroes anymore and that makes me sad as well (if only for my dad and wred fright)----if it makes a difference, professional wrestling in 2022 sux even more……wred fright is too nice to really shit on anyone’s head, but i appreciate it when his hero tells me whose heads deserve to be shat on……there really is no free speech or critical thinking anymore----there’s no doubt in my mind that the world was nicer before the internet, but perhaps it’s the only place you’ll find a modicum of truth in 2022, especially if you still need to believe in superheroes like harry fox

Agree with Crazy Carl?  Disagree?  Read the novel and write your own review!  And now it's time for some bonus Yeast?:

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Edna's Employment Agency Audiobook!

 

Google introduced a new feature where their A.I.s can create an audiobook.  I decided to experiment with it by having them take a run at Edna's Employment Agency.  I thought it came out pretty well.  It sounds better than the robotic-sounding traditional text to speech apps that can turn ebooks into audiobooks--their availability is why I never pursued a complete audiobook version of one of the novels before--, but it still doesn't grasp all the nuances the way a human reader would.  Google had a variety of voices available, but I went with Mia.  Some of the other voices were more amusing, but I thought they would be grating on a listener over the course of a novel, so I went with the more neutral, pleasant-sounding voice.  The link to the audiobook is here:  https://play.google.com/store/audiobooks/details?id=AQAAAED8DSZNyM.  You can even listen to a sample of Mia reading the hype copy text there.  I'm not planning on doing another novel this way because for those who need or prefer an audiobook, generally, the text to speech apps will do you just fine, but if you like the Google Play audiobook A.I. style, then please let me know, and I can do another novel for you that way.  And, if you want a real reader, and you buy a book, then I am not averse to recording a whole dang novel for you.  Releasing an audiobook would be new territory for me, but I'm sure I could figure it out as it's probably easier that recording music.  Just get in touch (and if you can't figure out how, then you're probably a bot yourself).

And speaking of audio, here's some bonus Yeast?!:

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

New Recording!: "Hey, Honey!"

This song was originally called "Hey, Holly", but the woman I was dating annoyed me, and I changed the title, fortunately avoiding the songwriting equivalent of having an ex-spouse's name tattooed on oneself.  It's a happy song aside from the terrorists bombing a bus in the first stanza.  I recorded an earlier demo version that you can hear here:  https://soundcloud.com/wredfright/hey-honey?utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing.  For this version, I put some accordion on the choruses and looped a bit of the demo version throughout the entire song.  I also played with the drums presets on the keyboard, so the percussion sounds like a mix of Big Black and 1980s Def Jam hip-hop.  Otherwise, it's the usual guitar, vocals, and keyboard as bass.  There might be some live drums on the recording as well, but I don't think so.  This is yet another track from the What's Your Flow Setting, Baby? album.  Thanks to my buddy Loren for playing the previous single, "The Calling", on the radio:  https://www.facebook.com/wqudfreewheelin

If you want to hear more music, then listen to the first Yeast? 7"!

And here's some bonus Yeast? for you:

Friday, May 6, 2022

Wred Fright On Spotify!

So RouteNote did their job and got Severe Platter Damage on Spotify, which is cool.  Unlike Neil Young (who over a half-century after exploiting the tragedy of May 4th for financial gain has still never shown up to play "Ohio" in Kent, Ohio USA for one of the May 4th commemorations), I like Spotify.  For other independent artists out there, I should note that OneRPM was annoying to deal with and the other music distributors generally want you to cough up money before distributing your music to streaming services (and that's about the only way to get your music on a streaming service).  The reason they want you to cough up money is because they know they aren't going to make money from you, so they need it upfront for their work.  RouteNote has an option to pay a flat fee as well, but you can do that after your music catches fire and starts earning (in the meantime, it's like a 70/30 split in favor of the artist).  So in the unlikely event your music goes viral, you can always switch up and keep 100% of the royalties.  Not to be a negative nelly, but there's a lot of music out there (some of it even good), so odds are bad no matter your talent, so I opted to play it conservatively and pay nothing upfront for distribution.  Fortunately, I found RouteNote, and it's worked out so far.  I have friends who are paying $20 a year to distribute their music--and that's actually not a bad price compared with some distributors--(and that's every year--if they don't pay, the music gets dropped by the distributor and from the streaming services).  They get to keep 100% of their royalties, but 100% of nothing is nothing.  It would be nice to make bank from streaming royalties, but you need a lot of plays to make any money.  Still, it's how a lot of people listen to music today, and it is great having instant access to almost all of recorded music history including the new stuff coming out.  You can find Severe Platter Damage at https://open.spotify.com/artist/4jtrirYbvh6O1zQ7AJghIB?si=HUNQJGBXTQu_J4AcSZAKyw.  They also have a cool feature called Artist Radio, where a bunch of similar music gets featured along with the individual artist.  On Wred Fright Radio, I'm in interesting company including PJ Harvey, Modest Mouse, Therapy?, Beat Happening, GG Allin, Electric Eels, Mirrors, Jay Reatard, Swell Maps, and much more cool stuff.  I even found a cool new band called Helvetia that way.  Presumably, that's an algorithm doing that and not some grizzled college radio dj manually curating, but if so, then that's a pretty hip algorithm.  If you listen to it also, then we'll double my listenership--ha!  I'm guessing that RouteNote has the album out to the other streaming services as well, but if not, then please just let me know, and I can look into it.

And here's bonus Yeast? for you (who are not on Spotify):

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Last Month On The Stack

So I am still having fun on Substack.  Last month,  I published an example of what to do when you buy a bad comic book, a Happy Orthodox Easter greeting, a comic with multiple punchlines (just like David Lynch's The Angriest Dog In The World), a comment on how politicians in favor of gun control are always protected by men with guns somehow (any one of them ever tried giving up their guns first and see how that works out?), an application of the logic politicians who catch Covid-19 after being vaccinated and boosted and then write about how happy they are to be vaccinated and boosted use to other product failures, a cheat sheet for whomever takes over Jen Psaki's position once she cashes in by becoming a cable tv news pundit, and backup plans for The Cleveland Browns after the Deshaun Watson thing blows up in their faces.  Half the stuff is free, so just sign up and don't pay anything and get it in your email as it's published (you're welcome to pay, of course, as well, especially if you want to read it all--that makes it more likely I'll keep doing it).  The Stack is here:  https://wredfright.substack.com/.

And here's some bonus Yeast? to listen to while you check it out by opening a link to the Stack in a new tab:

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

New Recording!: "The Calling"

After The GoGoBots wrapped up, I was finishing my dissertation and didn't have time to be in a band, so I went solo and just played guitar and sang.  I also released a song a month on my website.  This song, "The Calling", was one of those.  I recorded with a single microphone that sat in front of my guitar amp while I sung into it while playing the guitar.  The results were pretty lo-fi, but they sounded good on the little computer speakers of the era.  I used to put the MP3s on MP3.Com (long gone now) and I made a Real Audio version for streaming.  I did that for about a year or so until I graduated and lost access to my website (hosted on the university server).  The university kept the site up for quite a few years afterwards, but eventually they pulled the plug, and by that point MP3.Com was long gone as well, so it's probably been over a decade or so since anyone's heard "The Calling".  It's a song that I really enjoy playing.  It documents someone trying to repress her or his true nature or desire, and, of course, failing.  I kept the matter ambiguous so the listener could identify with her or his own such struggle.  Certainly, people could interpret the song as being about sexual orientation, or being in love with someone the conscious mind was trying to avoid, or any such matters.  I always personally interpreted it as just playing music past college.  In college, being in a band was cool, but, postcollege, when people play in bands, people often regard them as stuck in terminal adolescence, so I've known more than one former bandmate who liked to pretend that he had put music behind him as he settled down to an adult career and whatnot, but he could never deny the creative spirit and eventually would end up playing music again.  Sometimes, you just have to rock out, no matter what the world thinks.  Musicwise, this rerecording has me on the usual vocals, guitar, keyboard as bass, and drums.  I don't recall using a weird instrument on it, but I monkeyed around with multiple vocals.

If you want to hear more music, then listen to the first Yeast? 7"!

And, speaking of Yeast?, here's some bonus Yeast? for you!