Posts from — October 2014
Retro Video Club Collection
Retro Video Club
by Fred Roberts
Contributing Music Editor
Today Youtube is filled with video sessions of high definition digital pristine perfection. They are beautiful documents of culture, featuring, as they do, the best of various bands, musicians, performers: The Emery Sessions from my home town of Cincinnati, Hamburg’s Küchensessions, the Furious Sessions in Barcelona, Balcony TV from all around the world. The sessions are lovely and document an important aspect of musical culture, but they are all too perfect, in the sense of digital music to vinyl. Moreover, with HD video a feature of nearly every smartphone and camera, artistic uniqueness is nearly impossible to achieve.
In the midst of these trends, artist Marq Lativ Guther plunges into the past with a project that couldn’t be further from the contemporary idea of digital perfection. Armed with a repertoire of professional video cameras of late ’80s’ vintage, Marq set out last year to document a selection of concerts at venues in Hamburg. The result is an insider’s archive of Hamburg’s subculture: The Retro Video Club.
I first met Marq last year at Gagarin Records’ 15th birthday celebration in the club Westwerk, several weeks after he began his project, discovered that he had taped one of the concerts I’d already seen, a set by Holger Hiller, founding member of the German new wave art band Palais Schaumburg (1980-84). The concert at Golden Pudel Club had multiple layers of charm. Holger Hiller practically grew up in Pudel Club, he told the audience, and for this concert his son had flown in from London to support him on drums. When Marq told me he had prepared a small, handmade, numbered, DVD edition of the evening, with original artwork, it sounded too good to be true.
Since then our paths have crossed at numerous other events and I have became a regular subscriber of the DVD edition. The discs are wonderful memories of the events, but more importantly, many years from now these recordings will represent an important historical document of avant garde culture in Hamburg.
Marq’s art is subtle. It does not overwhelm with visual effects but rather presents the performances in a way that comments and accentuates the live experience. In the case of Mary Ocher’s concert at Pudel Club, Marq demonstrated the compelling presence of the artist by relying mostly on close-in shots during the performance. The mix of Felix Kubin’s set at Westwork on the other hand, using three cameras, supported the psycho-surreal tone of the music. In general the visual dynamic is always there, the camera(s) following the action with intrigued curiosity, drawing the viewer along on a fascinating visual and audio journey.
The selection of musicians in the Retro Video Club represents a cross section of important countercultural acts in Europe today including Adi Gelbart, Eli Gras, Felix Kubin, Holger Hiller, Mitch & Mitch, Peter Um, Tellavision, also Mary Ocher and Schnipo Schranke, captured while still under the status of well kept secrets. A pearl of the collection, and according to Marq, the most requested so far, is the reunion of Palais Schaumburg at HFBK’s 100th birthday celebration. My two favorite concerts of the collection are “L.A. Sued” and “Frau Kraushaar”.
“L.A. Sued” (German for L.A. South) is a collaboration that defies imagination. It includes Ray Buckmiller “Fred & Luna,” who over the years has built up an impressive repertoire of unpublished electronic compositions, the enigmatic “Putzmiester,” who in the early ’80s worked with Brian Eno and engineered the sound of bands like the B52’s, then lived off the grid for many years, and veteran musician Chris Cacavas, one of the founding members of Green on Red, who settled in Germany about twelve years ago. The music they produced that evening at Hafenbahnhof was transcendental. Ray playing as if in a trance, Chris in determined concentration and Putzmiester doggedly bending the strings. They were the three spirits of music. Marq’s cut of the concert alluded to this spirituality by superimposing different camera angles, also a symbolic statement that the music was more than the sum of all its parts. This concert is definitely one of the highlights.
The visual masterpiece is the concert of Frau Kraushaar and the Hairy Girls at Golem, April 10, 2014. Marq himself labels it “the most radical look of all films made till now.” The music is sublime, a concert of Frau Kraushaar’s album on Rough Trade “The Power of Appropriation” in which she interpreted forgotten folk songs from around Europe, sung in eight different languages. Marq’s handling of the recording, probably due as much to the low light situation at Golem as anything else, is endlessly intriguing. Combined with the timeless musical interpretations − guitar (Sasha Demand), stand-up bass (Andrew Krell) and chorus of sirens (The Hairy Girls), the strong personality of Frau Kraushaar announcing the songs, and the near black and white appearance, it feels like an experimental television broadcast out of another dimension, Frau Kraushaar as an alternate Carmen Miranda appearing with her band at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca, but of another time. At one point Frau Kraushaar alludes to the political situation in Ukraine, adding the feeling of a concert taking place under the sceptre of serious political threats. The video reminded me of sitting in front of an early 1960s’ floor model Zenith TV watching out-of-town broadcasts, but that’s as close a comparison as I can come up with.
On September 8th at Westwerk, Marq introduced the Retro Video Club project to the world, along with a concert by post noise band LXMP from Poland and a showing of Felix Kubin’s concert from last year’s Gagarin Records birthday celebration. A Website is in preparation and Marq is currently searching for a label to officially issue the series. Independent of that, more releases are on the way, including a documentary of Tellavision filmed with four cameras. Marq granted me a sneak preview, and it is going to be incredible. Ernie Kovacs would be proud.
The collection so far:
- Holger Hiller @ Golden Pudel Club (21.9.2013)
- Palais Schaumburg @ HBFK (11.10.2013)
- Gagarin Records 10th Anniversary party @ Westwerk, 16.11.2013 (Peter Um / Adi Gelbart / Felix Kubin). Exerpts and promos:
- Felix Kubin with Mitch & Mitch @ Uebel und Gefaehrlich (3.12.2013)
- Schnipo Schranke @ Golden Pudel Club (29.1.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=soAKOwyDZ6w
- Mary Ocher @ Golden Pudel Club (29.1.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGgQeHb6-Ns
- Frau Kraushaar and the Hairy Girls @ Golem (10.4.2014). Concert excerpt: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4J8MFOA2B0
- L.A. Sued @ Hafenbahnhof (27.4.2014). Full concert: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwypACIUarc
- Eli Gras @ Kunstverein (10.5.2014)
- Tellavision @ MS Dockville (9.8.2014) Bonus Feature: http://www.bostonhassle.com/2014/10/17/fresh-vid-tellavision-betony-world-premiere/
About the author:
Fred Roberts is a contributing editor and music editor of Ragazine.CC. You can read more about him in About Us. Photos by Fred Roberts.
October 31, 2014 2 Comments
Granite Canyon, South Fork
By Marlene Olin
Seven hundred bucks for an airplane ticket. Seven days scratched out on the calendar. Rock climbing. Mountain biking. Hiking. I was vacationing with a doppelganger, a me nobody knew.
“We raise goats,” said RayAnn. “We practice yoga. It’ll be the best week ever. Promise.”
Years ago, in another life, I met RayAnn at college. English majors, we smoked pot and wrote poetry in smoke-filled rooms. We painted our lips white and our eyes coal black. We were the epitome of cool.
Then life happened. After graduation I moved back home to Miami. Instead of becoming a writer, I married my high school sweetheart and became a stay-at-home mom. I spent the next twenty years cooking, cleaning, changing diapers, waiting for repairmen, helping with homework, wiping noses, carpooling, waiting for more repairmen, driving to the orthodontist, teaching my kids how to drive. My life had become a Good Housekeeping cliché.
“Come visit the Tetons!” said RayAnn. “Fresh air. Lots of exercise. You’ll get rebooted. You’ll start writing again.”
While I boomeranged back to my hometown, RayAnn had lived like a nomad. She moved from city to city, teaching mostly at community colleges, managing to get two novels published. She lived the life we had always talked about. One romantic liaison after another. Free and uncommitted. And her stories always ended on a high note as well. Against overwhelming odds, her heroines found happiness. During the six-hour plane ride, I read nonstop.
Sitting on a Dream: Mavis is paralyzed in a car accident. Thanks to the intervention and very hands-on caring of a small town doctor, she regains the use of her arms and legs. The climax of the book takes place on their honeymoon. Cannons fire and fireworks burst. The book sold twenty thousand copies online alone.
Hotel Hospice: Lorelei has terminal ovarian cancer. Lincoln, her only child, is fifteen-years-old and has an IQ of one fifty. A promising violinist, he steals manhole covers in his spare time. He’s the kind of kid who’s either going to end up playing Carnegie Hall or trolling the streets. Then grandpa comes to town. Lorelei’s father abandoned her, beat her mother and stole all their money. But life’s all about the second chances. And grandpa has talents no one − NOT EVEN HE!!! − suspects.
“We’ll be landing in few minutes,” says the pilot. “It’s usually a bumpy ride around now.” I shove the two paperbacks into my purse and brace myself. Below me snow- covered peaks puncture the stratosphere. I suck in air to make the plane lighter and lift myself in the seat.
It’s a small airport. Lilliputian small. I get off the plane and walk down a flight of stairs to the tarmac. The sky’s blindingly blue and cloudless. We’re ringed by the Tetons. They’re so huge they’re one dimensional. For a moment I feel like an actor in a play, the mountains a stage prop, the moon a Cheshire grin.
The people seem unreal, too. Everyone looks the same. Blue-eyed and sun-bleached hair. Tanned and toned. As soon as I find my way to the luggage area, I crane my neck for RayAnn. I figure she’ll recognize me first. I’m just an older, weathered version of the college coed I used to be. Brown frizzy hair. Splotchy skin. I might as well be wearing a sign. Jewish Housewife from Miami.
“There you are,” she says. No, her Facebook page wasn’t PhotoShopped. RayAnn still looks around twenty. Yes, she competed in an Ironman last year. Yes, she really does raise goats.
“It’s for weed control,” she tells me. “They love thistle. So instead of using weed-killer, we bring my goats to people’s yards. They eat the bad stuff and leave the good behind.”
We bump along a dirt road and stop in front of a log cabin. It truly is a log cabin. Like on the pancake syrup bottle. Somewhere I hear a rooster crow. The air smells like Christmas. My skin starts to itch.
“We use the old outhouse as a root cellar,” says RayAnn. “We’ve got indoor plumbing, the internet, the whole she-bang.”
The walls are covered with new-agey art. A hand with an eye. A web of yarn with feathers. Though her conversation is peppered with words like spirit and feelings, there are no periods or pauses, no intake of air. Sentences spill like an avalanche. We get up at five don’t forget there’s coffee. We feed the livestock grab some gloves at the door. We do our chores before sunrise don’t you love to watch the sun rise isn’t the sunrise awesome?
And she talks as if she has an invisible companion or partner only no one else is there. No photographs on the fireplace mantel. No his and hers towels. I’m used to tripping over my kids’ sneakers and finding Rob’s underwear on the floor. There’s not a lick of dust in the house.
“We keep our jackets in the closet and our shoes by the door,” says RayAnn. When I drop my purse on the couch, she picks it up. “Clutter in the house makes for clutter in the soul.”
She’s become the nature Nazi. The Fuhrer in the dell. She opens the door to the frig.
“Help yourself,” says RayAnn. It looks like a bank vault and takes up half her kitchen. “We just eat local. Local fruit. Local veggies. When she opens the door to the freezer, I could swear I see a hoof. “We’ve gotten friendly with a few hunters. They stock us in venison for the year.”
I still suffer PTSD from Bambi. The forest fire. The mother dying. Who could forget? The sandwich I ate on the plane flips.
She directs me to one of the two bedrooms. It’s Martha Stewart pretty. A bed with a blocky quilt. A bathroom with a claw tub and billowing curtains. “This is wonderful,” I tell her. It must be fifty degrees in the cabin and as the sun sets, the temperature’s dropping. In Miami, it’s sweater weather. In Wyoming, it’s a typical summer. My teeth chatter. I crave my flannel nightgown — the one I left home in a drawer.
RayAnn counts down on her fingers. “Monday’s hiking, Tuesday’s biking, Wednesday’s yoga. Once our bodies embrace positive energy, our minds will relax.”
She disappears into the kitchen and I hear cabinet doors opening and closing. Meanwhile I unpack and take a closer look at the house. There’s not a TV in sight. Her bookshelves are lined with Sitting on a Dream and Hotel Hospice. A few Tony Hillermans and Louis L’Amours. What ever happened to Kerouac and Corso? The RayAnn I used to know has become a stranger and this stranger is getting stranger by the minute. We are stranded in a wooden shed in the middle of nowhere. We are starting to panic.
Days pass. The two of us develop a routine. Like a shark, RayAnn needs to get moving. My job is to stay out of her way. When she’s not tending to her goats, RayAnn’s running up mountains, paddling a kayak through the rapids, riding her bike over moguls of Queen Anne’s lace. Most of the time I stay home swinging in her hammock, listening to the ripple of her creek. I read. I write. Even so RayAnn is grateful for the company. I don’t think she realizes how lonely she is. I don’t think she can hear herself think.
“Summer is great, but just wait until winter. D’you snowboard? D’you ski?”
“I’m afraid of heights,” I tell her. Afraid of depths. Speed. Falling. Pain. I am the anti-RayAnn. I am afraid of everything.
She looks crestfallen, her mouth like two parentheses, a sad clown kind of face. I toss out a bone.
“But there’s yoga, tomorrow! I’d love to try yoga.”
There’s maybe twenty people in the park. In the distance, I hear children playing. Ravens as big as cats sit on tree branches, caw.
“Welcome to Laughter Yoga,” says the instructor. “For the next hour I will be your leader, your guru, and your friend.”
RayAnn is standing next to me. She’s holding one of her feet directly over her head. With her elbow out she looks like the letter P.
“It’s great exercise,” she whispers. “Loosens the diaphragm. Relaxes the back.”
My lips form the letter O.
“Let your mind be drawn to the spirit of the Tetons,” says the instructor. “Become one with the universe.” We are stretching our hands over our heads then reaching for our toes. Then waving them side-to-side like cheerleaders. I look around to see if strangers are watching because I feel like an idiot. I’m sure we look like idiots.
“Now loosen the mouth.” The instructor sticks out her tongue and starts shaking her head. Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha. Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha. The last time I heard a person breathing that hard she was in labor. There’s an old man in back of me. He’s pushing eighty for sure. Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha. Then I hear someone hyperventilating. It’s either the old man or me.
The instructor moves onto another exercise. We are holding hands in a circle, moving in, moving out. This I understand. Just when I’m getting the hang of it, she changes direction. Now the group is moving from right to left like a pile of dominoes. We are clapping on each other’s backs. Banging the hell out of each other’s backs. While I’m pounding on RayAnn, the old man is pounding me. Only he misses half the time. Pounding my ass, the air, my head.
Now laugh, shouts the instructor. She forces a staccato grunt from her mouth and aims it towards the sun. Laugh! She commands.
I look around. Everyone is laughing. Sort of. The old man is wheezing. Some crazies are rolling on the ground holding their stomachs. When I look at RayAnn, her forehead is lined, her lips pursed. Meditation has made her incredibly anxious. She squeezes her eyes shut, fists her hands, and a series of machine gun rat-a-tats burst out. Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha.
“The yogina is a riot. Isn’t she a riot?” says RayAnn. Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha. “Why aren’t you laughing? Everybody’s laughing.” Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha.
I’m the only one not laughing. I’ve always hated smiling for the camera. It’s fake sincerity. A clockwork orange. Meanwhile RayAnn is chuckling like a robotic Santa Claus stuck on someone’s lawn. Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha.
When the group is exhausted, when sides ache and half the class has to pee, the instructor winds things up.
“Let your mind be drawn to the stillness,” she says. We sit in the lotus position, knees crossed, our palms facing up, forefinger and thumb touching.
“Relax the tension. Let your spine rise from the ground. Repeat the word So…ooo…ooo as you inhale. Then exhale and say hummmmm.”
I look around for hummingbirds or bumblebees but no. It’s just the sound of a dozen people collectively expelling air from their mouths. RayAnn tries so hard to relax that she looks more tense. The old man farts. The air’s so still I can hear the aspen leaves whistle, the grass crunch.
And then it occurs to me. I’m the lucky one. My life’s not bathed in Kumbaya but whose is? I love my husband, I worship my children. Our home is our nest. I may not have written the great American novel but I’ve created something of value. While everyone’s quiet, I unfold like a flower and stretch. Hummmmm.
And then I start laughing.
There is nothing louder than a laugh at the wrong time. The instructor hisses through her teeth. Everyone in the class sideglances, sending me death ray stares. Somehow I’ve found a chink in their cosmic armor, put the kibosh on their karma. RayAnn doesn’t speak to me the whole ride home.
We put together the local version of homemade peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and eat dinner in total silence. The goo sticks to my teeth but I can’t say anything, do anything. Finally RayAnn speaks.
“While you’re a guest in my home, I would appreciate if you don’t make fun of my friends.”
We’ve known each other too long for me to bullshit my way out of this. I’ve been hiding in a cloak of sarcasm all week. Covering my insecurities by acting superior and judgmental. And assuming that RayAnn with her gosh darn small town ways wouldn’t notice.
“I think you’re terrific,” I say. “I think yoga was terrific.” I’m digging deep now. “And I really love your goats.” I’m practically choking on the words. Not because I don’t mean them but because my palate feels covered in mud. I stick in a finger and extract a dollop of brown sludge.
“That’s disgusting,” says RayAnn. Her voice is now a high shriek. “Do you know you’re disgusting?”
I stick in my finger once more, circle my mouth, and extract an even bigger dollop. The relief is overwhelming. Physically. Emotionally. “Did you know this peanut butter sucks?” I blurt. “Did you know that I’d kill for a diet coke right now?” I pull back my finger and sling the sludge. It hits RayAnn on the stomach, two inches over her belt and clings like a barnacle. The whole wad stays cemented to her shirt.
She looks down. She stays looking down for a long time. Then slowly she unpeels a grin. Her teeth are checkerboard. Brown. White. Brown. White. “I’d give it to the goats but they won’t touch the stuff.” She takes a fork, impales the brown goo that’s on her shirt, and flicks it back at me. Once we start laughing, it’s hard to stop.
“God, how I hate you,” she says. “I hate your marriage, I hate your kids, I hate the fact that you know just who you are. You’re just perfect, aren’t you? I hate the way you’re perfect.”
She’s joking. Sort of. I get up, walk around the table, and give her a big hug. “You may think you hate me but you don’t.”
She smiles and wipes away some tears. “You want a pizza? I know a place with great pizza.”
Old friendships have a habit of sticking, too. I’m the yin to RayAnn’s yang. The cream in her coffee. The perfectly timed caesura. I hang around a few extra days until it becomes an extra week. My husband and kids say they miss me. I envision a sink filled with dirty dishes and hampers stuffed with dirty clothes. It’ll wait. They’ll wait. The Tetons are calling. I’m one with the universe. Hummmm.
About the author:
Marlene Olin’s short stories have been published most recently in Upstreet Magazine, Emrys Journal, The Saturday Evening Post, Biostories, and The Jewish Literary Journal. She lives in Miami.
October 31, 2014 Comments Off on Laughter Yoga/Marlene Olin
September Americana Releases
By Fred Roberts
Contributing Music Editor
In my voracious thirst for music I followed nearly every genre I stumbled upon, but had a blind spot for the “local” American genres as interpreted by non-American musicians: country, folk, bluegrass, etc. It was my way of limiting the amount of music to follow, and perhaps a snobbish idea that no non-American band could do justice to “our” genres. But more and more I’ve encountered artists that have caused me to rethink that idea. A selection of these are presented here in a set of four releases from the month of September. The ladies: Kristina Jung and Rose Brokenshire. The gentlemen: Emmett and Filip Johansson.
Kristina Jung – Into the Light that I Have Known (Woodland Recordings)
Kristina Jung hails from Rostock, Germany. On her EP Into the Light that I Have Known she presents us with five songs and an incredible range of voice talent, a voice that is rich and regal. At times she is a troubadour of medieval times (King with no Throne), a classic folk singer of the 1960’s (Show Me Where You Hide Your Longing), or a voice of remarkable gospel-blues sensibilities (It’s the Wind). The latter track makes me wonder if Janis Joplin accompanied by John Fahey on acoustic guitar would have sounded much differently. The fourth song of the set Wish You Were a Hunter is my favorite, weaving a spell that transfixes, the longing voice and sparse accompaniment combining into magnificence. Five songs. Highly recommended.
Rose Brokenshire – WEND
Wend is an old English word meaning to wander, to explore. The EP WEND presents five songs loosely collected around this concept but with meaning on multiple levels. Rose Brokenshire, singer-songwriter from Toronto, Canada sings with crystalline clarity. Her songs are for a quiet mood, building their magic out of the nuances of simple elegance. The first four songs of WEND are like a slow dance that breaks down all resistance. The stunning finale To My Dreams is musical poetry. To those who seek sanctuary and escape from the dissonances of the day, they may follow one into the dreams. The song ends as slightly and subtly as a dream. If you find yourself wanting more, her EP Seeds You Grow is the next stop.
Filip Johansson – Since We Were
Seven Songs for an introspective mood, superbly arranged alternative folk-pop is what Filip Johansson presents with his EP Since We Were. This is Filip’s solo project. His band Dear Sasquatch, reviewed last year at Ragazine, is already something of a legend. That project is on hold while Filip pursues a solo career in London. The EP’s opening track Autumn Leaves really does have an autumn feeling to it, singing of a relationship gone by, just like the passing of the seasons. Song to Eileen and Naive Song continue the legacy of the Dream Academy in sound and spirit, though this could be said of the entire album. Filip’s songs are intimate, honest, unassuming expressions of emotion, emotions we might be hesitant to bare to another person for fear of rejection. It’s difficult to single out a favorite song of the album since the tracks support each other as a complete work. My current favorite is the note on which the album ends, I’m Just a Man with the powerful line “I’m standing here / I’m standing proud / my dreams are loud.” My only complaint about the album is that it isn’t longer.
Emmett – This is Emmett’s New Record
Emmett is Elias Bjerstedt (vocals and acoustic guitar) and Samuel Johansson (backup guitar). Their music transforms me back to my childhood to songs like Take Me Home Country Road and Rocky Mountain High, to the feeling of driving through Kentucky and Tennessee on an odyssey to the Smoky Mountains. I have to keep reminding myself that Emmett are from Malmö, Sweden! Elias has a soulful voice two parts John Denver and one part early Bob Dylan. The accompaniment is gentle. It’s music for a warm summer night, sitting on the back porch with family and friends – Emmett’s Youtube channel is filled with back porch sessions! Trying to select the “best” song is impossible among 11 highlights, but my favorites are Montana and the epic seven minutes long Friends. Forget the city and take a drive through the Appalachian mountains, to another time, to songs of substance, before the genre of folk-country became overloaded with kitsch.
About the author:
Fred Roberts is a contributing editor and music editor of Ragazine.CC. He is an American living in Hamburg, Germany. You can read more about him in About Us.
October 31, 2014 Comments Off on September Americana Releases/Music
Grégory Sugnaux :
A germ of doubt into “classical” sculpture
By Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret
Waves, webbing, truncated shapes : Gregory Sugnaux bends and manipulates the volumes – thicknesses and blocks – and disrupts boundaries between outside and inside. Thus the images are never simple or obvious. Corners bring to mind the torn canvases of Lucio Fontana. Sugnaux, with trapezoidal or other shapes, clearly enjoys betraying moderns values by introducing an element of doubt.
Something always upsets the principles of totality end homogeneity.
The artist has developed his thinking through close contact with artists such Daniela Droz, a precursor of relational aesthetics. Gergory Sugnaux likes to undertake partnerships that challenge sculpture’s symbolic authority. The swiss artist uses variations “on the motif” by making openings. With “support-/surface” Vialat invented the disappearance of the frame and provoked crisis in the apprehension of the material delimitations of painting. This stratagem transposed to the scale of a sculpture kills the question of proportion by the modification of constructive and symbolic hierarchies. Plasticity takes over giving the opus a new identity. The critical mission is what drives his work.
That’s why his sculpture thinking is based on a dialectical principle closely linking ethical and aesthetic orientations in a quest for a human equilibrium, a reality-based hypothesis renewed and further differentiated with each new project that creates poetry of reflection.
About the author:
Jean-Paul Gavard-Perret contributes the On Location/France column to Ragazine. You can read more about him in About Us.
October 31, 2014 Comments Off on On Location/France
© 2014 by Larry Vienneau
Gun National Art
Gun Nation, Under God
America’s Changing Gun Culture
By John Smelcer
I’ll preface this memoir with a few declarations. I’m a teacher, and I’ve been shot. I’m also a coward. In the current political climate, it’s too dangerous to be on either side of the fence when it comes to gun control issues. I’m no martyr. I don’t intend to be buried alive in an avalanche of hate mail. I plan to sit on the fence where it’s safe. What I want to do is to tell you about what I’ve witnessed in my own life in an attempt to discover how and when America’s gun fanaticism began.
This is no call to arms (pun intended).
You can’t turn on the television or radio without hearing about a mass shooting at a school, college, or workplace. It is a sad truth that there have been 75 school shootings since Sandy Hook (yet, amazingly, most gun shows are still held in public school gymnasiums). In response to increasingly frequent news, we have added new words like “active shooter” to our lexicon. Most classrooms now have an emergency plan posted for how to respond to an active shooter on campus.
Television, cinema, rap music, and video games have been scapegoats for America’s increased gun violence.
But I’m not convinced that’s where the blame should fall.
I was born half a century ago during the hot summer of 1963. The Cold War was at its height. President John F. Kennedy wouldn’t be assassinated for half a year. Martin Luther King, Jr. wouldn’t deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington D.C. for another month and a half. And John Wayne still swaggered across the silver screen shooting bad guys by the dozen. It seemed as if every other television show or motion picture was a western or a war movie. Looking back, I’m surprised at how much gun violence I was exposed to in my childhood.
I remember playing Cowboys and Indians or War with neighborhood boys, each of us armed with realistic-looking plastic machine guns and pistols, not like the green, yellow, and orange play guns today. Each came with a limitless supply of ammunition. No need for extra clips or reloading. Up and down our street until supper time could be heard our juvenile skirmishes.
“Bang! Bang! I got you! You’re dead! Here comes the Germans!” (or Japs or Russians; it was, after all, the Cold War) Blast ‘em to hell, Boys!”
Those of us lucky enough even had plastic bazookas and hand grenades.
“Ka-blam! Your legs just got blown off, Jimmy! You can’t run away! Come back here!”
In the absence of plastic grenades, dirt clods served perfectly well. In some ways they were better, especially the way they exploded shrapnel everywhere when they hit the ground.
I fondly recall that I once held back an entire battalion of Nazis all by myself.
Clearly, America in the ’60s and early ’70s was already a gun nation, indivisible from its firearms. And yet there were no mass school shootings or workplace massacres like there are today.
It should be stated from the start that I grew up in Alaska and that I was educated from elementary school through college in that Last Frontier. I’m also a master teacher with twenty-five years of experience in the classroom. In junior high, my brother and I were on the rifle team. Twice a week after school we lugged our .22 caliber target rifles through the school halls to the indoor shooting range for practice (do public schools still have rifle teams?). As far as I recall, no one ever shot anyone else, not even Billy Ackerman who stole my girlfriend, Clancy Monaghan.
In my senior year of high school, during the Reagan years, our school principal knew that I was a marksman and an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting and fishing. In Alaska, many fishermen carry handguns in the event of unexpected, yet not infrequent, close encounters with bears. One day, the principal called me into his office over the school intercom. I wasn’t in any trouble that I knew of — it was my younger brother who usually got called into the principal’s office for fighting or some other infraction — so I entered his office curious to know why I was there.
Mr. Anderson — we’ll call him that because I don’t remember his real name, and I don’t want to get him into trouble (though he’d have to be in his mid-80s by now and long since put out to pasture) — shut the door and closed the blinds that allowed the secretary to see into his office. Our ensuing conversation went something like this:
Principal: You’re probably wondering why I’ve called you into my office?
Teen Me: Well . . . I was wondering. Does it have anything to do with the Playboy Magazine stuffed in the library bookshelves between Plato and Plutarch?
Principal: The wha . . . where?
Teen Me: Nothing. Forget I mentioned it. So, what can I do you for?
Principal: I understand that you are a hunter, that you have guns. Do you have any handguns?
Teen me: Um . . . um (shifting uncomfortably on the chair). You know it’s against the law to buy or own a handgun until you’re twenty-one, right? I mean . . . I’m still in high school.
Principal: Of course I know you’re in high school. I’m the principal. But you see, Mr. Smelcer, I plan to go fishing this weekend, and, well, I need a handgun for bear protection. I was wondering if you had a pistol powerful enough to stop a bear.
Teen Me: I’ll be honest, Mr. Anderson, no pistol is really powerful enough to stop a bear in its tracks.
Principal: Yes, yes. I’ve heard that before. But a handgun is certainly better than throwing rocks or sticks at the bear.
Teen Me: I guess. But before you go out into bear country armed with only a handgun, you should first file down the front site.
Principal: (Perplexed look). Why on earth would I do that?
Teen Me: So it won’t hurt so much when the bear shoves the barrel up your a . . .
Principal: Mr. Smelcer! May I remind you that we are in a school? So, do you or don’t you have a gun I could purchase for such a purpose?
Teen Me: It just so happens that I have a .44 special I picked up somewhere. Now, it’s not a .44 magnum like the one Dirty Harry carried, but it sure beats the hell out of throwing rocks.
Principal: How much would you be asking for such an item?
Teen Me: Hmm. How about $225? I got half a box of shells, which I’ll throw in for free.
Teen Me: Huh?
Principal: You have half a box of shells, not got. Got is not a word, Mr. Smelcer. Here’s what we’ll do. Bring the gun and ammunition to school tomorrow. Keep it hidden in your locker until I call for you during second period. Stop at your locker on the way to retrieve the, hurumph . . . item. If it’s in good condition, I think we can make a transaction.
Teen Me: I only take cash. No checks. Nothing personal.
Principal: Cash will suffice.
The next day went precisely as planned. Mr. Anderson called me on the school intercom to come to his office. Classmates taunted me thinking I was in trouble again (twice in two days). I enjoyed my new bad boy reputation. I stopped at my locker to collect the item to transact as arranged. After entering his office, Mr. Anderson hastily shut the door and closed the blinds. After some chit-chat and examination of the item, he forked over the cash. There was no bill of sale. This story and the accompanying vivid memories are all I have as proof of the veracity of the event.
But that’s not my only guns-in-schools story.
As often as public schools are involved in shootings nowadays, so too are college campuses. Fast forward to my college years only a few years later. Knowing that I worked part-time in a gun store — the very same gun store that sold a rifle to Christopher McCandless of Into the Wild fame — a friend who was a mechanical engineering major asked me to speak to the engineering club on campus about the history and technological evolution of firearms. Several days later, I lugged a pile of revolvers, automatic pistols, and rifles, including several assault rifles, across campus to the classroom where the club met. What a sight I must have seemed! Yet, amazingly, no one called 9-1-1 (In contrast, just the other day a student in my public speaking class at a Midwest university asked me if he could bring a rifle to class for his informative speech. I told him that given the current climate on college campuses, I didn’t think it was a good idea. How times have changed). Nowadays, I’d likely be shot on sight by campus police.
Better to shoot first and ask questions later.
In researching for this article, I asked over a hundred people about their position on gun rights. Aside from the expected reply of “It’s our constitutional right,” a resounding and surprising number said it was our God-given right. Their argument went something like this: God made America, and America made the Constitution; therefore, it’s our God-given right to have guns.
To such remarks, I responded that the Founding Fathers, George Washington included, stated explicitly in handwritten papers that our nation was not born from religious principles whatsoever, to which I’d get perplexed looks as if I had just said that the sky is down. Among those polled, there was a great deal of resistance to the notion of regulating the number of firearms an individual can own at one time. The standard reply was that would be an infringement of our God-given right to pursue our happiness. I pointed out that even Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett probably only had one or two rifles, and single-shots at that.
Where in Bible does it say, “Thou shalt possess guns in plenitude”?
Case in point, a state resoundingly rejected legislation to simply limit gun purchasing to one gun a month —twelve guns a year. I don’t know anyone who buys a pair of shoes every month, and yet voters of that state couldn’t live with the notion that they couldn’t buy more than one gun a month. As Americans, we have the right to own a car and to drive it pretty much anywhere we want. No one really complains when states change speed limits or establish seatbelt laws or laws regarding cell phone use while driving. But try to make the slightest change to gun laws… When did America become so resistant to limitations when it comes to guns?
Every man of conscience declares he would give his life to save a child, whether by jumping in front of a moving vehicle or rescuing a child from a burning building. And yet, unbelievably, these same individuals won’t give an inch to limit guns. I’m a father. I’d give up owning a gun for the rest of my life if it saved a single child, mine or yours. To give a child the chance to live a full life, to experience the world, to marvel, to dream, to love, to have a family…
According to recent data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control, over 31,000 Americans died in 2010 by firearms, 11,078 of them by gun homicide. That translates to 3.6 people per every 100,000 citizens. In contrast, Canada, which has a gun ownership rate approximately the same as other developed nations, reported a firearm-related-death rate of only 0.5 people per 100,000.
Clearly there’s something happening in America.
I didn’t do a very good job staying centered on the fence. I leaned too far in one direction, tipping my hat, so to speak. But I care about this country. I’m a little worried about us and our future. As Americans, can’t we examine our collective psyche and ask ourselves when and how we became so fanatical about guns. Can’t we even entertain the conversation without people going ballistic? What happened to us? How did we end up where we are? And, most importantly, where do we go from here?
About the author:
John Smelcer is the author of over 45 books, including The Trap, The Great Death, Lone Wolves, and Edge of Nowhere. His writing appears in over 400 magazines, including The Atlantic. You can read more about him in About Us, and at www.johnsmelcer.com.
About the illustrator:
Artist Larry Vienneau is Professor of Art and Seminole State University. He has collaborated with John Smelcer on numerous projects over the past twenty-five years.
October 31, 2014 Comments Off on Gun Nation, Under God
LOOPING IN A THUNDERSTORM
by Stephen Poleskie
It was early in the evening but the sun was already beginning to set, as it does in the middle of winter. Despite being at the altitude of 10,000 feet my passengers and I were not having a good view of the sunset as I was on an instrument flight plan and had been flying in and out of clouds for the past half hour. In the clear for a few moments, I could see that the clouds up ahead looked ominously like a building thunderstorm. Radioing the air traffic controller who was monitoring my flight, I identified myself, and asked for weather advisories. I told him that it appeared to me I was now headed directly into a thunderstorm, and would appreciate vectors around it. The controller replied in the negative, saying that he was “not painting any weather” in my direction, and that I should continue on course — “painting” in airplane talk meaning that he had looked at his radar scope and not seen any blips or whatever that looked like a thunderstorm to him. This, of course was in direct contradiction to what I was observing through my windshield in real time, but according to the rules of the game, I was obliged to continue on. Another reason I had to doubt the controller’s diagnosis was that the flight was taking place during the Ronald Reagan Era. Only last year, during the summer of 1981, President Reagan had fired nearly 13,000 air traffic controllers for going on strike. I had no way of knowing if the man I was talking to was a recent hire not fully trained, or perhaps even a temporary filling in.
Thunderstorms are one thing that all pilots are taught to avoid at the risk of their life. So what happens if you inadvertently find yourself in one? As I pointed out in an earlier article; the pilot is the ultimate responsibility for the safety of their flight. However, I also conceded that oftentimes the pilot lacks the information or even the equipment to get out of a dangerous situation that they have not brought on themselves.
We were returning from a trip to the Turks and Caicos, islands out in the Atlantic north of and between Puerto Rico and Haiti. We were in my twin-engine Piper Apache. I was doing the flying. In the right seat, serving as the co-pilot, as she had a pilot’s license, was poet and nature writer Diane Ackerman. In the rear seats were two novelists; my wife Jeanne Mackin, and Paul West, Diane’s husband. As we were at the time all employed by universities the trip, which was a business and pleasure kind of thing, occurred during a school break. We were all making drawings, writing articles and stories, and taking photographs, some of our products would even later appear in the New York Times. The trip down had not been much of a problem, as I recall most of the flight was in good weather. We had stopped in State College, Pennsylvania, to pick up Paul, and then gone on to get Diane, landing at a small airport near William and Mary, where she was a writer-in-residence.
After a pleasant time on Grand Turk, we were retracing our route home. We had overnighted in Nassau, and at the moment our airplane was over North Carolina, heading for Virginia. Keeping to the course I had been told to continue on by the air traffic controller, I found the clouds that now totally enveloped the airplane getting thicker and the ride more turbulent. The rain, which earlier had begun rather like condensed water vapor, now began to beat heavily and could be heard drumming on the wings. As always is my choice when things get rough, I turned off my automatic pilot, preferring to fly the airplane by hand. The clouds that had gone from white to light gray, were now becoming dark green. The airplane appeared to have slipped into a large hole in the mist and was climbing upward at a rapid rate. We were in the center of a building thunderstorm. I got on the radio and reported our condition to air traffic control, as the violent updraft that the airplane was now in was causing me to violate my cruising altitude restriction big time. I had no idea what other aircraft might be in the area also flying blind.
The controller replied that he still wasn’t showing any weather in my area. I asked him if he had an altitude read out on me. He inquired, rather excitedly, why I was climbing at 2500 feet per minute. I replied that I was quite amazed by this myself as this airplane could only climb about 1000 feet a minute with both engines running, and at present both engines were off. I heard a panic in the man’s voice when he realized the significance of my statement. He asked me to repeat what I had just said. Fortunately I was using a headset with a boom mike and a push to talk switch as at that moment my hands were quite busy flying the airplane in the turbulent updraft.
The power of the severe gusts had forced the nose of the airplane to a steep angle. The Lycoming 0-320 engines that drove my Piper Apache were equipped with carburetors, rather than fuel injectors, so the attitude the airplane was at had caused the engines to suffer fuel starvation, forcing them to stop. As I could feel my weight pressing against the back of the seat, I didn’t need to look at the artificial horizon instrument to realize that we were almost vertical. I could sense that slight vibration in the control handle that comes right before a stall. I had only a few seconds to consider my options.
To push the controls forward to lower the nose was not a choice; doing so would probably bring on the stall which would cause the airplane to fall off into an inverted spin. Being an aerobatic pilot I had experienced inverted spins and practiced recoveries, however, my Apache was not an aerobatic airplane and I had no idea how it would respond. Sensing that the airplane was about to fall backwards, I pulled back on the yoke; the airplane now went inverted, as it would be at the top of a loop. Our luggage, which had been stacked neatly on the floor next to the empty fifth seat floated for a second and then landed on the roof. I continued to hold up elevator and the airplane came around and started down the back of the loop. As the nose of the airplane was now pointing at the earth, the luggage came tumbling over on us. With the nose down the engines began to run again. We were completing the downside of the loop at about 190 MPH. My problem now was to recover from the dive and level the airplane without tearing the wings off. As I recall the “never exceed speed” on the Apache was around 235 MPH. I pulled back on the yoke very gently. We were riveted in our seats by the G force as the airplane pulled out of the dive. If the wings were going to come off this was the moment.
In level flight now, I took stock of things. Both engines were running and the airplane was holding together. Diane was picking up charts, pencils and flashlights from the floor. Jeanne and Paul were removing suitcases and overnight bags from their laps. My air traffic controller was calling to see if we were all right and what were my intentions. He even called me “sir” which made me think that he was glad that he hadn’t lost us. I told him that I would like vectors to the nearest airport and he complied. We flew along in darkness and mild turbulence for a few minutes and then were cleared for the approach. The glide slope led us down to the runway just the way it was supposed to. We didn’t see the lights until we were almost at decision height, but we had made it to solid ground, Stallings Field in Kinston, NC.
As soon as I cut the engines, Diane, Jeanne, and Paul leapt from the airplane to the ground and began kissing the pavement. They thanked me for saving their life, but swore they would never get back into my airplane again. Then they hurried off to the general aviation terminal to find a telephone to inquire about hotel rooms, and bus service back up north. I was left alone to take out my flashlight and screwdriver and remove the inspection panels in the bottom of my wing to determine if the wing spar had suffered any damage.
The next day the sun came out, and my passengers, who had found out how long a bus trip would take, got back in my airplane and we were off.
About the author:
Stephen Poleskie is a writer and artist. His artworks are in the collections of numerous museums, including the MoMA and the Metropolitan in NYC, and the Victoria and Albert Museum and Tate Gallery in London. His writing has appeared in numerous journals in Australia, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines, and the UK, as well as in the USA. He has published seven novels, the most recent being Foozle Runs. He lives in Ithaca, NY with his wife the author Jeanne Mackin.
Web site: www.StephenPoleskie.com
October 31, 2014 Comments Off on Now and Then/Steve Poleskie
I’m looking for an oldies rap station…
By Galanty Miller
I truly hope it works out between whichever Kardashian and the next professional athlete she marries./ The only thing we have to fear about clowns is fear of clowns itself./ I go to the bathroom outside because I’m more of a “dog” person./ I would only quit my job if I’m absolutely certain I’m going to win the lottery./ I’m looking for an oldies rap station./ Going to a psychic tomorrow. But I think he might be a scam artist because he just started following me on Twitter./
My patient only has two days to live. I told him, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”/ You know what they say about meth-coated potato chips; Bet You Can’t Eat Just One./ Hey, even a clock is right three times a day. (I own a f**ked up clock.)/ The woman ahead of me in the supermarket aisle took forever because she paid by barter./ I only read articles about naked women for the articles./ I ate an entire plate of pot brownies and got a real sugar high./ There are so many incompetent college students. But they’re protected by the Student Union./
I can’t remember what I ate for breakfast this morning. And yet I can still remember the popular kids from high school./ I’m feeling great because my mortician gave me a clean bill of health today./ (Thanksgiving) Happy Thanksgiving! You know what that means, don’t you? Christmas shopping officially began two and a half weeks ago!/ If Michael Jackson didn’t die, I believe he’d still be alive today./ Today is “Small Business Saturday.” And so I’m going to give my meth dealer a little something extra./ My wife and I hate each other, but we’re staying together for the sake of the children we might eventually have./ I wish we lived in a world where EVERYONE could afford a live-in maid./ We were trapped in a house fire, but it wasn’t uncomfortable because it was a dry heat./
If dog is supposed to be man’s best friend, how come he still hasn’t accepted my friend request?/ I consider myself bipartisan because I’m sexually attracted to both political views./ Condoms: they’re not just for sex./ Thank you for coming to my garage sale. And here’s a garbage bag to carry your purchases./ It’s sad that more American children can name ‘Ronald McDonald’ than can name the President of McDonaldland./ I don’t let my kids watch TV because of all the sex & violence I’m having next to it./ My lucky day! I found 30 million dollar Picasso painting at a garage sale for just 12 million./ My VCR is state-of-the-art./ I don’t believe in “flags.” My allegiance is to the Pledge./ I only send Facebook friend requests to people I may know./ We don’t want the kids eating junk food. That’s why my wife and I keep all the snacks in our bedroom./ My New Year’s resolution is to drink beer and kick ass. And we’re almost out of beer./ For just a few dollars a day, you can help a starving African child buy lottery tickets./ If the plural of “person” is “people,” then shouldn’t the plural of “purse” be “peep”?/
I’m starting to think that Prince Charles will NEVER become king of beers./ My girlfriend and I have agreed to see and get engaged to other people./ I tried “speed dating” and it actually went pretty well. I picked up my date, took her to dinner, & had sex all in under 15 minutes./ “Maybe we SHOULD let the witch have the ruby slippers since they ARE her property,” said the only munchkin with a conscience/ Why can’t all of our different Gods just co-exist peacefully?/ My friends always have my back… as long as my back has money they can borrow./ I constantly warn my kids about the dangers of smoking pot without a prescription./ I think it would be a much better world if everyone stopped having children./ My mom keeps nagging me to find a nice girl & fall in love. She doesn’t care about my happiness; she’s just tired of being a teapot./ Not counting ‘Norbit,’ name the best movie you’ve ever seen./
There are literally billions and billions of people on the planet who will never love you./ There’s never an inappropriate time to smoke crack because it’s always 3 in the morning SOMEWHERE in the world./ I like to go to the zoo and watch the people at the concession stand./ Only God should be able to take a human life, which He does millions of times a day./ I have several emails in my inbox from friends asking me to help them move. Or as I call it: “my spam folder.”/ You know what you never hear? “You’re never too old to wear a Speedo.”/ I don’t understand why people would want to alter their minds by using drugs… is one of the many thoughts I have while high./ I don’t have an accent, but it’s very thick./ My kid got beat up by your honor student. (My kid is dumb AND a pussy.)/
My son is allergic to peanuts. So during family meals, he has to leave./ I hope I never become famous because I hate my fans./ Enjoy this tweet, but take some time to think about the millions of children in poverty who don’t have access to it./ They say when you have sex with someone, you’re never more than six degrees from Kevin Bacon./ Statistic: “Leggo my Eggo!” triggers approximately 10 murders per year./ Are you in the Middle Class? Here’s how to calculate your wealth; (Your Income + Your Assets minus Your Debt) x Zero = Your Wealth/
If celebrities’ children hate the paparazzi so much, how they all want to grow up to become actors?/ I FINALLY finished Leo Tolstoy’s “War & Peace.” Geez, that was a really long movie./ My grandmother died in her sleep. (I waited until nighttime to shoot her.)/ I would never try crystal meth unless it was literally right in front of me./ When drug companies want to test out a new placebo, what do they give the control group?/ At dinner, everyone has to turn off their cell phone so we can have a nice family discussion about what to watch on TV during dinner./ I keep all my ex-girlfriends on speed dial because it’s hard to remember phone numbers when you’re drunk at 3 in the morning./ I’m making a pornographic sex movie. But I had to trim the violence in order to keep the PG-13 rating./ I don’t care what people think about me. I only care what they SAY about me./ I hope my life has a surprise twist ending./ I never show up to work drunk. However, I sometimes *leave* work that way./
If, instead of a prison, the punishment was “an all expense paid trip to Europe for a week,” that would still deter me from committing crime./ Before Twitter, we used to have to send our tweets through the mail./ Don’t make gasoline jokes because I’m dieselly offended./ Why does everything have to be so instant? Take some time to reflect. I’m going to join Eventuagram./ I’m not a big “birthday” person. That’s why I never celebrate my birthday more than 20 or 30 times a year./ I would only consider running for President if my sit-com pilot doesn’t get picked up./ I suffer from a fear of not being afraid of anything./ Hey, if life was easy, they’d call it a slut./ My position on “intelligent design” is still evolving./
True love is never having to feel you’re sorry./ I’ve set the bar low… due to the number of shorter drinkers here tonight./ My wedding day was the happiest day of my life because that’s the day I won 40 bucks on a scratch-off ticket./ I have my privacy settings up so that only friends and friends of friends can receive my unsolicited dick pics./ I received my doctorate in “avoiding the real world by staying in school well past the appropriate age.”/ Never stop believing in yourself unless you’re absolutely sure that you’re a loser./ My magic act requires that the audience closes their eyes a lot./ Kids today have it easy. When I was young, I had to walk three miles in the snow to get my porn./ I have the Constitutional right to do whatever I want./ Open the safe and give me the money! This is a stick-up! Oh, and I’d also like to deposit this check./ I went to a psychic who told me that my house would burn down. I was amazed because there’s no way she could’ve known I was an arsonist./
I tattooed your name on our relationship, but I don’t think it’s permanent./ My friend’s birthday is on 9-11. Every year I wish him a very somber birthday./ I’m filming a documentary about why I’m so unsuccessful. Hopefully, this will be my big break./ I went to a gay dating site. I’m not gay, but I figure everyone always lies on those things, anyway./ Friends are just lovers you’re not attracted to./ If dogs could speak English, they’d probably say “bark” and “woof” a lot./ If I had a time machine, I’d travel 2 seconds into the future to see how this tweet turns out./ I know a guy making a living teaching people how to carry a purse & hammer nails. But what kind of idiot would hire a purse & nail trainer?/ You know what you never hear? “My life is so happy and fulfilled. Hey – let’s go to a nightclub.”/ The food on the plane was terrible! (I brought Taco Bell in my carry-on.)/ My child’s teacher is sick. So I’m having a parent-teacher conference with the sub./ I’m not homeless. Every night I just need a place to crash./
My wife and I won’t let our son play football because he’s so bad at it./ May 11, Mothers Day, Today we’re ALL mothers./ I don’t let my kids use their cell phones at the dinner table… unfortunately, I can’t enforce the rule since we eat separately./ I’m reading a magazine on the plane. I hope the guy sitting next to me takes the hint and starts up a conversation./ According to the home pregnancy kit, my wife is having a baby. But just to make sure, we made an appointment with the Maury Povich show./ When you go in for a job interview, it’s important to ask what kind of “quitting benefits” they offer./ I got out of a speeding ticket by bribing the police officer with my time machine./ It’s better to give than to receive… especially ‘death threats.’/ My loyal friend is an obsessive gun owner, which is why I know he’ll never stab me in the back./ When I was a young boy, I wanted to be a fireman or an astronaut because they get all the best pussy./ ‘Choices’ are simply regrets before the fact./
I found out my wife was cheating on me through Facebook! (Because she changed her relationship status to “cheating.”)/ I allow my children to bully other kids at school as long as they keep their grades up./ I would never let the government take away my gum./ If Lindsay Lohan and the Hulk had a baby together, the baby would constantly be getting smashed./ Every time a matador is brutally gored, an angel gets its wings./ If you are a black cat, is it bad luck to walk in front of a superstitious imbecile?/ The world may never know if OJ Simpson really feels bad about murdering those people./ I hate when teachers stifle creativity. Hence, I tell my students that 2+2= anything they want it to be./ At weddings, they usually sit me at the enemies table./ “Let’s not kid ourselves” is what I said right before we turned on the humans-morphing-into-baby-goats machine./ Laughter *was* the best medicine. But now there’s Prozac./ A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That’s why I judge humanity by Kanye West./ I have an American flag cooking in the oven, but there should be a Constitutional amendment against burning it./
I wanna be a rock star until I reach the age of 28 or I die, whichever comes first./ My fiancé finally got a chance to meet my friends with benefits./ I ask that the media respect my family’s privacy during this difficult time of us being on a reality show./ I’m concerned that my son will grow up to be a serial killer because he’s only 11-years-old and he has already started killing people./ I’m writing 4-hour play about what it feels like to sit in the audience. I hope audiences like it./ I’m listening to a mash-up of Nicki Minaj and Me Screaming For It To Stop./ I wrote a kids joke! QUESTION: How many monsters does it take to change a light bulb? ANSWER: Look under your bed tonight to find out./ It should be illegal to spank your children unless it’s in self-defense./ When I play basketball against Al-Qaeda, I never spot them any points because that’s letting the terrorists win./ I don’t think you’re supposed to interpret televangelist Pat Robertson literally./ I hate you specifically because you’re YOU… but don’t take it personally./
Big Brother may be spying on you. But, when I was a kid, my big sister made me wear dresses. That was worse./ And on the 8th day, God created the dormant alien species that will eventually rise up from the ocean and kill us all./ I started my own religion, but I’m non-practicing./ I’m seeking Donald Trump’s advice on how to be born into money./ I always stand during the National Anthem because it’s impossible to dance while sitting./ I really only need to lose about five or ten pounds. Is there a reality show for that?/ I performed my stand-up act for a group of subatomic particles determined by their invariant mass. It was no laughing matter./ When I was on the operating room table, I saw a white light and an angel who said, “Tell people about this on a talk show.”/ We need to legalize marijuana, or at least make it easier to get./ My nudist colony lets you carry a concealed weapon./
8th Rule Of Fight Club: Clean up after yourself./ When people try to keep you from reaching your dreams, just flip it around and try to prevent them from reaching THEIR dreams./ I’m not very high up on the “liver transplant” list. Not too concerned, though, since I don’t need a new liver./
I’ve spent my life in and out of prison − mostly because I escape a lot./ What’s interesting is that even if people are having a nightmare, they’d still rather sleep in than go to work./ I named my boy “Sue.” That way it will be more convenient if he ever gets a sex change./ Here’s another kids’ joke for adults. QUESTION: Why won’t a grizzly with a flashlight make you fat? ANSWER: It’s a light bear./ My lucky day! I found a 20-dollar bill on the sidewalk. It was just lying there next to the wallet I stole./ I wish people would just leave me alone while I’m bothering them./ Gas prices in Colorado are so high./ I stay healthy by eating at least one fruit a day − or at least one thing that’s fruit *flavored*./ I changed my password to something only honest people would know./ Presidential historians rank Donald Trump as the worst President the nation would have ever had./ According to my job evaluation, I spend too much time goofing off and… ooh, I better get back to work − my boss just came back./
Last night I dreamt that I couldn’t get to sleep. I woke up tired./ I’m not hitchhiking. I just like to give cars the thumbs up./ I hate trying to make conversation with birds of prey because it’s always so hawkward./ My phone number is easy to remember because it’s also my Internet password. So give me a call sometime at 123-4567.
About the author:
Galanty Miller is a contributing humorist to Ragazine.CC, writer for the Onion News Network, and professional joke writer. Read more about him in “About Us.”
October 31, 2014 Comments Off on Galanty Miller/Retweets
In and of Itself:
by Fred Russell
La Moustache (2005), directed by Emmanuel Carrère and adapted from his own novel, is an intriguing film. Call it surrealistic. But what is surrealism? Is it pure and meaningless fantasy, or is it anchored in reality like the dream? I’ve seen it a couple of times and it has stayed with me as few films do.
Marc shaves off his mustache, or so it seems, for no one takes any notice of his new look. This is exasperating, but when he confronts his wife she insists he never had one, and his friends claim he hasn’t had one for 15 years, though he finds a recent picture of himself wearing the mustache. Marc now finds a message from his father on his answering machine but his wife tells him that his father has been dead for a year. She also insists that she doesn’t know who their two best friends are though they had just visited them. Marc then overhears his wife talking to another friend about having Marc committed, for clearly he is delusional, she says. He tries to see his mother but cannot find his childhood home and the familiar telephone number does not exist. Marc now retrieves his passport, which shows him with a mustache, and flies to Hong Kong, where he regrows it after spending some time in a Chinese village. When he returns to his hotel he finds his wife in his room as though they had been vacationing together all the while. She then asks him to shave off the mustache so that she can see what he looks like without it. He does so and she is pleased.
No one has really succeeded in deciphering the film. Some have called it symbolic. Some find the theme of identity in it, and there is indeed something to be said for an interpretation that revolves around the idea of the tenuousness and circumstantiality, the fragility, of human identity, which can be lost in an instant. I think, however, that the film is more in the mode of Alain Robbe-Grillet, that is, meaningless outside its own reality and reference points. In effect, it obliterates the time of the world and demonstrates its disjunction vis-à-vis inner time.
For clearly the film plays against the idea of time. Marc and his wife inhabit two different temporal universes, even parallel universes. In Marc’s universe he shaves off the mustache that he has always worn and his father is still alive. He inhabits a time that has passed, with a link to the present via the people who surround him. When he communicates with them it is from out of this earlier time. In reality, however, such a condition cannot exist unless someone really is delusional. This is not the film’s intention. Marc is not crazy and his wife is not out to drive him crazy. Not being able to find his childhood home underscores the fact that he has stepped out of reality. His time is not really linked to any reality. It is residual in that it bears with it traces of an earlier time but not all of it.
Linear time, however, is not the only time there is. It is the time of the physical and historical world, but it is not the time of the inner world. The mind invokes temporal events in whatever order suits it, or associatively in a subconscious process. This is lateral rather than progressive or chronological time, where all events have equal temporal value. Surrealism never seeks to explain itself. It creates worlds that are extensions of what we consider the real world and follow their own logic. La Moustache is such a film, intriguing only insofar as we wish to know what it means, but in and of itself it is nothing more than a demonstration of how two discordant systems of time are tenuously embedded in human consciousness.
About the reviewer:
Fred Russell is the pen name of an American-born writer living in Israel. His novel Rafi’s World (Fomite Press), dealing with Israel’s emerging criminal class, was published in Feb. 2014 and his stories and essays have appeared in Third Coast, Polluto, Fiction on the Web, Wilderness House Literary Review, Ontologica, Unlikely Stories: Episode 4, Gadfly, Cultural Weekly, In Parenthesis, etc. A second novel, The Links in the Chain, a thriller set in New York with an Arab-Israel background, is also due out in 2014.
October 31, 2014 Comments Off on FILM REVIEW: La Moustache (2005)
It was a dark and stormy night when he ran up against Writer’s Block. “I should have had fewer children,” he thought, as multiple lightning strikes outside his fogged-up window failed to spark his imagination…
Successful Writers’ Secrets
by Mark Levy
This year’s Best American Mystery Stories anthology just arrived in the mail. In addition to the 20 best stories themselves, this issue of Best American Mystery Stories includes short biographical notes about the authors. I decided to read the bios first, since my attention span is even shorter than a short story. My hope was that I could find something most published mystery writers have in common. This would give me a clue as to what makes a writer successful. Needless to say, I had an ulterior motive for learning and applying that secret.
Sure enough, the answer leapt out at me like a bloody dagger at a crime scene. A number of authors stated they are married and have a son or daughter. The writers who didn’t mention the number of children they had might have had more or less than one kid apiece. Whatever the case, they decided not to mention that fact in their bio. Of the writers who mentioned having a family, only the ones with a single child declared themselves.
The authors had different socioeconomic backgrounds and came from different locations in the U.S. and Canada. They were ethnically diverse and represented both genders. In fact, except for writing the best stories of the year, they seemed to have nothing in common, but for the fact that some of them are the parent of an only child. I decided to investigate other writers to see how prolific they were, progeny-wise.
While Googling the topic, I discovered that Lauren Sandler, who wrote a book about children without siblings titled, ONE AND ONLY, had also already written an essay for The Atlantic magazine, observing that many women writers, like Susan Sontag, Joan Didion, and Mary McCarthy, have only one child. There you have it. Ms. Sandler preempted me. And here I thought I was the first to discover the secret of literary success.
What a surprising but simple characteristic successful writers have in common. The key to being a proficient writer is not necessarily one’s formal education, or books one reads on writing, or where or when one writes every day, or how quickly one writes, or whether one prepares an outline prior to writing, or what one drinks and how much.
Success is based not only on an extraordinary ability to create a plot, or develop characters, or produce conflict, or rewrite a piece over and over and over, as I used to suspect, but merely on parenting one and only one child.
Lauren Sandler seems to think it may be that fewer children provide a smaller distraction for their writer parent. Or maybe the money a person saves by raising only one child — as opposed to a bunch of them — can be used to hire a babysitter.
Of course not every famous writer followed this practice. Norman Mailer and his nine children come to mind. Now Mailer had six wives, but that still averages 1.5 children per wife. You know what they say: It’s the exception that proves the rule.
Interestingly, some very good writers were only children themselves. I’m thinking of E.M. Forster, Ezra Pound, Hans Christian Anderson, John Updike, Lillian Hellman, and Jean-Paul Sartre. I’m not sure what that shows, except Google is really an excellent vehicle for discovering trivia, useful or otherwise.
This brings me to my struggle to become a famous novelist whose books are made into blockbuster Hollywood movies before they’re even published. My major mistake was having too many children. I have two daughters when I should have had one.
I should have evaluated whether a fulfilling life with two or more beautiful, loving, talented, accomplished daughters outweighs a career, say, as a potential Nobel Prize-winning author. That’s like saying would I rather have a cut body with an incredible six pack or be President of the United States; or would I rather have a full head of hair or be the first astronaut on Mars? It’s one of my many regrets, as you can imagine, that I can’t have great abs and luxurious hair and be the first President to visit Mars.
Now I can’t guarantee that my life would have been different if I had limited my number of children, but at least I can fantasize where I’d be if I had only one beautiful, loving, talented, accomplished daughter instead of a backup for her.
Ah well, unless I want to jeopardize my chances for visiting Mars, it’s probably too late to do anything about that now.
About the author:
Mark Levy is Ragazine.CC’s “Casual Observer.” He is a lawyer, lives in Florida, and is an occasional contributor to National Public Radio where his columns can be heard some Saturdays around noon. You can read more about him in “About Us.”
October 28, 2014 Comments Off on Casual Observer/Mark Levy