A few nights ago, during my closing shift as a delivery driver, I was traveling down an ill lit stretch of road when I, momentarily, thought I saw a large (like golden retriever large) RABBIT run across the road in front of my car…
Perhaps I was experiencing a bit of MICROSLEEP… It was almost 11:00 P.M., and I was getting pretty damn tired. I THINK what happened was a beam from a dim streetlight hit my dirty windscreen (I never wash the damn car, though I probably should), and the pale, orange light slid across the semi-foggy window surface, just as I was half-drifting into a microsleep state, and my mind interpreted the light as a giant rabbit running across the road in front of the car…
I jumped in my seat, half applied the breaks, then realized that there was nothing ACTUALLY THERE, (or perhaps it WAS a giant ghostly or interdimensional bunny that I was only able to perceive for a few seconds), and—breathing a bit quicker than seconds before—I continued my drive back to the pizza shop…
But now, definitely more awake, I was LOOKING for rabbits. Every bush, every shadow in every alley I passed, every ruffled curtain in every darkened window was another bunny. I was PRIMED to experience the mysterious…
And when I reached the next stop light, I grabbed my pocket notebook from the passenger seat and wrote, “I’m seeing rabbits!!!” in big scrawly letters on the page. (It was my only entry for that particular day.)
So, in a few years, when I end up in the courts pleading for my right to walk the streets as a free man, and not spend the rest of my life in an institution, and the STATE enters my pocket notebook as evidence for my mental instability, specifically the note written on 22 Aug. ’19, when I claimed, “I’m seeing rabbits!!!”, maybe one of you can testify in my defense and explain that I KNOW it was just an hypnogogic hallucination and not the onset of a mental breakdown… If you could do that for me, it would be great!
(And let’s just hope they don’t find the note I’ve carried around in my wallet for the last several years that reads, “The squirrels are gathering!” That one’s a bit harder to explain…)
—Richard F. Yates (Holy Fool)
[P.S. – The image is colored Sharpie and silver paint pen on reclaimed cardboard with digital embellishments and color manipulation. 2019.]
Wow… It’s been THREE MONTHS since my last playlist. Time seriously flies once you get to a “certain age.” (I don’t know if I’m even having that much FUN! I mean, I AM, for certain, enjoying being a grandpa and making art and writing stories and listening to music—but literally, as I type this, I’m sitting with an icepack on my back. I threw my spine out of whack yesterday—get this—opening the dishwasher! Not fighting a crocodile or lifting a flipped car off a trapped driver or hurling a nuclear warhead at an asteroid threatening to pulverize the Earth… Just opening the freakin’ dishwasher!!! “What does this have to do with MUSIC?” you might be asking. And I’ll answer, “Screw you! It’s my blog, and I want to write about my hurt back! The fact that this is the only post I’m going to have time to write today, and it happens to be a MUSIC PLAYLIST, just means you get a little EXTRA with your tunes! So shaddup!!”)
So, it’s been three months since my last playlist. That’s too long. I’ve been LISTENING to lots of music, but I’ve spent so much time writing and arting (and working on webby stuff) that I’ve neglected my music lovin’ followers. Sorry! Let’s remedy that right now.
Lately, I’ve been watching this fellow on YouToob, Todd in the Shadows, who does these great music reviews, including a recurring segment that he calls, “One Hit Wonderland.” What I LIKE BEST about these videos is his wide ranging, non-genre specific tastes. He covers ‘80s new wave, he covers ‘90s pop, he covers ‘60s psychedelic tunes, he covers’ ‘70s soul singers…along with some modern reviews of current hits. I appreciate that eclectic, open selection, and additionally, he’s funny—which goes a long way in my book. Some of the “one hit wonder” bands that he covers are also some of my favorite performers (Butthole Surfers, Wall of Voodoo, Thomas Dolby, Dexys Midnight Runners, Dead or Alive, Falco…), and even though those bands mean a LOT more to me than their single Top 40 hit, it’s pretty cool that he’s keeping their memories alive (even if he doesn’t always “like” the band! Come on Todd! Wall of Voodoo are AWESOME!!! They just take a bit of getting used to…) But give his channel a look if you want some nice, extensive dives into some great and (regrettably) sometimes forgotten or overlooked GEMS!
Meanwhile, inspired by Mr. In-the-Shadow’s OPEN selection process, and IGNORING genre restrictions and eras completely, I’ve put together a list of 51 great freakin’ songs that are mostly upbeat and fun, and a bit ALL OVER THE PLACE. I’ve got country and techno-country, lounge and punk and pop and dance and industrial and goth and yacht rock and indie-pop and hip-hop and nu-rave and ska and goofy novelty cuts—and lest we forget that it exists, that one time where an upcoming rap band and a famous but flagging rock group got together (thanks to producer, Rick Rubin) and created a weird, super-fun, RAP-ROCK cross-over hit! (Remember that? When Run-DMC and Aerosmith made a remake of “Walk This Way” together? That was great stuff!)
I love all of these songs…
Hopefully, there will be a couple tracks in here that are new to you, and maybe a few that you’ll actually enjoy. (I’ll try not to let three months slide by before doing my next playlist!) But, in the meantime, give this mix a try… (Oh, by the way, the first cut in this mix is the album version of “Wot” by Captain Sensible—who started his career as the bass player for first-wave British punk band, The Damned, before going wonderfully insane—and there is about a minute of noodling and talking before the music actually starts. To ME, this intro is funny. Hopefully, it doesn’t turn too many people off. And, even if you DON’T make it the full THREE AND A HALF HOURS through the playlist, I recommend looking up “Yoda” and giving it a listen. It’s a weird, lounge-punk novelty song by The Punk Group, a Portland, Oregon, synth-punk comedy band who I’ve seen live a few times. They’re brilliant and offensive and weird, and this cut is HILARIOUS!!!)
Another interesting note… I have been looking for the song “Got to Keep On” by Cookie Crew since 1990, when I first heard this weird mix called “The Brit’s 1990 Dance Medley,” which played on a local radio rebroadcast of a show called Rock Over London. I eventually found the 12” single for the medley, which is AWESOME and I love it, but there is, at best a 30 or 40 second snippet of Cookie Crew in that mix… Finally, just a few weeks ago, TWENTY NINE YEARS after I started looking for this song, I got my hands on a USED copy of Cookie Crew’s album, Born This Way, on CD. The rest of the album is pretty fun (if you like things in the L’Trimm or Edelweiss or Mel & Kim sort of vein—which I do!), but “Got to Keep On” is THE SHIT! Nearly three decades of searching, and it was worth EVERY PENNY I spent to get that one track. (Good luck trying to find your own copy!)
Okay, let me get out of the way already and LET THE MUSIC PLAY! (Dang… I wish I’d put THAT on here… Remember “Let the Music Play” by Shannon? It was a funky, electro, r&b breakdance hit back in the ‘80s… Shit… I’m doing it again… Quit reading my ramblings and just go listen to the music already!!!)
[To hear this mix, for free, in its entirety, (if for some reason you can access the PLAYER that’s supposed to be right about this paragraph) you can visit the 8tracks playlist on the site itself. You don’t even have to download anything. Just hit “play.”]
“51 Tons…I Mean Tunes…” (Playlist) selected by Richard F. Yates (Holy Fool) Approx. 3 hours, 38 minutes
Captain Sensible – “Wot”
Fishbone – “Everyday Sunshine”
Phantoms – “Be Just Fine”
The Neon Judgement – “TV Treated (DJ Hell Remix)”
Jan & Dean – “Sidewalk Surfing”
Praga Khan – “The Power of the Flower”
Wolfsheim – “Find You’re Here”
Clan of Xymox – “Jasmine and Rose”
The Strangeloves – “I Want Candy”
The Associates – “Green Tambourine”
A3 – “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness”
Tennessee Ernie Ford – “Sixteen Tons”
Me First and The Gimme Gimmes – “One Tin Soldier”
Hepcat – “No Worries”
Blues Image – “Ride Captain Ride”
The Slits – “Ping Pong Affair”
Freezepop – “Less Talk More Rokk (Guitar Hero 2 Mix)”
Moonlight Matters – “Come for Me (feat. Gustaph) (Punks Jump Up Freestyle Remix)”
Le Castle Vania – “Tigertron (feat. Factory Aire)”
Alphaville – “Forever Young (Hamel Album Mix)”
The Crytal Method – “Keep Hope Alive (MSTRKRFT Remix)”
Depth Charge – “Shaolin Buddha Finger”
Alex Chilton – “With a Girl Like You”
The Clash – “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais”
New Order – “Face Up”
The Presets – “My People”
Atari Teenage Riot – “Midijunkies”
Cookie Crew – “Got to Keep On”
Eurythmics – “Beethoven (I Love to Listen)”
Bloc Party – “Flux (JFK Remix)”
The Cribs – “Men’s Needs (CSS Remix)”
Echo & The Bunnymen – “People are Strange”
Dexys Midnight Runners – “Show Me”
Fake Blood – “Mars”
Esquival – “Latin-Esque”
Yello – “Electrified II”
They Might Be Giants – “Purple Toupee”
Nitzer Ebb – “Murderous”
The Prodigy – “Need Some1 (Jim Pavloff Remix)”
Fugazi – “Waiting Room”
The Magnetic Fields – “Long-Forgotten Fairytale”
Nena – “Just a Dream”
Killing Joke – “Follow the Leaders”
Crimpshrine – “Summertime”
Ministry – “Over the Shoulder (12” Version)”
Blur – “Under the Westway”
Grant Lee Buffalo – “Mockingbirds (Original 4-Track Demo)”
The Virgins – “Love is Colder Than Death”
Basslovers United – “Basket Case (DJs from Mars Remix)”
Run-DMC – “Walk This Way (feat. Aerosmith)”
The Punk Group – “Yoda”
Yeah—that’s a FUN playlist. I lean pretty heavy on the “alternative” quadrant of music, but I’m happy with the mixture. It’s a nice, upbeat, energetic selection (some songs heavier than others, a few dip a bit into more moody territory, but even those cuts are cool—and I think they work with the other selections.) I’m a fan of the “train-wreck” transition, too. Gotta keep the folks guessing!!!
Alright, that’s me for today. The artwork, as always, was mine—a digital drawing made in the free “Paint” program that came with my laptop. Thanks for visiting!
So—as an artist and a writer, it’s important to know how to manage your time properly, right? Am I right???
And, knowing that I have half a dozen projects in the works, I probably spent this weekend working on new paintings or editing one of the books I’m trying to complete or finalizing the rules for the R.P.G. I’m creating or reading a new novel or comic for my next review (which is what most folks REALLY like from me—sorry they take so long to finish! I’m a slow reader!!!) or doing something equally productive and useful—right? Surely, I didn’t just fritter away my weekend… (Yeah, yeah, I know, “Don’t call me ‘Shirley.'”)
Nope. I played Minecraft… For HOURS!
The weird thing is that I never really played the game much before. Maybe a few times a couple of years ago (mostly on Xbox 360), but the younger daughter and I have been watching a few well known YooToob personalities who have been playing Minecraft lately, and it looked like fun (again.)
As it turns out, the game IS fun!
But WHY is it so entertaining? What is it about the game that makes it so enjoyable? I’ve thought about it for quite some time, and I’ve come to a tentative conclusion, (partially to explain to my wife why I’ve had my nose buried in a laptop screen for two full days!)
When I was a kid, my favorite toys (besides books and records, which I’ve always loved) were the ones where you MADE stuff: Legos and Lite Brite and Robotix and Capsela and Spirograph and Micronauts and even Lincoln Logs and Tyco race tracks (you could combine several different sets and make these weird, looping, tracks…) I liked using the toys to CREATE…
And in Minecraft, you can BUILD to your heart’s content!
Sure, there’s adventuring, and taming animals, and growing crops, and robbing nearby villages, and fighting monsters, and blah, blah, blah—but those aren’t the parts of the game I like. I go mining, but only to quarry enough cobblestone (one of the most common materials in the game) to make my weird, castle-like structures. I don’t care about conquest or getting rich or defeating the big monsters, I enjoy the building!
I started by making just enough of a hut to survive through the night, and then I started expanding—adding rooms, building UP, making staircases and oddly shaped balustrades and connecting various structures with bridges. Then—and this is where I really started to have fun—I started adding torches and trying to create creepy lighting effects.
For those who have never played the game, Minecraft has an accelerated TIME frame (one full day/night cycle lasts about 20 minutes!) During the day, your character is relatively safe and can move around the landscape harvesting resources, interacting with animals and villages, and building in peace. At NIGHT, however, the MONSTERS come out.
At first, this is frustrating because if you haven’t crafted any weapons, or a house (or some kind of shelter), then the monsters WILL KILL YOU! Makes it hard to build stuff if you’re dead. However, once you’ve got a nice, safe house and some protective items (armor, weapons, a shield, etc.), walking around at night isn’t so scary—AND it’s when all the torches and campfires and landscape lighting that I’ve built look the coolest…
Here are just a couple photos of what I’ve built, so far. (I don’t know how to take a screenshot, yet, so I took these images of my laptop screen with my phone. Sorry about the glare from the window behind me!)
[Ha! I just realized you can see my Greatest American Hero t-shirt in these photos!]
I don’t know how to do anything FANCY, yet, but I’m having fun building my own, personal amusement park. I love the look of the torches glowing on the ground… And there’s even a moon that comes up and glows behind the buildings sometimes… It all looks very cool (to me) and especially odd with all the wild animals wandering around the grounds!
I THINK I can even learn (eventually) how to tint glass different colors in the game, then I can create a GIANT Lite Brite building and make some truly crazy designs… (I’ll do an update when I get something cool, like that, built.)
It’s maybe not REALLY art, to some folks, but it LOOKS like art to me! (It’s VIRTUALLY art, right? And in a digital world, virtual art becomes JUST ART! Right?) I think, and other folks will undoubtedly know if this is possible, I can send invites to folks to visit my Minecraft “world,” once it’s fancy enough for me to want to share it, and they can come run around in my amusement park—I could even call it a VIRTUAL GALLERY SPACE—and see all the stuff I’ve made…eventually…if I can figure out how to do it…once I’m ready…
And THAT’S why I spent the last two days playing Minecraft. It was fun, and I got to create a little virtual world! My creations aren’t as fancy as some of the Minecraft worlds I’ve seen—but I’m just getting started. Learning, experimenting, seeing what I can do with this toy, and so far, it looks like I’ll be able to do a LOT!
—Richard F. Yates (Holy Fool—and Old-School Gamer!)
I’ve been sort of dreading this review, and the main reason for my apprehension is that I’m going to have to admit something that I rarely enjoy admitting: I don’t think I GET this book. It’s a novel, which is great, and it’s a science-fiction novel, which is also great. I love science fiction. Great times two, so far. And it’s a very WEIRD book—which should be fantastic. I LOVE weird books. I’m a fan of Philip K. Dick, Robert Sheckley, Jorge Borges, Italo Calvino, Stanislaw Lem, H.P. Lovecraft, Rod Serling, and Robert Anton Wilson… I’m certainly no stranger to the WEIRD STUFF. Heck, I’ve even reviewed the Principia Discordia, a “bible” for a religion that worships Eris, the goddess of Chaos. I feel very at home, when it comes to weird… But THIS book, by Michael Moorcock… I didn’t really get it… Come with me now, on a strange journey, to see why I THINK I didn’t love The Final Programme…
[This is a photograph that I took of the actual digital book that I read. The image is included for review purposes only!]
Michael Moorcock – The Final Programme (1968 / 2016)
First off, I want to mention that I’d heard of Michael Moorcock before reading this book—he’s a well respected British author who is often associated with the “New Wave” science fiction movement of the 1960s, primarily because he was the editor of New Worlds magazine, the semi-official HUB of ‘60’s British “New Wave” sci-fi, and he used his position to publish some interesting stuff by folks like J.G. Ballard (who became a pretty damn big deal, eventually, especially to future punk and new wave musicians! Check out the definitive look at post-punk and new wave music, Simon Reynold’s Rip It Up and Start Again, for more information on THAT tangent…) Moorcock is also incredibly well known for his high fantasy novels starring the character, Elric—but I don’t read much fantasy, and I’ve never read any of his Elric books.
So, why did I pick this up in the first place? Quick answer: I saw a humorous review of the film version of the book and thought it looked like it might be fun. One of my favorite YouToob reviewers is Brandon Tenold, who looks mainly at weird, cult films—and a few years back he did a review of this 1973 British psychedelic, sci-fi, spy film, based on The Final Programme, and he said the movie was pretty bad—but really weird. I laughed quite a lot at his review, and the movie seemed strange enough that I thought, “I should read the BOOK this movie is based on. I love strange stuff, so it should be right up my alley!” Then I forgot about it… BUT, a few months ago, I got a gift card from somebody for something, and I was looking around for some new digital books to buy (I read stuff on my Kindle at night, so I don’t have to turn a light on and wake my wife up when I have insomnia—which is pretty frequently… I get a LOT of reading done at night.) For whatever reason, maybe I’d rewatched Tenold’s review of the movie, I can’t remember for sure, I looked up Moorcock’s novel, and sure enough, there was a digital version available.
What I didn’t know is that the book is only part one of a FOUR PART series, and (after reading the introduction to this book—but before reading the novel itself) I discovered that the books in the series can be read in any order because the stories are only RELATED to each other, like alternate universe retellings of the same story or something. And I thought that might be pretty cool, like when Samuel Beckett (another wonderful purveyor of the WEIRD) told basically the same story TWICE in his books Molloy and Malone Dies. And so, excited because of Brandon Tenold’s humorous review of the movie version, and thanks to Moorcock’s reputation as an avant-garde writer, AND prompted by the possibility that I might be about to discover a science fiction version of Samuel Beckett…I READ The Final Programme… And I went, “Huh?”
There have been several books that I’ve read more than once before writing my reviews. In the case of a book like JMR Higgs’ KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money, that second reading was a real delight—I’ve read THAT book four times now, and I’ve enjoyed reading it every time. Some books, however, like The Final Programme, I read more than once just so I could figure out what was going on. (Another example of this type of re-reading would be Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy—which, once I got a handle on what they were doing, I absolutely LOVED.) But having read Moorcock’s book twice, I’m still not sure, exactly, what I’m supposed to GET out of it… So let’s stop beating around the book and dive in.
The novel was published in 1968, right in midst of the Swinging London Psychedelic movement, and as such this book is FULL of sex and drugs and rock and roll—and I’m fine with all that. I don’t mind bad language, the violence was often senseless, which was great, the primary character was morally ambiguous, often leaning towards the downright evil, and I’m fine with that too… So far, we’re firing on all pistons. Aaaaand so, let’s meet the star of the show: Jerry Cornelius.
Jerry Cornelius is your typical pulp hero. He’s a physicist, rock-star, fashion-model, billionaire assassin, who had an incestuous love affair with his sister, and is ALSO a psychic vampire—LITERALLY. The narrator mentions this at the beginning of the book—Cornelius FEEDS on the people around him, and this even becomes a major plot-point later in the book. Jerry (you don’t mind if I call him, Jerry, I hope…) Jerry, early in the book, is contacted by a Miss Brunner and her gang of scientist / social engineers, to help them break into Jerry’s deceased father’s heavily guarded fortress and steal some scientific information (in microfilm form) that Miss Brunner hopes to use to complete some strange project that she’s working on. A project that, she says, will save the world. The problem is that Jerry’s father’s property has fallen into the hands of Jerry’s psychotic, drug-addicted brother, Frank, who is also keeping Jerry’s sister, Catherine (with whom Jerry had the affair), hostage. What Jerry very quickly deduces, however, is that Miss Brunner isn’t exactly human—but he agrees to help her and her cronies storm the castle, primarily (we assume) so that he can rescue his sister…
Honestly, there are some very entertaining moments in this book, and some seriously thrilling action sequences, which are comparable to some of the most exciting scenes in that one James Bond book that I read. The novel is also pretty funny in spots… There’s one scene in which Jerry throws a party to let off some steam, (and presumable to syphon off some psychic energy), and his raging party ends up lasting for SEVERAL MONTHS, with people dying and the caterers demanding more money because they are having trouble keeping up with the insatiable appetites of Jerry’s guests—that’s all great stuff!
So my problem with this book isn’t with the humor, or the action, or with the drugs and violence and sex, or even with the twisted morality of the entire book… The problem that I have with the book is this weird MALAISE that saturates the whole thing. This sense that, regardless of what’s happening in the plot, NOTHING SEEMS TO MATTER… It was all of little to no consequence, to the reader, perhaps, but for Jerry Cornelius, for certain. It’s all nothing… A complete emotional wash…
During the attempt to save his sister from his drug addled brother, Frank, Jerry ends up KILLING Catherine when one of his “needle gun” shots misses his brother and goes through his sister’s heart, instead. (She’s lying in a bed, while Frank is trying to run away, so how Jerry’s shot “missed” by so much, we can only speculate.) But, even though we’ve been led to believe that Jerry loves his sister, he doesn’t really seem to care that much that he’s just killed her. People die at his party, and he’s just upset that they’re ruining the atmosphere. He has a brief affair with a scientist, Dr. Hira, early in the book, but seems uninterested in him when they meet later in the novel. He has a bandmate that he performs with in a bar early in the book, and he later kills that same bandmate, but doesn’t seem too broken up over it. Jerry just seems…BORED…no matter how weird the story gets, no matter how horrible what he is doing becomes—Jerry is just there… The only thing that seems to affect him, like honestly BOTHER him, is when he is isolated for several months working on “The Final Progamme” with Miss Brunner in a cave. He becomes so despondent that Miss Brunner eventually sends him away, telling him to go interact with some people for a while—because, as a psychic vampire, Jerry needs to feed—and after hitchhiking a ride with a couple of college students, and having seduced them both, he basically leaves them bone dry of psychic energy by the side of the road and steals their car! After doing this, Jerry starts to feel much better—and heads off looking for his next sexual adventure in his stolen ride…
All of that said, it’s the ENDING of the book where things really fall apart for me—and I’m not going to say what happens because somebody MIGHT still want to read this depraved, drug-soaked, psychedelic, goofy, amoral, sci-fi, spy-thriller, sex comedy, and I wouldn’t want to spoil it for them, but let me say this: I didn’t GET IT. I read the damn book TWICE, and I still don’t get it. Now, there are THREE MORE BOOKS in the series, and if I were to read those, then MAYBE the ending to this book would make more sense—The Illuminatus! Trilogy is like that; reading the first two books I was mostly just confused, (DEEPLY entertained, but confused), but the third book in the series tied things up REALLY well, so that all of the books work together to tell a COMPLETE story. I’m glad I didn’t give up, but it was easy to keep reading because the books were so fun, even if they didn’t seem to make sense. However, I didn’t actually enjoy The Final Programmeenough to want to read three more books just to (hopefully) get some resolution… (Does that make me lazy?)
So that’s The Final Programme, a weird book by a well-respected author written right in the middle of the psychedelic awakening in Britain. It has some good action sequences, some funny scenes, and lots of odd and interesting concepts to chew on (like one scene where Jerry is attacked by “The Crowd,” which seems to be an amalgam creature made up of a great many normal folks who have somehow become psychically glommed together into a single, evil, hive mind that is housed in all those people’s separate bodies… It’s odd, but a genuinely creepy encounter.) The dialog, which is full of witty banter, often comes across as rather clunky to me—sometimes hard to follow, as I frequently had trouble understanding how the characters’ emotions suddenly changed from ironic playfulness and snark to genuine anger. The TONE was either inconsistent or I just had trouble following it. But my main gripes are with Jerry Cornelius’s apathy and with the conclusion to the novel, which we, as readers, have been pushed towards since Jerry was first recruited by Miss Brunner’s group at the beginning of the book. “The Final Programme!” All that build up…
And thus, if you want to read something weird, and you have a soft spot for morally ambiguous characters, I seriously recommend that you read… Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson’s The Illuminatus! Trilogy, which is freaking hilarious and bizarre and trippy. And then, if you want to read something else, I guess you could try The Final Programme and see if you like it any better than I did. (Or just go watch Brandon Tenold’s review of the film version…although the ending of the film that he mentions in the review is NOT the same as the ending in the book.) Maybe, if you get to the end of the novel and it makes complete sense TO YOU, you can give me a comment and let me know what I missed… I mean, I understand the PLOT. I can picture in my head what is happening—I just don’t know WHY Moorcock imagined THAT ending to the story was going to be emotionally or intellectually satisfying… What am I supposed to have LEARNED or FELT when the story was over???
Anyway, that’s enough complaining from me… I’m gonna go enjoy one of the simple pleasures of life—and play some Asteroids…
—Richard F. Yates (Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FOLKS WHO ARE JUST MAKING STUFF BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT!!!
I’ve made “BAD” digital art for a long time…in fact, since I got my first Apple IIc back in 1983 or 1984. (Back then, it was all VECTOR graphics, and I used Basic or Pro-Basic to write programs that would make these little “lines” move around the screen. It was exciting and new (although some of that old “computer art” looks a bit primitive today… Just a bit…) I had fun playing around with computers for a few years, but by 1986, I had discovered skateboarding and music (and girls), and I didn’t really mess with that old computer anymore…although I remember we did get some fancy stuff, like a Commodore 64, and then a 128, when I was in high school—but my younger brothers used those machines more than I did. I was busy skating around town and writing my thoughts in little notebooks, and drawing terrible ink sketches. (I still have these notebooks. They are BAD…) By 1993, my girlfriend (now wife) and I had a kid…and maybe a year later, my Grandma and Grandpa cosigned for us so that we could buy a Radio Shack Tandy 486sx with a CD-ROM drive and a dial-up phone modem! (So fuckin’ fancy!!!) For the very first time, we were ONLINE!!!
Fast forward a few more years, and Mariah and I acquired a digital camera, and I started taking photos and manipulating them in various freeware art programs. (I was playing catch-up, as graphics had come a LONG way since the Apple II days. For instance, there was more than one color now!) Around this time, I was also making zines, doing collages, experimenting with acrylic painting and oil pastels, and diving deep into the POSTAL ART scene… I loved all that stuff, especially mail art, because of the reciprocal nature of that scene. You make a piece, you send it to someone (could be anywhere around the globe), and then (if they liked what you sent) they would send something back to you! Mariah and I accumulated quite a collection of postal art over the years… Eventually, however, postage costs got to be too much, and I switched to blogging. This would have been somewhere around 2009 or 2010, although the transition was slow and fuzzy and bled a lot… I still receive the occasional postal art piece in the mail, but I haven’t SENT OUT anything in a few years…
I went back to school to finally get my B.A. in 2003, and I took a class in 2004 called, “Interactive Fiction.” In that class, we had to start a BLOG. I’d never heard of a blog before that, (the word SOUNDS awful to me—like somebody getting sick…), but I liked the freedom that blogging allowed—being able to write about WHATEVER I WANTED… And, with the blogging, I started posting my art online—and since that time, I (no exaggeration) have posted THOUSANDS of pieces (modified photos, digital drawings, and weird hybrid things, even a few animated gifs…) online. I love it. I share a piece of artwork (or a story or rant or music playlist or review) EVER SINGLE DAY. Always. And it’s been great! Keeps me up and moving and creating! And, strangely, even though I draw in a very rough, very PUNK, very NON-COMMERCIAL style, through a couple of my blogs, (primarily the Primitive Entertainment Workshop), I started to develop a bit of buzz, although I obviously never got enough momentum to make the transition from 9 to 5 work to full time creating… It could be argued that I’m not GOOD enough to be a “REAL” artist, but I’m not going to try to defend my artistic ability. I’m going to mention three names, and folks can ignore me or laugh or nod or think I’m full of shit:
Jean Dubuffet, Jean Michel-Basquiat, Cy Twombly.
THEN, around September of last year (2018), I got a note from a guy who said he’d seen some of my artwork on Ello, and he wondered if I’d like to make CRYPTO-ART for this new platform that was set to launch soon called MakersPlace. Naturally, I thought it was a SCAM. I’d never heard of CRYPTO-ART. I’d never heard of CRYPTOCURRENCY or ETHEREUM. I’d never heard the term “BLOCKCHAIN.” And what kind of LUNATIC would actually allow me to publish on their platform??? I’m thinking, “This guy thinks I’m a sucker! It’s probably some vanity site that wants me to PAY so that they can ‘PROMOTE’ my work through their webpage…” But I decided to look into it a bit—because sometimes I AM a sucker!
Turns out, there really was this thing called CRYPTO that people had started doing some interesting stuff with—smart contracts, and tokenization, and indelible record keeping… (Which, unfortunately, I still don’t REALLY get. I’m hopeless when it comes to the math. I read the Bitcoin white paper, and most of it was over my head—like “flying in a jet through the clouds while I’m sitting in a cave telling scary stories about monsters” over my head…) If I spent a few months LEARNING this new language, I might have a better chance of “getting it,” but I’m more interested in drawing pictures of funny ghosts and telling weird stories… I’ll let the folks who know what they’re doing handle the back end.
To try to get some kind of handle on this stuff, I looked online. (Magazines used to be the best source of NEW information, but print magazines seem tired and nearly obsolete now-o-days. This new thing, the “INTERNET” is what the kids are calling it, is where the FRESHEST info now lies.) In my searches, I found a video by Digitally Rare, called “What is Crypto Art?” and I learned about CryptoKitties and CryptoPunks, and I discovered the Dank Rares Blockchain Art Podcast… And I thought, “Maybe there’s something to this whole CRYPTO-ART thing!” I got back in touch with the guy from MakersPlace, signed up for a Beta account, and started uploading images… Eventually, these images became my MakersPlace store, (which one artist on MakersPlace prefers to call her “GALLERY.” And I really like that. The store IS an online gallery!)
And, believe it or not, some of my artwork has actually SOLD! I was genuinely shocked the first few times it happened! (Art collectors who buy from MakersPlace can pay with ETH or they can use a credit card…)
So what makes CRYPTO-ART different from all those other types of art?
Well, first there’s guaranteed attribution for a work of CRYPTO-ART. When you publish on blogs and other social media sites, an artist runs the risk of their work being “borrowed” by other folks and used in ways that were not intended… One band on Facebook stole an image that I drew and used it as their main image on their band page! (No credit given to me.) Another site I found was giving away a whole BUNCH of my digital drawings as “cellphone wallpapers,” although this time there was some credit (accidentally) given to me because the thieves were too lazy to change the names of the files they’d stolen, and I usually put my name into the titles for my art files… This kind of stuff, where people just take and share and use without the original creator getting any compensation, or even a credit, is rampant. With CRYPTO-ART, a work is “TOKENIZED” (through some kind of magical process that I don’t understand) and certain information about the work (who? what? when? that kind of stuff) is recorded on whichever blockchain the work is tokenized with (in the case of MakersPlace, it’s the Ethereum blockchain,) so the original artist will forever be associated with that work—for as long as the blockchain lasts, at least. (Oddly, I think I remember hearing that the actual IMAGE is—so far—NOT recorded by the blockchain, meaning that someone could buy a rare digital artwork, own the CONCEPT of it—the TOKEN—but the actual image can potentially still disappear into the abyss of time. They would still own the TOKEN, even if they can’t see the picture anymore! These are the types of things that are discussed in detail on the Dark Rares podcast. Definitely check it out if you find this stuff as fascinating as I do!)
In addition to attribution, with the tokenization process, the artist can decide HOW MANY of the image there will be. If the artist wants there to be 50 of a specific image, they can publish just 50! If they want a million, they can publish a million, if they want there to be only ONE, they can make it a UNIQUE object. (Although then they run the risk of the Kurgan showing up for a sword fight… [Nerd reference!]) It’s up to the artist. They control the supply, and there can be verifiable scarcity, even with a digital work (which could be copied ad infinitum previous to the advent of tokenization.) Now, the artworks have become official and verifiable on the blockchain, and no other objects or images are the REAL or TRUE versions but these tokens.
And there are also “smart contracts,” which can do some interesting things. In a traditional art market, a painter makes a painting and sells it to a collector for a stack of cash. (Granted, it might be a SMALL stack if the artist isn’t well known, like when I sold a little acrylic painting for $10.00, USD, to a buyer at our lawn art sale a few weeks ago.) Now let’s say the artist catches fire and their work suddenly becomes much more valuable. The original buyer can take that painting to an auction house and sell it for ten times what they originally paid for it—and the artist won’t get a penny of that second, or any subsequent, sale. It’s sad, really. Andy Warhol’s Soup Cans sold for $300 bucks each at the Ferus Gallery when he had his first solo show there, (they all sold to one specific buyer—but that’s another story), but those paintings are now worth MILLIONS of dollars… If Warhol had made his paintings as CRYPTO-ART, he could have included a smart contract in with the tokenization process that said HE, as the creator, was entitled to a small percentage of any secondary sale of the work after the initial sale. Sure he pocketed some cash when the works originally sold, but that secondary sale (for millions) would have paid MORE than the original sale, since his works’ economic value grew so much over the decades. Smart contracts ensure that the artist gets a kickback if their works sells down the line, which I think is a great step in helping artists make a living, especially newer, non-established artists or folks who work outside of the traditional commercial marketplace!
But who in their right mind would buy a DIGITAL artwork?
This one might take some convincing, but if you’ll follow me on this for a bit, I think I can make a convincing case… COLLECTING is an urge that many people have. Some people collect comics, or baseball cards, or Pez dispensers, or vinyl records, or movies, or shoes, or buttons, or cats, or guns, or metal lunch boxes, or recipes, or art, or snow globes, or coins, or spores molds and fungus… People like to collect—or they USED TO, at least. I’ve noticed this weird shift lately where everything is going digital…
Friends of mine have sold all their CDs and records, and they now use Pandora or Spotify or Apple Music or just listen to their music from some cloud storage thing… The physical media is gone… And people don’t buy as many movies as they used to; instead, they pay for Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime and HBO Go, and they watch shows on their phones or tablets or their Xbox or PlayStation… People read comics through Comixology or the DC Universe service. They buy (some) books on Kindle (although I’ve read that paper is still the most popular way for folks to enjoy their novels…) But in many cases, people are ditching the physical media for the versatility (and lightness—or perhaps “portability” is a better word) of digital services.
PEOPLE DON’T EVEN PRINT THEIR FAMILY PHOTOS ANYMORE!!! They keep them on their phones or computers on in Facebook albums, so that they can share them with ease… People don’t write and send letters anymore—they text or send an email…
It’s all going digital…
So, with all this shifting to DIGITAL media, how weird is it for ART to be collected and viewed digitally now, too? People can look at their galleries on their various devices, just like they do with their vacation photos… Or, if the collector still wants their artwork to provide atmosphere in their homes, they can get one of those fancy digital picture frames and make a slide show of all their favorite works… (I even saw a digital picture frame that had “facial recognition” software… Why the FUCK would you want that??? So that the frame will know who’s looking at the art and only show that person’s favorite shit??? The old codger in me thinks some of this stuff has gone a BIT too far…) With CRYPTO-ART, you can OWN your favorite digital art, in a way that a stolen gif or meme can never capture, or in a way that your Monet or Salvador Dali poster just can’t match. Those paintings aren’t YOURS, but that CRYPTO-ART flashing on your wall…it doesn’t just look cool, it ABSOLUTELY belongs to YOU! For people who still have that COLLECTING URGE, this is an exciting time to be alive!
Plus, along with being able to collect and view your favorite artwork with your standard digital devices (which you ALWAYS have with you anyway), a collector will ALSO know that the original ARTIST is getting their fair cut from their purchase—which will undoubtedly inspired the artists to make MORE cool artwork. It’s a system that feeds itself. The artists are happy to share and get compensated for their work, and the collectors have cool pieces AND they know that they are directly supporting the artists and helping to make more art come to life! Symbiosis!
At this point, CRYPTO-ART is a YOUNG MEDIUM. There are a number of different sites that are peddling their own brands (with their own superstars and rules of engagement), and the field is quickly expanding. Some of the sites that I know of where artists can share their work and collectors can browse for pieces that strike their fancy include MakersPlace, DADA.nyc, SuperRare, KnownOrigin, pixEOS…and there are a bunch more… The space is moving fairly quickly, and I struggle to keep up with every trick, but hopefully these few examples will give you a nice starting place as well as an idea of some of the variety out there in the CRYPTO-ART world.
SO!!! What does “CRYPTO-ART” mean to me?
It means finally having a good chance of seeing my artwork actually attributed to me! It means sharing my creations with a global audience, primarily made up of folks who are ALSO interested in this new wrinkle in the art-world canvas. It means participating in a cutting edge experiment that could fundamentally change how folks THINK about art, and HAS ALREADY changed the way that contemporary artists are compensated for their efforts! It means (for the first time in over THIRTY YEARS) that I’m doing something HIP and exciting again. (Vector art WAS pretty spiffy in the early ‘80s, you know…) I haven’t felt this kind of rush since I discovered zine making in the late ‘80s or postal art in the early 2000s! It’s nice to be excited and energized and OPTIMISTIC about ART again…
Technology may be a young person’s game—and I certainly don’t understand the science or the math of what’s going on now… HELL! I can’t hardly figure out how to use the stupid CRYPTO-WALLETS, which you need to make all this stuff MOVE—but DAMMIT (and by gum!) I sure am having a good time! And, especially in darker times (and these ARE dark times), FUN is what makes the world go ‘round!!! (Or, at the very least, it’s what makes you not want to fall off the merry-go-round…)
So that’s my current take on CRYPTO-ART. If you’re intrigued, go check out the sites I mentioned above, or watch the video, or listen to the podcast—OR (and I highly recommend this one) go check out my MakersPlace gallery and see what STRANGE PLEASURES await you there!!! And, if you’re flush with cash, feel free to drop a couple of bucks on a rare digital crypto collectible! Early adopters get STYLE bonus points, which (I think) are good for an extra ice-cream-cone in the afterlife! Okay? Good! Now GO explore this new territory!!!
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FOLKS WHO ARE JUST MAKING STUFF BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT!!!
About 150 years ago, I had something akin to writer’s block. It wasn’t your standard writer’s block, though, where I couldn’t get anything down on paper. This was a weird case in which I was CONSTANTLY writing, starting story after story, coming up with great characters, crazy plots, bizarre mysteries, horrifying monsters…but I’d never FINISH anything. I have notebook after notebook after notebook just FULL of scenarios and characters and twists of fate, but (other than one 17,000 word novella) I kept getting bored with what I was writing, and I would give it up—moving on to the NEXT freaky idea or tantalizing character without ever writing “THE END.”
I wanted to FINISH something.
Just to feel what it was like to COMPLETE a story… ANY STORY. I decided I was going to write a short story. A very short story. A VERY VERY VERY SHORT STORY! And so I did… Here’s what I came up with:
Tom ate several things he found in a drawer at Kimble’s house. No one suspected that this was Tom’s plan from the beginning. Now Tom is dead.
I started a new blog, called it “VERY VERY VERY SHORT STORIES,” and published “Tom” on November 14th, 2011. I showed it to a few friends of mine, and they all said, “That’s just stupid. I could do better than that!” And they DID. By November 28th, we had NINETY NINE of these little stories, written by about 20 different people (several published under aliases)—and we even decided to release the stories as a BOOK! (Which I made 7 inches by 7 inches, so that it looked a bit like a 45 rpm record, because these little stories reminded me, just of bit, of a bunch of novelty songs…) Over time, a few of us kept going back to the V.V.V.S.S. whenever we felt like we needed to write some weird little thing—just to FINISH something again, maybe, or perhaps because we’d started to really ENJOY these freaky, tiny, often absurd little bits of fiction. (Not FLASHY fiction, of course… There wasn’t anything FLASHY about what we were doing. It was just very very short… No flash…)
So—what does any of this have to do with YOU fine folks? I’ll tell you what! This is REALLY about me still enjoying some of these older stories, as weird and ephemeral as they are, and not wanting them to disappear into the garbage disposal that is TIME AND SPACE, so I’m going to REPRINT a couple of them below in the hopes that SOMEBODY might read them again… These are just a few of my favorite weird little bits, and if you enjoy these, there is an entire website just FULL of this junk, by a bunch of different authors (somewhere between 25 and 30 humans in total, I think, although I can’t quite remember which pseudonym belongs to who anymore…) Without further ado, here are six VERY VERY VERY SHORT STORIES that I quite like, even though most of them are very weird and disposable and easily forgotten. I still laugh when I read most of these… Hopefully, you’ll enjoy them, too! (The couple of aliases listed below are also me… So… Yeah…)
Harold rolled over in the night and discovered that Abigale was gone. A note pinned to her pillow read, “Harold, I’m leaving you to pursue my dream of becoming a wig maker for Eastern European goth kids. I put a stew in the crock-pot for you. Have a good life.”
It was a party like no other! Nobody came. There was no music or snacks, and when Jerry went to clean up afterwards, he was stabbed to death by an empty pizza box. Everyone agreed it was a great success!
[Posted yesterday, 19 Aug. 2019, on my Steemit blog, but I think it’s still relevant, if for no other reason than I still like the drawing! —RFY]
Greetings folks, it’s Monday again… (Seems like this happens every damn week.) And it was a busy weekend…
Saturday, Mariah (the “Wife”) and Frankie (the “Older Daughter”) and Felicity (the “Baby”) and I drove to I Like Comics (a comic shop in Vancouver, Washington), and bought tickets to the upcoming Rose City Comic Con in Portland, Oregon. We got Sunday, Sept. 15th passes…because Frankie’s husband works on Saturday. Plus, Sunday is the last day of the con, so maybe dealers will have some good DEALS that day! And, yes, while we were at I Like Comics…I was bad and bought more books!
After we finished shopping (and Frankie and Mariah took a bunch of photos of the baby in the store—it was her first visit to a comic shop!), we walked towards Mon Ami, the crepe / coffee shop, hoping to get some crepes…but the streets were all filled with fancy, vintage cars for some kind of car show. For reasons I don’t understand, the crepe shop was closed… I don’t know why they didn’t want to try to cash in on all the automobile fans being in the area, but…whatever…
Next, famished because we couldn’t get crepes, we went back to the car and drove to the Vancouver Saturday market, down by the waterfront. Mariah found some corn on the cob and some jam, and she bought a couple of cool, vintage-looking, cat themed Christmas decorations from a vendor lady who we met last year at the Camas Street Fair. (This year’s Camas Street Fair is next weekend. We are CONSIDERING going again. It was a lot of fun last time.)
Also present at this Saturday market was a street performer who had these cool, L.E.D. lighted speakers hanging from his body who was singing along to classic Soul and R&B songs in a loud falsetto voice. He roamed around the market, and eventually stopped for a long stretch of time to sing just a few feet from the table we sat at to eat our street vendor food. (My favorite food of the day: “homemade” cinnamon cake donuts!!!)
Eventually, with the baby hungry, (and me overstimulated) we headed for the car (so the kid could eat in private), then home!
Sunday!!! Mariah and I worked on laundry forever, until, in the early afternoon, Frankie brought baby Felicity over for us to babysit while she and her husband worked on their yard, which might have gotten a bit overgrown in the last few months…for some reason…
Babysitting was pretty fun, even though there were some fussy times. (She’s only two months old, ya know…) Then, when we were tired of being active grandparents, we called Frank and had her come get the Little Kid, and we sent her home!
Then we watched a Harry Potter movie. (We rewatch the movies every year or so. We’re up to Order of the Phoenix on this watch-through.)
In some sad news (I’m sure you folks appreciate all this personal shit, right?), Elise’s (she’s the younger daughter) fiance, Gabe, left this morning for New York for school. He got into a Ph.D. program for Physical Therapy, so it will be great once he’s done, but we live in Washington State, so NY is on the complete opposite side of the country… These two “kids” (they are 21 and 25—are they still “kids”???) won’t get to see each other again until Christmas. Luckily, with modern communication technology, they’ll be able to do video calls and talk to each other over their headsets while shooting people in Apex and Call of Duty and such.
Still, Elise will probably be a bit morose for a few days—and I get it.
What else??? Well…I’ve been doing a bunch of work on my NON-COM-ARTS site, adding my long reviews list to the main menu, and I started a crypto-art gallery there, as well. Speaking of crypto-art, I’m also working on an article ABOUT crypto-art: what I think it is, how I learned about it, and where folks who are interested can learn more… That will HOPEFULLY go up tomorrow, although I have to close at work tonight, so I might not be awake enough to finish until tomorrow afternoon, instead of in the morning…
AND I need to get back on my Spook Show 2019 movie reviews (if I’m going to finish 31 reviews before Halloween), AND AND I haven’t posted a new music playlist in about a hundred years… I really need to quit slacking!!! (Until I FINALLY review The Book of the SubGenius, then I’ll have to slack for a FEW days, at least, to pay tribute to Bob!!!)
Okay…that’s it fur now! Gonna be a BUSY week!!!
—Richard F. Yates (Holy Fool)
[P.S. – The drawing at the top of this post was originally created while waiting in line for the George Clinton show. It was made with a big, fat, green Sharpie on reclaimed cardboard, with digital embellishments and color. 2019.]
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FOLKS WHO ARE JUST MAKING STUFF BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT!!!
A few weeks ago, Mariah and I went to a Korean barbecue joint for a birthday party, and I spotted this stained glass duck image in one of the restaurant’s windows. To ME (maybe not to everyone) there seemed to be a look in the duck’s eye that might be anger or even disgust… Thus, I pulled my phone from my pocket, captured the image in digital code, and let the picture sit in my phone’s gallery until I could figure out what to do with it…
This morning, the WORDS came to me, as if the DUCK’s message had been sent from 2-D Window Land to Longview, Washington, via Mega-Slow-Snail-Slime Psychic Telegram, and then got lost along the way… But it arrived today! And the DUCK says to be good, OR ELSE…
I’d listen to him… That look in his eye… Pretty sure he means business!
—Richard F. Yates
(Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FOLKS WHO ARE JUST MAKING STUFF BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT!!!
It’s been over two weeks since my last book review, and I apologize for that! So today’s review, Eric Powell’s The Goon – Bunch of Old Crap, was sent to me by a good friend, Mark Counts (who can often be seen on my various sites doing “remixes” of my artwork—AND Mr. Counts is also a genius collage artist, who creates retro-futurist items out of found materials! Check out this website for some cool photos and a video about his work!) Anyway, I had read virtually nothing by Eric Powell before this book, and Mark thought that my ignorance was a crime against the universe, so he sent me not one but TWO Powell collections to read. So far, I am impressed by The Goon, and I can’t wait to crack into the next book! I can’t wait…but I’m going to have to—because I have three other books that I’m currently reading already PLUS about EIGHT stacks of books, not counting digital, that I’ve accumulated over the last year, either given to me by my kids or things I’ve picked up at library books sales or comic shop trips, or just classics that I keep meaning to review so that people don’t forget about them!!! The point is, I’ve got a LOT of stuff to read and review, but I am still MASSIVELY grateful to Mr. Counts for bringing this Goon feller to my attention! THANKS MARK!!!
[This is a photograph that I took of the actual book that I read. The image is included for review purposes only!]
Eric Powell – The Goon – Bunch of Old Crap (2019)
This book, Bunch of Old Crap – An Omnibus Volume 1, is a collection of four OTHER collections of Goon stories, going all the way back to material originally published (I believe SELF-published) by Powell in 1999. (WHICH was TWENTY YEARS AGO! Gawd I’m old…) Even though Powell says in his introduction to this early work that his art was “crude” and that “It looks like I inked some of this stuff with an electric toothbrush,” I’m going to respectfully disagree. From page one of the “Prologue” on, I was already getting a wonderful E.C. – Tales from the Crypt vibe. In addition, Powell PAINTS many of the covers for his books, and these works are FANTASTIC! His sense of light and shadow and his bold exaggerations remind me of some of the BEST in comics, folks like Simon Bisley or Brian Bolland. Maybe even (dare I say it) Frank Frazetta! I love the art. It’s dark, cartoony, and exaggerated, but Powell knows when to tone it down and look for emotion OR to go for the perfect slap-stick visual gag.
Okay, so what’s this Goon guy all about. For one thing, though “goon” is usually a snarky way to refer to a henchman or hired thug, in this book the main character’s NAME is The Goon. Even as a young kid working at the circus with his Aunt Kizzie, the circus STRONG WOMAN, she called him “Goon.” The Goon is a TOUGH GUY. He had a hard life, a tough childhood, and he LOOKS a bit worse for wear—scars all over, teeth like the top of a picket fence, eyes usually invisible beneath his “thug” cap. However, unlike the traditional, stereotyped “thug,” the Goon DOES have a brain. He’s maybe not as smart as Einstein (or this book’s brilliantly entertaining mad scientist, Dr. Alloy,) but he’s no dummy, either. And he has a great sidekick, Franky, who is short and scrawny, but wiry and also tough as nails, having built up his confidence fighting alongside the Goon.
The general premise of this series, and with FOUR collections worth of material between these covers Powell has a lot of time to explore this universe, is that the Goon works as an “Enforcer” for a crime boss, Mr. Labrazio, who nobody ever sees. The Goon does all the heavy work, and tries to keep the turf Labrazio controls safe from invasion. Meanwhile, as the inevitable turf wars and shakedowns take place (against odd folks, like Joey the Ball or Fishy Pete), there’s also a SUPERNATURAL element to the story, primarily in the form of a zombie invasion started by an unnamed Zombie Priest, who turns dead folks into thugs to bolster HIS gang. There are also ghosts and vampires and werewolves and giant spiders and interdimensional tentacle creatures and killer robots and…
So what you get with this series is something like a mash-up of noir, tough-as-nails gangster stories WITH H.P. Lovecraft and E.C. Horror comics! The stories are violent and bloody and sometimes a bit gross—but Powell tempers all the horror with a wicked sense of humor. This is HORROR-HUMOR, about a 50/50 split. The jokes are slap-stick and goofy and violent and bloody and sometimes a bit gross. I think a safe comparison would be things like Evil Dead 2 or Army of Darkness, or MAYBE Shaun of the Dead—if it were set in the 1930s in a weird swampy, southern bayou. Let me give you an example of what we’re dealing with here…
In one story, the Goon is asked by a guy to come help him with a child who is possessed by a demon. Goon and Frankie rush in to the guy’s house and start pounding and bashing and smashing a little girl, believing that the best way to deal with a demonic possession is with brute force. After a few seconds, the girl’s face all bloody and teeth missing, the guy says, “NOT HER, THE BOY!” And so the Goon and Franky start wailing on the boy, instead, while the little girl, in a little word balloon, says, “Mommie, I can’t feel my legs.” It’s sick and wrong and horrible… AND HILARIOUS, if you just ignore the reality of something like this happening and go with the joke. Some of the evil humor in this book ALMOST reaches Milk and Cheese levels of nihilism, but there is definitely a more human, more TOUCHING, almost REDEMPTIVE feeling underlying all the monsters and violence.
And, there’s a crossover with HELLBOY in one story, which was perfect. And did I mention that Powell has won FIVE Eisner Awards? Even so, there are still POOP jokes in this book… Go figure…
Overall, The Goon is a brilliant, complex character, and Powell has created a funny, dark, violent, satirical, entertaining book with him, which I will DEFINITELY be reading many, many times. Let me be FRANK, I LOVED this book, and I really can’t give it enough praise. It’s violent and disturbing and morally ambiguous enough that it’s definitely not going to be for everybody, but if you like GANGSTER stories, and HORROR, and MONSTERS, and tongue-in-cheek naughty humor, then FEW collections are going to make you as happy as this book will. It’s silly, but not TOO silly. It’s violent, but not TOO violent. It’s got moments of sentimentality, but they’re not TOO sentimental. As close to a perfect humor/horror hybrid book as I’ve ever seen…
THANK YOU, MARK COUNTS!!!! You knew I’d love this book, and you were right!
—Richard F. Yates (Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FOLKS WHO ARE JUST MAKING STUFF BECAUSE THEY LOVE IT!!!
[All the photos for this post were taken by me with my phone camera. We are hoping, someday, (maybe once the kids are all moved out), to be able to buy a “REAL” camera, with which Mariah and I will take many wonderful pictures. For now, we use what we have! —RFY]
When Mariah and I got married (21 years ago), she was only 23 and I was 25. For our honeymoon, (cheap—we were poor…sure glad we’re not poor anymore…) …For our honeymoon, we got a room in Portland, Oregon, and our big entertainment for the weekend was supposed to be going to see George Clinton (the FUNK MASTER) in concert at one of the not-too-big clubs in the city. (Maybe Roseland Theater…or La Luna…or Crystal Ballroom. Neither of us can remember…) But, SADLY, Mariah forgot her I.D.!!! And because she was so young (and LOOKED so young), there was no chance that we could get her in without proof of her age (the show was 21 and over), so we had to skip the concert. (Neither of us can figure out why we didn’t just drive back to Longview and GET her I.D.—it’s only a 45 minute trip, 90 minutes both ways. But, for some reason, we didn’t. Young and foolish then. (Old and foolish now… Just like They Might Be Giants said…))
Luckily, a mere two decades later, we got ANOTHER chance to see the P-FUNK, this time on the ONE NATION UNDER A GROOVE 2019 TOUR!
On Saturday, 10 Aug. 2019, Mariah got up early and went to help out with the Survivors’ booth at the local Relay for Life event (in Kelso, Washington.) I stayed home to work on frivolous junk because I believe that frivolous junk is incredibly important, even though it’s not always valued by society. (Much of the morning’s excitement is chronicled in my “Report” for the day. I like writing reports. They’re fun.)
At around 3:00 P.M., Pacific Standard Time, after Mariah returned from her civic duty, she and I got into a vehicle and began the arduous journey (via Interstate 5 southbound) to Portland. Ominously, it started to sprinkle—just a bit—on the drive, but we were optimistic, thinking it was just going to be a quick shower, and we kept traveling. Traffic was a bit touch and go, once we got TO Portland (it’s not a fun city to drive in, but a hundred times better than Seattle, and one THOUSAND times better than L.A. or Vegas, which are a bunch of SHIT to drive in), but even with the traffic, we still made it to the Oregon Zoo by about 4:00 P.M. (This was a full hour, maybe an hour and a half, before the gates were supposed to open for the general admission concert goers. With a general admission ticket, you just find a place on the grass in front of the stage (behind the roped off “assigned seating” spots) and sit on the ground to watch the show. It’s a very cool venue, and we were even closer to the stage this time than we were last summer when we saw Adam Ant and The Fixx!
We rented a couple of little lawn chairs; you have to have special, VERY SHORT, chairs to sit in at this venue so that the people behind you can still see. Or you could sit on the ground. We’re old. We rented seats. There are also a bunch of food carts and places to buy beer and that kind of junk all around the seating area, and Mariah took off to get some Mexican food and a beer, while I sat and watched our spot and finished a couple of drawings. (At one point, the competition for SEATING became quite FIERCE, with some serious border disputes and cussing and such going on right behind us. EVENTUALLY, apologies were made by the combatants, and the primary aggressor offered to buy drinks for the other folks, so all worked out well enough, but the situation was rather TESTY for a bit there…)
Eventually, after all the waiting and drawing and fighting and eating food, the ONE NATION UNDER A GROOVE TOUR got rolling!
First up was a band called Miss Velvet & The Blue Wolf… I’m not going to say too much about this band, (I was told that, if you can’t say nuthin’ nice, you shouldn’t say nuthin’ at all…), but they were a funk / hard rock blend, with some solid percussion, good horn work, and perfectly respectable musicianship all around—but the vocalist just didn’t quite work for me. She had a voice vaguely reminiscent of Janis Joplin, but she seemed like she should be fronting a metal or grunge or crust-punk band, not a funk group. Much of the crowd was grooving and shaking to the music, but the vocals just didn’t work (for me.) (And I heard at least one person behind me say something similar…) Moving on…
Next up was a band from New Orleans called Dumpstaphunk, and they were EXCELLENT! (I don’t remember hearing of Dumpstaphunk before this event, but the music seemed somewhat familiar—and several people in the audience were wearing their shirts, so I THINK they are a more popular band that somehow slipped outside of my field of awareness.) These guys were great. Horns were loud and strong, the songs were fun, and they could SERIOUSLY create a solid groove for the folks to bop along with. I’ll definitely be looking for a CD or two by these guys in the future.
The third band was, secretly, the one I was most excited to see: FISHBONE!!! Fishbone is a fantastic ska / punk / funk band out of L.A., who have been rockin’ the alternative / underground world since the early ‘80s, at least. (The Wiki says they formed in 1979.) High energy, lots of FUNK, and the lead vocalist, Angelo Moore, has a very “Cab Calloway” vibe (which is exciting to watch), AND the band was SHARP! They opened with the perfect cut, “Sunless Saturday” (on a sunless Saturday), but IRONICALLY, partway through their track, “Everyday Sunshine,” it started to rain!!! They powered forward, ending with the high energy, nearly perfect track, “Party at Ground Zero!” (If you’ve never seen the video, I can’t recommend it enough! Funny, kinda creepy…great stuff!) Fishbone are a brilliant band. Catch them if you can… AND, they had these t-shirts available with their skeletal fish logo, printed in bright colors on a stark black background, and big, thick lettering that said, “FUCK RACISM!” I TOTALLY, COMPLETELY, 100% agree with that sentiment. (If I weren’t a poor bastard, I would have bought one…) Even in the rain, it was worth coming to this concert just to see Fishbone…
By Fishbone’s final song, it was raining pretty heavily… Because this is the Pacific Northwest, you kinda have to EXPECT that it might start raining at any moment—even in August—so we weren’t completely surprised, but still… After a few minutes of heavy rain, I admit, I thought about leaving. My jacket was cotton, so it got soaked almost instantly, and it felt like I was packing around an extra 15 pounds of WETNESS. Still, we decided that we weren’t going to miss our LAST chance to see George Clinton, (this is supposedly his final tour), just because we were getting a little wet. Or a LOT wet…
And a lot of folks in the crowd ALSO decided to stay…
So it rained for a bit, and we all got wet, and then the rain started to slack off….
We got to see GEORGE CLINTON, live and in person!!!
Now let’s get a few things clear. George Clinton is 78 years old!!! He’s been performing since the 1950s. He was a founding figure in the CREATION of FUNK music. His bands, Funkadelic and Parliament, have fundamentally changed the direction of music history, and the album artwork for some of his classics, like One Nation Under a Groove, are so iconic that they’ve changed VISUAL art, as well, showcasing the brilliant work of artists of color, like Pedro Bell!!! Clinton is an absolute LEGEND, and he deserves absolute respect and love.
With that said, he is 78 years old… Maybe he’s lost a bit of energy, and he didn’t sing as much as I would have liked, instead allowing the backup singers to carry much of the load, while he conducted the band… And he sat down through some of the tunes—but GAWD DAMN! He’s 78 years old! I’m 47, and I couldn’t have stood through the entire set… Still, it was pretty damn cool to finally see the LEGEND live in concert!
And there were some seriously magical moments, like when the band started to play one of Clinton’s signature tunes, “Flashlight,” and THIS happened!
[And notice, as everyone was waving their “flashlights” around, there seems to be a “visitor” up in the sky watching the proceedings. Now, I realize it’s probably just an airplane, but I like to IMAGINE that it’s the MOTHER SHIP keeping an eye on George, so they can come get him when the show is over!]
Of course, it did start raining again as the show went on, but most folks kept right on feeling the groove. I admit, we slipped out a bit early. I’m OLD, and I was wet and uncomfortable, and people kept bumping into me—everyone was sitting and grooving for the first three bands, but they got up to shake it once the P-Funk hit the stage—and I have serious, neurotic, proximity issues, so I talked Mariah into slinking away a few songs before the show wrapped up…
One of the best things about seeing a concert at the Oregon Zoo, though, is that it’s a very COOL place, VISUALLY—especially at night. As the concert lights flashed, the venue was also well lit by trees covered in various colors. It’s a pretty neat effect…
So, overall, it was a great show in a fantastic venue. More than anything ELSE, though, it was just a lot of fun spending time with my lovely wife, who puts up with a LOT of shit from me! (How many wives would be willing to spend hours, driving to several different stores, just to find SIDEWALK CHALK for their full-grown—well, 5ft. 3in., not QUITE full grown—ADULT husband??? Not too damn many.) That’s the trick, though, isn’t it? You find someone who is willing to be just as CRAZY as you are (and who can put up with some crippling neuroses, if the need should arise), and you try to enjoy being with them for as long as you can. Don’t fight, don’t be petty, just have a good time. And FUCK RACISM, just like Fishbone said!
Keep on funkin’!!!
—Richard F. Yates (Primitive Thoughtician and Holy Fool)
[P.S. – One dark note: Mariah and I discussed this a bit, and although nothing happened at the event that we attended, we were both very conscious of the POSSIBILITY of something horrible happening while we were out trying to have a good time—thanks to the many mass shootings and other awful things that have happened in the U.S. and other parts of the world in the last few years. It’s a fucking tragedy, and completely inexcusable, that the U.S. government—which seems to be consumed by GREED and a desire for more POWER—refuses to take the steps necessary to make the type of evening that we just enjoyed, or simple activities like shopping or going to school or going to a movie, SAFE for all people. WE were lucky, whereas the people who went to that one Las Vegas concert or the Ariana Grande show in Manchester, WEREN’T so lucky. It sickens me that nothing is being done to PROTECT PEOPLE FROM POLITICS… Sorry. This is a bit of negativity in the midst of all the fun, but Mariah and I BOTH had the same thoughts going through our heads at this show: “Could it happen here?” Yes. Yes, it could have happened there… A sobering reminder of how the world is now… I thought I should mention this… Carry on…]
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