Entry 0115: By Crom! Conan is Back!

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LP: Da Capo by Love

1966 Elektra Records, EKL-4005, Mono

Favorite Track: She Comes in Colors

 

I finally found a falling apart copy of the third Lancer publication of Conan. Right off the bat, I found the stories better paced with more quality writing than the second half of Conan of Cimmeria. The misogyny is a bit off the charts in the following three stories as three separate women are frightened by the mighty thews of Conan, but then succumb to his silent staring and fighting prowess. I even think one of the stories ends with the implication that Conan has sex with the lady right in front of the corpse of the demon lord that was trying to rape her. Yikes! Also, Robert E. Howard uses “hawk-faced”, “thews” and “gold” way, way too often. There was also a lot of male nudity in two of the tales. Perhaps, Howard was feeling a little too frisky when he wrote these.

“Hawks Over Shem” – 3 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard & L. Sprague De Camp

 

This story followed the typical Conan story–a scheming general who befriends Conan to rebel against a mad king, another scheming general jockeying for power, and a weak woman character who irrationally falls in love with Conan–that it is almost amazing that it isn’t originally a Conan the Barbarian story. It’s original title was “Hawks Over Egypt” and it was set in 1021. De Camp, for some reason, decided to change it to a Conan story and switched some names and altered the story to fit in with Howard’s Hyborian age. That normally would make me almost dislike the story just on premise, but De Camp does a good job. As I said, it read like a common Conan tale.

Starting with this story, a motif has been developing surrounding Conan and his relation to the different cities and peoples he visits. Everyone, especially women, are wary by his barbarism. He is often compared to a wild beast. Everyone assumes he is ignorant of their customs although constantly he has spoken in different languages and accents, and is probably more worldly than most of the inhabitants of the Hyborian age. Yet, he is not the most cruel, tyrannical, or savage of humans. He is definitely not kind or polite. His hands are covered in blood. But society is the real ill. The “civilized world” is where slavery, sexual subjugation, terror, and exploitation exist. Conan cuts a swath through this reminding us humans that we will never be stronger than the earth that created us.

Despite De Camp’s good transition of converting this tale to Conan standards, there are few stand outs. One noticeable aspect of the story is that it takes places over several days. A lot of early Conan stories have taken place within a few hours or, at least, one day and night. This lends a little more realism that Conan can exist in a world where he doesn’t immediately solve every problem by slaying the villain right away or being saved by a deus ex machina. The supreme highlight of the tale is when Zeriti the witch returning to life. A nice little unexpected touch that added the right supernatural flare to the story. It was also hilarious (in a dark comedy way) to read the mad king who thinks he is god attempt to fly. Why are we humans so attracted to flight?

“Black Colossus” – 5 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard

 

I feel like to Lin Carter and L. Sprague De Camp, this was an important Conan tale in helping them establish the chronological order of the tales. Here Amalric gives way will be a prophecy and we read the first of Conan’s true destiny of being a fearless war commander and possible king. And what a needed break from the thievery and sneaking around the king’s chambers! Here we have our first large-scale army fight described in bloody, bone-stricken detail. Sure, there is a bit of hyperbole in the wading through the blood sea soaked lands, but, Howard’s skill for fast-paced action sweeps you off of your feet until the end of the action and leaves you wanting more, even though you just read nine of the bloodiest pages ever.

A common theme in Conan stories is how long will it be before Conan himself actually shows up. “Black Colossus” starts with a soft opening, perfect for a movie. Shevatas, a thief of renown, manages to open up a temple that no other thief had been able to do. He even survives an attack by the slithering guardian of the treasure. But Shevatas needed more than dexterity to save him. Always, remember to improve your Will saves my friends. For the supernatural takes his life and Thugra Khotan awakes from his centuries of slumber. Fuck yeah.

Then we meet Yasmela, daughter of a king and princess to the throne, who is being haunted at night by a shade-form of Thugra Khotan, who is actively trying to prove that being asleep forever does not stop one from being super horny. Instead of asking Ishtar for help, she and her maid invoke upon Mitra, who tells them to give command of the army to the first man they meet. I wonder who that can be.

The giant battle scene is excellently handled with points of great suspense to add tension to the billowing sentences of life-wrecking destruction. We have one of Conan’s generals disobeying orders and paying with their lives; we have Thugra using supernatural magic to smite foes; even Conan has to admit defeat and death and charge recklessly into combat, which (like all great and non-realistic heroes do) turns the tide for the barbarian’s victory. Then there is a final chase to save Yasmela from a terribly necrophilia-influenced fate.

Highly recommended.

“Shadows in the Moonlight” – 4 out of 5 broken bones

Robert E. Howard

 

A very interesting thing happens in this story: Olivia, a princess albeit sold from her family and made slave to others, rises to become a pirate. Had this story been written by a feminist writer, I feel like this could have been one of the all time greats and could combat against Howard’s use of women as prizes for Conan’s bravery and slaying skills. Unfortunately, that was not to be, but Olivia’s arc has potential and she is given an equally heroic and Conan-like task of having to sneak into the enemy’s camp and rescue Conan! The ferocious fight with the man-ape reminded of a previous Conan story. Numerous illustrations of this battle adorn book covers (like the copy of Conan the Freebooter I own) and Weird Tales magazine, which has my favorite depiction by Hugh Doak Rankin. We also have some supernatural iron statues that come to life in the moonlight to slay a bunch of pirates.

But the standout is the tall talking parrot that gives a cosmic horror warning that Conan and Olivia ever understand completely. Olivia has a dream that hints at something beyond our comprehension of the universe, but much like H.P. Lovecraft, we the readers are left with just enough evidence to have our imaginations run rampant.

 

Entry 0114: The Inside of Him

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LP: Love by Love

1966 Elektra Records, Mono

Favorite Track: Little Red Book

 

Last night, a rare event happened. Not only did my friends and I win at Dead of Winter, a zombie apocalypse table top game that is beyond unforgiving, but all of us also passed our secret missions. A total victory with one more round to go although we probably would not have had enough food had it come down to that. What I love about these type of board games is the immersion. Had I taken notes, I could write a novella out of it. Instead, I will write a short piece about a truck driver. The poor truck driver. He lasted one turn.

 

Ralph pulled his coat closed around the cold, exposed parts of his throat and chest. The sun deceptively lured him outside to sit in his lawn chair. Last week proved winter to be a feral beast. He was glad to see some of the mounds of dirty ice melting. Already a few of the survivors were gathering buckets and discussing ways to sanitize the water. Food was running low and the librarian had left to find more. Ralph sighed. He should be contributing more, but, already people were blowing off his suggestions and whispering that he was dead weight. Yet, Ralph was the only one who voted to keep old Mr. and Mrs. Henderson in the camp, even after their buboes broke. This is insane, Ralph thought, what is happening to people? And to think, before the zombies, I thought society was breaking down…

The low moan instantly sent shivers down Ralph’s body. He knew they were outside the colony, but he checked every direction for movement. He sniffed the air. There was another sound: a low thrumming vibration. Ralph looked around trying to locate its source. He couldn’t find it, at first, but he also noticed that no one else seemed to be hearing it. I’ve lost my mind finally, he thought, like everyone else. How could they leave the Hendersons out in the cold with no food, medicine, fuck, not even a blanket…The sound continued louder. Ralph looked up, his jaw aching from cleansing teeth. He could still hear the moans, which were as normal as the wind.

Above him was a helicopter. It had passed over him and was heading west toward the police station. When it was about twenty-five feet from the colony, tiny square-shaped objects began to fall. Supplies! Ralph was on his feet and rushing toward the barricades. My chance to prove myself to everyone! To prove that I am not insane. He was halfway over the barricade before he thought, wait, to leave the colony would be insane. He slowly lowered himself down, eyeing the medicine bottles and food packets laying in the melting snowbanks. They were so close, but close was dangerous. He could let in the flesh rippers. But none were in sight. Maybe he could grab one or two and prove to the others what he saw and then they could create a team of people, some of them armed, to retrieve the rest.

Yes, Ralph, time to be a hero.

He was back over the wall. His feet made the softest crunch in a patch of snow. I almost feel like  a kid again, sneaking through the kitchen after midnight in search of cookies. Ralph giggled, but then hushed himself. Don’t be a fool now. He took a cautious few steps. He heard a moan but it was far off. Maybe the librarian was coming back and the zombies were tracking her. Should I help her? No! I must get these supplies. After two or three more steps, Ralph took off in a run. He was crazy to move slow. One minute outside the colony was almost equal to death. And now, he had already wasted forty-five seconds.

He had one bottle of some type of blue pills in his hands when they came. He wasn’t sure how he didn’t hear them or see them. Was he that tied up in thinking about the survivors reactions to his heroic deeds? Had his fantasies of praise, cheers, even a few kisses, left him addled and stupidly standing with his hands in the proverbial cookie jar? Ralph didn’t get to find out. Three of the flesh rippers were on him before he could scream. Half-rotten fingers punctured holes in his throat so that sound escaped as blood bubbles hiccupping. Another jab him in the kidneys. As he fell to his knees, something harsh and strong attacked the back of his skull. Nothing broke, but he was sure he lost a layer of flesh. Before he could die though, he had to smell the inside of him.

Entry 0110: Tarot Mirror

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LP: Mirror Man by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band

1973 Buddah Records BDS 5077

Favorite Track: Tarotplane

 

Just bear this in mind:

Sun siftin’ thru kandy korn little girl with the long black wavy mane. Mirror frog yellow and orange and faces ‘n’ phases–just what you’ve been told. Oh, listen to me baby: stay stay warm dawnin’ on me. Going through the cottage cottage, you are going to need some bodies on your eyes that flutter like uh wide open shutter. Automatic Sam told Mirror Germ “Don’t give us no pay. Blue cheese faces mirror man, mirror me.” “Well they taste so good, gonna take you for a ride,” said Elixir Sue, “in my reborn tarotplane.” Mirror dawn, I want to eat’em. She uh pickin’ poppies, I get to need’em. 25th century candy corn. Mirror day bringing them into her hue. Drum razors in the clay mice heaters. “Be reformed,” Baby person told Mirror Bird, “laces goin’ flyin’ in my tarotplane, tarot mirror, man me, Elixir corn, flutterin’ ants crack and dawn with me, Mayflower can-can-can.” Automatic Sam told Mirror Man, “Don’t you understand? Just bear this in mind: Sun just mirror way and true friends are hard to find and they taste so good I want to eat ’em.”

Entry 0104: Mix Tape 2016

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7-inch: She is Beyond Good and Evil by the Pop Group

1979 Radar Records ADA 29

Favorite Track: She is Beyond Good and Evil

 

2016 was a terrible year. I shed many tears, clasped many a friend to my shoulder as we tried to hold each other up. However, 2016 was a great year in music for me. I discovered two bands that I binged on, finally got Hex Enducation Hour by the Fall, found some of my favorite punk albums as originals, discovered the groove in Veneuzuela during the 70’s thanks to Soul Jazz Records, and, like every one else, enjoyed the Stranger Things soundtrack. In fact, after making this list, I discovered this year I spent a lot of time listening to early electronic/industrial music–a good bit of it instrumentals. Needless to say because of the size, I am not going to put them in any particular order. You are going to have to be your own DJ (or just use the shuffle button).

2016 Mix

Song ————— Artist

  1. No One Can Find the War – Tim Buckley
  2. Carnival Song – Tim Buckley
  3. Pleasant Street – Tim Buckley
  4. Hallucinations – Tim Buckley
  5. I Never Asked to Be Your Mountain – Tim Buckley
  6. Once I Was – Tim Buckley
  7. Phantasmagoria in Two – Tim Buckley
  8. Get On Top – Tim Buckley
  9. Strange Feelin’ – Tim Buckley
  10. Buzzin’ Fly – Tim Buckley (Now in my top ten favorite songs of all time)
  11. Gypsy Woman – Tim Buckley
  12. Other – S U R V I V E
  13. Dirt – S U R V I V E
  14. Copter – S U R V I V E
  15. Angels and Demons – Echo and the Bunnymen (another favorite!)
  16. Erotic City – Prince (I already loved this song, but I rediscovered it)
  17. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas – Lee Ving
  18. Another Christmas Beer – Fear (a classic!)
  19. Soldier of Love – Arthur Alexander (also knew about this one but was excited to get it on vinyl)
  20. She is Beyond Good and Evil – the Pop Group
  21. Mind Your Own Business – Delta 5 (also just super excited to get on vinyl)
  22. I Remember – Suicide
  23. Radiation – Suicide
  24. Mr. Ray – Suicide
  25. Touch Me – Suicide
  26. Harlem – Suicide
  27. Breath the Fire – the Soft Moon
  28. Circles – the Soft Moon
  29. Out of Time – the Soft Moon
  30. Parallels – the Soft Moon
  31. Insides – the Soft Moon
  32. Want – the Soft Moon
  33. Black – the Soft Moon
  34. Wrong – the Soft Moon
  35. Deeper – the Soft Moon
  36. Rainbow Demon – Uriah Heep
  37. Sunrise – Uriah Heep
  38. Spider Woman – Uriah Heep
  39. Rain – Uriah Heep
  40. Sweet Lorraine – Uriah Heep
  41. Tales – Uriah Heep
  42. The Magician’s Birthday – Uriah Heep
  43. Green Machine – Kyuss
  44. Le Coeur Au Bout Des Doigts – Jacqueline Taieb
  45. Laisser Tomber Les Filles – France Gall
  46. Roller Girl – Anna Karina
  47. Je Suis Folle De Tant T’amier – Arlette Zola
  48. Black Star – David Bowie
  49. Lazarus – David Bowie
  50. I Can’t Give Everything Away – David Bowie
  51. Nine Plan Failed – Adam and the Ants
  52. Never Trust a Man (With Egg on his Face) – Adam and the Ants
  53. Paralysed – Gang of Four
  54. What We All Want – Gang of Four
  55. In the Ditch – Gang of Four
  56. Song I – Wire
  57. Internal Exile – Wire
  58. Dead Weight – Wire
  59. Still – Wire
  60. I’m on Fire – Chelsea
  61. Decide – Chelsea
  62. Blank Reflection – Nots
  63. Inherently Low – Nots
  64. Entertain Me – Nots
  65. Ha Ha Ha – the Julien Ruin
  66. Just My Kind – the Julien Ruin
  67. Cookie Rd. – the Julien Ruin
  68. Lookout – the Julien Ruin
  69. I Decide – the Julien Ruin
  70. Mr. So and So – the Julien Ruin
  71. Time is Up – the Julien Ruin
  72. Calverton – the Julien Ruin
  73. Araguaney – Vytas Brenner
  74. Amor en Llames – Pablo Schneider
  75. Machu Picchu – Un Dos Tres y Fuera
  76. Polvo Lunar – Miguel Angel Fuster
  77. Basheeba – Angel Rada
  78. Son De Tambor y San Juan – Un Dos Tres y Fuera
  79. Dame de Comer – Miguel Angel Fuster
  80. Caracas Para Locos – Ofrenda Vytas Brenner
  81. Panico a las 5 a.m. – Angel Rada
  82. Deny Everything – the Circle Jerks
  83. Back Against the Wall – the Circle Jerks
  84. What’s Your Problem? – the Circle Jerks
  85. Nine Million Rainy Days – Jesus and the Mary Chain
  86. April Skies – Jesus and the Mary Chain
  87. Stranger Things theme – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  88. Kids – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  89. This Isn’t You – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  90. The Upside Down – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  91. Hanging Lights – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  92. Over – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  93. Danger Danger – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  94. Making Contact – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  95. Breaking and Entering – Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein
  96. Baby Please Don’t Go – Budgie
  97. In the Grip of a Tyre Fitter’s Hand – Budgie
  98. Jumping Someone Else’s Train – the Cure
  99. Plastic Passion – the Cure
  100. Fire in Cairo – the Cure
  101. Dusseldorf – La Dusseldorf
  102. Time – La Dusseldorf
  103. Rheinita – La Dusseldorf
  104. Geld – La Dusseldorf
  105. Miss Fortune – Faust
  106. Der Garten Sandosa – Amon Duul
  107. Ein Wunderhubsches Madchen Traunt von Sandosa – Amon Duul

 

Whew, enjoy. It could have been longer.

Entry 0088: Wisconsin Wonderland

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7-inch: Time of the Season by the Zombies

1968 Date Records 2-1628

Favorite Track: Time of the Season

 

I love this Zombies song and I can’t believe I forgot to request it during our drive up to Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Wonderland. Is there a more magical state? It was still bright when we drove over the state line, stopped at a rest stop and took photographs by the state sign. Soon, it would be dark and stormy. My friends and I did not mind; we were enjoying an IPA called Steve Doesn’t Use His Rearview Mirror and Steve himself who was sitting at the counter asking if he could sign some boobs. After a long car ride in which I read the entirety of the first Hawkmoon book, and with the sense of adventure before us, what was a little rain?

Setting up camp in a field overgrown with wild plants, I surveyed the surrounding environs. We had some shade provided by three or four trees that served as our hammock city. In one direction was a large farm and sometimes motorcycles went past on the road. Other than that, we were alone save for squabbling of Sandhill cranes and the mosquitos. Blue Team was victorious but Green Team was sexier. The night quickly turned into country songs and beer competitions. Cheese curds were consumed. More alcohol was consumed. The Milky Way gleamed above us like a glistening spider web, each star an insect caught on its strands. This time I blew up an air mattress and didn’t have to sleep on the cold ground, not that this land was very cold.

And then it was morning. The tent was stuffy, unbearable, but upon opening the flap, cool air soothed my soul. So did the hammock as I read the second Hawkmoon book. Although it was the second, it was they day to celebrate the fourth and we do so in mighty Wisconsin style. First, we pontooned around Lake Wisconsin until we found a sandbar by the source of the Wisconsin River. I don’t know what I like about boats so much but I find them very therapeutic: a nice wind blowing through my hair, beautiful water and trees as far as the eye can see in any direction, and the slightly bumpy ride which shakes me out of the deep reveries I often fade into during traveling. The water was nearly perfect and it wasn’t long before we were splashing and dunking each other. Everyone we met were super friendly; Wisconsin reminds me of Buffalo in that sense–it must be the hard winters. Then it was time to head back to shore after throwing a mixed CD into the lake for the sake of comedy. We went to a small town firework show, which was bright, loud, dazzling, and maybe a tad dangerous–the fiery firework remnants were still on fire as they came down and hit the ground. But the music was good and the night sky clear.

On the actual fourth, we were drinking beers in tubes floating down the Wisconsin River when four bald eagles flew over our heads. American as hell. Each night we wound up in bed or at last down at the camp site earlier and earlier, watching the shooting stars and cracking each other up.

On the ride home, I finished the third Hawkmoon book. We rolled into Cincinnati late at night. I got five hours of sleep before having to wake up and go to work the next day. After eight hours and barely being conscious, I came home, ate dinner, closed my eyes for a nap and woke up at one A.M.

Wisconsin Wonderland. Easily, it my top five favorite trips.

I did manage to read another Conan story that I will now review with spoilers:

“The Hall of the Dead” – 3 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp

 

I found that this story was too similar to the last story, “The Tower of the Elephant”. Both starred Conan befriending another person to steal fabled treasure from some mysteriously booby-trapped building. I liked the set-up of the story with its beginning with Nestor leading his men after Conan. His troops have various opinions about Conan, which is a good way for an author to build up character development with a bit of suspense. A rock slide trap easily disposes of the troops, leaving Nestor on his own. Their fight was predictable, but I was glad that Nestor wasn’t killed; throughout the rest of the story I waited to see how he would return. Of course, Conan gets chased around and then kills a giant slug which felt similar to the giant spider fight, but not as scary and immediate. When Nestor catches up I was hoping for a final showdown, but instead they befriend each other for the sake of treasure. This is probably a smart move story-telling-wise, but it didn’t seem completely plausible. The mummy fight was not nearly as strong as the one in “The Thing in the Crypt”. It felt a little bit like forced action. The resolution with Conan discovering his gems turned to dust, the jade statue turning into a live snake, and him having to leave his (first?) woman behind only to discover that Nestor lost his treasure too really tied the story together. There is something dark but grimly humorous that they can laugh off the experience that cost people their lives and put themselves in danger. I guess it is the rough barbarian life style.

Entry 0085: Head Trip

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EP: You Really Got Me by the 13th Floor Elevators

1978 Austin Records RE-1

Favorite Track: You Really Got Me

 

That wasn’t the right snack. I ate the one reserved for Mad Cyril’s birthday. The consciousness-popping snack. I’m in for it now. What a morning. Woke up in yesterday’s frivolity. Sweat slime like the back of my tongue. Shoe curiously destroyed. Then, in the shower, I went to loosen my bladder but let go off my bowels instead. And now, I’m watching my eyesight improve from behind the mask that I call my face.

Damn. The painting of Beets is amazing, her flame-licked curls captured perfectly in slopped carmine pigments. Hair that is dripping thick water onto my carpet. Bony teeth smiling back at me even though her eyes are closed. What color were her pupils again? Pupils? I mean irises. Do I? Do eye? Hahaha, I’m laughing out loud and she laughs back and then I’m remembering this morning shower and now I’m belly over and hers was next to mine only four months ago as I took in her scent every night, processed it, and turned those memories into habits, habits I would take for granted or granite or Grant the president of the United States that she once said I looked like but do I? Do eye? Here I go again…

Well, work is out of the question today, but luckily I already called off. Or was that yesterday? Doesn’t matter much. I’m just going to sit on this couch. Yes, this couch–the only safe couch in the county. No body is going to get my head if I sit here and watch the sunshine turn my window into a Gate to Hell. She bought the couch. It is her couch. We would cuddle and watch Mst3k and throw popcorn at each other. I found one in her bra once and it was the saltest. What did I just think? That is a normal thought for a single man sitting on his couch, right? I mean, we were seeing each other. I’m allowed to eat things that touched her skin? Did I eat her skin? Was it her sweat that made it so salty? I’m getting off this couch. Too many habits, not enough sunshine.

I must get outside. My brain is screaming for outside. Yes. Yes. Not a couch. Not a couch in the entirety of outside. Here I go.

Oh, this is the bathroom. I shouldn’t be in here. It smells like yesterday, which was a mistake, which was filled with remorse about Beets, and a nightclub, and innocent flirtations until I found out she had a boyfriend, and then yesterday dissolved into the day before which was really heavy with the liquid tension, and then the lights all turned auburn and curled and all I could see was her eyes crying paint at me, all over my carpet…

Back on the couch. It may not be sunny torture and full of tanned devils, but at least I can sit down and not smell my sobs. Oh. My. I put my feet up. Damn. That feels good. I can survive this now. Just need my feet up. Brain screaming feet up. Beets loved this couch. Our first was on this couch: kiss, sex, and I love you. I can feel the first kiss in the coils of the couch. I can hear the sex when I pat the cushions. I can taste the I love you every day I wake up, but it is gone before I can go to sleep happy and I must wander in the darkness with no love to guide me.

On my feet again staring at Beets. The whole color palette is wrong. Her forehead was dull, her chin was fiery. The lips in this painting: too many strokes. She never had her eyes closed around me. Just the hair is right.

The last night she was here she said to me, “I’ll be back” and then she never was. For four months. My brain is screaming just the hair is right. I could go outside where the starflames have burned everything in their wake. The summer flowers are already wilting. Beets may be outside. She often wore sundresses and no socks and sometimes I spied hair on her legs but it always was just right.

I left the apartment. The couch. The bathroom stink. The painting that didn’t really capture its subject. Now I’m lost in the dark. So I close my eyes. I shouldn’t have eaten that snack. I doubt I’ll make it to Mad Cyril’s bash now.

But that’s life. Four months is one lifetime. Now, time to start another.

Entry 0084: A Realm of Fantasy

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LP: Surrealistic Pillow by Jefferson Airplane

1969 RCA Victor LSP-3766

Favorite Track: White Rabbit

 

Science Fiction is out. Fantasy is in.

There has been a switch in my primary interest in fiction. I am positive Leviathan Wakes made me hate science fiction. Also, I am working on diversifying the fantasy section at the library and have been looking up lots of female authors whose series sound fascinating. Plus, there is V.E. Schwab, but I will get to that later.

First, a trip down memory lane…

It start with The Crimson Legion by Troy Denning. Ha! I bet you were expecting me to say The Hobbit but I read that book and hated it. I do like Lord of the Rings but I am one of the few who love Tom Bombadil more than the entirety of the last book.

The Crimson Legion had a striking cover. I wasn’t impressed by the muscular gladiator on the cover. It was the weapon in his hand: a pair of four-bladed axes tied together with a rope. Did he swing one and trip somebody? I had to find out. It didn’t matter it was the second book in the series. I actually read the series for the first time in this order: 2, 4, 1, 3, 5. The Crimson Legion is a brutal, violent, but fascinating book. Rikus and Neeva lead the recently freed slaves to attack another Dragonking tyrant. They befriend a psychic mantis warrior named K’kriq who is easily one of my most favorite characters in fantasy. The book does not end happily. I’m pretty sure I cried.

Most of the early fantasy I read came from the books based off of Dungeon and Dragons, mainly the Dark Sun and Forgotten Realms settings. There was a fun series about dwarves that I loved even though the last book had a terribly lazy book designer who stole word for word the last paragraph of the book and put that as the back cover descriptor. Then there was Drizzt. I bought Game of Thrones for a quarter at Half Price books but it took me ten years before I read it. It was okay. I was late to Gaiman discovering Sandman in college and reading American Gods just a few years ago. I listened to part of the first Wheel of Time book but never felt the desire to read all of those huge books.

Earlier this year, I heard about V.E. Schwab and her book A Darker Shade of Magic. Kell has a magic coat that is more than just one coat. He can also travel between worlds: Gray London, a dull magicless place; Red London, where magic is celebrated; White Lodon, where magic corrupts; and Black London, which has fallen. Lila is a street urchin who can never have enough knives. When their paths cross, an adventure begins.

I loved the characters and the idea behind the plot. The magic system makes sense. She could work on her world building. For a novel containing multiple Londons, never had the great city felt so small, contained in a few set pieces. But that’s fine. I read through the book super fast. I’m in the middle of the second book right now.

Our library is having a book sale right now and I found so many goodies:

I found books four, five and six in Michael Moorcock’s Elric series, something I have wanted to read since high school and I used to look at an omnibus edition at the book store every day.

I also found books one, three, and four of Moorcock’s Hawkmoon series. I know nothing about this save that the artist Matt Kish recommended them to me.

I found the Female Man and the Zanzibar Cat by Joanna Russ. Yes, sci-fi, but important.

I bought all three Dragonriders of Pern books by Anne McCaffrey. The original trilogy with the super fantastic art on the covers. I know nothing this as well, but I love dragons and most series tend to spend too little time with dragons, and I love reading a series I know nothing about. I also like getting lost.

I found the Lord Dunsany poems that inspired H.P. Lovecraft to create a Mythos.

I’m going to go play Arkham Horror and do my laundry.

Entry 0039: Summer Mix Tape

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LP: Kinkdom by the Kinks

1965 Reprise Records RS-6184, Reissue

Favorite Track: I Need You

 

Summer means a lot of things to me: seasonal depression, having to turn on the air conditioning, listening to people complain about how humid it is after just complaining about how cold it is, a busy time of year at work. But it also means summer mix tape time. I used to make actual mix tapes on cassette all the time. Often, they were just recording my favorite 90’s punk and ska tracks of the week. When I upgraded to making mixed CDs, I began making them for other people and met with lots of compliments, which always sort of fueled an idea that I should be a DJ. As far as I can tell, I never made a specific “I’m secretly in love with you” mix for a lady, but I know there were lyrics that she probably thought about her own secret crush instead of me.

Now I am in a position where I cannot make a mix tape for anyone. At least, not a physical one. So I am going to write out the mix tape in this blog for all of you and add a little commentary. The commentary may expand in the next couple of days because I can’t even listen to 90% of the songs on the list because of a long line of computer issues.

I stole this idea from the Onion’s AV Club’s 60 minutes of music for the band Wire. Mine is 61 minutes. I’m sorry.

Without further ado, here is your and my 2015 Summer Soundtrack:

  1. Lightning Bolt – Mythmaster (5:11) – Spring is better than summer because of the frequency of thunderstorms. This is the passing of Spring.
  2. Stiff Little Fingers – Suspect Device (2:29) – One of the catchiest punk singles from the ’70’s. That concept in itself would make a good mix tape.
  3. The Standells – Dirty Water (2:48) – It’s summer. Let’s all flock to the polluted water sources!
  4. Tinariwan – Amassakoul Ntenere (3:25) – I got turned on to Sahel sound by Crimson, an energetic mass of moving curls spring loaded to make me smile each and every time I see her. In an attempt to find more similar music, I found this. Try to get it out of your head.
  5. Leonard Cohen – Take This Waltz (5:58) – I always knew I loved Leonard Cohen. I have no explanation on why I kept skipping his albums on vinyl until I found I’m Your Man, which I knew is rare. Two months it never left my player and a couple of my friends immediately became addicted. This song was the tipping point.
  6. Ruth Brown – Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean (2:57) – This was my favorite song I discovered when I took a History of Rock’n’Roll class at university. I feel like this generation has no idea about this song and they should.
  7. Tom Waits – Goin’ Out West (3:20) – This was almost my first choice for opening track. It will be when I go out West to Seattle and Portland this summer.
  8. Wire – Blogging (3:46) – Every song of the new Wire album could easily integrate itself into a mix tape. I love the lyrics to this one.
  9. Cabaret Voltaire – Spies in the Wire (3:19) – Playing off of the last song, this is one of Cabaret Voltaire’s more accessible tracks.
  10. Telex – Dance to the Music (4:15) – Who the hell are Telex? I didn’t know either until earlier this year, but now they have been a frequent jam.
  11. Happy Mondays – Holiday (3:28) – I am almost on vacation. I am almost on vacation. It is a mantra.
  12. The Saints – Swing for the Crime (3:37) – I’ve been obsessing over trying to find the third Saints album on vinyl because of this song.
  13. the Flesheaters – Satan’s Stomp (5:42) – There is a lot of good punk mixed with horns from the late 70’s and early 80’s. By the time I came around, it all devolved into ska. What happened?
  14. Fleetwood Mac – The Chain (4:47) – Guess why I like this song?
  15. the Electric Prunes – Get Me to the World on Time (2:30) – The title is the epitome of summer attitude.
  16. Hamadth Kah – Ce Weeti (4:50) – Best cover of the Police’s Message in a Bottle. I didn’t know there was such thing as best cover for that song. I do now. Thanks, Crimson!
  17. the Kinks – I Need You (2:29) – One last fast and crunchy guitar song to make you want to start it all over again.

Entry 0037: Plastic Electricity and the Zag Zig Wanderer

captainbeefheart

LP: Safe as Milk by Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band

Unknown Year Buddha Records BDS 5001

Favorite Track: Electricity

 

Call on me Zag Zig Wanderer. There is plastic electricity in the air.

Moonbeams and sunjeans. Shadows undressing at noon. You take the yellow brick road down to the factory with the wrench in your back held heavily in your hairy hands. Baboons so soon. Get a job, get a job, getajob getaslobjob jobslob. The great echo in between you eyes. Needle down. The scratch of vinyl. Static.

Zag Zig Wanderer, you paint autumn with your footsteps, repel summer dropout with your trout mask, free winter with ice zoom sparks, and facilitate spring’s slow crawl from the honey wine ballroom. I’m glad to own a hound’s tooth around my neck. Your hands high voltage through me to you. Stay around and wanna do what? Stay around and wanna do what? North pole star and south pole ocean. Go back tens years ago and get a job…

The bee ‘n’ flower factory rots with oilperfume and matchablerags. Mumble and light, strike and swing. The persimmon arc lingers traces. Grey clouds scream and stampede for the exits, mowing down the footstamped album covers. Zag Zig, stupid smart grin in the corner of his eyes, thumbing his peace pockets. My lips kiss the night above the flames of your artistry. I told you, I told you, I told you boss man, let me boss man let me boss let me be me be be.

Cottonwood in row roads. July like a wide-expanse thigh. Follow the one, two, three, four, five lines. Apple stare and fancy sandals. Call on me Zag Zig Wanderer. Women boogie you, childless and light. Just can’t school, just can’t school. Where there’s plastic, a Zag Zig Wanderer torches, living for the cornhusk smell, the cowboy harvest. We all can’t be fall children bobbing lemons in wine casks.

Record music. Black discs bubbling. Music hissing like cold steam. Charred tape snakes slithering disintegrating tails. Guitar lost and amplified frost. Percussion ghosts snapclapwrap exhaust. Madness record. Madness recording. There is plastic electricity in the air. Suffocate job baboon sparking vinyl stampedes for grey cloud boss man with wide-expanse school eyes.

Mr. Zag Zig Wanderer, you are safe as milk.

Entry 0036: Let the Madness Inside and Settle

electricprunes

LP: I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night by the Electric Prunes

1986 Germany Reprise Records REP 24 033

Favorite Track: Get Me to the World On Time

 

I am obsessed with a board game called Arkham Horror. It is large, complex, contains way too many small pieces to lose, and, what I feel, is enough randomization to make every game unique and interesting. There are 48 investigators to choose from and 24 Ancient Ones to battle. There are 8 expansions that add and change the crazy rules. A massive dining room table is required to hold all the pieces or you have to make good use of counter space, card tables, the floor. Up to 8 people can play cooperatively at the same time, but you can also play alone.

And it is fun to play the game alone.

Inspired by the campaign my friends and I did with Arkham Horror back when we first got it in ’09, when I play alone usually once a month, I mimic the campaign settings we used in the past. With much better results as I won 8 games in a row before I finally had a total party wipe the other day. In brief, the settings are: Investigators can only be used once–if they are ever devoured they are permanently lost; Ancient Ones can only be used once–if the Ancient One wins, they are the Ancient One for the next battle–if the investigators win, they are the investigators for the next battle; Heralds are only used once wheres as Guardians and Institutions can be used twice; no items, curses, blessings, etc. are carried over strictly because it makes set-up easier.

Okay, I can see through my blog into the terrornet and see that everyone has stopped reading. Good. Because I am now going to summarize the 9 games in the campaign so far.

Game One: I start the campaign against one of the most ferocious Ancient Ones: Atlach-Nacha. All gate openings are gate bursts. I choose Mandy the Researcher, Skids the Ex-Convict, “Ashcan” Pete the Drifter, and Lily the Martial Artist. The Its Raining Cats and Dogs environment lasts nearly the whole game costing everyone a movement point. Skids gains an Elder Sign and the Good Work Undone rumor is passed early in the game. However, despite decent gate control and removing 4 doom tokens (one by Elder Sign, one by killing Barnabas Marsh, and two Eltdown Shards) Atlach-Nacha threatens to awaken. The Stars Are Alright Rumor claimed an ally and a third (!) rumor, Cover-Up is eating Clue tokens. The investigators have to chance final combat and go get blessed at the South Church. Skids is eaten by a Moonbeast becoming the first casualty. Zoey the Chef is the new investigator because of her ability to turn Immunities into Resistances. She is given the shotgun. By the skin of my pants with some lucky rolling, Atlach-Nacha is defeated!

Game Two: Bokrug, a personal nemesis, is the subject of occult rituals. Mandy, Pete, Zoey and Lily again set to work obtaining clue tokens and quickly three of the six needed seals are on the board. But Bokrug and the Beings of Ib have a way of luring investigators to sleep. Strange fog stole Mandy to the Strange House in the Mist where she fell at the Wireless Station and went to the hospital. A rift opened and nasty monsters plagued the streets of Arkham. They managed a fourth seal but then the Servitor of the Outer Gods fell on Zoey’s head and left with her soul. Minh the Secretary arrived with an Elder Sign! Some fortunate monster movements later, and the last two seals keeps Bokrug lost in time and space.

Game Three: In evil Innsmouth, the Esoteric Order of Dagon begain chanting for Yog-Sothoth while summoning the herald Father Dagon. The game was a challenge. Monsters were everywhere including the Servitor, hungry for new blood. Minh read tomes to gain clues while Pete took a Bank Loan and hoarded weapons. A key play was made by Minh who used the Silver Key to sneak past the Servitor and a Tcho-Tcho to gain 3 clues. The Mythos deck threw me a rabbit’s foot and the feds and the merchants cleaned out the streets of monsters. Mandy became deputized, took the patrol wagon to the Marsh Refinery and sealed a gate that wiped out some heavy monsters. Pete defaulted on his Loan and lost his Sword of Glory (insert penis joke) but he blessed Minh who walked away with the last seal.

Game Four: Eihort is next. Eihort is sneaky. It doesn’t seem so bad but before you know it you are rolling for the investigators lives. The game started inauspiciously. Feds again clean up the board. Seals happen fast. The fourth and fifth seals are about to be placed when the game throws No One Can Help You Now which prevents gates from being sealed. Mandy goes insane and Pete loses Duke to get pass a Priest of Dagon. Finally, the environment changes and seals 4 and 5 happen. But then no body can get 5 clue tokens. The Deep One Rising track keeps rising until, at last, right before a victory by seals, a Formless Spawn falls into the portal and Eihort awakes triggering Lily’s “This is It!” personal story. Oohh something I have never seen before. Unfortunately for Lily, it will be the last and she dies from too many brood tokens. Minh and Mandy finish off Eihort with Shriveling. A close one!

Game Five: I take a big risk this time and choose Rhan-Tegoth. Possibly (besides Atlach-Nacha) the most unfair Ancient One in the game. I help the investigators by giving them Noden as a Guardian. Kate the Scientist replaces the lost Lily. They work as a seasoned team using Elder Signs, Golden Swords, Flux Stabilizers, and teamwork to put seals on the board despite an early Cultist blood sacrifice to Rhan-Tegoth. Pete is almost devoured evading a Moonbeast. He hides in the Silver Twilight Lodge, joins the membership and immediately owes dues which causes him to go insane and lose his membership. Oh Arkham. A blessed Kate skillfully dodges three monsters, enters the final gate, casts Find Gate and seals for victory.

Game Six: I played this one on a snow day from the library (!!!) while drinking tequila at 11 in the morning. Thematically I choose Ithaqua and boost it up with the Tulzscha herald. Cultists are time bombs on Elder Signs. Mandy, however, kills the starting Cultist with a lucky roll. The bad luck happens fast. Every investigator picks up an injury or a madness card. Kate gets both: an injured arm and necrophobia. A Color From Outer Space gives Kate another necrophobia and she is devoured. Michael the Gangster flies out of the Boarding House with Tommy Gun shooting in a rage. He manages to cut a path to the Curiositee Shoppe and buys an Elder Sign. The bad luck breaks; possibly Noden was watching after all. A strange power flux returns Michael and Minh. Both seal for victory.

Game Seven: After the winter of the last game, I celebrate the spring with Cthugha and Ghroth, a herald I had never used previously. It was a game of monster surges and insanity. Pete goes to the Black Cave, trips, falls into a shaft that takes him to Leng where he meets the King in Yellow and is lost in time and space. Ghroth makes Mandy go insane. Monster surges keep the doom low. Minh gets lost in time and space. Michael becomes insane, attempts to go back to Kingsport, sees a man jump in front of a moving train, and returns to the Asylum. Minh becomes beloved of Bast, one of the rarest things to ever happen in Arkham Horror (!!!!!) Six seals follow.

Game Eight: Ia! Ia! Shub-Niggurath and the Black Goat of the Woods herald. Real nasty. Monsters are everywhere and most of them are extremely hard to kill. Opening possessions also come up weaponless. Fearing a total party kill, I play the investigators completely ballsy. Minh, in particular, has a rough game as a zombie and a ghoul haunt her the whole game. Michael again makes some deft sneaking and buys an Elder Sign. The Science Building is used heavily to get clue tokens. The terror level shoots up and the General Store closes. But then some weird good luck for our investigators: 3 out of 4 Mythos cards have gates prevented from opening by Elder Signs. Pete seals for victory at Unknown Kadath and a classic Arkham Horror game was played.

Game Nine: It was a sunny day. Birds chirped. You would think nothing was amiss in the world. Save for Zhar. Even early in the game, I thought I was going to win: Mandy kills two creatures to become Blessed, Pete buys an Ancient Spear, the perfect weapon to defeat Zhar, and everyone has a physical weapon plus a magical weapon or spell. Four seals happen. But the Southside Strangler kills all the allies. A gate burst happens. Minh becomes lost in time and space and loses valuable clue tokens. Zhar awakes. Minh is grabbed and she dynamites herself to death. Michael scores many successes with his Tommy Gun before a tentacle pulps his head. Blessed Mandy kills Zhar…just for his twin to show up! An Enchanted Tommy Gun does damaged before she is devoured. Pete rallies. Zhar’s Twin is halfway dead. But Pete is exhausted. He dies finally. Zhar will be up against four new investigators when I play again.

Now.

Do you want to play?