In keeping with my mission to be a giver, I’m starting a fresh series today, which should appear each Wednesday for my writer friends. What I’m seeking to do is have you, should the mood strike, write a few lines for the story in the comments (following the theme laid out), with each subsequent reply picking up and carrying froth from that. By the end, we should have a grand little tale. What we do with them after this, well… I’ll leave that for discussion. Maybe we can self-publish as an e-book and split anything generated between those who played a part.
In this first run, I’d like to propose a short story about a writer who creates stories for his own entertainment, but after a few years he finds that he’s bored because he already knows what he wrote, so he enlists the help of his wife to bash him over the head upon completion of each tale, causing just enough short-term memory loss for him to enjoy the stories.
However, this causes severe damage over time and he begins to grow a tumor but this tumor pushes on just the right the part of his brain to increase his creativity… In fact, It increases this so exponentially that he does not believe that he is the one writing the stories and kills his wife thinking that she was cheating on him with another writer.
The options here are plenty, as we could dive deeply into his fractured psyche, his paranoia and plotting against his wife, or even into each tale, which could all have clues that either support or question his fears. So much potential indeed.
Having a nice conversation last evening with a friend of mine, and the topic naturally turned to creative endeavors. I shared with him with my plans to write a book of palindromes, tentatively titled Never Odd or Even which would have the increased difficulty of not only starting/ending each line using a word featuring an umlaut (and, as we’re using diaereses in place of the tittles, the subject will be “surgically-enhanced titties”) but structuring the rhyme scheme around a parametric form (something based loosely on an exponential Diophantine equation), and thus arriving at a sort of hierarchy within the prose (by employing Roth’s theorem to find the consecutive pairs of smooth numbers – in this case, lines that go together – and thus arriving at some use for Størmer’s procedure and Pokemon-ing the fuck out of it by finding them all), and giving the work an entirely different meaning if you read it straight through OR solved said equation. I’ll keep you abreast of my progress, should you be interested. Or happen to have some really strong cough syrup to, you know, kick things off.
Anyway, the topic turned to making furniture, and following a lengthy discussion on the merits of using poplar or oak for the framing, we had both noted that this can become expensive over time, and add a lot of weight if one weren’t too careful in he design phase. Following much discussion, I had suggested a cheaper alternative that would allow for mass production AND neat-o instructions featuring stick figures. “After all,” I postulated, “press board has worked out well for the Swedes.”
Now, several hours following his hanging-up on me, I have yet to find out if the press board tree can even grow stateside. I believe that the fruit of the tree, a small meatball-like orb, can cause a reaction in some woodland fauna, unless of course the soil has been detartrated.
You may know of Led Zeppelin (and other bands as well) having had practice sessions in Clearwell Castle following Robert Plant’s personal tragedy, but you may not be aware of the band Helium Submarine and their lower-budget recording sessions high in the Rocky Mountains. As I complete my research and begin writing the script for the major motion picture based upon their story, I’d like to invite you to crack open a fresh bottle of whiskey and bring yourself up to speed on one of the greatest rock-n-roll fables never told.
The fabled band, having begun as a side project of three roadies from Black Sabbath, the next-door neighbor of an ex-girlfriend of a guy who changed the oil in Deep Purple’s tour bus, and a guy who knew the guy who scored the pot for a batch of brownies that never made it backstage to the band Sweet, Helium Submarine began as a cover band, but soon found their sound and inspiration via a shared interest in Pre-Columbian history, Biologist Trofim Lysenko, and Tesla’s third cousin Lepzig, inventor of the “Purple Nurple”. Composing such epic tracks as “Overcoming Gravity: The Pharaoh’s Phallic Pleasure Palace (The Ballad of Hefferendendanum, Stone Mason and Footballer Extraordinaire to the One and Only True Descendant of the Beer God, Pete)”, “Hybrid Turnip Yield Failure”, “Lysenko VS Mendel’s Giant Pea in the Lair of Common Sense”, and “Jacob May Have Had a Ladder, But I Have a Really Long Fireman’s Pole, But It’s More for the Chicks” (Parts I-VII), which in and of itself comprised three sides of the quadruple concept album …and a side of open-mindedness for my date, please (which tells the story of an astral-projection date gone terribly awry when one of the couple’s silver threads becomes entangled in the power lines following a time-traveling misadventure), the band was not getting commercial radio play, most likely due to the length of their songs (27 minutes on average). Or perhaps an affinity for screaming the word “pisspussy” repeatedly each time a cymbal would crash following a piccolo solo in an arrangement. By their second major release, “Captain Squeaky’s Sandwich Disaster”, the band was pursuing new roads, accidentally inventing “sampling” when they had a tambourine stolen, and the sole remaining recorded track of the missing membranophone was found to have, in the background, their neighbor, one Ms. Elsa Sheranislovsky yelling at her cat to stop peeing on the rug (and thus the birth of the aforementioned catchphrase “pisspussy”).
In any event, their A&R guy, Jerry Bettleford-Volume (heir to the Volume Family fortune – his great-Grandfather was one Chas. Whitwether Volume II, inventor of the volume knob, and who, having the foresight to not only Patent the device, but also managed to retain the forward rights for all future inventions, including what he described in 1904 as a ‘moving picture box” 1, was able to leave a very sizable empire and thus provide a comfortable life for his family to engage in pointless endeavors such as being an A&R guy) had suggested that the band try a more “radio-friendly” sound, and the band sought to head to the famed Clearwell Castle. Naturally the label denied the trip on grounds of “absolutely zero budget”, and as DoubleCross Records Senior VP Sol D. Seitowicz was quoted as saying, “I wouldn’t trust those morons in a garden shed, much less a castle.” Ever forward-thinking, Bettleford-Volume bartered with a neighbor to use a cabin that he had won in a game of high-stakes Hungry Hungry Hippos after-hours in the zoo he worked at, located in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains, deep in what is now known as Colorado, just slightly upriver from where Coors gets its water. The cabin, of course. Hippos cannot survive in the mountains. Not for lack of trying, mind you. We’ll cover that in a future post, “Noah’s First Ark: Big Waves Tend to Carry Things a Long Way From Home” (Scholastic Designation: “The Engineering of a Storm-Induced, Sea-Faring Vessel, While Having Obvious Similarities to a Regular Ship, Like Say for Instance a Barge or Something Like That, Would Logically Dictate Notable Structural and Functional Differences From One Designed to Endure a Storm of Sea-Making Potential While Carrying a Pair of Every Known Species for an Undefined Period of Time, Allowing for Storage of Fecal and Other Matter of an Undetermined Prior Mass in Advance of Setting Sail and Thus Begs the Question as to Just How Many Versions of Said Ark There May Have Been Before Noah Got it Right, and Just How Many Really Cool Animals Didn’t Survive to Make That Final Journey, Assuming That Said Animals Weren’t Just Complete Douchebags, and That Then Begs the Question of Whether or Not it Weren’t Simply a Case of Choosing the Wrong Animals to Bunk with One Another, as We Have No Record of an Official Bill of Lading for Any of Said Ark Versions, Or the Ship’s Crew, Most Notably the Social Director”; Remedial Title: “Big Animals on a Boat”).
What was to come of that trip is now a part of Rock-n-Roll folklore. At nearly any festival, you can hear it being re-told in hushed tones over the hypnotic crackling of a campfire roasting Fritos and S’mores-flavored Hot Pockets… and the gasps for fresh air between breezes carrying the foul body odor of the attendees far along to the next campsite.
Following a two day hike to the cabin (which, had it not been for lead singer Ashton Mung’s severe leg cramps and the band’s insistence on using a place mat treasure map taken from a Denny’s near Loveland Pass as the only form of navigation, would have taken approximately nine minutes from the frozen lake their plane had set down upon), the band settled in, and began writing what was to be their first commercial album. According to the manic scratchings and crudely-rendered cartoon penises in bassist Paul-Jean-Pierre Gowenbrowski’s journals, many of the songs were of an absolute genius not seen or heard since the Beatles and their secret “K-Mart” sessions, which bred over 4 million hits worldwide. The band had truly found their stride. Drummer Steve “Ukulele” Marzipone was experimenting with new forms of rhythm, as well as time signatures based on the numbering system for describing sexual positions. Lead guitarist Todd “Lozenge” Lozengensen was discovering new sonic frontiers alongside the string section they had liberated from a Czechoslovakian cover orchestra (hailed in their time as “The Closest You Can Get to the Philadelphia Philharmonic Without Having to Deal With People From Philly”), and rhythm guitarist Jim Freuchelisnki was working to harmonize with synthesizer wizard Vinny “The Organ” Quinn. The lyrics were of a deep personal nature to lead singer Mung’s heart, but dumbed-down just enough to rhyme and repeat per and over again, making them ideal for radio and the idiots listening to it. Things were progressing beautifully. Even the dozen oil painters brought along to create cover art were finding inspiration in the spectacular views and many varieties of hallucinogenic plants growing in the area.
Then it all fell apart.
As storms blew in, the band refused to leave. While ninety four of their entourage sought refuge in the town at the base of the mountain, and the remaining seventy-seven musicians brought along left on planes over the next three days, the band pressed on, writing and arranging their magnum opus. During this time, the weather worsened, blowing in Arctic air and temperatures reaching 70 below zero… But not before dumping forty-nine feet of wet snow upon the tiny two-room cabin.
Over the next five days, travel was impossible, and the resulting horrors I will spare you here. Having burned all nine of the drum kits, Marzipone was close to a percussionary breakthrough, using the skin and bones of Quinn; it being decided that his services were no longer needed, especially with the power being knocked-out and all. Suffice to say that in a Donner-esque turn, only one band member was to survive the ordeal… although left an empty shell of the fun-loving poet genius he entered that cabin as.
The resulting solo album, 1-8-5 (the cover art was an assemblage piece; a collage of the surviving pages from the journal that escaped burning on day two, and released overseas as Wiping You Away) has been hailed as a “remarkable work of lyrical inventiveness and very unique arrangement, paying little, and at times absolutely no attention to things like music theory”, and rare copies can be found in the bargain bin at weird little record stores that you wander into named “Spinners” or “Deep Tracks-n-More”, thinking that they may have a public restroom you can use while attending local art fairs and drinking far too much lemonade.
1I should write a bit here about the controversy surrounding the demise of the volume knob, and the resulting drama surrounding that, more commonly referred to in scientific circles as “The Great Volume Button Controversy”, but let’s be honest here, and accept that this has gone well beyond where it needed to, and save that for another day, shall we?
In keeping with the modern trend of over-thinking, analyzing and then blaming all present and future actions upon some insignificant event in ones past, I’d like to offer the following. Bear in mind that it is in no way to be considered any form of apology, but rather a blanket blame on anyone else but myself for said actions, be they past, present, future or even alternate-dimensionally. Being an “entitlement prick” appears to have advantages over “responsible adult”.
I once had a terrible experience at a family meal wherein we were served lumpy mashed potatoes. Now, it may not sound like a big deal to you, but to really understand the psychological trauma brought forth by these poorly prepared, textural tuberous terrors, you’d be better served having known my Aunt Regina and then trying to unravel what will no doubt be the subject of more than a few doctoral theses for some struggling grad students one day.
In keeping with our theme, it’s not her fault that she lost her front teeth and left-side molars in that knitting bee incident… although it is often argued that if it weren’t for her insistence that Barry Manilow had written the off-off-Broadway musical retelling of the life and times of Davis M. Knoellbecker, the forgotten laboratory assistant of George X.L. Wangrower, inventor of Enzyte (who later became a Vaudevillian-esque circus side show performer famous for a pole-vaulting act that was hands-free and truly head and shoulders above anything else you could see for three cents in his time) –you have to give the broad some credit, as her life was running somewhat in parallel with his snappy tune “Can’t Smile Without You”, if you changed a few words– versus simply agreeing with Edna “Crazy Toes” Tombeck that the supposed musical was little more than a dream sequence in a very special episode of “The Golden Girls” when they did that crossover with the A-Team and Blanche takes peyote with Murdoch that she’d share some delight in the nanosecond of flavor that is Juicy Fruit or even a full-on flossing, but I digress. Well, not yet. No, come to think of it, let’s save that little tale I just recalled for later on, and go back to digressing all over again.
You see, between her now-inadequate chompers and an over-active gag reflex, combined with her tongue being offset slightly to the left, the sounds emanating from her end of the table were downright frightening. The “squish, squish, gargle, gag” rhythm and back-beat of snorts and whistling exhales (did I mention her deviated septum? Grand tale for another somewhat food-related post sidebar), I was reminded of a horrifying visit to see Santa Claus who happened to be in the throes of anaphylaxis (anyone else recall Ralph Lauren’s brother Todd and his short-lived, peanut oil-based cologne “Georgia”? There’s another tale for yet another time in all of this involving a brief encounter with a guerilla-style cosmetics counter clerk and a “sample” spray of said cologne and my winter parka – you’d be amazed with the efficiency in which a faux fur fringe band spanning the leading edge of a hood on a blue nylon winter coat can be used to transport a substance across three departments, one of which being Lingerie, of which my younger self truly worked to put the “linger” into – I’m writing a spy thriller based on this), which I had mistook in my childhood innocence as unadulterated excitement over the Tyco slot car track (with “Nite Glow”!) I had mentioned, just prior to his expiring and drooping forward, spilling forth his final words to me on a wave of peppermint schnapps-laced breath and what I pray was saliva, which were either “Real potato chips don’t come in a tennis ball can”, or perhaps something else, possibly closer to “Find medical help for me, if you can”. To say that this event ruined Christmas would be giving far too much credit to some stranger who had obviously engaged in some rather serious vocational misadventures… Not to mention some militant malefactor of aromatic goods who accosted an innocent child on his way to see some remnant of a time gone by, both in the traditional sense as well as in the “burned-out alcoholic masquerading as a holiday symbol” way… of the two, I’ll leave it to you, fair reader to determine which is more depressing. Nay, that Christmas was ruined by something far more nefarious, and we’ll save that tale for another day, perhaps written as a Shakespearean soliloquy.
In any event, I don’t particularly care for lumpy mashed potatoes OR allergen-swollen, sketchy-at-best department store Santas. And don’t even get me started on old women named Blanche or musicals. I do, however, miss the K-Tel commercials that aired during the glorious period of syndication when I became a young man and discovered the therapeutic benefits of aromatherapy to be found in scale model car building… Again, none of which is obviously any fault of my own.
For years, I’ve been thinking about writing a series of short stories (or short films!) all with plots based strictly on band names, and while I may never get to them, I figured it best to throw the idea out there, and ask for a percentage of sales, should you be so inclined to tackle the idea yourself.
Consider that “Thurston Harris and the Sharps” could be the gripping tale of a germaphobe janitor working in the ER of a busy hospital in the inner city. Or “Butthole Surfers”, which has “animated feature” written all over it. Making a tapeworm appear personable may be a challenge for some animators, but we can always consult with Obama’s people for tips.
Mind you, there is a band named “Evil Edna’s Horror Toilet”, which is fucking brilliant (and we haven’t even mentioned their cover art for their EP “Too Much Gristle In The Blancmange”, which features a creature with very ambiguous genitalia, sparking the question as to which toilet it might use in the first place… which, in retrospect, may be just the horror of it all to begin with). I’m just going to leave that there. Along with “Midget Handjob”.
Although “Insane Clown Posse”, if written as a 1940’s serial would be awesome. They could hunt Nazis, and we could tie it in with “Adolf Hitler’s Nipples” (BETTER: A time-travel, space opera that crosses over into “Disco Tits”, “Jefferson Starship”, and finally “Frankie Goes to Hollywood”, the tale of a one of the posse who splits off all Lancelot-style, to become a third-rate actor who makes it big playing cadavers in true crime period works, only to have his career become the spark of a never-ending war, culminating in a three-hour Peter Jackson adaptation of the second paragraph of the story, which merely involves Frankie going to the store for deodorant… Having the whole thing (finally) wrap up in grand Arthurian style with it being revealed that Hitler is Frankie’s father, and a whole “father-kills-the-son-and-the-son-mortally-wounds-the-father” sort of tradgedy, but with a little Shakespearean twist involving an affair and many made-up words).
As fun as that would be, one that has me fascinated as a title is “Suburban Kids With Biblical Names”. OK, and “Son of Dork”, which my son could write. We’ll leave the easy ones, like “Supertramp”, “Buster Poindexter”, “Bronsky Beat” and “Ned’s Atomic Dustbin” for later. “Adam and the Ants”, while a great comic book title, may work even better as a side project of this side project; I could take a band, and follow it as they splinter-off, writing tales based upon the names of the new bands formed. Imagine “Bow Wow Wow” as a sort of William S. Burroughs tale (there would be a sort-of precedent here, seeing as Steely Dan is named after a marital aid in “Naked Lunch”, which really brings this idea full-circle). However, there is a guy who wrote stories based on Springsteen songs, but those work from, well, imagery already there, so this is off in a land all its own, and probably begging for a cease and desist or two.
…and don’t even get me started on the potential of “Chumbawumba”. Or “Sha-Na-Na”. Either of these in the style of Clive Barker would be fascinating.