Sensitive Skin Magazine http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com Post-beat, pre-apocalyptic art, writing and what-not Tue, 08 Apr 2014 17:10:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Kali’s Day By Bonny Finberg – A Review http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/kalis-day-by-bonny-finberg-a-review/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/kalis-day-by-bonny-finberg-a-review/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 17:04:05 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6621 Kali’s Day By Bonny Finberg An Autonomedia/Unbearable Book, 2014 Bonny Finberg’s Kali’s Day is an odd combination, a melancholy, picaresque spinning prayer wheel of a novel, almost contemporary and nearly timeless. It has echoes both of the druggy sojourns of William S. Burroughs and the Himalayan visits of the early Theosophists and their putative encounters... Read more »

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Kali’s Day By Bonny Finberg
An Autonomedia/Unbearable Book, 2014

Bonny Finberg’s Kali’s Day is an odd combination, a melancholy, picaresque spinning prayer wheel of a novel, almost contemporary and nearly timeless. It has echoes both of the druggy sojourns of William S. Burroughs and the Himalayan visits of the early Theosophists and their putative encounters with Koot-Hoomi. We hear chapters from a clutch of inter-related characters, more or less stuck together like Velcro at times despite deep antipathy. It is in some ways an absorbing late-20th-century New York City knock about memoir, and a far ranging spiritual quest undertaken by the terminally dispirited. In other words, it has everything, not stinting the erotic prose that Finberg is somewhat noted for. It faces the challenge, how do you chronicle a descent into madness when you are not all that together to begin with?

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As one narrator, Henry, puts it, “I’m heading for parts unknown, or are parts unknown heading for me?” Another, Candice, says “I like to get lost and find my way back.” And later “I try to remember what it was about despair that once seemed so fascinating.”

No one here is merely out for a good time, just as well, and they all seem to have begun their quests from an academic premise: Henry being the Einstein of conspiracy theories as well as a language savant, his daughter Stella a college student trying to survive her eccentric upbringing, and Eastern scholar Candice who emerges as the principal narrator, fiercely intelligent yet oblivious to the chaos she causes. The story moves to various remote parts of the subcontinent and details encounters with a wealth of characters, all up to their navels in some hustle or other, holy or otherwise. The constant motion of this moving cast gives a steady transcendental rhythm to the book as they circle the drain of their destiny and keep the bugs at bay.

As a card-carrying Unbearable, Finberg can be depended upon to make her writing as serious as a heart attack and as unpredictable as a catastrophe while entertaining the discriminating reader handsomely.

–Kevin Riordan

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Kraftwerk 3D, in concert at the United Palace Theatre http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/kraftwerk-3d/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/kraftwerk-3d/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 22:26:38 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6604 Kraftwerk. A band whose name, in English, means “power plant,” but, since it’s German, the name is somehow more elemental in the band’s native language. Basically: power+work. I’m still, this afternoon at least, luxuriating in the memory of their concert last night at the United Palace Theatre, and I’m at work. Kraftwerk actually lifts the... Read more »

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Kraftwerk. A band whose name, in English, means “power plant,” but, since it’s German, the name is somehow more elemental in the band’s native language. Basically: power+work.

I’m still, this afternoon at least, luxuriating in the memory of their concert last night at the United Palace Theatre, and I’m at work. Kraftwerk actually lifts the soul of the man before a computer in a windowless office in midtown, and lifts that soul hours later. Which is strange, maybe even ironic, since so much of their music is about our alienation from nature though technology. “The Man-Machine” is direct about this: “Halb Wesen/Halb Maschine.” (“Half essence (nature)/half machine.”) By alienation, of course, separation is meant. Usually, we’re not near dirt anymore, in other words. Perhaps the German is better. “Verfremdung.” Literally, making strange.

Kraftwerk 3D, live at the United Palace Theater

photograph by Franklin Mount

I’m typing on my iPad while I watch two monitors, alert and ready to respond near instanteously to the first stray email which comes my way, demanding that I do something that I don’t particularly want to do. So is my life today.

The United Palace Theatre is one of those fantastic ornate old movie palaces from the Thirties, 1930, to be exact, capacity 3,293, in this case saved from demolition by the Revered Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II, a/k/a “Reverend Ike,” who, if there is a heaven, has earned his place in it, in my estimation, for saving this incredible building, that could never be built again, unless post-industrial civilization collapses but only goes back to industrial civilization. The place is wondrous: the critic David W. Dunlap called it “Byzantine-Romanesque-Indo-Hindu-Sino-Moorish-Persian-Eclectic-Rococo-Deco.”

As for Rev. Ike, (d. 2009), he practiced something called “prosperity theology,” which holds that financial blessing is the will of God for Christians. Rev. Ike’s radio ministry peaked in the Seventies with his “Blessing Plan,” in which listeners sent him money, and he blessed them.

Okay, maybe Rev. Ike belongs in a particular precinct of heaven.

Since 2007, the theatre has been used for concerts in addition to religious services, and, as for Kraftwerk, it’s fitting that they chose this venue. The theatre is paneled with wood, a resolutely non-electronic substance, but one that can provide superb acoustics. And seeing the four members of Kraftwerk, dressed alike in black body suits with white Cartesian cross hatches (at first, I thought they were wearing plaid – my bad), in their very techno onstage set, in this setting, underscored technological alienation.

We’ve all heard Kraftwerk’s music a hundred times. I was, of course, waiting for “Autobahn,” and I was not disappointed. Every song (Are these songs?) was well-crafted, and showed something different from the recorded version. Of course, this is highly-scripted music; after all, there are no instruments that anyone is playing in the classic sense of the term. It’s hard to say that the guy second from right was doing a great job on the electronic drums (if that’s what you call it) in “Boing Boom Tschak,” the way that a classical critic can talk about a violin soloists handling of the second movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. I will say this; I was bowled over; my spirits were raised; and the spell is still with me.

The visual part is a big part of any music performance, even for orchestras that sit still, but for this one, Kraftwerk used 3-D animation to in effect illustrate each song. The 3-D was brilliant, complicated, elaborate, and changed the very character of the show. It’s only the second live performance I’ve seen using 3-D technology (the other was the Rockettes – I was with family), and this time is was throughout the two hours, starting with the band, enlarged, in their red shirts and black ties seemingly hovering over the first rows for “The Robots.” The 3-D visuals were integral to the performance. For “Metropolis,” the backdrop echoed the movie; for “Spacelab,” it referenced the space station in 2001. (At first, I thought it copied.) And the space station at times seem to come right at the audience.

There were also some delightful anachronistic low tech, or at least not that high-tech, touches, presented in the computer animation. For “Home Computer,” we had an old Apple II; for “Autobahn,” we saw an old VW bug racing, and losing to, an early 70s Mercedes, one of the models that had a hint of fins in the back. For “Tour de France,” newsreels of 1950s Tours de France filled the screen. For “Trans-Europe Express,” we got a high-tech sleek train against rails shifting across the ground, but trains are still, in some fashion, not that technological. Or at least they 21st century ones still feel a little 19th century.

The band members stood at consoles, facing the audience, impassive as always, but their faces have aged, like mine. It’s sexy, but nerd sexy. That’s good to see. There is hope!

I’ve gone on long enough, or maybe not, but I’m at work, and I’ve got a feeling that they are about to ask me to do something I don’t particularly feel like doing.

Setlist, courtesy of setlist.fm:

1. The Robots; 2. Metropolis; 3. Numbers; 4. Computer World; 5. It’s More Fun to Compute; 6. Home Computer; 7. Computer Love; 8. The Man-Machine; 9. Spacelab; 10. The Model; 11. Neon Lights; 12. Autobahn; 13. Prologue; 14. Tour De France; 15. Airwaves; 16. News; 17. Geiger Counter; 18. Radioactivity; 19. Ohm Sweet Ohm; 20. Trans-Europe Express; 21. Metal on Metal; 22. Abzug; 23. Boing Boom Tschak; 24. Techno Pop; 25. Musique Non Stop; Encore:; 26. Aéro Dynamik 27. Planet of Visions.

–Kraftwerk 3D in concert, review by Franklin Mount

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The Antisocial Butterfly – a review of Jill Rapaport’s “Duchamp et Moi” http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/the-antisocial-butterfly-jill-rapaport-rob-hardin/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/the-antisocial-butterfly-jill-rapaport-rob-hardin/#comments Thu, 06 Mar 2014 12:13:46 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6548 It begins with a withered Dadaist and parents.  In the title story of Jill Rapaport’s new collection, Duchamp et Moi, a French-Romanian pop and painter mom learn that their favorite creaking enfant terrible is in town.  Eager to attend his retrospective, they heft their six and nine-year-old daughters into a cab and, once ensconced in... Read more »

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It begins with a withered Dadaist and parents.  In the title story of Jill Rapaport’s new collection, Duchamp et Moi, a French-Romanian pop and painter mom learn that their favorite creaking enfant terrible is in town.  Eager to attend his retrospective, they heft their six and nine-year-old daughters into a cab and, once ensconced in a 57th Street gallery, goad the family through the inescapably packed tenth floor en route to scoping out the artist.

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The star of the story is the older daughter they’ve brought.  She sees Marcel Duchamp and is annoyed that his eyes are “lizardlike,” his body, “emaciated and wizened.”  Even at nine years old, she sizes up the Dotard of Mutt from the vantage of a whip-smart prole; we spy this specter of high culture through the squint of a contemptuous kid.  Then a pull-back shot reveals the narrator – an older version of the squinter – who gazes at the child, not the artist, and points out how misguided her contempt really is.

This sense of a poker-faced tergiversation – of casual brazenness countering the relentless inquiry that deflates it – informs the book’s best pieces.

But what about those pieces, anyway?  Are they chessmen in a game involving the narrator’s identity?  Do they form a story collection or cycle?  A memoir descending a staircase, more like.  Duchamp et Moi is a bildungsroman in which the chapters are cards dealt out of sequence.  It’s unified by a common narrator:  the French-born, Brooklyn-raised protagonist who is and isn’t the author.  She likes to speak to us in first person but occasionally appears in third.  Her forename, like that of the author, is “Jill,” but it is used so sparingly that the reader could easily miss it.

Even so, the protag is only partly an autobiographical artifice.  Like “Truman” in Music for Chameleons or “Christopher” in Goodbye to Berlin, “Jill” provides a consistent viewpoint for Rapaport’s seriate vignettes, but the loci of irony and perspective are supposed to be felt, not fixed, and the character does things that the author has only imagined.

Her progression through arbitrary jobs and encounters (the most revealing of which are often with bureaucrats, not lovers) are fueled by the same skeptical intelligence that dismembers every near-transcendent moment in the book.  Mercilessly observed, the fictive self is emotionally off-kilter without ever being oblivious to its subjectivity.  Its progress is the wraith’s, not the rake’s.  It condemns the “snooty” artist in the first story, only to become a spectral miniaturist in the rest of the collection, which is itself a retrospective of victories and gaffes.

This detached mode can give the impression of a journalist navigating through some too-familiar continent while wisecracking about various local spectacles and gambits.  Of course, the narrator is far more insightful than that.  “Jill” visits repeatedly, in the guise of a tourist, the city in which she was born.  A microscope within a microscope, the observed observer returns to Paris, where “Jill” scrutinizes her origins while being seen through the eyes of an older and even more introspective version of herself.

Through her relationship with her perpetually disloyal younger sister and multi-acculturated parents (both poised, like the narrator, at the intersection of lost time and urbane renewal); through entanglements with partners whose faces smear in the memory’s boozy lens; through her descent into Perdition’s city of unexciting positions (as it were – mostly jobs), the character uncovers histories and elisions.  She is the detective in a mystery in which hoaxes and cover-ups conceal not felonies but false certainties.  In the few final stories (especially “Analysand”), she seems to raise her head above the tracery and quilling.  Like Gombrowicz’s Cosmos, Jill’s Duchamp et Moi is a mystery of minutiae.

Having the author double as protagonist and narrator gives the book the feel of an early twentieth century artifact, written at that moment when novelists and journalists often viewed their own personalities as literary constructs. Their characters were “characters” – colorful cynics hurling dispatches from somewhere remote and glamorous. But while Duchamp et Moi seems to fit into that category at first, Rapaport neither adheres to the form with a straight face nor smirks at the camera. She’s later than that – post-ironic – and the mid-twentieth century resonances are more parity than parody.

So many of the stories reference this strategy that you almost want Duchamp et Moi to read like a series of linked stories.  That, too, would be too literal.

In “Pouf Central,” colloquial monosyllables acquire a narrow-eyed punk lyricism.  That could mean glibness as usual if Rapaport were as reverent of the Cult of Studied Immediacy as, say, Dennis Cooper.  Instead, she writes about memorizing Heidegger and appreciating “non-narrative films” when she isn’t enjoying stoned young men.  She understands high culture but remains aporetic even as she absorbs the stylistic tics of a queue of boyfriends while classifying their limitations pitilessly.  She’s part of a generation that saw working-class incoherence as passion, lionizing visceral narcissism as honest just before kicking various human ellipses out of bed.

The wiring of impulse and instinct, attraction and repulsion, has been switched, causing the protag to act out while explaining everything away.  She discards cultural justifications but is still drawn to the mysteries of art and Paris.  It’s the sympathetic role of the predestined émigré.

“The Kinsley Company” begins as good stories often do:  With its prose-rhythms imitating the gait of the narrator.  On a mock-heroic quest for leniency, “Jill” ascends a succession of steps, escalators and walkways that seem intended to intimidate, and the pace of the prose climbs with her until she reaches the ugly summit:  her landlord’s office.  Even as Rapaport’s style evokes motion within that imposing and seemingly respectable setting, she offers insights into the bitter history of the place, and that socioeconomic escalator of betrayal leads to “Jill’s” explosive interaction with a secretary-gatekeeper.  When the story’s failed climax brings ultimate refusal, the pacing slows to a perfect stop.  The momentum of the style follows the story’s form like stairs leading up and down.

The paradox of “The Kinsley Company” is that, like many of the other stories, it reads like a travel piece even though it takes place in Manhattan.  Rapaport seems always to make familiar arrivals feel like explorations.

The sense of the character’s estrangement comes through, but so does her ability to redeem or trash the men she was taught to admire.  In “Tacería,” for example, she takes down a wrong-headed twit without improbable bravado.  Meanwhile, her boyfriend, who doesn’t intervene, and who isn’t threatened or made to seem weak, proves interested and adjuvant.  His supporting role exists in life but is usually written to be either undependable or impossibly empathetic.  Yet in this story, a passive man is an auxiliary to “Jill’s” confrontation with a useless man.  The passive man’s part seems plausible and even welcome.

Of course, travel piece could also imply an escape into the unknown, but Rapaport’s stories are rarely otherworldly or breezy.  A comparatively chatty story like “Job Interview” unravels mummy bandages that conceal the truth behind corporate dynamics.  Intellectual sleuthing redeems the more mundane moments.

The author does her best to mediate the tedium of bureaucracies with momentous rhythms and bitterly nuanced grunts and henchpersons, but sometimes she seems a tad too enthralled with toil.  Do anecdotes about “Jill’s” temp work rise to the same level as Rapaport’s stories about relationships, travel and selfhood?  Is it possible to hold people’s interest simply by expressing – however beautifully – one’s fascination with banal things?

Yes, it is, and that’s part of the fun of the collection:  We know the pain of the protag’s fascination and the thought of that pain is amusing.  And since the secondary characters don’t understand “Jill” or hear her asides, we’re the ones who witness the internal self who writhes with anxiety and silently flings zingers at fools.  We alone find hilarious disdain behind the seemingly eager smile.  In that respect, the work stories, too, deliver a kick.

Rapaport also manages to create bijoux out of temp work as she does out of everything else:  Through intricacies of style and observation that are missing from too much contemporary fiction.  Richly arch and patiently confected, these stories reveal fascinating complexities as they propel the heroine toward diminutive denouements.

All of which is why Duchamp et Moi reads like Nabokov without the adolescent snickering.  When she hands us her flutter-box of Icaricia saepiolus, Rapaport doesn’t smirk and point, and that’s why the delivery works:  Because she isn’t some precious lepidoterist.  Her stories flex breathless wings despite being arranged and pinned.

Duchamp et Moi by Jill Rapaport, (New York: Fly by Night Press, 2014)
reviewed by Rob Hardin

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Duchamp et Moi – review of the short story collection by Jill Rapaport http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/duchamp-et-moi-review-jill-rapaport-jim-feast/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/duchamp-et-moi-review-jill-rapaport-jim-feast/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 16:56:33 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6528 I think Jill Rapaport’s new collection of short stories, Duchamp et Moi, has been praised for the wrong reasons, talk of “individual sentences shimmering,” and so on. This has been said in the mistaken impression that Rapaport is first and foremost a brilliant, insightful writer of literature. To speak a bit illogically, I would say... Read more »

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I think Jill Rapaport’s new collection of short stories, Duchamp et Moi, has been praised for the wrong reasons, talk of “individual sentences shimmering,” and so on. This has been said in the mistaken impression that Rapaport is first and foremost a brilliant, insightful writer of literature. To speak a bit illogically, I would say these qualities and this designation are second and foremost. Primarily, she is a social historian, documenting the psychic cost that has accrued to New York’s inhabitants over the last few decades as the powers that be have conducted an all-out war against artists, free spirits, and, in truth, anyone who even dreams of freedom.

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When Mayor Bloomberg first got elected — obviously prodded in this by the financial establishment, for which, with his perennially rumpled suit, he was something of a down-market puppet – he had one big question: Can we create a society that is totally mindless? Of course, as he worked toward this goal, he was only treading a path, as ably documented by Clayton Patterson, that former mayors had already traveled, doing everything they could to empty Manhattan of the poor and artists, who, craven as many of them were, could still not be trusted, on rare occasions, not to bite the hand that feeds them … crumbs.

However, worse than that, in the elites’ eyes, artists can create a bohemia where experiments with a non-commodified life flourish; and in some ways this, the ability to live according to different rhythms than those of the business cycle, is more threatening to the reigning elite than the creation of art.

So, astutely enough, the heroine of Rapaport’s tales is never shown making art, but rather, chaotically and faux-awkwardly, living her private life in close communion with her desires, come what may. In one of the most humorous tales in the book, what Carol Wierzbicki calls “scorchingly funny,” she re-meets an old acquaintance of her ex’s at a deli, invites him to her place, and, without much ado, jumps his bones. Then, as if thinking of an unimportant matter, she mentions, as they pause, half undressed:

I told him we didn’t have too long before my boyfriend got back.

Rick [the pickup] jerked his head up with a look of astonishment. “He’s coming here?” he asked.

“He lives here,” I replied; I think I laughed.

In another, even more startling example of winging it, the heroine is accosted by a possibly homeless (though not homely) street waif, who asks if he can walk with her. After trudging around a while, they sit on a stoop and begin necking. Next, they stumble into a vacant courtyard. “He started kissing me hard, driving his tongue way inside my mouth. He started twisting this body and grinding his hips against mine.” She suddenly flashes what a dangerous and volatile situation she has gotten herself into, noting, “I had only been going along with things.” Then, “We were in a deserted courtyard: he was somebody I did not know; and there’d be nobody to hear it if I screamed.”

I’m giving something of a false impression here by mentioning examples that have an erotic component, suggesting these are the only deviations from normality our heroine indulges in. However, she engages in equally daring/foolhardy actions on all social fronts. When, for instance, a belligerent, large, maybe drunken man is cursing out the Chinese cashier at her local taco place, she steps up to him and says, more or less, “Pipe down.” Again, not the safest behavior option in those circumstances.

But, to correct another false impression, the bulk of the book doesn’t recount such exciting episodes, but ones that are in a way even more threatening since any untoward actions can have even more adverse (in the long term) consequences, namely, those associated with getting and keeping a job in one of the corporate nautiluses so as to earn enough part time cash to eke by.

It’s never easy to get by as a temp, however, the underlying message of Duchamp is that, over the decades, part-time gigs have gotten harder to come by and less user-friendly. In the early years, the bohemian crews assembled for these off-kilter, off hours (weekends or lobster shifts) gigs were given a lot of leeway. You could still, as it were, at least fly your freak flag at half mast at your day job. At one place described, the night shift supervisor is more ignored than obeyed. He was hardly running a tight ship in that “everyone took too long on their breaks, came in late, refused requests that they work overtime in a crunch, and got away with as little work, done as slowly, and with as many interruptions, to take or make long phone calls, as they could.”

Still, time passes, and the corporate mandate to increase productivity as well as the drying up of easy-to-find jobs makes it more dangerous to lose your paying employment. So, in another funny story, one of the funniest you’ll find this side of Lenny Bruce, the heroine tries to fit in with her mainstream co-workers by joining them for lunch. But how fit in when they are so annoyingly one track? “The menus had been opened merely, it seemed, to verify the page of the standing order. Katthie, Sharrie and Vickkie went first, all three of them ordering fruit salad with cottage cheese.”

In one of the last stories, as he on-the-job autonomy is slipping by the second, she has to beg her way back into employment with a company she left with a sneer five or six years earlier. In her first time at the firm, then located in the South Street Seaport area, she could spend her lunch hours, “marking with small bits of muffins that storefronts of merchants of whom, using the crumbs as flags, she would avail herself of later.” Now, the firm has moved to upper Park Avenue. Getting the job is a trial in itself as this passage, so sharp it seems etched in diamond, where she meets her new boss.

“Welcome home,” the man in the room had said. …

He had beamed, and used his quiet, creeping voice on her, but when she mentioned rates, he smiled less and said that he thought ten would do. Didn’t she?

She had been planning on asking fifteen. Barbie had told her they all got around fifteen.

“Ten?” she repeated, trying to avoid too great a look of agreeability.

“I think ten is fair, don’t you,” he pressed.

I should mention that along with her skill as a social historian and stylist, she introduces a new literary device, the imploding aside. She begins with a casual mention of something that seems very peripheral to the narrative, like the color of corporate wall paper, then, unexpectedly, begins to rant as if storming the heavens. Take this passage, which begins with a description of an innocuous landscape painting on an office wall. “There was a blue, white and green portrait of a house in a bucolic … setting—another of the increasingly frequent allusions made by the ruling titans of corporate business to the supposed dearness to them of the very world which by their depredations they had caused to sicken and die, and to vanish forever, as they loomed over it, grinding their boot heels in its face.”

Perhaps you’ve already gotten the idea that, like recent works by Alan Kaufman (Drunken Angel) Bonny Finberg (Kali’s Day), Carl Watson (Backwards the Drowned Go Dreaming) and Ron Kolm (Plastic Factory), this is not a book for everyone. Only those who have intelligence to see that our current system has placed unrelenting, undermining pressures on creativity and free spiritedness will have the courage to read this book and be rewarded with coruscating wit, rib-tickling situations, gem-like introspection, and an unnerving tour of Manhattan’s recent history, all of this rendered with a very trenchant fire.

Duchamp et Moi by Jill Rapaport, (New York: Fly by Night Press, 2014)
reviewed by Jim Feast

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Venice Is a Fish http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/theresa-wong-venice-is-a-fish-post/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/theresa-wong-venice-is-a-fish-post/#comments Tue, 04 Mar 2014 16:48:05 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6448 Now available on Amazon, iTunes, or directly from us in flac format, the new release from Sensitive Skin Music: Theresa Wong’s Venice Is a Fish. Theresa Wong’s Venice Is A Fish is a diary manifest in songs. And more, it’s lovely music that will challenge you on emotional and intellectual levels as it weaves its... Read more »

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VeniceCoverNEW_72dpi

Now available on Amazon, iTunes, or directly from us in flac format, the new release from Sensitive Skin Music: Theresa Wong’s Venice Is a Fish.

Theresa Wong’s Venice Is A Fish is a diary manifest in songs. And more, it’s lovely music that will challenge you on emotional and intellectual levels as it weaves its way through Wong’s life.

The title track is inspired by Wong’s two years in Venice where she slipped into the portal of a rarified environment, absent of automobiles and surrounded by water and the hush of quotidian life on a human scale. Recalling the dizzying effects of labyrinthian streets to the expansive relief of the open Adriatic, the music seems otherworldly when living in almost any city other than Venice. Nightwatching in turn is a meditation on the wonder and awe of sailing at night on the open sea. Using an extreme form of scordatura, or detuning to evoke the groanings of a tallship, Wong sings of the gurgling majesty of the oceanic womb. “Lost Bird” is both a compositional and poetic look at the liminal states of being lost and finding structure along one’s way. The song combines layers of improvised motifs with sections of those same ideas reconfigured and composed; like snapshots of birds flying through the sky, constant yet captured in ever-changing forms.

These five songs guide the listener through invisible tunnels of inner and outer realities, spanning a range from lonely and almost eerie to joyful and dancelike.

Wong is a solo performer on Venice is a Fish. Although she has collaborated with other artists including Soren Kjaergaard, Fred Frith, and Ellen Fullman, here there is only Wong’s voice, prepared piano, cello and her own homemade version of the tonkori, an instrument of the indigenous Ainu people of northern Japan. The compositions occasionally take on a traditional structure, such as in “Il Sogno,” but more often take voice and instruments into uncharted territories, informed by Wong’s kaleidoscopic experiences.

With influences from Amelia Cuni’s take on John Cage’s “18 Microtonal Ragas” to Fred Frith’s solo acoustic guitar album To Sail To Sail, it’s no surprise that Wong pushes all the boundaries, musically and lyrically. Sensitive Skin Music is proud to release Venice is a Fish.

Venice Is A Fish—Theresa Wong

Purchase the entire album in FLAC format – have a listen first!

Total time: 34:12

All text and music written and performed by Theresa Wong.

Instrumentation: 1. cello, voice, tonkori, prepared piano 2. voice, prepared piano 4. cello, voice, prepared piano 5. cello, voice

Recorded at Studio 1510 (Oakland CA), Casa Ninja (Berkeley, CA) & Ex’pression Studio (Emeryville, CA) by The Norman Conquest and Theresa Wong.
Mixed by The Norman Conquest.
Title from “Venezia è un pesce” by Tiziano Scarpa.

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You can buy individual tracks, or the whole album, in mp3 format, from Amazon or iTunes. If that’s how you roll, use the links below.

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Suicide Tour http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/suicide-tour/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/suicide-tour/#comments Sun, 16 Feb 2014 20:22:30 +0000 http://www.sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=3721 Marty Thau, one-time manager of the New York Dolls, producer of the Ramones and founder of Red Star Records, recalls his time touring with Suicide during their first European tour, in 1978. With an illustration by David West.

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Suicide, the seminally important and confrontational duo consisting of vocalist Alan Vega and electronic musician Martin Rev, formed in 1970 and have been active intermittently since that time. Marty Thau, founder of Red Star Records and former manager of the New York Dolls, co-produced Suicide’s self-titled debut album, and accompanied the band on their first European tour.

* * *

A few months after the release of Suicide’s debut album, I received a telegram from the promoters of the 3rd International Science Fiction Festival to be held in Metz, France, in late May ’78. They asked if the duo would be interested in appearing as the Festival’s sole musical attraction. All their expenses would be paid, plus they would receive a minimal fee and co-headline with keynote speaker Frank Herbert, author of the science fiction novel Dune. It was a timely offer because John Peel, then England’s leading underground DJ, and the British weeklies Time Out, NME, Melody Maker and Sounds, were praising the album enthusiastically. Not only that, but the engagement would bring Red Star’s masterful prodigies overseas at a minimal expense.

I passed the information on to Bronze Records, Red Star’s London-based European distributor, and they helped spread the news that Suicide were coming to Europe. Shortly afterward, the duo were booked to open for Elvis Costello on his first tour of Europe, and for a series of thirty shows opening for the Clash that would take Suicide through the whole of England. We couldn’t have asked for better exposure, because Costello and the Clash were both sizzling hot and major Suicide fans.

Suicide’s tour with Costello carved a swath through the continent and kicked off in Brussels at the Anciennes Belgique Theatre on June 16, 1978. Audience reactions were unlike anything seen before in Europe.

On any given night, in any venue in any town, anything not nailed down would inevitably come flying through the air in Suicide’s general direction. In Glasgow, Scotland, an axe was actually thrown at Vega and barely missed hitting him.

Cocky, wired and adrenalized, Vega didn’t take long to alienate the crowd. You could sense the confusion resonating through the audience, who had come to see Elvis Costello but were being subjected to the full impact of Suicide’s hypnotic down-and-dirty culture shock. Vega chose to ignore the shouts of attendees who had never experienced such a strange, guitar-free outfit before, which is why he was caught off-guard when a belligerent audience member jumped onstage and, to the cheers of the bewildered, ripped the microphone out of his hands. Half the audience started to chant what sounded like garbled Belgian farm anthems, while the other half applauded Suicide’s irrepressible passion.

As was the case with the New York Dolls, it was obvious you either embraced Suicide wholeheartedly or loathed them vehemently. There was no in-between. This hate/love reaction was undeniably mystifying but in time would inspire many forceful disagreements and debates in the rock press.

Marty Thau

After Suicide’s surreal performance, our New York contingent was told that a still-provoked audience had attacked the stage before Costello could even begin his set. The riot gendarmes had been called and soon the irritating odor of tear gas filled the auditorium. We didn’t need any more incentives to vacate the premises. Alan, Rev, Roy Trakin, Red Star’s Minister of Information, Miriam and I ran down a corridor adjacent to the stage to a side exit leading to an alleyway, where we piled into a vehicle waiting for us and sped out of there as fast as we could. That night, Suicide got a taste of what they would be forced to endure on upcoming dates with Costello and the Clash.

Later that evening, our New York contingent were at a late-night after-hours club when they were greeted warmly by Costello and his band members, who invited them to celebrate Suicide’s victorious invasion of Europe. That first show would set the tone for the entire tour, which I dubbed “Blood ’78.”

Howard Thompson, who had been assigned to chaperone the duo throughout the tour, recorded their Brussels appearance on his Sony cassette player for his label. The recording soon became an official vinyl bootleg which NME readers could order for free from Bronze Records. The performance/riot, given the name “23 Minutes Over Brussels” by Roy Trakin and often touted as Suicide’s “Metallic KO,” was also included in the Mute reissue of Suicide’s debut LP in 1998 and has since become a coveted collector’s item.

As Thompson later wrote in his sleeve notes to Suicide’s Live 1977-78, a six-CD box set that was released by the U.K.’s Blast First Petite Records in July 2008: “On any given night, in any venue in any town, anything not nailed down would inevitably come flying through the air in Suicide’s general direction. In Glasgow, Scotland, an axe was actually thrown at Vega and barely missed hitting him.”

Suicide, drawing by David West

Suicide, drawing by David West

In Paris, Suicide delivered a sizzling twenty-minute set, the climax of which involved Vega’s taunting the French for the distinctive body odor and hirsute armpits of their whores. By the end of the tour, Vega was offering German fans his perspective on their supposed racist and anti-Semitic neo-Nazi tendencies.

The very next day, Suicide flew to England to join the Clash tour in Leicester at Granby Hall. At the Music Machine shows in London’s Camden Town, Clash fans drenched Vega and his newly cleaned purple suit with a rain of spit when he hit the stage and moved toward the solitary center microphone. As the opening strains of “Ghost Rider” filled the venue, the outpouring increased with a relentless barrage of coins, bottles, and whatever else the audience could lay their hands on. But despite Vega’s pleasure at being on the receiving end of hostile provocation, on the night of that fourth sold-out show at the Music Machine in London, he and Rev finally won over the audience and received an ovation and call for an encore.

Expecting to laugh and snicker at the expense of two primal weirdos, the audience was surprised by the level of active involvement which Suicide’s presentation fed them. Accustomed to dealing with tentative, uncertain audiences, the band seemed to grow more dominant visibly and, as one song pounded into another, began to turn the corner. The audience was being told to make use of their dormant imaginations.

In Blackburn, the local police were hoping to arrest the Clash for drug possession, but the support crew were too clever to be compromised by the over-confident gendarmes and were alert to such obvious maneuvers. When the police finally realized they weren’t going to garner any national headlines arresting the Clash, they shifted their attention to Suicide. Turning up a small amount of what they believed to be a hash-like substance in Rev’s personal belongings, they arrested the duo on suspicion of drug possession, but the charges were dismissed in court after tests showed the substance was a seasoning. It seems that Rev had tried to purchase a small amount of pot in Amsterdam, but the dealer had ripped him off and sold him oregano!

Howard Thompson, testifying as a character witness, described Suicide’s artistic importance and portrayed them as choirboys. Fortunately, the judge accepted his earnest spiel and the fine of a mere 400 pounds was levied against Suicide, which was paid subsequently by Bronze’s London office. As if that wasn’t enough, Suicide came under attack from the punk establishment in the form of Johnny Lydon, who opined in the New Musical Express that Suicide’s single, “Cheree,” was like “Je t’aime . . . moi non plus” with tape hiss.

The entire series of shows with Suicide supporting the Clash are now regarded as nigh-mythical events which brought about some of the most extreme abuse any music group has ever suffered. It also spawned a legion of admirers who then formed their own bands after witnessing the power of Red Star’s dynamic duo. Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie, in attendance at more than one of the shows, has called Suicide “one of the greatest rock & roll bands ever,” while pop giants Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Stipe, Ric Ocasek and Depeche Mode have publicly concurred.

By the end of the Clash tour, Suicide had won over enough fans to headline their own sold-out show at London’s historic Marquee Club, where the audience demanded an unexpected and rare encore. A triumphant Berlin headlining appearance closed out the campaign, and thus was born the Suicide cult that continues to thrive to this day.

Suicide

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My Heart Is A Wiffle Ball Freedom Pole of Rumpleforeskin — for Kristen Stewart http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/kristen-stewart-poem-by-sharon-mesmer/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/kristen-stewart-poem-by-sharon-mesmer/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 17:36:05 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6484 Flarf poet Sharon Mesmer took up our challenge and re-wrote Kristen Stewart's poem "My Heart Is a Wiffle Ball/ Freedom Pole" that recently appeared in Marie Claire. With boners.

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My Heart Is A Wiffle Ball Freedom Pole of Rumpleforeskin
– for Kristen Stewart

I reared your monkey penis sausage

You read my poetry at the nighttime elf race

Then scrawled neon squid across the horny thighs of Catherine the Great

Kismetly — like how prostitutes destroy the Matterhorn (ubiquitously) —

Kristen-Stewart

Thrown down to strafe your hoochie-coochie nuns weaning minks

I’ll suck the rainbow unicorn boners (pretty).

Your rainbow unicorn boner perforated the asspants

Then spray painted “unicorn boners don’t declare fatwas”

As assclowns rushed through and all out into

My new movie “Corn Dog Guy” whilst the chicks passed out beside the litterbox

Threw up eight goats, a taco cake and a grapefruit

The grapefruit hit the taco cake and spanked Michelle Bachmann

And I bellowed and you queefed

We reached our Jesus in lint form

One honest day up on this wiffle ball freedom pole of rumpleforeskin

Devils not done digging chicks who dig war

He’s speaking in goat fetus all along the pan handle

And this pining erosion is getting dust in

My mom-seeker panties

And I’m drunk on your 90% Khalil Gibran, 10% carved wooden pizza kitty

And so I look down the mountain, killing zombies at will

Some people cried “but that was cool!” and I could only whisper “we should NOT be killing zombies!”

Your every twitch salutes my brainwashed creationists yodeling to attract a forest of UPS trucks driven by Oompa-Loompas

Spank hard, spank safe, Kurt Vonnegut

–for Kristen Stewart, by Sharon Mesmer

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Excerpt From Lollapalooza Tour Diaries http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/lollapalooza-tour-diaries-maggie-estep/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/lollapalooza-tour-diaries-maggie-estep/#comments Thu, 13 Feb 2014 04:47:33 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6467 Wed. August 24th, 1994, Phoenix, AZ. It’s 120 degrees here and the sky is huge. In spite of the heat they seem to be big on poetry in Phoenix. I read 4 poems then almost passed out from the heat. My t shirt was soaked with sweat and some weird fan boy started following me... Read more »

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Wed. August 24th, 1994, Phoenix, AZ.

It’s 120 degrees here and the sky is huge. In spite of the heat they seem to be big on poetry in Phoenix. I read 4 poems then almost passed out from the heat. My t shirt was soaked with sweat and some weird fan boy started following me around trying to buy my t shirt. Finally I was saved by Torment the Drag Queen who is now the official poetry tent MC. Torment came and stood between me and my loopy fan boy and told the fan: “Get down on your knees and lick my shoes then we’ll see about Maggie’s t shirt.”

The guy scratched his head for a second then turned and walked away. I kissed Torment’s powdered cheek and lay down on the dirty grass and tried to recover from borderline heat exhaustion.

Thursday August 25th San Diego

maggie-estep-07

I performed a bunch of times but nothing all that exciting happened.

I was lying on a couch in the Breeder’s dressing room when Evan (the guy who’s job it is to make juice for The Beastie Boys) saw me and said I looked sick so he brought me into the Beasties’ dressing room and made me a huge carrot juice.

The Beastie Boy I Have a Crush On was hanging out and we talked for a while. He told me he thought he’d seen me in an airport 3 days earlier. I said it wasn’t me but I was secretely pleased that he was hallucinating visions of me in strange airports.

Liz the Poet and I ate together. The catering tent was set up inside an indoor parking structure and all the food smelled like gasoline.

Liz was wearing a t shirt with a picture of a kitten on it. Above the kitten Liz had written “LIZ: Poet ,Cunt, Whore.” Liz is not one to mince words. She has a poem called “All Women are Whores.” And one called “My Country My Cunt” which she and Torment the Drag Queen do as a duet. Liz says “My Country” and Torment says “My Cunt.”

Liz is having an affair with a guy named Joe. Joe’s official job title is Snowman Roadie. He’s in charge of the 8-foot papier mache Snowman that L7 have on stage with them. He and Liz are crazy in love.

Now it’s about 9pm and I’m riding with The Breeders on their tour bus and we’re heading for LA. Me and Levi, the Breeders Road Manager, are having a love affair but we’re trying to keep it a secret so I’m not going to write about it.

Saturday August 27th, San Francisco

Performed 4 times today and it went pretty well. I taped a copy of me and my band’s CD to my ass every time I went onstage. Then I’d turn my back to the audience, point at my ass and say: “This is my promotional device and this is my CD, please buy it.”

I went to do a set on the 2nd Stage. Sterolab were going on right after me and right in the middle of my piece, their guitar player started checking his guitar tone really loudly so I couldn’t hear myself. I turned around and gestured for him to please hold it for a minute but he just made a snotty face and hit a power chord. I finished my piece, threw the microphone at him, and stormed away. I hate Stereolab.

I marched into the catering tent to tank up on coffee and bumped into Billy Corgan, the Smashing Pumpkins Guy. He was in an expansive mood. He gave me this big hug, sat me down and asked what was the matter.

I told him all my problems and he gave me career advice then said he’d come play guitar for me during one of my sets. Then my fellow poets Wammo and Shappy appeared, sat down with me and quizzed me in depth about Kim and Kelly Deal whom they worship. So I told them about how Kim doesn’t ever change her pants but is really a sweetheart. That was the clincher for Shappy. He doesn’t change his pants either. Now he’s got this big fantasy about him and Kim breeding and frolicking and never changing their pants.

Friday September 2nd, Los Angeles, Day Off

Last night me and Levi and the Breeders caught a plane from Seattle to L.A. The tour bus dropped us at the airport in Seattle and Kim Deal didn’t want to get off the bus. She was holed up in the back lounge,burning candles and figuring out Hank Williams songs on guitar. All the rest of us piled off the bus. Finally, Levi had to practically pull Kim off the bus.

The whole sorry bunch of us traipsed through the airport.

Everybody stared at us. By this point Kim hadn’t changed her pants in probably 2 months. And I don’t really think she’d bathed either. I don’t know why. She still seems to sing and play guitar just fine though.

We got to The Roosevelt Hotel around 2AM. Me and Levi have this big suite with a view of Hollywood Boulevard and a throbbing neon sign that says “Roosevelt.”

Sunday Sept 4th, LA

I hate LA. I can’t go anywhere because I don’t know how to drive and Levi is busy doing important road manager business.

Last night I got really stir crazy so I went down to the pool and furiously swam laps. Back and forth and back and forth and then all the sudden I see this hand in the water. I totally freak out, swallow huge gulps of water then come up gasping for air. Then I see that it’s only Wammo the Poet sticking his hand in the water, trying to get my attention.

“Wammo, what the fuck are you doing here?”

“I’ve come to rescue you. Liz told me you were stranded here so here I am.”

So I went up to the room and put clothes on then went off with Wammo and Shappy and a few guys from the Lollapalooza coffee booth. They were driving around in this huge Ryder truck that the coffee people store all their coffee-making supplies in and also live in.

We tooled down Hollywood Blvd in the coffee truck. We went over to Liz’s house and from there walked to Liz’s friend Joan’s house. Liz’s friend Joan really liked me even though I was in a surly mood.

She gave me three cups of coffee and some bananas and quizzed me about my brief acquaintance with Courtney Love whom she worked with a few years back.

Wammo got drunk. Liz and Joe the Snowman Roadie were kissing in a corner. The coffee boys got drunk. Me and Joan talked. The sun started to come up, the sky turned pale blue over the palm trees. I felt better. Joan’s friend gave me a ride back to the Roosevelt. Levi was sound alseep.

Monday September 5th, LA, The Last Show

I have a horrible cold and performed only once. Billy from the Pumpkins played guitar for me. He was wearing a big straw hat that obscured his face and I introduced him merely as “My love slave Bob” but the audience wasn’t completely fooled and spent the whole time trying to figure out if that was indeed Billy Corgan and they didn’t pay attention to the fine subtleties of my new poem called “Your Poetry Sucks.”

I watched the Beastie Boys for the last time and for the last time watched the way The Beastie Boy I have a crush on’s pants sagged loosely over his very small butt. And maybe this is what I got out of Lollapalooza, a bunch of crazy new poet friends, and a possible sequel to the Stupid Jerk I’m Obsessed With: “The Beastie Boy I Have A Crush On Who Wears Ill Fitting Pants That Sag Loosely Over His Small Perfect Ass And Basically Doesn’t Give Me The Time Of Day But I Don’t Really Give A Shit Because Frankly I’ve Evolved Beyond My Obsessive Phase And Besides, I Got Bigger Fish To Fry.”

Yeah, that’s it. That’s what I got from Lollapalooza. What more could a girl want?

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Mother’s Worry by Chris D. – Review http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/mothers-worry-by-chris-d-review/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/mothers-worry-by-chris-d-review/#comments Sun, 09 Feb 2014 03:33:55 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=6450 Chris D. (aka Desjardins) first came to my attention as a published poet in the obscure but excellent zine Birthstone and with his own anthology Bongo Chalice, both in 1977, minutes away from starting his Flesh Eaters band in L.A. I had already seen some of his film work, including the intriguing 16mm short Rocket... Read more »

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Chris D. (aka Desjardins) first came to my attention as a published poet in the obscure but excellent zine Birthstone and with his own anthology Bongo Chalice, both in 1977, minutes away from starting his Flesh Eaters band in L.A. I had already seen some of his film work, including the intriguing 16mm short Rocket Day Johnny. I had no idea how far his obsessions would go, and so it is with partiuclar pleasure that I read his novel, Mother’s Worry, now re-released on his own publication label, Poison Fang.

mothers-worry-chris-d-paperback-cover-art

Those obsessions have matured and Chris comes out the other side of his own Tunnel of Horrors boat ride still intact.

Chris did manage to put together a feature, I Pass For Human (now on DVD), and has admitted that a lot of his prose was orginally intentioned for the screen as well.

Mother’s Worry, it goes without saying if you know any of Chris’s work, is a very lurid and weird lit noir filtered through heroin addiction and gorehound film. His clearest inspirations are Jim Thompson, the neglected writer who died without anything in print, but is now recognized again, and Harry Crews, whose Feast of Snakes novel is the launching pad of this particular novel.

The most interesting device of this book is having a variety of first person viewpoints – and the most interesting viewpoints are all those of women, particularly Connie, the girlfriend of a our lead character, Ray.

Ray himself is the pulp crime anti-hero, macho and indestructable. It is easy to image Chris in this role from his earlier days of Allison Ander’s indie Border Radio or the Flesh Eaters’ video Wedding Dice (directed by Gary Walknow). Chris has the features of a noir hero for sure.

However, Chris also has the soul of a Romantic poet, and is essentially a dandy in rags. Even on screen, he never particularly seemed like he could win a fight or take a bullet and keep going. That’s something a director often teaches his actor anyway. Left to Chris’s own imagination, Ray is pretty two-dimensional and the world that Ray inhabits is not so much the lurid world of noir film or pulp, as much as the world of the cheap paperback one of its denizens reads on the night shift of a flea bag hotel. The Mexican hooker looks like Selma Hayek with Brando’s broken nose, and the craven male homosexual snivels behind the counter like a gay Gollum in a VERY retro worldview. There is no Tarantino irony here. I gave Chris a chance to reply about his “fag” clerk portrait by e-mail: “I was thinking making [Ray} too politically correct would be dishonest to his character (where he’s from, the time period, etc.,)…” I still found this problematic, since Ray’s standard macho view literally populates his world the way a square 1960s detective film might, where gay males are regulated to the rat-like, horrifyingly femme. This world plays out in a hellish Valhalla closer to the neo-anime of Afro Samurai than the grit and grime of a fresh-from-the-slam Ed Bunker tale. This is not to say that Chris’ neo-anime is not without its own charm, and early in the book I began imagining a satisfying graphic novel, a Chris D. Sin City.

But when Connie the stripper takes center stage, suddenly it all becomes more real, and Chris’ Jungian anima replaces Japanese anime. Here we can see where Feast of Snakes left off. Chris picked a hell of a novel to reference when he picked Harry Crews’ masterpiece. That Southern Gothic noir meets Day of the Locust never fails to convince that however unlikely or horrible things are, they are definitely really happening. So it is with Connie’s narrative. Not surprisingly, woman-on-woman bi-curiousity is quite natural and sensual in her world, that double standard of the so-called straight male.

Still, the plot unfolds with a riveting narrative that has many a Romantic poet’s turn of phrase:

The slats in the walls of the shack were exactly like the ribs of a skeleton and, during the heat of the day, looking like fire and feeling like radiation, burning everything away until I was in a white world of conflagration that ate away skin, leaving nothing but a blistering, blackened shell.

*

He was one big question mark, from the tips of his scuffed-up Beatle boots to the army fatigue dungarees and garish purple polyester shirt he wore, to his googly pop eyes, pencil mustache and the ugly spit curls plastered across his mostly bald, sweaty head.

“You like disco?”

*

“They’re drug dealers and they practice black magic.”

The kid glanced furtively at the hanging corpse then quickly turned away.

*

A haze of of gauzy pink and red tapestries of ropy liquid snaked out of me. Paisley patterns of blood-drenched icons of dead, martyred saints from childhood prayer books materialized in a a levitating tableau. I saw my parents disappear in an accordion of mangled automobile beneath a fierce locomotive; Ray lying on his deathbed hideously burned and mortally wounded in the green votive light of his last refuge by managing to plug Jake and whisk his betrayer away from him; Billy “Bilbo” Bannon’s head being crushed beneath my plaster-cast arm; and last, but not least, a giant mirror of my naked body bound with rope and pierced with arrows, droplets of green fire licking my toes.

Any recovering Catholic will recognize the imprinted origins of Chris’s inspirations. I absolutely had to finish Mother’s Worry and my only main objection to the narrative itslef was that there are so many Southern good ole boys with similar names by the end, I wanted a chart to keep track of them all.

Chris has said that many of his novels were orginally film scripts, and one could see this one among them. It is far too late for Robert Aldrich to reincarnate and make Kiss Me Deadly for our modern cinema. Like Chris’ novel, that film is too overtly apocalyptic. Even Michael Winterbottom’s Thompson novel-to-film The Killer Inside Me or William Friedkin’s Killer Joe both squeeking by on screen are not signs that this could be made without a private bankroll. There is none of Taratino’s embarassed laughter or Hollywood’s sanitized A-picture heroics. It is a nasty little world and Chris has seen some of it himself, that is obvious. That’s why Mother’s Worry works a good deal of the time and I couldn’t stop reading until its last “suffering is everpresent” word.

Mother’s Worry, by Chris D., Poison Fang Books, $16.00
reviewed by Marc Olmsted

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Gizmo http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/gary-indiana-gizmo/ http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/gary-indiana-gizmo/#comments Sun, 12 Jan 2014 23:51:12 +0000 http://sensitiveskinmagazine.com/?p=4866 (from Gristle Springs, a novel of intrigue) In a detention cell at Gizmo, Umma Obikhan Khan, supposedly blind as the proverbial bat (having dwelt in many caves, the Umma knew well that bats are not at all blind, but simply prefer the efficacy of echolocation), darted his Blue Eye at one of the simpleton guards... Read more »

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(from Gristle Springs, a novel of intrigue)

In a detention cell at Gizmo, Umma Obikhan Khan, supposedly blind as the proverbial bat (having dwelt in many caves, the Umma knew well that bats are not at all blind, but simply prefer the efficacy of echolocation), darted his Blue Eye at one of the simpleton guards who had, a few days earlier, confiscated the Umma’s Qu’ran out of spite.

“You bein’ blind and all, ahm sure you’d favor a Braille edition…we’re expectin’ one special for you any day.”

Huck, the simpleton’s name was, Huck Finnish, and he’d met with a rather close shave almost instantly after removing the Umma’s sacred book, a spill down a flight of cement stairs that had only resulted in wrist injury. The Umma had, moments prior to this mishap, fixed his Whirling Eye on the imbecilic Huck, a corn-fed specimen of the American Midwest of unquestionable virility and fitness, yet infinitely suggestible, ripe for the Umma’s special brand of theological seduction.

dawnGiza

Giza Dawn, photograph by Ruby Ray

Obikhan Khan told Huck in Arabic, a language utterly alien to the strapping lad, that Allah would bless him for his attentiveness to the spiritual needs of his handicapped charges. At the same time, he caught Huck’s artless azure orbs with his Whirling Eye, until the boy was well under, deep in a mesmeric trance.

“I know that you can see, Huck,” the Umma’s gentle voice murmured in the young American’s ears, its tone as pensive and quiet as a prayer. Somehow, Huck now understood Arabic perfectly. Moreoever, the Umma was murmuring in English. “How miserably your brothers here in Gizmo are being treated. Stripped of their dignity as men, tortured pointlessly for information they would never give, even if they possessed it: nothing, Huck, is accomplished by torture. Torture strengthens the resolve of the true mujahidin, who intend no harm to your people, nor to your so-called American way of life.”

“Yes,” Huck whispered, “I do see. What we are doing here is criminal and wrong and an offense to God.”

“The beatings. The humiliations. Your brothers are forced to stand for hours at a time, to endure the barbaric immersions your masters treat as sport, to offend each other’s modesty and even to be set upon by vicious dogs.”

“It is wrong, Umma Khan. Especially the dogs.”

“And the panties, Huck. The panties pulled over their faces as they are forced to manipulate their private parts.”

“Yes. Yes. The panties.”

Huck now understood how dastardly and wrong it all was: Gizmo, and his previous deployment at Fizzmoral, that outpost of horror at the easternmost tip of the Aleutian Islands, which had become, in recent years, tropical tourist havens. And the one before that, the Black Ops detention center on Diego Charabia, formerly Diego Garcia. It was as if the scales of a ravening crocodile had fallen from his eyes like drops of morning mist, eyes which gazed for the first time into the Pure White Light, a celestial beacon illuminating the path of righteousness. Others, Huck’s reptilian brain informed him, dwell in darkness and must be guided towards the same obliterating whiteness.

“And your government denies to your brothers their basic human rights and liberties under international law, forbids them to meet with attorneys to defend them, and defiles the principles it claims to uphold.” The Umma’s head shook with tremulous sadness. Barnum certainly got it right, he reflected. There’s one born every minute. Perhaps two or three, these days. Of course, it helps when everything you’re saying is true, as far as it goes.

“I am guilty before Allah,” Huck declared dreamily. “I have wronged my brothers and been set against them by the inhuman creatures who rule this accursed hell. How can I free myself from the bonds of this terrible guilt?”

The Umma paused, stroking his long beard, his Blue Eye darting in vigilant surveillance of the filthy corridor outside his cell, his Whirling Eye maintaining its grip on Huck’s powerless gaze.

“You must bring me others, Huck, others who have not yet understood. Your fellow soldiers, one by one, who act as pawns in the evil that has set brother against brother. You must also find a means to supply your brothers who languish behind bars the weapons they must have to destroy these prison walls. You must provide us with C2, C3, C4, and with chargers, cell phones we can deploy as detonators, with AK-47s, with mortar shells and claymore mines…if you wish to enter Paradise, these things you must bring us. And you must enlist others to embrace our jihad, but only those who have seen the White Light.”

A ship already awaited them, actually a modified cigarette boat, just round the shark-infested tip of Gizmo, prepared for the short haul to Martinique and the island, more of a sand spit really, a few miles east of its pristine beaches, where Dr. Fu Manchu had ensconced himself after his recent scrape with Weymouth Smith and that drug addict he hung around with, who had, the Umma knew, married a Eurasian woman who’d formerly acted on behalf of the ChoFatDong.

The Island of Isitme-Oryou, all but inaccessible owing to the vast quantity of gigantic pointed rocks ranged beneath its lush rain forest—where, it was said, prehistoric birds and beasts had survived the Triassic Era and its massive die-off, though the Umma considered this an infidel myth, concocted by a pernicious Jewish film director and a money-grubbing author of drearily lowbrow best-selling books.

Huck, meantime, felt a growing eagerness to bring Tom Sawbone, his fuck buddy from base, into the Umma’s presence, that Tom could share the spiritual nectar the flowed from that radiant light. Huck and Tom had shared so many coarse and earthly things that Gizmo offered a boy on the cusp of manhood, yet all those things were as nothing in comparison to this lysergic ecstasy of Pure Beingness.

*

Tom Sawbone thrust the tray of rations through the opening at the bottom of Umma Obikhan’s cell door. He noted, as he always did, how the Umma merely glanced at the arriving meal as if some unspeakable putridity were on display, taking time to whisper prayers of sarcastic thanks before delicately pulling the tray close to where he sat on his prayer mat, cross-legged in something akin to the lotus position Tom had learned in yoga class.

He knew because of his Auntie Em how thoroughly blind people familiarized themselves with their surroundings by their other senses, and never felt any surprise when the Umma’s eyes seemed to look at him, since blind people, or at least Auntie Em and her needlepoint circle of sightless friends, turned their faces to the person they listened to. Still, Tom couldn’t help staring into the Umma’s lifeless eyes, it fascinated him, how somebody who couldn’t see had eyes in his head all the same.

Umma Obikhan fixed the gangly, handsome youth’s glance with his Whirling Eye, while continuing to utter his prayers in a barely audible whisper. He had, in fact, completed his prayers, and was whispering something else, something Tom, spellbound, brought his face close to the cell’s bars to decipher.

“See my Whirling Eye, Tom Sawbone, it is like a rainbow in the soft air that follows a gentle summer rain, is it not, Tom Sawbone? It is like the old swimming hole where you and Huck Finnish used to swing out over the water in an inner tube tied to a branch of a tall tall pine tree, it is like the refreshing cold water of the lake where you and Huck went skinny-dipping on a sweltering August afternoon after finishing your chores, is it not?”

Tom experienced a sudden rent in the fabric of time: him and Huck were at the watering hole, splashing each other and dunkin’ each other’s heads, and then they swam out to the clapboard raft nailed up over a bunch of empty oil drums, buck nekkid as babes, then they was rough-housin’ on the raft after hoisting themselves out of the cool water, rastlin’ and rollin’ on top of one ‘nuther till that moment seemed alus to come when the rough-housin’ went all still and Tom laid on top a Huck, or Huck lay on top a Tom, or sometimes they was layin’ like two spoons in Aunt Em’s utinsil drawer, and Huck’s big warm thigmajig pressed up aginst the crack a Tom’s ass, and Huck’s hot breath panted into Tom’s ear, and Tom shot his tongue out and licked inside that ear and Huck’s big toe ran up and down the bottom of Tom’s long foot, and ‘fore you knew it Huck’s throbbin’ uncut ding dong greased up with a wad a spit pressed its head out a that clingin’ wrapper of loose flesh and Tom felt Huck’s thick shaft slidin’ up inside him Huck’s wide hairless chest pressed like Auntie Em’s steam iron up ‘gainst Tom’s back out there on Loon Lake with the wild geese wheelin’ overhead and callin’ each other in they matin’ cries…

Somehow all the same time Huck was cornholin’ Tom as Umma Obikhan sipped his tea all delicate and that Whirlin’ Eye showed Tom him and Huck fuckin’ nice and slow on that raft out Loon Lake, and all sudden like, Tom loved the Umma for showin’ him that sweet pitcher of him and Tom locked together like that Huck movin’ inside him so nice and warm as a blueberry pie coolin’ in Aunt Em’s winda and Huck flippin’ Tom over on his back and grabbin’ Tom’s ankles, thrustin’ his long thick pumper deeper inta Tom’s insides & at the same time Tom was rememberin’ where they kept the Semtex in that locked-up shed behind the PX and figurin’ how far the distance was between that shed and the broke-down biplane hangar where they’d got all the AK-47s locked up in a long chest all full of excelsior with the ammo belts in a different chest other side of the hangar, now it was Tom’s turn to cornhole Huck, and Huck was already hungry for it when Tom spit into his palm and at the same time they was runnin’ from the Semtex storage shed to the biplane hangar and they was others with them too, Jones and Rafferty and Jimmy Johnson and the whole gang laughin’ and fuckin’ each other and runnin’ from one weapon storage billet to the other grabbin’ up all the ordnance they could lay they hands on…

*

Pvt. Arnyld Stang, a Clerk Typist from Requisitions, has unexpectedly become the very best friend of Huck Finnish, a strapping lad he has often Admired from Afar: one suffocatingly humid afternoon, Private Huck sauntered into Private Stang’s office, approached his desk with a disconcerting air of humility, and introduced himself with a hearty handshake.

The touch of another man sent Stang into a near-swoon, and the firm grip of this particular man practically caused him to faint. Not that Stang was one of these don’t ask don’t spill types. Each morning in his mess kit mirror, Stang told himself, “Arnyld, you CAN attract women, women LIKE you, not just as a GIRLFRIEND, these sissy ways of yours are nothing but DEFENSE MECHANISMS.”

Still, Pvt. Stang found himself Hard Put to believe himself as he worked through his Affirmations, the way some of the men did their facial isometrics.

“Ahm told,” said the manly Huck, still Meek as the Pascal Lamb, if that was the correct Biblical animal of sacrifice, “that yoah the man to see if’n theys ennethin’ we particlarly find usselves cravin’ from the PX thet they doesn’t have.”

Pvt. Stang, flummoxed, managed to sputter out:

“We we well I guh guh guess I am, Private Finnish, if you you ca ca can tell mi mi mi me what it is you need.”

Huck leaned over the wooden railing, the better to murmur in Pvt. Stang’s almost deformedly large ear, in which hairs had accrued thick enough to suggest those follicles and cuticles that continue generating tissue after death.

“Tuh tell yuh the trooth, Pry Vat Stang, I’m in a wee tahny bit of a pickle. See…”

See. Stang could only see the antique pocket-watch Finnish had drawn from a uniform pocket, swaying slowly on its gilt chain, back and forth, forth and back, Stang’s eyes following its lugubrious movements as Finnish’s voice reached his ears from very far away, a sound echoing down an endless tunnel.

The voice divided in the tunnel, and the tunnel’s lanes of rain-slick tarmac carried the sluicing of automobile tires, headlights occluded by blinding white light bathing everything in a metallic sheen.

One voice repined for a delicious childhood chocolate treat, a hard trapezoid of embossed milk chocolate with nuts and raisins embedded inside it.

“Ah shure wid relish sinkin mah choppers into a good ol’ fashin Chunky,” it declared, stirring in the coral-like epithalamic folds of Pvt. Stang’s brain matter a long-forgotten expression, issuing from Stang’s own mouth: “Whatta chunka chocolate!”

Yet a quite different voice rolled down the seamless shiny tiles on the opposite slope of the tunnel, as military jeeps, their rear compartments piled with strange-looking, translucent pods of some sort, splashed the wet lanes of the motorway, whispering, gently commanding, instructing Stang to secure the punch codes for the locks on the ammunition depot, the titanium bolts on the weapons storage bunker, commit these codes to memory, and communicate them to Tom Sawbone in precisely thirteen hours, when Sawbone would appear at Stang’s office with requisition sheets for more surgical masks used to cradle the Qu’ran in the cellblock of Building 5, Camp 5, the isolation camp’s most notorious cellblock, to prevent the sacred book from touching the floor of the detainee’s rabbit warrens.

Stang would retain each code until it reached Tom Sawbone’s ear. He would then retain no memory of the instructions he was hearing now, the codes, or even the identities of Huck and Tom.

“When ah clap my hands and say Thank Heavens to Betsy for Funnel Cake, you all will wake from yoah slumbah and go about yoah business just like as if nuthin ever o-curred. But yoah brain will memorize them codes, Prahvit Stang.”

*

“Tonight,” Huck Finnish rasped, prodding a Braille edition of the Qu’ran between the Umma’s detention container’s bars.

The Umma, though deep in prayer, nodded approval, felt for the book with his wormlike fingers as if truly sightless. He withdrew to the cell’s nether end, to the surveillance camera’s single blind spot, felt between the vellum pages of the sacred book and whisked a phosphorus grenade from its hollowed-out pages into a fold of his decorative khaftan. His lips remained busy in motor-mouthed piety as he returned.

The mesmerized Huck had learned to elude the camera’s gaze when muttering to the Umma.

“We’ve delivered the plastique to our brothers in jihad,” he said without moving his mouth. “And the grenade launchers, the flame-throwers, the AK-47s….”

“Timing is everything, Huck Finnish, let us synchronize our mental clocks…”

A mere glance at the Whirling Eye sufficed for Huck to lock into sequence with the Umma’s temporo-spatial master plan, a procedure Huck reproduced with Clerk Typist Stang, Tom Sawbone, and their confederates in the course of yet another satanically broiling day at Gizmo—their end of days at Gizmo, may Allah B. Allah.

Huck didn’t really know what “irony” was, but experienced it strongly all the same: all his few years hadn’t had a turd’s worth of purpose, yet he’d now discovered his life’s meaning in the way it was going to finish up—no pun intended in his noggin. For sure as shit him and Tom would be ditching the material world in a matter of hours—who ever would’ve thunk it would be in a sacred cause much bigger than them? And that neither one nor th’uther would be one eensy bit timorous about buyin’ the farm, now that the True Meaning had been Revealed?

Huck sure hadn’t been scratching around for any meaning in his existence, but it had smacked him flat in the kisser right here in Gizmo, Tom too—but then, he reflected, it’s just when you ain’t lookin’ for somethin’ you wind up findin’ it, and he could’ve wept tears of gratitude right there on the spot to the Holy Umma for bathin’ them both in the White Light that would soon swallow him and Tom like a coupla sunspots—he couldn’t even put it into words, but knew like he knew his own name old Huck and Tom would skedaddle free of this world of care and smelly gym socks like snakes wriggling out of their skins, and this time tomorrow—if eternity was tomorrow and didn’t include today and yesterday as well—be pleasurin’ each other up in Paradise under a Niagara of Vasoline.

At precisely eight thirty-seven, the electronic locking mechanism on the Umma’s cell block jammed in the open position. Seconds earlier, one Sgt. Farmhaus Philbert, who oversaw the video panopticon in Tower Three at the far end of the exercise yard, had Met His Maker via strangulation: a fitting end to a ripe slob, who had just dined on a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, a large fries, two supersized cokes and a vanilla shake, and, in the process of expiring, vomited these partially digested items all over the console controlling the movements of Gizmo Camp 5’s surveillance cameras.

At eight forty, the individual containment doors slid open on their rubber tracks. So far, the Umma thought, we’re still better at calculus than the civilization we imparted it to.

The same operation occurred at precisely the same time in four other cell blocks of Camp Five.

At eight fifty, the Officer’s Mess next to the KFC franchise in Camp Five’s mini-mall exploded, thanks to a carefully fused baseball of Semtex puttied onto the underside of the room-length wet bar. The camp’s commanding officers—Major Beal Bookertee, Captain Earnest Vandersmere Dinsmoor, Lieutenant Colonel Pangborn Sanborn, and several others, hailing from Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, Idaho and Kentucky, among other places—had barely commenced the evening’s bottomless ingestion of impious beverages. One second they were pitching around new methods of waterboarding that could involve filling extremely large basins with urine, motor oil, salt water, peroxide, or Listerine Mouth Wash, the next they were bits of writhing meat vectoring aimlessly through space, colliding with flying scrap metal, glass shards, pulverized wood grain panelling, scattered flaps and fillets of one other sticking to melted plastic cafeteria upholstery, smacking into incomprehensible lumps and streaks of debris, careening like pinballs all over the mini-mall, landing wherever the bits struck durable surfaces, fabric and flesh shearing through the Food Court Plaza. A cannonade of severed limbs and haunches and scalp struck a gaudy “chuck wagon,” its bright steepled signage reading, “Dizzy Gizzy Food Court Chow Down.”

A severed shin and foot in a lace-up Army boot flew into an all-you-can-eat salad bar featuring an array of spicy noodle salads and rice pilafs, splattering an aluminum tub of Creamy Ranch-style dressing into a hailstorm of red and white creamy pellets. An eyeball attached to a jagged skull fragment, an arm in a uniformed sleeve, various snotlike ribbons of viscera whizzed through the open doors of Camp Five Gizmo Burger King, colliding with serving trays and napkin dispensers and ketchup fountains and illuminated Duratrans Whoppers, Thick Shakes, and Freedom Fries, then slithered to the decorative linoleum tilework.

The skeleton crew of the Burger King, ducking a blizzard of intestines and random gobs of flesh, scattered in horror past the fryolators and warming bins, scrambling for the walk-in freezer.

Thirty seconds later, the entire mini-mall rose several feet as the second explosion lifted the structure before squashing it into its own foundations, shock waves blowing out windows in Camps 4, 3, 2, and 1, shattering the eardrums of sixteen servicemen posted in guard towers. The ground beneath a horseshoe expanse of crabgrass and weedy wilderness near Camp 5’s security gate split open in a five inch fissure.

By the time the explosion shuddered through the other camps, a perimeter of sharpshooters in gas masks, ranged across the only paved tarmac into Camp Five from three converging service roads, counted off seconds as the first emergency personnel ran towards them. The snipers’ AK-47s filleted the bewildered infidels with the ease of a scythe slicing elephant grass.

When a second, motorized contingent of peacekeepers rumbled into Camp Five, stunned by a tsunami of greasy smoke from the blazing cinder mound that had featured their customary breakfast pancakes and Egg McMuffins, gooey dreams of a vanished past, thirty phosphorus grenades smashed through their windshields or detonated inside their roofless jeeps. A lung-scorching stench of melting flesh and upholstery and liquified steering wheels mingled with a toxic cloud of asphyxiating smoke.

The snipers bit down on cyanide capsules secreted in their dental work.

Umma Obikhan and his confederates had piled into Jeep Cherokees twelve seconds before the Officer’s Mess lived up to its name.

An elite corps of zombified grunts raced them to the curlicue rock jetty where Gizmo tapered into the sea and helped them into a customized cigarette boat, waved goodbye as it vanished in the evening mist, then turned smartly to base with a precision hitherto unknown among Gizmo’s enlisted imbeciles. They buckled on suicide vests, crossed the smouldering ruins of Camp 5, and mimicked shock and horror for the panicking Army personnel running helter skelter into the carnage.

The former jailor GIs shouted gibberish, gesticulated wildly, arms flailing in carefully rehearsed confusion, confounding their erstwhile comrades in arms while surging deep into their disordered midst. At precisely nine fourteen, their voices keening in unison, they ullulated that there was no Allah but Allah and triggered their explosive outerwear.

Adios, Gizmo, muchachos!

—Gary Indiana

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