Entry 0105: Xmas Conan Reviews

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7-inch: Long Distance Lovers by Huggy Bear

1994 Gravity, Gravity 9

Favorite Track: Tuff Lovin

 

Happy holidays and anti-holidays to all of you crazy people out there! I had a wonderful trip to visit family down in the Carolinas. There was plenty of family photos, the traditional watching of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, cookies and other good food, presents, and, of course, time to bond with my nephew, an expert in insects, birds, and Jenga destruction. Also, I picked up this sarcastically wonderful head cold. But that gave me some time to catch up on my Conan the Barbarian stories, so let us see what he was up to this time! Spoilers below, of course.

“The Frost Giant’s Daughter” – 4 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard

 

How long I have waited to read this tale? This is the tale that inspired The Sword to write a song about (and probably other bands as well). This is one of Fran Frazetta’s best Conan pieces and is the cover of the book (and an album cover for Dust). When I first started to show interest in Conan the Barbarian, it was the first tale whose name I learned. So how did it stack up? Quite well. Conan has found himself with an AEsir war party who has been slain in a mighty battle that leaves Conan all alone. A semi-nude woman appears and taunts him which drives the battle-weary barbarian into a lusty anger (how rude Conan! What are you a barbarian or a gentleman?) and he pursues her deep into the winterlands. Conan can never quite catch her and she sends two Frost Giants, her brothers, to attack Conan, which leads to an excellent fight. At the last moment, the woman calls upon her godly father’s name and a blindly bolt of lightning causes Conan to pass out (something he does a lot. I should have kept track of that.) When he wakes up, he thinks it was a dream until he sees her veil in his hands.

The tale is based upon Bulfinch’s version of Atalanta mixed with Apollo’s chase after Daphne after having been struck by Cupid’s arrow. This may be the mythological justification for Conan’s pursuit with intent to rape, but that aspect of the story is problematic. Now no one should be reading Conan and thinking he is a good guy and modeling their life after his behavior, but this action is too far wrong even for an “anti-hero”. In fact, Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter added Conan’s code of honor towards women in the very next story, stating specifically that Conan would never rape a woman, which I think was their (perhaps lame) attempt to gloss over this story. The rest of the story, however, is brilliant. It contains some of Howard’s best landscape descriptions and the battle with the Frost Giant’s is vicious. Also, it was a nice break from all the treasure hunting. A man overcoming the powers of nature and some gods before ultimately being humbled by a very powerful god, reminding Conan that even he has limits.

“The Lair of the Ice Worm” – 5 out of 5 broken skulls

L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

 

This title excited my brain to no end. I wanted to just pull out a piece of paper and draw what I thought the Ice Worm looked like and its lair. The story did not disappoint. Conan is traveling through the mountain ranges at the beginning of spring. A woman’s scream alerts him to some cave people circling a strange woman, so Conan begins to impale them upon his lance until it breaks. But his war axe handles the rest. The woman hardly knows a word Conan can understand, but she follows him into a cave so they can stay warm. Soon, they make love–okay, I did roll my eyes at this. While Conan slumbers, the girl sees two giant eyes. When Conan wakes up, he finds her missing and his honor shamed that he did not protect her. He follows the Ice Worm’s tracks to its lair and uses an ingenious idea (Conan understands science!) to defeat the Worm. I loved this story because the descriptions were just like out of a movie or an excellent D&D campaign. I love stories set in cold mountains during the winter. The Ice Worm was a great villain: a giant mouth with thousands of teeth to eat the flesh off the skeleton, but also a freezing breath to save food for later. Perhaps the plot is a bit too simplistic, but it show cases Conan as a maser fighter against even the most vicious of beasts.

“The Queen of the Black Coast” – 4 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard

 

The first epic Conan tale. Some people rank this as the best Conan tale. Although I disagree, it certainly is a strong one. But like “The Frost Giant’s Daughter” even its lush language and large-scope plot cannot hide the sexism and racism in the story. The story starts with Conan fleeing a crowd by leaping on a barge and quickly befriending the captain, Tito. Conan admits he does not understand civilization: he had been called into trial as a witness (this may be the third time Conan has gone to court; is this another thing I should be keeping track of?) and frustrated at not understanding why he was there, Conan broke the skull of the judge and fled. What is interesting about this is you have the typical American “anti-hero” attitude against the Man (court system, police, government, etc.) which is commonly thought of as happening in the ’60’s, being presented in a Conan story written in 1934. Unfortunately for Tito, Conan is a bit of a curse of his companions as they are almost immediately attacked by Belit, the Queen of the Black Coast, which is exactly the groan inducing title you think it is: a white woman considered a goddess by superstitious black natives, who come with tom-toms, spears, and circular shields. By Crom, Robert E. Howard! She is also topless although maybe because she is also sailing around the hot southern oceans that would make a little sense…okay, looking at all the ladies glaring at me, nope, nevermind! Tito and his crew are killed and Conan leaps aboard Belit’s ship expecting to die, but Belit is sexually turned on by his savage nature and she asks him to become her mate. The sex hinted at suggests BDSM. Thus, Conan becomes a pirate and makes raids along the Black Coast until Belit decides to find a fabled lost city full of treasure. Okay, people have to stop doing this around Conan. It is definitely bad luck. As they travel down a lonely river, a giant snake eats one of the crew members. I suspect the Weird Tales editor said to Howard: “It has been five paragraphs since someone has died. Kill someone quick!” Then we get to the real meat of the story where they find the treasure, Belit issues some bad commands maybe under a curse, a winged creature has destroyed their water supply, Conan leads some troops into the jungle only to pass out at the touch of a black lotus. There he hallucinates the eons of history of the forgotten city: where superhumans lived but devolved into winged apes and other humans were turned into hyenas. Then comes a lot of death, including Belit who is hung from the yardarm. Conan’s final showdown expertly combines brutal wartime with the supernatural, which makes these Conan tales so special.

I really appreciated the scope of this story. It takes the normal Conan tale and stretches it into three distinct sections, pushing the limits of what Howard could get away with. A movie could be made out of this tale alone. Belit is a bit hokey as a character, but a better woman character despite her nakedness and immediately sexual attraction to Conan. Had Howard wrote out her background and how she become Queen of the Black Coast, this may have earned another broken skull in my ratings system. The dialogue between her and Conan feels comfortable and sort-of believable despite how fast they seem to pair up. Besides there is a jump-cut of time between sections one and two of the story, where obviously the two love birds would learn about each other. We are treated to Conan’s inner thoughts about gods including Crom. I did not expect this sudden religious contemplation at all! Then you get a Lovecraftian ancient history lesson followed by a bloody fight and a mourning Conan who gives Belit a Vikings funeral. Like I said, the scope of the story is impressive and had Howard only fleshed it out just a little bit more–say another 3,000 words–this would be contending with the best (minus the sexism and racism, of course). That being said, I would recommend this story to people first picking up Conan as an introduction besides “The Tower of the Elephant.”

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 0103: The 27 Active Cults and Conspiracy Theorist Groups

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7-inch: Ca Plane Pour Moi by Thee Headcoatees

1997 Sympathy for the Record Industry, SFTRI 485

Favorite Track: Ca Plane Pour Moi

 

I made a discovery last night that had me rolling on the floor. It was an unfinished book, a sequel actually, titled the Turdian Shithouse Revelations. It proposed to be a book about the truth, the Turd, and how life is harder to pin down than by simply being alive and observing it. It also has a fourth grader’s sense of humor, but one that is surprisingly refreshing. I won’t tell you how I got in contact with the authors on the spiritual plane (but it did involve a chicken egg, three stalks of celery, and short hairs of a well-known movie star) and was granted permission to copy my favorite section! Enjoy!

There are 27 current conspiracy groups and cult memberships that tell the truth in today’s universe. If you join any of these, your life will be short and abnormal. You will regret learning the horrible truth, however, your mind will be unlocked from the state-wide conditioning it has been put through. Good luck finding them. I told them never to call you back.

  1. The Turds – Assholes and philosophers. Status: Easily avoided. Membership: 7 billion.
  2. The Tubians – Fanatic, lustful. Status: Lightning strikes twice. Membership: Probably 4.
  3. Moon Nazis – Fascist, mooney. Status: Can be seen on a clear night. Membership: 144.
  4. Space Whalers Association – Slick, spermy. Status: There she blows! Membership: 36.
  5. Teenagers – Moody, anti-social. Status: Always hungry. Membership: 2 1/2 billion.
  6. Controlled Bigots – Silent, hateful. Status: Medium rare. Membership: 77 million.
  7. Faggy Poets – Desperate, needy. Status: You never who is and who isn’t? Membership: ?
  8. Psychotic Mind-Readers – Irate, ornery. Status: More than you think. Membership: x>?
  9. Porno Jihadists – Duty-bound, well-hung. Status: Making more everyday. Membership: x>? + x>? squared + x>? cubed + etc.
  10. Carpetbaggers – Folksy, traditional. Status: Extinct. Membership: 0.
  11. Joggers – Athletic, paranoid. Status: Sun risers. Membership: 200 million.
  12. Hallucinating Baptists – Holy, high. Status: Coming down. Membership: <
  13. Apocalyptic Astronauts – Weird, thin. Status: Mostly Russian and American. Membership: 27.
  14. Diabolical Grabbag of Fetishes – Inquisitive, gay. Status: Neon lights. Membership: Debatable.
  15. Unbalanced Librarians – Nerdy, Eccentric. Status: Overdue. Membership: 501.
  16. Magnetic Sterilizers – Loose, edgy. Status: Hospital parking lots. Membership: 100,000 thousand.
  17. Spirited Atheists – Contrary, nocturnal. Status: Potential. Membership: x=x.
  18. Careful Readers – Bookish, blind. Status: Page-turning. Membership: 6 billion and two.
  19. Degrading Street Performers – Untalented, broke. Status: Avoid subways. Membership: 1 million.
  20. Corporate Tax Lawyers – Evil, type A. Status: Submitted to IRS. Membership: Being recounted.
  21. Virginal Venusians – Hot, bothered. Status: Dying out. Membership: > or equal to 100.
  22. Jurassic Mathematicians – Scaly or feathery. Status: Ancient. Membership: Riding a comet somewhere.
  23. Assailing Asseyes – Anarchic, valuable. Status: Unlimited. Membership: Infinity.
  24. Full-Moon Psychologists– Thoughtful, temperamental. Status: Once a month. Membership: 28-31.
  25. The Twenty-Five Masked Fat People – Fat, masked. Status: Dwindling. Membership: 19.
  26. New Age Illuminati – New, aged. Status: Bavarian, like a pretzel. Membership: Fortune 500.
  27. The Truth – Liar, pants on fire. Status: Determined. Membership: 0.

Entry 0102: The Mythic Thief

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LP: Chelsea by Chelsea

2015 Daily Records, DAY.07VS, reissue

Favorite Track: Decide

 

Last night, after a boisterous concert, I crashed on the couch of my friend’s cold living room. The cool air must have acted upon my imagination because I had one of the most vivid dreams in my lifetime. Plus, the dream was a completely thought out and intricate plot unlike the typical dream logic where walking through walls is normal. It also involved a ridiculous romantic subplot, but I will get to that later.

The dream had a title: The Mystic Thief. It has a title because it is a novel I wrote. It begins during the end of the Regency era of British history, but the Victorian era that is emerging is much more advanced in technology and cruelty. From the common people to certain royals, people have fallen in love secretly with a censored book called The Mystic Thief. When people read the book, they are sent to a sensual fantasy game world where everyone lives out their wildish inner desires: heroes rescuing damsels in distress; damsels saving heroes in distress; sexual freedom; murderous revenge; etc. But the main goal of the game is to learn who the Mystic Thief is. The Mystic Thief is treated as if a god.

The problem is if you are caught playing/reading The Mystic Thief, you are horribly punished. Men and women are locked into high-tech iron maidens that cut off and grind up genitals that are sucked out of a clear tube protruding from the front of the maiden, so every one watching knows what is it store for them if they think about playing. Then there is the Emerald Maiden: saved for the most dangerous of thought criminals that has rumored to have never been used or used once on King George the III.

The protagonist of the dream successfully learns who the Mystic Thief is. The Mystic Thief is a god who steals time, controls fate, is both the cause and effect. It is herself, the reader of the book. She is caught and put in the Emerald Maiden where she hallucinates. It is there that the readers of my book are confronted with a mirror. They are Mystic Thieves too.

This book becomes so popular, it is turned into a movie. I am invited to the movie premiere and take my nephew Miles along. It is in the lobby of a grand movie theatre that I run into the star of the film, Emma Watson. She is beautifully dressed and I compliment her on it all the while wanting to flee to some cave when Miles asked me who I am talking to. I answer “Hermione” and he goes all-kid mode and demonstrates her casting spells, making her laugh and causing me to blush. Then she shakes hands and when I reach out with my right hand, I spot her checking my left hand for a ring. This little action gives me the confidence to smoothly ask her on a date and she agrees.

Then I woke up.

And there is no movie coming out about a book I have never wrote and Emma Watson is certainly not waiting for me somewhere. Also note that I find it weird that my brain picked Emma Watson as I normally are not drawn to actors and I’ve seen her in movies since she was 11. Then again, nothing was really normal about that dream anyways.

Now will I actually write this novel? I find the reveal to be a little gimmicky, but maybe when I start writing it, I will change what happens instead of following the plot of my dream. But as Shakespeare said, “A dream itself is but a shadow.”

Entry 0101: Return of Conan Reviews

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7-inch: House of Suffering Bad Brains

1986 SST Records PSST 065

Favorite Track: House of Suffering

 

The weather is rapidly cooling down and the air is brisk. A heavier coat is required when outside and I find a bounce in my step. Goodbye autumn, a friend but not as faithful as my lover, winter. Her cold kisses embrace me morning and night. The perfect time to sit and read by a fire, stretched out on a rug or pillow. I have just started the second Lancer book in the Conan series. The cover is one of Frank Frazetta paintings, which was also used for a Dust album starring Marky Ramone. Almost immediately into starting the first short story, I am drawn back to the clash of battle, the smell of death, the warcries, the desperation, the sneaky heists, and the lustrous women. Conan occupies a much simpler world: there is no good versus evil, there is only a question of honor and strength. As I crack open the cover of the book, I wonder what danger will Conan recklessly throw himself into this time?

*spoilers below*

“The Curse of the Monolith” – 2 out of 5 broken skulls

L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter

 

I was about to dismiss this story as the worst story yet, but for a grisly image during the ending. Perhaps it would be better in comic book format. The plot is simple and, at this point, the most common Conan plot. Conan is still serving in the Turan army and while delivering a message, the man he escorts tells him of a fabulous treasure. The two of them sneak off only for Feng to betray Conan. The story feels rushed with almost no characterization, a hastily and not convincingly hidden treasure is used to lure a suspicious Conan dumb, and then magnets! Now Feng could just kill Conan as he helplessly struggles to free himself from his armor, but, no, instead he pulls out a flute and plays a piping song that summons an amoeba. All of this is groan worthy until the writing suddenly kicks into gear and, for a brief moment, you wonder if Conan is going to die. Then Conan does what he does best and saves himself and throws Feng into the monolith so he meets his own amorphous demise. There is not much to discuss in this story so I will move on.

 

“The Blood-Stained God” – 3 out of 5 broken skulls

Robert E. Howard and L. Sprague de Camp

 

Once again, we get the tired Conan goes treasure hunting, begrudgingly befriends a companion who dies, and, ultimately, does not end up with any treasure than he started with. However, this is a pretty good tale and, most likely, a fun one to read out loud. Conan has finally quit the Turan army. A dying man gave him a map that has been stolen sometime before the story starts, so we begin with Conan searching the dangerous parts of a city looking for someone. We get an early fight scene and Conan is knocked unconscious while climbing a wall. He wakes to a stranger who has been spying on him, but willing to help. They set off on a chase for the treasure when they are ambushed, but the real excitement of the story starts when the cast of characters thins out to the main players. Then we get a hidden temple built into a mountainside, a hilarious death scene due to a trap door, and then the treasure–an short, squat apish statue that can become animated and throw people into a chasm. This story is about action. The landscape is described in lovely detail, but not really in an ominous or atmospheric way. Probably the best descriptions come with the trap door and Conan’s clever, but convenient fix. The story needs more time with Sassan, who could have been much more interesting–after all, he followed Conan around with him knowing and whose sudden greed for the treasure (his downfall) seems forced. Zyras and Kerspa also seem little more than names. Why is Kerspa so protective of his lands? Zyras is trying to kill Conan but allows him to temporarily join sides because of a Kezankian horde approaching? Are they particularly ferocious in combat or is Zyras a mastermind in betrayal? It would have been nice to have more background to these new cultures we are introduced to in this story. But the brutal ending proves the title right: it sure is a blood-stained god.

 

Another set of decent tales, but I am anxiously awaiting the next really good story. The next three stories all have promising titles: The Frost Giant’s Daughter, The Lair of the Ice Worm, and Queen of the Black Coast.

Entry 0100: Jazzer Prose

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LP: Naked City by John Zorn

2016 1972 Records, if34, Reissue

Favorite Track: A Shot in the Dark

 

The jazz in my nose was getting out of hand. Fingers of it zooting and scatting around like an unfinished melody. Blood in my face constricted thinner than a sixteenth note. Walking diagonal through the crowd to get away from the stage but it’s brighter at the bar counter with twice as many tough guys acting petulantly.  I should have brought a book; had a quiet night. But, no, I’m trying to escape myself for one night–like truly escape myself. I want my thoughts obliterated. My ego exterminated.

Oh, hello there reader, you are trapped in the hell of my mind’s narration, which, I should warn you, is faulty. Since you are joining me in this song and dance, I should introduce myself, although if you find me talking in third person, please get our your eraser and finish me off. You are as much a part of me as I am of you, so don’t get confused. My name, for this number, is Zorro X. I’m 27, male, mostly white but I suspect my grandmother for some dalliances during the war, and a bit on the scruffy side. I used to write novels that got me in all sorts of trouble, but that stopped after I fell in love. She kissed me once and said my mouth tasted like peaches, which is strange because fruit and I haven’t seen each other since the second grade. We married for a bit, but then she left taking my typewriter with her. My eyes are hazel, sad-looking, and I nervously chew my lower lip some times. I’d go around nude in a cape and call it fashion but the police have to protect the children or someone these days. Maybe all their hands are itchy. Instead, I wear the same orange turtleneck, dark pants and darker shoes. I walk around like I’m pretending to be Tim Buckley, but, if I were to sing, I would hiss.

Why am I so determined to lose myself for a night? Well, you are here reading about me so I see you want to lose yourself too. But I can’t read and anyways don’t have the time for it. I’m all for kinetic energy. Death will come when I can no longer dance.

The band is really doing strange things on stage: the saxophonist is popping balloons with the horn and the drummer keeps making rainbow showers wet the front row. I’m getting a vibe that they are secretly summoning monsters. The creep factor is all over the place like a particularly hungry moss. There is a back exit just past the bathroom but I’ve got a pair of eyes on me from the shadows. A boy and a girl. The boy is an obvious nerd: skinny, glasses, poorly cut hair, nostalgic T-shirt. A real stereotype. The girl is a bundle of red curls, jewelry, and awkward bone structure. They are pretending to listen but they are trying to read me like you. If you are working for them, I’m going to ask you to stop. Double-crossing the author is a bad idea.

My fear only grows the closer I get to the bathroom. At first, I don’t even see the line, but then the people in the line are weird. Like something is going on in the bathroom that just may be very untoward…and this excites the line. There’s a couple of shooters, some pocket hands, a vomiter, and an old man making his own music like he was center stage and it was Woodstock all over again. I can’t see over all the shoulders and trench coats to see what is happening in the bathroom, but the light is flickering on and off. Smoke or steam has the mirrors fogged. There is a glimmer of movement.

And another glimmer as the boy and girl approach me. After this dance and song combo is over, reader, you and I have to talk. Sometimes I just don’t want to be myself but I always have to be someone when people talk to me. You are ruining my ride.

“Excuse me, Zorro, excuse me,” the girl says, her eyes wide and imploring. She’s not timid, I can tell by her gait, but she is timid now. Do I scare her? Intimidation is a weird game: you always do it when you don’t mean to.

“Yeah, who are you kid? Can’t you see something queer is going on in the bathroom and I don’t mean the fucking kind.”

“I’m Beets and this is the Count. He doesn’t talk much but we are big fans of yours.”

Oh shit.

The boy is looking for an autograph. He holds out a copy of Pantless Capeman Goes to Summer Camp with it open to page 137, which is my most illegal work. I tell you, dear reader, I always pick the wrong days to get all jazzed up.

“Look, don’t be flashing that in public. And besides, I’m a shell of a man I was. My name ain’t worth the ink in your pen.”

“But Zorro, you work Lizard People in Sacramento single-handily ousted a president. Love Bumps popularized orgies for years. And what can be said about Beefheart’s Undies, a collection so vulgar as to–”

“Yes, yes, Beets. I know my own career. The less said better. Look I’ll autograph it, take a photo, whatever makes you happy. It’s not that I don’t want to meet you fans, it just should have been one of the other 300 days in the year. Tonight, I need to not be Zorro X. Got it?”

The boy nodded and started to put the book away, but I snatched it out of his hands and started to scribble my autograph until I realized I drew a pair of titties wanking off an erect penis. Damn. I swear I was writing my name. Now the reader and these kids know I’m a full-fledged pervert. Well, this song is almost over and there are monsters out in the hallways now (I can hear the bloodcurdling screams and the rendering of flesh)  so there is no time to worry and I sketch my name around the balls because if you are going perverted you may as well let it all hang out there.

Beets continues to talk, “You’ve inspired me to do lots of things, Mr. X. I only drink coffee at 3 a.m., I listen to Tim Buckley but sing like a cat, I haunt the inside of people’s minds and I don’t wear underwear.”

Shit. These kids really studied up on me. And the underwear thing is bothering me in another way.

The bathroom line breaks up as what was going on in the bathroom reveals itself in shuddering, soul-destroying horror. Only one goofy tall man with wispy facial hair remains, pockethand working furiously.

“Okay, kids. We may as well snap that picture. I always thought that a book should end with a picture. You know, to let you know that you imagined everything wrong.”

They hugged me tightly as the camera flashed and then we were swallowed up.

 

Entry 0099: Campfire Tales Re-Write

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LP: Public Image (First Issue) by Public Image Limited

1978 Virgin Records, V2114

Favorite Track: Public Image

 

For this entry, I am going to take one of my previous blog entries and add elements from the library and see what happens.

 

“There’s a man in the woods…”

The recoil from the rifle shot still reverberated through the hollow with a rumbling decrescendo. Sparks snapped into the air, dancing and swirling through thick clouds of smoke. The 796.5 Club’s annual retreat to the Gorge was just settling down for the night. The five librarians sat on uneven stones more or less making a circle with a small gap on the sinister side. Two or three of them had glasses of amber liquid in their hands while the tallest boy dragged on a medicinal herb and passed it to the boy with the most spaced-out eyes.

He said, “The Federal Reserve is involved with five conspiracies. They got their hands on money. They got their hands on time. They got their hands on the work force. They got their hands on the government. They got their hands on space.”

The newcomer gave him a stern expression which immediately broke into a grin. She adjusted the shawl wrapped around her lilac sweater, mumbled about needing a heavier coat, and threw some dry sticks into the flame. “Is it always this cold when you go on this trip? I think the last time I was in the Gorge, it was a hundred degrees. Much more to my liking. And why is it called the 796.5 Club?”

The other woman answered, “That’s Dewey’s classification for camping. It was his dumb idea.”

Unaware he was being pointed at, the boy with the spaced-out eyes inhaled for several seconds, then continued his thoughts just as unaware that they were being vocalized, “There are wizards roaming our libraries They are profiting on selling time and distributing money that gets you high…”

“There’s a man in the woods…”

The tallest boy arched his head back to take in the stars. They were crawling around again, a fuzzy matrix of possible routes through different universes. For a moment, he wished they would just make up their collective mind and freeze in place so he could assign them names in case he ever had to ask them for future advice. When he shifted his head back down to the fire, the stars came with him, showering him in a silvery waterfall.

The youngest member of the club spoke to those who seemed to be listening. The uneven growth on his cheeks and chin partially concealed his baby face, but his soft voice and large eyes betrayed his underage status. “I’ve got a woman in my life now. Met her at karaoke at the Crepe Underground. Lovely nature, a kind soul, albeit a tad garrulous. I think I’ve only gotten two sentences in, which is probably why she is still dating me…”

The light illuminated about five feet from the fire so the cabin and most of the birch and oak trees were hidden in the darkness. Most of their faces were cast in flickering shadows, only a large nose, the whites of teeth, or elongated neck were visible. Someone swallowed some liquid. A waft of sweetness tinged the air.

“I should go back to the cabin,” the newcomer said against pleas for reconsideration. After adjusting her shawl again–it had became entangled with her long graying hair–she paused looking at the bottle, face breaking out into that grin which was made sharp by the shape of her incisors, and drank straight from the uncapped lid. “So what does the 796.5 Club actually do? Sit around and listen to the warlock here blabber–”

“Oh, he’s always like this on the first night. It is like taking him out of the library sort of unhinges him. He can’t exist without doing intense research all day long. You know, he comes to the library two hours before opening just so he can root around the stacks and peek at books in the John Dee Restricted Room. Now this girl, on the other hand, I bet she never has been to the library before. She keeps asking me what book I read that day, blissfully unaware that I have missing lists, music requests, and piles of books with incorrect labels to fix…”

Examining the many rings on her fingers, the youngest woman did not hesitate to refill her glass from the bottle. Her lilting laugh sounded strained when another blast from the hunting rifle echoed from far off. She shook the blue bangs from her face and launched into her own narrative, “A large crack of lightning struck the tree fifty feet from me. Splintered the trunk in half. A piece of the bolt broke off and bounced toward me like a rolling sphere of jagged purple spikes. Came at me before my eyes could truly register what was happening, but I knew the hairs were standing up on my arms and I had instinctively stopped breathing the hot air…”

“Stop quoting all the literature you read. Always with the scientific phenomena, the mystical experiences, the weird. You probably saw your bathroom light bulb burst when you went to vomit after a night of heavy drinking. And now you are trying to pass it off like a zen koan. That’s why I normally don’t touch the stuff (indicating the bottle in her gloves) but since all of you seem contend with freezing to death and I couldn’t find the cabin in the dark…”

“It’s weird being in love again after losing it. First, it was discovering that I missed it. Missed being in love, I should say. Loneliness had became so consistent that it felt natural…”

The fire was raging now. The smoke grew thicker obscuring the five librarians from seeing each other. The boy with glasses added more unnecessary sticks to the fire. The tallest boy looked up at the stars again, trying to lick each one. The bearded boy whistled a love song about a girl with curly crimson hair. Another rifle crack thundered around the ridge like shifting ice.

“They make twice the profits because they sell the public library its own time to use their own business, but we librarians have to pay for the time using Wizard Bucks, which we have to buy from a different Federal Reserve wizard who is using the library’s own copy machine to make the Wizard Bucks. And the wizards aren’t affiliated with the library so they can pocket this double cash…”

“I should have been dead but the ball lightning exploded soundlessly before my eyes and in its place floated a will o’wisp. Just hovering and beckoning me so I trounced off into the forest, away from the fire, heading toward Star Gap Arch…”

“There’s a man in the woods…”

A gust of wind cleared some of the smoke before the boy with glasses threw on more wood. The tallest boy noticed their were four boys sitting around the camp. A cup of bourbon sat on a rock. No sonorous whistling fluttered in the air.

“You are always reading that pulp garbage. Monsters wearing human skin, alien devices that can extend your mind to the ends of the universe, impossible maths. I’ve always said you needed to become grounded in reality. Take a fucking science course. Rotate in the same directional orbit as the planet you are standing on. By the way, where the hell is that herb?”

“Oh, now I see you smoking. You are quick to pass judgment but then partake in the fun. Maybe your science is just as corrupted as my occultism. And ball lightning is a scientific fact…”

“These wizards sell us our own atmosphere. Each breath enriches them. When Congress tried to extend the length of a moment,  they embezzled our tax returns to bribe lobbyists…”

“I’m experimenting. You know I discovered something interesting in the John Dee Restricted Room. Your supernaturalism is just scientific poetry. If you can make sense of the Book of Obfuscating Codes, the author is coyly letting the reader know magic is just science wrapped in religion to give the “wizard” or “witch” power, control…”

“There’s a man in the woods…”

“Not everything is a formula or a sigil. We can theorize and prove how the universe came into existence, but we do not have a clue as to why. And magic is a way to learn what is happening on the inside of life or, possibly, beyond life…”

“The library’s mission is to actualize every single person. Not just in our county. The world over. But we can’t if we are being controlled by budgets, space restrictions, and access points. We have to liberate ourselves from the wizards. Dismantle them and their symbols of power. We do not need a Dewey Decimal System, we need Chaos Control…”

A wide shadow stretched over the camp, hovering over the puffs of smoke rising from burning embers, and landing on a branch right along the cliff side. The bird was big from the sound of its weight swaying the branch. The joint made it back to the tallest boy, who puffed on it while nervously fingering his skinny tie. The smoke mixed with the darkness made his vision hazy, each tongue of fire seemed to be an amber crystal fractal pattern stabbing the neon black sky like the claws of some fantastical dragon. He was distinctly aware there were only three librarians sitting around the fire now. He glanced in the direction of the cabin but none of its lights were on. Surely someone brought a flashlight or head lamp?

“There’s a man in the woods…”

“Remember that story you told me about the Thing? Not the John Carpenter movie, but from that weird guy. An amorphous creature that haunted kids at sleepovers, threw knives with deadly accuracy, but whose Achilles Heel was a silver knife? Kind of ironic, if the author spelled out that it was killing all those children with knives that could kill it, but he wrote prose like a swollen eggplant…”

“Yet you can’t fight them. You would have to ask them permission first and they will make you do all this paper work and you’ll just cut your wrist while they fill out another Requisition to Draw Swords…”

“He must have gone back to the cabin. I am glad he found Emily even if she does wear him out. He won’t admit how much he needs her. And after all he has gone through, it is nice to see a smile on his face. Am I talking about love? That’s enough experimenting for me or I’ll start waxing my theory about Spock and James T. Kirk…”

In the blackness of space, the diamond moon began to put itself to sleep. The boy with spaced-out eyes couldn’t find his mug anymore but found another cup of bourbon and finished the rest of the rust-colored contents. It tasted more bitter than he remembered, but another puff and he was right back among the wizards.

“Wait, where did you even go with your ridiculous stories? You know I was kidding right? Always so sensitive. I like Poe and Machen and even Derleth can set a dark, unsettling atmosphere, but the woods are just woods. There are no monsters. There is no unspeakable evil out there in the beyond, watching and waiting.”

“Is the public library even real? Maybe we are all patients in an asylum and our neuroses and disorders have made half of us pretend to enjoy organizing chaos and the other half to linger all day in a vast warehouse of knowledge and not want to touch a single tome. That would explain 99.9% of the reference desk shifts…”

The silence was thick enough to breath like smoke, however, no one had added wood in quite a while. The pile could last them another night, perhaps two if they were crafty. The logs that had roasted for the longest began to split into fat square embers spitting sparks with pops and crackles at an insistent rate. Rubbing his spaced-out eyes underneath his glasses, he tossed the finished joint into the flames. Sitting alone, he realized that none of the cabin’s lights were on. He couldn’t even tell if he was facing True North. His desk at the public library seemed far away. He longed for the research he kept locked in the upper drawer. Not that it would do him good here in the woods where even the rifle shots had stopped. Fear crawled intolerably slowly through his body as if something was really touching him with some paralyzing caress. There were real horrors out there. He had proof but not truth. Just an indication and, in many ways, that was more terrifying than ball lightning or lost love…

“There’s a man in the woods…”

As the diamond moon sunk so did the embers extinguish themselves. The tallest boy stood above the other boy, wiping the blade of a knife on his maroon-stained skinny tie. A vast shape danced in front of his face, eyes twinkling in stark, utter chaos.

 

 

 

Entry 0098: Haunted Library Story?

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EP: Halloween/Escape from New York themes by John Carpenter

2016 Sacred Bones Records SBR156

Favorite Track: Halloween theme

 

I’ve been asked to write a short story that includes libraries so I am going to use this blog entry to play around with some ideas. If anyone was asking how I come up with story ideas, this is how: I just start writing and see where it goes. Later, I’ll think about it (maybe) and throw out the crap, keep the good, and keep on writing, repeating this process as many times as needed or until sick of the tale.

John heard about the ghost in the stacks on his first day of work. It was the same tale he heard when he started working at Alden Library in Ohio and the same at the main branch in Buffalo. As the cataloging librarian told the tale (with extra emphasis on the old card catalog still found on A stack), John had to bite back a bit of sarcasm. Librarians were intelligent, crafty, and curious, but a strange streak of superstition invaded the profession like a stain on an asylum wall. In Buffalo, Ruby the children’s librarian read Where the Wild Things Are backwards every Bills game day. John heard at an ALA conference about a director who covered his naked body with dewey decimal numbers before boarding planes.

Of course, John believed he lived a more pragmatic lifestyle. One of the main library missions was to assist its users with education. There was no room to spread false rumors, poorly researched health articles, and certainly nothing about ghosts–humankind’s silliest fear from the olden days. So, naturally, it annoyed John to no end that this library had two rare book rooms: The Pierce Grayson’s Rare Books and Antiquities located on the climate-controlled third floor and the unmentioned one none of the patrons knew about down in the stacks, sometimes colorfully referred to as the Dead Room, that held all the occult literature. A waste of the taxpayers money, John thought about the Dead Room, but he didn’t dare voice that opinion. Everyone he worked with was in love with it. They constantly quoted John Dee and Madame Blavatsky and the Victorium Witches Handbook, the only supposed copy in America.

John had left for the day when, at home just about to open a bottle of pinot, he realized he forgot to set up the holiday display at the reference desk. He had learned real fast that everyone in Melas took Halloween very seriously and the Halloween display was revered by the whole community. John groaned. Tomorrow would be the busiest day of the year and he was feeling rather burned out. It didn’t help that his ex-girlfriend just told him she was seeing a distant friend. He signed corking the wine bottle but knowing he would stay up an hour later than normal to drink half of it when he returned. Putting on his jacket, John walked briskly through the fallen maroon leaves. The brittle crunching attracted the curiosity of a beady-eyed rat, who sniffed a couple of times at John, but returned to the warmth of the dilapidated building it came from.

The door opened without noise and immediately John noticed a lamp on in the back office. Adam probably left it on again. He was rather absent-minded and always in a rush to run to his hippie girlfriend. John hung his jacket on the coat rack and walked around the art installation–a nine-foot tall spider made out of painted soup cans. The eyes were Campbells and they seemed to follow him as John began to feel an eerie dread prickling the back of his mind. Damn, am I really going to get superstitious now? he thought and then laughed. No, he just had a lot of his mind and he was letting the stress get to him. When he got to the reference desk, he found the Halloween display already up. Books with ghastly illustrations, scary soundtracks, and videotapes of Vincent Price and Boris Karloff were arranged in a kindof spider web pattern. John froze, pondering. Perhaps Adam put it up, he thought then dismissed the idea. Adam was lazy and probably sat on the computer face-timing his lady. Maybe Barb? John was about to turn around and leave when he remembered that Barb was on vacation.

Icy shock ran through his body. For a moment, John was positive he heard a terrifying humming–an unearthly noise made of nonhuman vibrations. It’s just my heart, he told himself. He went into his office to check the schedule. Somebody remembered to put it up, that’s all, no big deal and other pathetic attempts of calming himself crowded his mind, making him more anxious. The schedule added to the growing dread: only Adam and John worked today.

Maybe I put it up without realizing it, John thought, at least, it is done so I can go home and forget everything over a bottle and a fire…

He went back to look at the display just to make sure his eyes weren’t fooling him. It was there, but the center piece was missing. Spiderfeast was a book written by the town’s founder, Viktor Leitfield. In it, he claimed that Melas was built to worship the spiderqueen Shebboth, or so the rumors say. The book was bound tightly in thick, white cords resembling spider silk and nobody had opened the book in close to two hundred years. It was kept in the Dead Room.

John sighed and fetched the key from his desk. That’s when he heard the scuttling of a million tiny legs.

Entry 0097: Night Spells

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7-inch: The Peel Sessions by the Happy Mondays

1990 Strange Fruit 677022, Limited Edition, Olive Green

Favorite Track: Tart Tart

 

Night Spells

 

The witch crawls into the base of the tree, greased

body slick and marked with arcane stars, loping predators,

and strange fruits peeling. Her voice is like the howling

wind through wheat fields, over babbling streams,

incanting…incanting…always cursing. Her eyes go white.

So do mine. I’m in my bathroom and I fall to the floor.

At the last second, I cross my arms to save my face.

All is dark inside my head but I feel my body jerked

as if connected to the witch by a string, a thin, cold

invisible thread in the tapestry of fate.

An amount of time passes where I probably ground my teeth.

Upon waking, I find myself on my side, vaguely aware

I had fallen, but unsure exactly what had happened.

The tiles are white with smudges beneath my hands.

But on each arm, right before the crook of the elbow,

are two perfectly symmetrical circle, broken at the

sinister side, made of blood.

Entry 0096: Three Sentence Stories with the Starman

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LP: Diamond Dogs by David Bowie

1976 RCA Victor AFL 1-0576, reissue, gatefold

Favorite Track: Rebel Rebel

 

  1. Teenage Wildlife

There was a snort from the Diamond Dogs and a rustle of leather and chains. The old man pleaded, swinging his cane at ferocious snickering faces, spinning off-balance to fall in to the wet litter of the alleyway. The dance of youth, bloody in its intent, stomped away the mistakes of the past.

2. Criminal World

The Starman surveyed his kingdom from the 23 story of the burned out Butler Tower. His lightning bolt-shaped telescope spied dissenters huddled around a trash fire eating InstaProtein wrapped in pages of old newspapers. The Starman ran his fingers through his hair, a pang of pity and a reverie of love floating in the back of his mind.

3. Valentine’s Day

Tam and Gilly were asleep in their bag while Frost kept watch. The lovers were strangely silent tonight, which perturbed Frost more than he would like to admit. He sniffed the air for traces of the Diamond Dogs, never taking his thumb off the blade of his knife.

4. Lazarus

Gilly was missing in the haze of smoke. Tam and Frost ran despite their injuries through the maze of rubble and fire, trying to shake the Diamond Dogs from their heels.  One was dead with a knife in his throat, but the others were on their cycles, bright beams penetrating the disappearing darkness.

5. John, I’m Only Dancing

Frost was slammed against the wall, something sharp digging into his shoulder blade, but he was able slip his hand around his attacker’s back and pull out his secret dagger. The Diamond Dog was ten years younger than Frost, his face so boyish and fat with adolescent tenderness, Frost felt something as he paralyzed him. What he murmured haunted Frost for the rest of his life.

6. Star

Starman rode out on his Devastator, a sleek black cycle with the handles set on either side of a dragon’s head, mouth open and ready to spew forth fire. He flew past most of the Diamond Dogs searching in vain in abandoned apartments and bombed out factories. The prey always hid in the same spot: under the bridge where once a monster lived.

7. Breaking Glass

Tam couldn’t stop his tears for Gilly, a wine bottle smashed at his feet. Frost had a gun now and contemplated rejoining the lovers, but then he would be alone. With courage, Frost admitted to himself that people were needed in one’s darkest days.

8. Running Gun Blues

Frost fired rapidly killing some of the Diamond Dogs that had repelled from the top of the bridge. Tam was dying, half submerged in the water, one wrist limply held as if grasping some ghost’s hand. The Starman’s cycle roared and Frost met a blast of fire.

9. Ashes to Ashes

His entire body wracked in pain, smelling his own crispy flesh, Frost crawled to the paused cycle with the dragon’s head. The Starman wore a gold and black cape, his hair spiked wildly to the sky, his teeth were filed down to fangs, and his triumph smirked in each black eye. Slowly, The Starman inched the cycle forward to put out the flames.

10. Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family

The explosion caught everybody off guard. His last searing thought, The Starman realized the dissenters were not eating, but preparing explosives. The dying screams were caught and carried by the wind, never to be put out.