Thursday, October 26, 2017

CARTOON LAND

  Last Thursday was the day the scheme of things pulled a shocker on me. It was fairly alarming when I stop and think about it. That's not even to say I was alarmed when it happened, but it did hit me as being an unexpected twist, and it's kinda stayed with me. I have to applaud the powers-that-be, whatever and wherever they are...they took me by surprise and I thought I was above that kind of susceptibility.
The path of my life was as systematic as any and I found it an amusing one. I'll admit that early on I was a victim of The Collective Ignorance (which may be the greatest running joke of all time); I was a little man hammering away in the workings of the big machine, as guilty as anyone else of thinking there was more to it. I was just part of the ruse and it was only a year ago I recognized the truth of things.
Still, regularity was the rule. Sure, I'd found my way around to seeing the humor in it, but at the same time it seemed neither proper nor necessary to change anything. Even as a player who saw the strings being yanked, I didn't think it gave me license to interject my own ideas into the plot. After all, why gum up a plan that's been successful for millennia, right?
Anyway, like I said, last Thursday was a real shocker.
It kicked off the same way as always, fairly indistinguishable from any other weekday morning in recent memory. The alarm clock blasted in my ear, like always. As usual, I hit the SNOOZE button, a good, reliable running gag, and found my way out of bed ten minutes later. Give or take.
I followed The Eternal Script religiously, shambling off to the bathroom for the essential dash of cold water but holding off on the shower and the shave. That's heavy activity and I can't scare up that kind of enthusiasm without a trip to the Espresso-Matic.
Diane was bustling about the kitchen in her own cantankerous, late-running frenzy---my wife, the morning caricature. On that eventful Thursday her motivation was the glasses. She couldn't find her glasses and that was the special impetus to her ranting.
She was blaming Britney, although Britney insisted that she hadn't even seen them. Diane was inclined more often than not to give the kids the benefit of the doubt, but she must have (like me) remembered Britney's latest schtick.
The latest gag that had wormed its way into Brit's lexicon was wanting to “wear glasses the way Mommy does when she reads.” Whenever Diane doffs the bifocals, Britney is sure to pick them up and throw them on.
I know, right? It's hilarious.
Diane acted upset when Brit added this attribute to her repertoire. She tried to reason with Brit, saying that the glasses were to correct her impaired vision, they weren't for a little girl whose eyesight was perfect, and, oh, Britney, you can damage your eyesight if you wear your Mommy's glasses!
Which led Brit to the logical progression of asking, “if I damage my eyesight, will I be able to wear glasses?” Diane became furious at this point, which was a silly (albeit predictable) way to be. What did she expect her to say? But sadly, I suppose, that's the flaw, and ultimately the purpose in Diane's personality; She's the quintessential foil----she doesn't expect the expected.
So off she went on that strange Thursday morning, all a-grumble, the course charted for her morning warpath. As I made my coffee and sat down at the kitchen table, I knew this scenario would end with Diane owing Brit an apology. The glasses would inevitably turn up in her coat pocket or something. It was a foreseeable conclusion, or at least I thought so, but it was ironclad, dependable, a classic-in-the-making....and dammit, the classics never die.
Brit and Brandon were sitting, mesmerized, eating their bowlfuls of the latest sugar-ball concoction, staring at their reflections, their four-color symbiotes, in the television. It was a DVD or some streaming cartoon show, I'm not sure which. Like everything else, it all begins to overlap and appear the same. It doesn't matter, though----either one is a passable sedative.
It was hard, though, as it sometimes is, to differentiate from the onscreen and offscreen action. The cartoons and the puppets squeak and yell and bounce and so do the kids watching them. They seem interchangeable much of the time. On this day, Brandon stuck out amid the TV room antics by complaining too much and letting his face drip.
“Daddeeeeee,” he whined, and I didn't answer. I figured it was fair, and in keeping with our routine, to give him several rounds of apathy.
“Daaadddeeeeeeee....”
“Daddy,” Brit chimed in.
“Daaaaddeeeee.....”
“Daddy, Brandon's crying! Daddy...”
“What's the matter, Brandon?”
“Daddy,” whimpering, his face running, “why do you and Mommy both have to go to work?”
That was an easy one. “So we can afford to give you nice things, son.”
“I don't want Mommy to work,” he cried, face like an open faucet. “I want Mommy to stay hooooommmme.”
“It's okay, Brandon,” being the consummate Daddy Character and trying to quell his noise. “When we pay off the mortgage, Mommy will quit her job.” Not that I expected my little five-year-old to understand the concept of a mortgage, nor even the absurdity that we might move before the mortgage was paid and have to start all over again, but it was a handy pacifier. The mortgage actually wouldn't be paid off for another ten years---by then Brandon would be old enough to stop caring. Solutions to long term problems come easy in this life.
It was then that Diane came through, owing Brit that apology. Beautiful. Like Clockwork. I marveled, as I often have, over the simplicity, the way everything just falls in its place that way.
I must, now, take my hat off to Diane. The imagination the bravery it must take to play the hand that she plays...the way she can come up with a new motivator for her routine every morning. It must take a lot of strain to maintain this kind of a daily character. I always had the easy role I the family. All I had to do was kick back, wear those elbow patches, play the model husband/father, smile and beam, patronize, pontificate and come up with the occasional piece of fortune cookie wisdom. Six months ago the elbow patches happened. I bought a Robert Young sweater. Diane doesn't even know who Robert Young was. It was a private joke, and one I really fancied. It was the ultimate symbol of my station in life and my chance to play it to the hilt. I figured if I could fake the part with half of Diane's conviction I'd be doing okay for myself.
After Diane apologized to Brit, she stomped around some more, no doubt having found some new, pressing detail to fret over. Brandon kept crying. I told him to get ready, as Brit was already doing. “Daddy's going to have you get off to school soon.”
“Noooo, Daddy, I don't want to gooooo!”
“Jesus, Bruce!” Religion, intruding upon my domestic bliss.
“What's the matter, hon?”
“Why don't you get moving?! How are the kids ever going to be prepared for the world out there the way you're setting examples?”
“What?”
“Bruce, for crying out loud! It's no wonder this house is going to hell! Nothing gets done unless I do it, nobody's ready on time in the mornings, JESUS!” Again, with the religion. “Aren't you concerned? You have somewhere to go, too! You've been missing more and more work, you linger in the mornings forever before you get up and do anything...what kind of an example are you setting for these kids?”
I took another sip of coffee. Brandon's nose was running. None of the moppets capering around on the television screen were upset or crying. It seemed to me that Brandon had good examples all around him.
Diane was mad, though. She couldn't get out the door fast enough. “People who slack off don't make it in the world anymore,” seizing her briefcase, “it's getting harder and harder. I can feel that----why can't you? I wish you'd help convey that more to your children,” high heels clacking on the porch, door slamming.
I stretched my inert bones. “Up and at 'em, kids.” I polished off the coffee and hit the shower.

########

I made it into the office a little over an hour later after packing the kids up and depositing them at school. Cicely, the kids' keeper, expressed her concern over how late they were. I guess it was okay, though, as she was smiling the whole time. Smiley. That girl never quits smiling. A delightful stick figure of a woman, a grotesque grin that graces my brain on the run five minutes a day, five days a week.
The flourescently-lit hallways of my workplace twist and wind and they all look alike. When I got to work I was just just walking around, admiring the strangeness of it all. It's easy to get lost there; I'm reminded of a recurring dream I have----it's high school, I have my schedule of classes and I can't find any of them. I end up dividing my school day between the cafeteria and the library (it's easy to catch a few Zs there). Eventually I realize there are finals for classes I've never gone to and I panic----somewhere in my head I'm still trapped in that school-reality of childhood where such things seem to matter. Here in the present I wandered the halls and wasn't sure where I was going or had been before. Sporadically, colleagues would come around corners, exit rooms and enter other rooms. It reminded me of all the old “Scooby Doo” cartoons. I laughed at this----it was almost as if giant, unseen masterminds were lifting dividers in a maze, allowing roaches to scramble from one refuge to the next, never actually escaping, just scurrying in the shadows.
In this configuration, what was I but one of the roaches who'd learned the trick? That was the amusing part, I think.
“Bruce?” It was Berrigan, calling me in for another chat. “You got a minute?”
“Sure!” I like Berrigan; He's the head roach. I've known him for years. He's a stationary figure in the maze, always there to greet you with his squinty eyes and constipated smile. He's as terrified as the other roaches when the dividers go up, always sending memos and calling meetings. He always talks friendly, whatever he has to tell you. It's an unbeatable shtick, because even if he happens to be dumping on you, it's impossible to hold it against him.
“Bruce,” taking his seat behind the desk, “I've got some bad news for you.”
I remember when I was young, my folks took me to see “Mary Poppins”. Mary sang a song in that movie, something about medicine going down. The song still holds true, I think, even if you aren't a tot. That hilarious, pained smile. Berrigan was sugar, even if he didn't know it.
“Things are getting tough for the company. Bruce, I've known you for a while, you've been with us forever, but you just haven't been pulling your weight like you used to, and these young guys, you know, they're just putting all the money on the books. It's a new world, my man.”
I let out a loud giggle. I just couldn't suppress it---this was rich. Berrigan looked askance at me, but he had a job to do and he wasn't about to let my good sense of humor stop him. “I told you this day might come,” he said, “ I encouraged you to watch your ass, but you didn't. You remember that?”
I just laughed.
“I told you the kinds of numbers you were going to have to pull in. You remember that? The top brass needs to trim the fat. You're the fat.”
I couldn't stop laughing. “The kids, “ I told him between guffaws, “their names are Britney and Brandon. They both start with a BR. It's like they're matching salt and pepper shakers! It's funny----you get it???” I laughed and then I cried. Then I laughed again.
“Bruce,” he said, “You need help. And maybe you should get help----but it's really not our problem anymore. You need to clean out your desk.”
He wasn't smiling anymore. I was still laughing, though. I got the joke---he didn't. I saw it coming, but even he didn't think I would. Insight. At that moment, I was the Head Roach.

######

To cut back on irrelevant details, Diane walked and she took the kids. Out the door she headed, Brandon and Brit each under one arm like two clumsy, flailing pieces of luggage. On her way out the door she harangued me about responsibility and tossed a few silly cliches around. I laughed and admired her guts, going through life with such narrowly-defined parameters.
I stayed home for a few days, ignored the phone and watched TV. The kids are gone, but there are other children in this house. I see them in the mornings, bouncing across the screen like rubber balls, singing jingles for some new, candy-striped toothpaste. They're my children, too, and I'm positive Diane and I spawned them right around the same time Brandon and Britney were conceived.
More and more, though, I spend less time at home. I spend more time at the park, watching everything fly by with technicolor vitality. Sometimes I don't stay home at all except to sleep and I know there's great danger in that. I know one day I'll head home and find my house gone, as if it had never been there.
I appreciate these latest developments----you could see it keeps me on my toes----but it's frustrating. Every day I sit in the park and the parade of life whirls and dances past me. But it pays me no mind----I'm a spectator, not a participant, it all passes me by and I can't touch it. It averts me, and I'm bothered by this. It know things will change, I just have to wait for the next step in the plot, the next funny wrinkle life throws my way. Hopefully it doesn't get here too late.

I'm getting impatient, though, and desperate. Yesterday I caught a pigeon and held it where I could stare into its eyes. Face to face. It was terrible, Even as it pecked, clawed, scratched and objected, its eyes were nothing but empty, black beads. It struggled, but it wouldn't show me anything, not an ounce of life on its face. I threatened it and beat it, but it held its ground, its eye-things remaining dull, black and inanimate. I grabbed its head in an angry last ditch to make it show me life, jerking it left, then right, front, then back, this way, then that. This way, then that.

Copyright 1991 C.F. Roberts, 2017 Molotov Editions
THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST:
SWANS-"The Seer"
MINIVAN-Demo
VINNIE VINCENT/WARRIOR-Demos
EYEHATEGOD-Story of the Eye

Friday, October 20, 2017

PUG'S LITERARY GUNPLAY PRIMER


One dash of history with hysteria
mix well with psychology (amateur)
monopoly, dichotomy and control
add lust piping hot with 20g confusion
and 1 tsp paprika hold the relish.
Spread with KY jelly.
Heat 'til burnt.
Serve with irony and hallucination.
Hi to the kids for me.
Sing songs by the piano 'til hoarse
and throw holy water.
I drink in broad daylight
avoid the news (printed AND filmed)
and rarely write past a second draft anymore.
The cats are doing fine.
The women all become the same person
after awhile.
Bluejays in the window yesterday.
Wish you were here.
Kiss this.

Regards.

Published in THE CROWBAIT REVIEW ('95/'96 or thereabouts)

THIS WEEK'S PLAYLIST:
GENESIS-The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway
PETER GABRIEL-Passion
SWA-Sex Doctor
SWA-XCIII

Friday, October 13, 2017

CHUCK HATES EVERYTHING! (Current Events Roundup)

     Earlier this past week, Arch Alarmist Alex Jones (who never met a bullshit theory he didn't like) and his Infowars channel started pushing this rogue narrative that the Vegas Shooter was associated with ANTIFA.
Obviously, this is a credible call, right? Because the best way to fight back against fascism is to unload a few thousand rounds of ammo on a stadium full of innocent people who are trying to enjoy Music....right?
RIIIIIIIGGHHHHT.
Anyway, typical Conspiracy Theorist M.O.---all the info comes from “anonymous sources” that won't be named and so can't be fact-checked (something the mainstream actually seem to have picked up with the whole Russiagate Thing) but of course, a certain corner of the internet are going wild with it. (They found ANTIFA literature all over his hotel room----does ANTIFA even PUT OUT literature?!--, according to....SOME unnamed source or another----'cause THAT'S real credible) No dissuading the True believers.
The cries of “False Flag Attack” and “Multiple Shooters” are, of course, pretty run-of-the-mill. The former seems to start these days anytime anyone gets shot. The scapegoating of ANTIFA, though, is a pernicious bit of bullshit that has multiple levels to it.
Any number of Nationalist types took up the cudgel with the Infowars story and apparently ran with it--- one person referring to Paddock as “a left wing, Anti Trump, Antifa, Democrat,” further adding, “he looks like a Jew.” (Keepin' it classy, Nazis!) Several people in the twittersphere, according to NEWSWEEK, attempted to connect the shooter to not only ANTIFA, but also to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
And unless you're a complete rube, you might now be seeing the problem, here. The problem is the blanket attempt to conflate two Corporatist, Globalist Neoliberal World Leaders with a worldwide underground semi-organized gang who are largely anarchist or communist that like to bust up White Supremacist rallies. It's not just that these two groupings aren't even in the same ballpark----it ain't even the same GAME. ANTIFA/DEMOCRAT. NO. That's like saying, BICYCLE/FETUS.CRATE/NEBULA. LOBSTER/PARTICLE ACCELERATOR. No. Just, no. They're not the same thing.
So, yeah-----all you nice, moderate suburbanites who don't look any further than CNN for your current events analysis and who dutifully ran out to cast your votes for Hillary last November----you and those guys wearing the bandanas over their faces and getting into fistfights with all the Neo-Nazis during the protests----I know this'll shock and amaze you---but you're basically being painted as one in the same.
Which isn't to cast too much negativity on ANTIFA. I understand all the arguments against them....yeah, it's America, we all have freedom of speech, it might be best just to hear the other guy out and let him be as stupid as he wants, but in the grand carcass of it all I kind of regard ANTIFA as a sociological antibiotic....if we must have these clowns out there pushing for the deportation/marginalization and/or harm of innocent people, hitting people with cars and bashing their heads open with sticks, then having this other group who want to clean their clocks is A-OK with me. Why would I condone such brutality? Look at some pix of the liberation of Auschwitz. That's why I'm okay with people punching Nazis.
       You might get the idea, at this point, that I'm more sympathetic toward these Anarchist loose cannons than I am toward the Democratic Party. And you'd kinda be right. Sorry.
There are so many different gradiations up and down the ideological spectrum that after a while they don't much resemble each other anymore. Not sure how you'd explain the notion of gradualism and corporate pragmatism to someone who basically wants egalitarian society and no central government....but yeah---I'm sure you guys are bedfellows. In some alternate universe.
As a loose rain dog on the ideological street, I get it---I have no desire to be part of a DNC-led McResistance with all the yuppies who can afford to fly around to different actions around the country with their pussy hats. Gimme a real resistance, I'll be there with bells on.
In the meantime, kids, remember that you're all being put into one big, amorphous box. And could be dealt with as such. Remember----this snake oil salesman (Jones) has the ear of some fairly important people these days. Those broad brushes are bein' used. This has been your heads-up.


As long as I'm waxing my carrot on current events---when the yowling Oompa Loompa in Chief starts calling people who have the audacity to actually engage in their American right to dissent and protest (a right people fought and died for) sons of bitches, don't you just wish a wise populace who cared about their freedoms would just yell, “get that stupid, orange SOB out of the White House! He's fired! HE'S FIRED!!!!”?
Yeah---me too.


On the flip of that, does anyone out there really think of Hillary Clinton as a “Victim” of some sort?! This I ask as she's making the rounds with her World Pity Party in support of her new book, WHAT HAPPENED? (The question mark is my addition, since she seems to have not figured the answer out herself) I've seen enough reports on the subject to where I don't have to bother reading it myself, but the main gist seems to be that she looks everywhere but inward to point a fickle finger of blame. Christ Almighty! The poor old gal had every advantage under the sun....her corrupt buddies in the DNC stacked the deck for her in a pathetically(and OBVIOUSLY) rigged primary; the entirety of the mainstream media (Faux News notwithstanding) lined up behind her; the Neo Cons, the Military Industrial Complex, Wall Street---most of whom will usually align themselves with Republicans----all threw her their unequivocal support. All of that would usually spell a ten ton win for any other person, especially in the face of such an opponent, now possibly the most unpopular President ever. How do you botch that? You can whine all you want about Russia, Bernie Bros or whatever other piece of fiction you care to dredge up as an excuse; only one person could have defeated Hillary Clinton, and that was Hillary Clinton.


Why not just go for the gold? I was on my second pass of proofreading and a devil on my shoulder said, “as long as you've gone this far, why not talk about 'Saturday Night Live'? That way you'll have everything out of your system and you won't have to talk politics again for at least another year?” Well, yeah, okay----SNL has been in my craw in recent months, so, done.
You're not going to like it.
So, there's the afformentioned Oompa Loompa in the White House and we're all terrified, but “Saturday Night Live” is actually FUNNY again for the first time in a desert, and Alec Baldwin is just SO CUTE as the Chief Executive Creep, and our faith is restored and SNL is FUNNY again, and we all tune in every Saturday and all is right with the world....and we're all laughing, 'cause.....'cause.....it's TRUMP, right????? And SNL is now the zenith of political satire again, RIGHT????
right?
Ehh.....
Okay, truth is I'm more lenient on current incarnations of the show than some....I got back into it (after years of general apathy) around 2010 and drifted out of it again by 2012, 2013 or thereabouts because all the cast members I liked were jumping ship and it wasn't making me laugh anymore.
Suddenly, though, we're all supposed to start loving it again because some loon's in the White House and suddenly SNL is the absolute pinnacle of political satire....because we all need a good laugh in this day and age and because it's TRUMP, goddammit!!!!!!
So the other week the new season premiered and I made a point of watching, because we're all supposed to love it and all.....watched it that night, pulled it up on YouTube and watched it the next day.
It wasn't funny.
Oh, it had its moments, to be sure-----well, it had one moment---Kate McKinnon's bizarro world turn as Jeff Sessions caught me off guard....that was genuinely funny. Not in a way that had any remote reflection on reality.....but it kinda made me laugh.
It might have been funnier if they'd actually ripped Sessions for being a racist, cryptofascist douchecanoe...but naturally, that's a little too heady for SNL, so they didn't go there.
Which has been my chronic issue with them over the years, I guess: They don't “Go There”.
That's the most I can give SNL right now.
But....but....Chuck....they're nailing it!!!! And it's TRUMP, dammit!!!!!!! You remember TRUMP, right????
Sorry----it being Trump doesn't help matters----sorry----not funny is not funny. In fact, I can't count the number of topical “humorists” I can't abide anymore since the last election...Colbert. John Oliver. Samantha Bee. Seth Myers. Bill Maher. Okay, I've disliked Maher's smarmy ass for years, now, so maybe he doesn't count. Trevor Noah. All Corporate Neoliberal suckups and sellouts, every one. Worthless. Rachel Maddow. She's a comic, right? She may as well be.
You've got no right to cry in your beer over the election of Trump if you found it worthwhile to direct a metric truckload of airtime to his empty podium. It's as simple as that. And the way they bookended the latter half of last season with dueling versions of “Halleluja” made me want to personally approach each and every one of these charlatans and slap Leonard Cohen's name and lyrics out of their collective mouths, along with every single tooth I'd be lucky enough to knock loose.
Yes----step back and take it in, because no euphemism was intended-----I wanted to punch these people in their mouths. I hated what they did THAT MUCH.
UNPOPULAR OPINION #1: SNL has ALWAYS been spotty as hell. Always. ALWAYS. This is the part where all you old skoolers fall all over yourselves to castigate me and insist, “you don't know, punk! Back in the day SNL was counter-culture! It was brilliant! You have no idea how good it was! You need to go back and see the stuff with the original cast!”
To which I reply, no, actually, I ***DO*** know. Because my 13 year old ass was front-and-center for the very first episode, way back in the Mesozoic Era. Don't let these Dorian Gray good looks fool you. And I watched the original run fanatically for its entire duration. Loved the cast. I even liked the Muppets and the short films by Gary Weis. Some of them anyway, I guess.
It'd be an understatement to say a lot of this stuff didn't age well, though....some of it, plain and simple, wasn't good THEN. I remember as a kid trying to justify liking the show to my straightlaced Mom as dud skits peeled forth one after another. Thanks, SNL, for backing me up.
UNPOPULAR OPINION #2: The Political stuff has always been SNL's weak spot. Always. A!L!W!A!Y!S. From lame Gerald Ford pratfalls to all the winking, nudging nonsense of the Carter Era to Dana Carvey's pathetic, uncritical take on Bush I to Armisen's blackface and Jay Pharaoh's general dullness as Obama.....none of this shit was funny. If it was possible to skip the interminable political cold opens I always would, rather than watch more terminally softballed attempts at “satire”. And, as a further note to would-be political humorists----when you invite these politicians to guest on your show, YOU ARE IN BED WITH THE ENEMY!!! YOU HAVE COMPROMISED YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM. Please fuck directly off the edge of the nearest cliff. Thank you.
And I have to reiterate to those who fear the ramifications of “Going There”-----if you're not gonna “Go There”, why should we get in the goddamned car?????
The only person of in the history of SNL who ever had the balls to “Go There” was Charles Rocket, on the much-maligned Doumainian season. Watch his stints on Weekend Update if you can find any trace of 'em. Lorne Michaels seems hellbent on erasing any trace of that era of the show. Rocket had TEETH. His Weekend Updates were properly savage.
He paid for it, too. Go ahead and ask him.
OH, WAIT, YOU CAN'T! Poor sonofabitch killed himself.
Anyway, yeah, (and this one's for the Rocket) fuck SNL.

As I prepare to lob this one out there the sky is falling and Castle Weinstein is crumbling like an iceberg on the Equator. Good riddance. Miramax devoured 90 per cent of what we knew as “Independent Film” in the 90s and probably has a good hand in why mainstream movies suck these days. I'd just as soon see the whole house of cards come down.
And the state of film doesn't even touch this douchenozzle, his abuses and the internal machine's culture that allowed it to keep happening for decades. 'Bye, Harvey! 'Bye to a lot of these troglodytes, I hope.
Tying in with the whole political theme, any articles you may have read by elitist Washington Insiders handicapping the potential candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential horse race will always focus on one crucial (and nauseating) factor: these peoples' abilities to fundraise.
The hit now being taken to anyone favored by Megadonor Weinstein should be the best warning shot ever given across the bough of the political establishment (and the Democrats in particular)----wanna survive extinction? Abandon Donor Culture now.


Copyright 2017 Molotov Editions

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

BOIL ORDER



Tuesday


Since Hezekiah's death in the trash bin, Lulu has taken his old Robin action figure and stripped him
down to his unders. This creates a completely new superhero she refers to as “Naked Noxema”. NakedNoxema is presently embroiled in a complex adventure with Lulu's kewpie doll, Marzipan. They're
engaged in a life-or-death struggle with the six red death crayons on top of grandma's Charlie Rich
record. Lulu can't put it into words but somewhere in her head there's the supposition that the six red
death crayons are in possession of Hezekiah's soul and are preventing him from ascending to heaven.
She knows her mother would not allow such talk, but Lulu doesn't talk most of the time---there are
reasons for this. Marzipan fires her laser beams at the Charlie Rich landscape and the red death crayons
are thrown to the wind. She knows they'll regroup, though----they're tougher than they look.
Maroon is the wild card out of the death crayons, though, because it might be red or it might be
purple. Somewhere in the fracas Lulu supposes it will betray the crayons of death and join forces with
Marzipan and Naked Noxema It may be too early in the story for that yet, though. Lulu likes to try to
see the good in everybody.
“Lulu, leave your grandma's record alone.”
Lulu hears her mother but what she's saying isn't important....what is is the sound of crickets, clear
as day out in the wet grass. The back door is gone, so she hears them clearly. Rikkkkt, rikkkkt, riiikkkkt.
She worries some of them may be drowning----whenever Marzipan and Naked Noxema are done
defeating the crayons she figures they may have to rescue some crickets.
“Lulu? I said leave your grandma's record alone!”
Rikkkkt, riiikkkkkt, riiiiikkkkt.

Wednesday

Men are yelling outside. Lulu gets up off the couch. She's sleeping on the couch, now, because her
bedroom is gone.
She wanders on out to the porch and her mother is out there and Uncle Larry and some other men
are in the yard yelling and pointing. There are piles of sticks everywhere.
Water's all over the ground and she's sure it's too late for the crickets. The men quiet down and now
they're just talking. Everyone from the neighborhood is gathering because there's nothing else to do
anyway, and then Uncle Larry and the one man start yelling and pushing each other. Lulu sees her
mother start like she's going to go yell with Uncle Larry and then she stops and just stands there.
Boring, complicated, stupid adult stuff.
She wanders into the kitchen, climbs onto the counter and grabs a cup out of the cupboard.
She goes to the sink and finds a lot of roaches and silverfish scrounging around. They scatter
when she leans in and Lulu has to agree that this is probably for the best. She twists the cold
water faucet. The plumbing in the kitchen shakes for a second and the faucet goes, “RUNCH,” and
spews out water. The water is reddish-orangey-brown at first, but after a second it clears up. Lulu
fills the cup, shuts the water off, leans her head back and takes long, thirsty gulps.
She wonders what the day will bring. Negotiations with the Maroon Crayon are at a standstill,
But there's always hope.
She stares down the hallway at the doors. The bathroom is still there, she knows, as is grandma's
room. Her and her mother's rooms are gone. The doors are still there and the hallway looks normal
but both her and her mother's rooms are gone. Grandma was sleeping in the room that used to be
Hezekiah's but then Hezekiah died and grandma had come to stay with them. “I'm staying to help your
mother,” Grandma told Lulu, although she isn't sure she ever saw Grandma helping much.
A sudden urge hits Lulu. The runs to her bedroom door, wondering if maybe her room came back.
She pulls the door open partway.
It's still gone. She sees black space, part of the wall and then the sky, then the highway, way out
there. She looks down into blackness and she can make out junk and then dirt. It doesn't look so far
down but her mother and grandma have repeatedly told her if she tried to jump down there, she'd get
hurt.
Satisfied that things are still the way they were, she shuts the door and ambles back out toward the
living room. She feels like she's in some kind of limbo because there's no more kindergarten and her
room is gone. She thinks of where Hezekiah is----wherever he is----and feels a kind of lonely solidarity

with him.

  Around the corners and under the doors and in the closets and from the shadows the silverfish in the
house are singing to Lulu. Of course, their songs are very different from the songs of people---the
silverfish voices click and clatter and scratch, but she understands that when they sing it's the same
thing that people do....they sing to their children to help them sleep at night and maybe they sing on
their birthdays. She feels a warm comfort that they're sharing their songs with her.
Lulu is still thirsty. Outside the men are yelling again.

Thursday

It's night time and there are campfires outside the house. Lulu's mother and grandma and Uncle
Larry are outside on the porch and there's music and people are laughing. Lulu has a blanket over her
and everything is becoming vague and fuzzy.
She thinks she's alone and then she hears soft whispering and Mr. Noble is standing over her
smiling. He runs his hand along the blanket and whispers, “Lulu? Let's see what's wrong with you,
sweetie.”
What's wrong is she's thirsty. She has half a mind to tell him so when suddenly there's screaming.
She almost can't recognize her mother's voice and half of it doesn't sound like real words, anyway.
“huuuAAAUUUUuuuuhhhhAAAUUUUuhhDAVID NOBLAAAAUUUUHANDSOFFAMABAYBAY
AAAUUUUUAAAAHHHHH” and other people come in and mill around the room and Mr. Noble is
gone and her mother is asking all kinds of questions and Lulu won't answer and she's bothered by all of
this noise. Her mother takes her out onto the porch and they sit with all the other people late into the
night. The grownups talk and talk and talk about nothing. She can't hear the crickets at all anymore.
She knows she should be hearing them now but they're silent. She knows she's lost them, just like she's
lost her brother.
There's an old man sitting on the porch, in the corner, smiling at her. She doesn't know who he is.
He's smoking a cigarette and smiling at her. He softly says something to her. It sounds like, “udyuduh?”
She must have not heard him right. She doesn't know what “udyuduh” means. She doesn't respond.
She stares back at him and holds tighter to her mother.

The Dream

It was a Flesh Spider; It was huge, it was in the middle of the living room, it had two heads and
eight legs and it was made of skin, like a person. It hobbled and rolled around on the floor and it went,
uh, uh, uh, uh.”
Lulu closed her eyes and pretended to sleep but it was like her eyes wouldn't shut and it kept
flailing around the floor, going, “uh,uh, uh, uh, uh.” She put her hands over her face but it was like
she could see right through her hands. The Spider heaved and shuddered and it shuffled back and
forth like it didn't know where to go.
Uh, uh, uh, uh!” It didn't seem to want anything to do with Lulu or even know she was there. She
decided she didn't want to give it any help. She stayed silent a long time and that was all she
remembered.

Friday

Grandma's puttering around in the kitchen smoking cigarettes. “Goddamn silverfish,” she rasps.
Lulu is momentarily frightened for the Silverfish but she's got her own problems.
Marzipan is wounded. It happened in a skirmish with the six red death crayons, sadly behind enemy
lines, deep in the Territories of Crayola. The Kewpie doll is under little cotton covers trying to heal.
Naked Noxema kneels beside her in a silent, grim vigil.
“Awww,” fawns Grandma, “Robin's such a good friend to your dolly, he's praying for her to get
better, isn't he?”
She glares at Grandma. Robin isn't Robin anymore; He's Naked Noxema. Anyone should be able to
look at him and see that, now.
Grandma sits face to face with Lulu. “Girl, I wish you'd talk,” she says. “What's going on in that
little head of yours?”
“I want water,” says Lulu. Her voice is loud and awkward and she almost frightens herself.
Grandma takes a full step back.
“Alright,” she whispers. She heads off to the kitchen and runs the water. Lulu hears the plumbing
shake and the faucet goes, “RUNCH”. Grandma runs the water for a minute and then fills a pan, and
Lulu knows this is all wrong. Grandma puts the pan on the stove and lights the burner.
“Noooo,” cries Lulu. “I don't want the hot water, I want the cold water!”
“I'm sorry, sweetie,” says Grandma. “You know we have to do this. There's a boil order.”
Lulu's heart sinks. There's nothing worse than not being understood. She stares up at the ceiling
and cries quietly.
A face looms into her line of vision and she realizes Hezekiah is floating above her. He talks to her
without opening his mouth. It's like he's thinking and she can hear it.
It stinks, don't it?
Yeah, Lulu thinks back.
That's the way it is, thinks Hezekiah. That's the way it is everywhere, all the time.
I know.
I'll seeya soon, Sis.
Okay.
He's gone. The Silverfish are singing again, and this time she understands their song. It's what
Hezekiah told her. That's the way it is, they sing. That's the way it is everywhere, all the time. They sing
it over and over and they never stop singing...it becomes constant and she realizes the silverfish have
been singing it all the time. Maybe they've just been waiting all this time for her to pick it up. She
begins humming the song to herself.
Later her mother and Uncle Larry come home. Grandma says, “your daughter spoke today.”
Everyone fawns over Lulu sand they offer her cookies.
“What's our lil' girl got to talk about today?” Bellows Uncle Larry. Her mother talks very softly
and kindly to her but Lulu doesn't have to be burned twice to know that fire's hot.
She never speaks to anyone, ever again.
They bring her out on the porch and all the people are out there and the grownups talk and talk and
talk. They're arguing something about “Deema” or “Peema”, or something she's never heard of, eema,
eema, eema. Stupid, terrible adult nonsense. She thinks of the silverfish and their song. That's the way
it is everywhere, all the time. She thinks about the song for a long time and then she focuses on the
lightbulb. It's a big lightbulb, on the porch, over her head, shaped like a circle. The lightbulb becomes
her whole world and then she hears her mother screaming like she did the night before.
“OOHHHAWAWAWAAAHHHuuuuuhhhh!!!!”
She wakes up in darkness and she's on the couch. She looks down on the floor. Marzipan is still
under the little cotton blanket and she can see the form of Naked Noxema still faithfully kneeling
beside her. There's also a ring of silverfish and roaches and they look like they're praying. They're
singing; they're always singing, now. She subconsciously joins in. That's the way it is....that's the way it
is everywhere, all the time.
She sees her mother and Uncle Larry together on the recliner and it looks like Uncle Larry is
sleeping on top of her mother. A quilt is over them and she can only see the tops of their heads---her
mother's long, dark hair and the ring of curly hair surrounding Uncle Larry's bald head.
Something about seeing it makes her shudder, but the silverfish keep singing and she puts the
thought out of her head. She makes her way out to the kitchen. She climbs the counter and grabs a cup.
The plumbing shakes. The faucet goes, RUNCH.

Deep in the Territories of Crayola

Naked Noxema is desperate. Marzipan won't wake up and many, many lives now hang in the
balance. “Don't go to the outlands,” he tells the silverfish. “We've lost thousand out there, you know.
All the crickets. You have to be careful. Stay close at all times and keep your heads down.”
He has no idea what he's doing ordering the silverfish around. He shouldn't be in charge of
anything. He wishes Marzipan would wake up.
All the silverfish are singing. Naked Noxema tries to think of their anthem and sing along with it----
maybe it will calm him down.
Two Lego sentries run in. “Quiet,” says Naked Noxema, “Marzipan is trying to get better!”
“This is important,” cry the lego sentries. “Maroon is really purple!”
“What are you talking about?”
“Maroon has changed sides,” they cry. “Maroon is with us, now! The Red Crayon Coalition is
broken!”

Saturday

The men are yelling----the men are always yelling. They yell when they're happy, they yell when
they're sad, they yell when they're angry, they yell when they're all friends and they yell when they
fight. Lulu dislikes them all, even Uncle Larry.
Especially Uncle Larry, maybe. Lulu can't even think of a good reason for this but maybe she
doesn't need one.
It hits her that she might be blaming all the men for the crickets dying. It might not be fair, she
supposes, but with the way they act she doesn't feel bad about making that judgment---so it's okay.
One man is on the ground yelling. “You don't think the rest of us have kids? You don't think the
rest of us a'lost people?”
Her mother is yelling, “we're not saying that!”
Uncle Larry goes down the stairs. “Buddy, what're you tryin' to say? You lookin' for a punch in the
goddamn mouth?”
Lulu is using her inside voice, singing with the silverfish, over and over. It's her prayer, it's what
keeps her safe. That's the way it is.....that's the way it is everywhere, all the time. That's the way it is....
then there's a loud pop and then blackness and then she's looking up at the circle light again and the
circle light is getting brighter and brighter and somewhere far away she can her her mother screaming
again and Grandma is screaming, “get some water, quick! Put some water on the stove!” And Lulu's
thinking, no....

Sunday

The ocean goes on to any point on the horizon and Lulu is suspended a hundred feet above it.
She's just hanging there in the sky and doesn't know how or why this is happening.
She's aware that there are lines criss-crossing the air above her and she doesn't know what it means.
“LULU” calls a voice. And the song of the silverfish are gone and nothing is left but the great music of
the air and it goes RRRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNNNNNNNNNNN
it's like the thing on the TV where they tell you this is only a test and Lulu feels as though she's being
stretched in every direction at once she's aware of a boat or a submarine on the horizon and another
one on another horizon and they're both firing torpedoes and the torpedoes will meet in the middle
and the giant music of the sky goes RRRREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEENNNN and someone is
yelling “HER FEVER WON'T BREAK” and the torpedoes are coming and she doesn't understand why
she's suspended in the sky but she knows the two torpedoes are headed right toward each other and she
is right over the point where they will meet and then she sees the light above her it's a circle and it
looks like a halo and it gets whiter and brighter and it encompasses everything and REEEEEEEEENN
she falls silently into blackness and

Monday

Lulu and her Generals meet with the legos and the crayons of life.
--Glad to have you with us, she tells the maroon crayon.
The green and blue families have embraced Maroon as if it were one of their own.
--I've wanted to work with you for a long time, says Maroon. The Turquoise Crayon embraces
Maroon.
--We need to break the Dome, says Lulu.
--We have to move fast, says Naked Noxema. The White Death is overtaking everything.
--Don't be afraid of the White Death, says Marzipan. Her wounds have healed and she's turned into
a robot. The White Death is just Change, and Change is hard but it's also good. It's what you leave
behind that will hurt you.
Lulu hears strange shuffling and bumping.
---Like that, says Marzipan. That will hurt you but only if you stay with it.
Lulu knows it's the huge flesh spider from her dream, but those days are over.
--I'm scared, says Naked Noxema.
--It's okay to be scared, says the Olive Green Crayon. Just use it to make yourself stronger.
--I couldn't have said it better myself, says Lulu.
--Are you ready to go? Asks Marzipan.
--I think I am, she says and Marzipan embraces her.
Their assembled forces fly over the Dome and she knows this will be the hard part. They fire and
fire their laser beams but the Dome won't break and the legos are falling----they're all so weak when
they're separate. The Red Death Crayons are broken but they're still dangerous and despite all the good
people's firepower the dome is holding fast.
She feels hands grappling all over her body and several big, strong hands are pressing hard on her
face. A voice far away is going OOOHHHAHUUUHAUAUUUHHHAAAHHHuuuuuh” and she sees
the brave crayons falling away into the dark. Even brave Maroon is spiralling out of sight.
--We have to break the dome, screams Naked Noxema. We have to do it now!
Hands are forcing Lulu's mouth open. Several big, fat ugly fingers force their way into her mouth.
They're reaching down her throat and choking her
--Abort Mission, shouts Marzipan, abort mission!
--No, chokes Lulu, and she bites down hard on the fingers. There are screams off somewhere and all
the hands pull away.
--Hit them now, orders Marzipan.
They swing by the Dome again and fire their lasers at it. Far away Lulu hears a man yelling,
“You think no one else has ever lost anybody,” and she thinks, I have lost somebody and that matters.
Cracks appear in the Dome and there's a loud pop and everything turns black but then she sees the
white circle of light up above and it becomes huge, it becomes the whole wide world, and then there's
the great music of the sky but even that subsides and the sky opens up like a big pop-up book and
there's God and Jesus and Charlie Rich and all the crickets are there, and Hezekiah is with them and
he's wearing a bright, glowing crown on his head, and Marzipan and Naked Noxema are there, and all
the crayons, even the bad red ones are there now----this is fine, because Lulu likes to see the good in
everybody. And the Heavenly Host are all joined in song, and their voices all boom across the sky
forever, that's the way it is, that's the way it is everywhere, all the time...braying, vexing voices of old
fall away for good and there are fountains everywhere gushing pure, clean water and millions and
zillions of silverfish spin around her in great, huge circles and it's all Lulu knows forever.

Published in CORVUS REVIEW.
Copyright 2015 C.F. Roberts, 2017 Molotov Editions   

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Fault in Bodie's Stars and Other Wrongdoings

Been working, off and on, with several novels-or-novellas-in-progress...the one that seems to be picking up steam is INDIGO. These passages concern the character of Bodie Lewis----think of him as the Robert Cohn character-----not to compare INDIGO to THE SUN ALSO RISES, but just looking for a butt-of-all-life's-bad-jokes thumbnail to roll with. Enjoy or whatever.

 I'm not sure I like Bodie. I like him but I don't.
As the get-together (I'm loathe to call it a “party”) wears on I hear him in the other room and he's in a heated discussion with this girl---I don't know who she is. She'd been having a loud conversation earlier about pheromones---how you give off a pheromone when you're involved with someone and people are attracted to you---you can't beat suitors away with a stick. When you're single, however----and apparently this relates to the fact that she'd broken up with her boyfriend---you can't give it away-----nobody's interested. Again, the mystery of pheromones.
Maybe there's something to all this jargon, I dunno. It imposes too many tacit rules and suppositions for my blood. You just need to be careful what you lay out there in front of Bodie, though, because now he's trying to get his foot in the door and it's not a pretty tableau.
“You said you can't give it away, right? I look at you, I look at me, I see two nice people who should just cut the shit and try being happy, you know? What's wrong with being happy?”
“I know, but, y'know.....no.”
“Come on!”
“You're just not my type, dude, no offense, just, y'know.....that's life! Oh well.”
“ 'Oh well', what the fuck's that supposed to mean?!”
“That's life, man, you just move on. S'not a big deal.”
“It's not a big deal for you, you can just shrug your shoulders and forget about it! I'm stuck here with this shit forever!”
“Yeah....maybe you are. I gotta go, dude.....”
Yeah, Bodie, maybe you are.
Eventually we all head down to the University Computer Lab, shanghai some terminals and fart around on the net. So we're all sitting at various points in the lab separate and yet gloriously together. Crazy Ed is in Goth Chat under a female persona then he cybers with some guy who thinks he's a 16-year-old hottie. He busts the third wall and scares the hell out of the guy. No one ever hears from him again.
Some guy from a Christian Chat site comes in and starts preaching at us, haraguing us, telling us we're all evil and going to hell. Why? I don't know-----because we like The Cure or some other nebulous reason. This prompts a mass exodus to the Christian Chat site where we heckle everybody there. Some cat calling himself Count Othmar starts calling himself “The Lion of the Tribe of Shecky”, which is a hoot and a half.
Bodie tries cybering with a whole slew of girls and they all laugh him off the net. He slams the table and leaves the lab in disgust, probably to the joy of several kids who are around waiting to work on their papers or do research. Life is tough.
The rest of us are there entirely too long. When we leave the lab it's early morning. The sun's not up, yet, but the night birds are scaring up one helluva racket. I'm almost sober again, and that just will not do.

                                                                    ***

    Bodie gets up and delivers some long, pompous, anal-retentive preamble about “intellectual property”, and how, if you relate something he said it's very important to tell people, even if all he said was a comment about the weather, that “Bodie Lewis said that,” that this is just as important as telling people “Bram Stoker said X” or that “ee cummings said x”. And by the point where folks are catcalling Bodie to get on with it we've all been appraised of how important all of this is to Bodie.
When the poem comes around it's a lot of rhymey doggerel about feeling one particular woman's “hot breath” on his neck (which he has never felt, obviously) and describing the look and feel of her legs (which he has also obviously never felt or seen)----the mystery woman is never mentioned by name, but I imagine it's Bessie.

                                                                   ***

                   “You really like that one girl, huh?” Says Bodie, and I'm getting a distinctly creepy, polluted vibe off him.
“Do what, now?” I don't look up at him, which is a more and more frequent occurrence in my interactions with Bodie. I can smell him, though, from the doorway. He smells like jerky, hotdogs, Budweiser, stale BO and stale, jizzed-in, unwashed underwear.
“That one girl,” he says. “I don't know her name.”
I choose not to fill in the blank for him.
“You're a cuck,” he tells me, a hint of practiced contempt in his voice.
“Do what, now?”
“I'm a MGTOW,” he says, with what I imagine to be a kind of subdued pride.....I misunderstand him at first and think he says, “I'm Big Now.”
“Proud of ya,” I offer.
“It means I'm a Man Going My Own Way,” he elaborates, correcting what I'd initially inferred. “I don't need women to make me happy. My eyes are open. I've taken the Red Pill.”
My first comeback to “I don't need women to make me happy” might be to respond, “Bodie, how do you know?” But I guess that would be mean.
“You know, that girl you like, she'll dump you. You know, that's what they do.” He repeats it, as if he's trying to implore me to listen. “That's what they do.”
“Nice to see you've got that figured out,” I shoot back.
“I do,” he says. “I see it all the time. It's my world. It always will be.”
“I don't doubt you're right.”
“Yeah,” he says, in a quieter voice. Whatever's going on in the next room draws him away, where I imagine he'll tell everyone out there he's big, now, and that he's taking red pills. He's no longer trying to pry Gayla's name from me, so....the desired effect.

*********************************************************************************

As of this writing I've got my irons in a few fires.....first and foremost “The Abbey of the Lemur” is BACK!!!! This is our first show since 2014 and we're hitting a string of milestones....


        This is the first-ever episode of the show where we embrace cellphone technology. The centerpiece for “Lemurs at Monte Ne” (the 15 minute video of our trip to the ruins at Monte Ne) was all shot on my phone. It's not great video, by any stretch, but it's one more stab at putting the production and dissemination of art and culture in the hands of whoever wants to do it.
It also marks the first appearance with written sketches of our little friends, the Devil Goats, since their brief origin in 2014's “The Megalithic Bamboozler” Beyond that we just padded it about with old stuff. Have fun.
Past that, expect two more episodes in 2017....one will be a tribute to late TAOTL cast member Adam “Dead Guy” Jardine----the other will be related to our 20th anniversary on the airwaves in Fayetteville. Past that I couldn't tell ya, but like Joe Strummer said, “the future is unwritten”.
This also marks the very first episode of “The Abbey of the Lemur” to be uploaded on to YouTube in its entirety....all thanks to our wonderful providers at FPTV. You'll need to sign in to YouTube as an adult to watch it, and that's just what we gotta do. Prior administrations in the city (perhaps illegally) didn't offer the privilege of being shared online to VDA shows, so we're happy to let FPTV set up that precaution.
        ENJOY!

*********************************************************************************
          The SE Apocalypse Krew's album----tentatively titled “RISE”----is officially in the can! Yeah----it only took us 30someodd years!
You're gonna have to wait a little longer for the official release....right now I'm wrangling with the visual art aspects and then there are other logistics....but HEY! Lemme know if you're interested in covering this thing/reviewing or helping to promote it. Who knows? We could hook you up.
I'll personally tell you Mike and I are happy as hell with this beast----and it is a beast. 17 songs in 58 minutes and the thing just BLASTS. Mike had been floating me dailies on the production and even I wasn't ready for the face removal that is the final product, mixed and everything else. I spent over a week with it in the car, blasting it up and down the streets of Fayettenam. At long last, we're the monster I'd always hoped we'd be.
Heavy metal sprouted from the blues, originally, and in some respects, even as it's evolved into sort of a post-rock'n'roll genre, it is, in a lot of ways, similar to blues. Metal has its indelible conventions and tropes, just like blues does---its musicians and fans love these tropes and conventions and are dedicated to their perpetuation and preservation.
Mike and I, in that respect, are more jazz guys. Push to shove we'd rather hear someone break from the old tropes and take things in a direction we don't expect, and we like to do that ourselves. Not that you can't hear our influences----you'll hear a little Black Sabbath here, a little Black Flag there----a little Dead Boys here, a little Jimi Hendrix, there----a little Wes Montgomery here, etc., etc., etc. And yet at the same time we're our own animal.
Stay tuned.


Friday, May 19, 2017

THIS WEEK'S HOT NEW FEAR

In the S.E. Apocalypse Krew's song, “Kid Eternity”, we sing, “pull Dad's gun from the drawer/and aim it at my head/they'll sue Ozzy and be happy to have someone to blame”.
Obviously, it's locked into the zeitgeist of its times----the 80s, the Satanic Panic and all that happy horseshit. Even back then, no one was going to mistake us for politically correct. The protagonist of the song practices suicidal ideation and self-mutilation, literally cutting his nose (or ears) off to spite his face....or anyone else that irks him. Yeah, we know....maybe we're coarse, maybe we're insensitive....but that's how we roll. And at the end of the day, hopefully you learn it's okay to laugh at everything. Or at least think long and hard about what you're laughing at.
       We knew right from the outset we were on a collision course with certain easily-offended types and we were fine with that. Gimme a knee-jerk, pro-censorship person, I'm probably going to offend them. It always works out that way.....I'm there.
ON THE OTHER HAND, it's always an eye-opener when the pro-censorship knee-jerker goes after artists who DO handle things sensitively!
Care 2 is a Social Networking Website that brings together activists and enables them to create petitions and organize campaigns leaning toward human rights, animal rights, social justice, environmental issues and a variety of worthwhile rallying points. So it was a surprise to see some activists utilize Care2 to advocate censorship.


      One phrase that Mike and I have thrown around together since the 80s was “The Hot New Fear”, or “this week's hot fear” or other such variations on the subject.....and the hot new fear is always something that's literally sold like a bottle of mouthwash, and the media will usually jump on it and harp on it, exploiting it with little to no rational discourse or serious examination....it's usually some superficial scapegoat in the arts or entertainment, used to serve as a cultural “band-aid” to a larger problem people regard as too big to address (or too big to fail?).
Obviously, around the time we wrote “Kid Eternity” the Satanic Panic was in full bloom and the big fear was that if your kids listen to Ozzy Osbourne or Judas Priest they're going to commit suicide (and to hell with any deeper examination of issues like home life, mental health, chemical dependency or whatever---you're a terrible person if you even ask such questions!)
There have been lots of other handy fears, though....does your kid play Dungeons and Dragons? It'll turn the introverted little lamb into a babbling, Occult-practicing psychotic! Anybody remember the West Memphis 3? Three kids who were basically railroaded for a child murder due to the fact that they wore black and listened to Metallica----shit----one or two turns of circumstance and I coulda been Damien Echols! Natural Born Killers? Everyone from Bob Dole to John Grisham said it was gonna spawn a generation of homicidal maniacs. Marilyn Manson? Caused Columbine---y'know....if you disregard the fact that those two kids didn't even listen to him....
Today's fresh new fear is apparently this 13-episode Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why”. Since this show will apparently be responsible for all your childrens' deaths, let's bust it out of its virtual box and get a look at it.


      I sat down and binge-watched “13 Reasons Why” (I keep wanting to call it “13 Ways to Die”) a few weeks ago pretty much based on the fact that I found the premise interesting. For those of you who haven't been paying attention, “13 Reasons Why” is the story of this high school kid, Hannah Baker, who kills herself and leaves a series of cassette tapes detailing the events that led to her suicide to be distributed among the various parties she considers “responsible”, and as the tapes (and her narrative) unravel, the lives of those around her, the “accused”, unravel. Some (most notably the protagonist) are angry, some are dismayed and others are trying to fight to keep a lid on the whole thing for fear that it will “destroy the school” ( tenuous defense of a construct that makes little sense to anyone standing outside such an asinine bubble world).
Personally, I fucking LOVED this show.....no ifs, ands or buts. I don't think I was ready for how smart it was going to be. On one level, yes, it unflinchingly takes on a lot of the hard issues teens deal with, from harassment to bullying to rape to gossip to stalking to slut-shaming—on other levels, while the show, per se, definitely takes Hannah's “side”, it turns around and shows you that she doesn't necessarily see the whole picture---some of the events don't necessarily follow her side of the story and some of the kids in the story aren't necessarily as bad as she makes them out to be. When there's a scene where she asks Clay, the main protagonist of the story, if he thinks she could ever be as pretty as this one other character, homeboy shits in his wheaties by being like, huh? She walks away and says, “never mind----you just answered the question,” and we the viewers see that it's just one more nail in her coffin....but it's a mistake anyone could make. I could make that mistake. You could make that mistake.
So, yeah---incredibly smart show....not only does it nail everything kids are facing in school from peer pressure to bullying to suicide, to unresponsive authority figures to an entire culture that bolsters and reinforces the pecking order, it shows you the bottom line of suicide---the grief of the parents and friends—the damage left in its wake. The acting is uniformly great, especially from the two young leads----they'll rip your heart out.
Does it have the potential to resonate with young audiences in ways that might make authority figures uncomfortable? Yeah----it does. After I got done it took me several days to get “13 Reasons” and its haunted teens the hell out of my head. But that also begs the question, if authority figures are uncomfortable with that, what does it say about them? Seriously, guys----too scary? Too big an issue to deal with?
Sorry, I know----I'm being a dick about this. But you know what? Having actually lost friends to suicide, I can be a dick about this.
One thing I was unaware of was that “13 Reasons Why” is also a popular, best-selling Young Adult novel that has been revered among young audiences for a decade, now. I'm not very conversant in the topic of contemporary YA Lit, which is strange, I guess, as my first novel qualifies, technically, as “YA”----(and I'm still looking for a publisher----hint, hint!) (It covers many of the same topics----hint! HINT!)(You can read excerpts right here on this blog----HINT!!!! HINT!!!!) (Naw----I'm not self-serving in the least, am I?)-----but it's something I genuinely have not followed. Apparently it's a sufficiently beloved book to where, when the TV adaptation was announced, young fans confronted the producers and told them, in no uncertain terms, “don't fuck this up!” So obviously, much to the chagrin of some knee-jerk types, this material hits very close to home. Between the book and the show, why does this story resonate with kids?
Well, don't believe for a second it's because the story and themes were generated in a vacuum. This shit happens all the time----it was going on when I was a kid way back in the Mesozoic Era, and precious little seems to change. “13 Reasons” doesn't come by its attacks in a one-dimensional manner---the parents in the show are not cutout characters. They genuinely care for and are worried for their kids and frequently find themselves closed off from genuine communication----and there's no dressing that up---that's very often on the kids. But I think that one part of the story that gets under the skin of all the concerned adults (SPOILERS!!!!) is the last “Reason Why”----the well-intentioned-but-ineffectual student counselor whose answer to rape is basically “try to forget about it”.
Does the “culture” of a school cover up and engage in apologetics for its favored students? Betcha I can say “yes” faster than you can choke out the word “Steubenville”....like I said, no one, not the producers of the show nor the author of the book, pulled this concept out of a vacuum. Think these notions of hopeless reaching out to an adult authority figure never happen? Think the authorities are all-knowing sages who can solve all the problems of youth? Then you have to answer to this:


         So where were the concerned and able adults when this kid was being knocked unconscious in full view of the security cameras?
Eight years old. EIGHT. Yeah----good job, authorities.
And ultimately that's the problem I have with these reactionary activists....rather than actually reach out and help end the abuses and negligence that helps motivate kids toward despair, they'd prefer this easier “band-aid” route-----because taking on the hallowed pecking order is too hard...and deep down, we all love the blessed, besotted, motherfucking pecking order down to its apple-pie-and-stick-shift-drivin' Jesus core, so let's micromanage and/or ban a TV show, instead.
       To quote comedian and political commentator Jimmy Dore, "we're a nation of adult children of alcoholics....we don't get mad at the guy who screwed you over----we get mad at the guy who pointed it out and let you know about the guy screwing you over."
        Agreed, Jimmy. Well said.

         Go, Hot New Fear, Go! Except you're never that new, are you? It's the same old shit, over and over.
Except that maybe, for a change, things are a little better. Some counselors and psychiatrists have taken a new approach...they've seen the “provocative” potential of “13 Reasons” as the opportunity for a “teaching moment”----parents, watch this with your kids and take this as an entryway to a dialogue. Listen to your kids. Find out what's happening in their lives. If what you're seeing on this show rings true with them, find out why.
SMART. FOR A CHANGE. So, hey, as grumpy as I get about these things----maybe we can evolve past the bad old days of the Satanic Panic.
Be nice if someone made sure the gang at CARE 2 (or at least some of their petitioners) got the memo.