Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What YOU need to know about the Kuboshes by Seth Deitch

What YOU need to know about the Kuboshes by Seth Deitch

The waitress came by my table and refilled my coffee just after I emptied it for the third time in the last thirty minutes.
“It’s scary, isn’t it? Like I can read your mind.” She quipped.
I wondered how scared she would be if she really could read my mind.
I put aside the random thought. I needed to focus. Things were happening, the whole world felt tense. I was shielded from the transmissions, but I knew I would be deluding myself were I to believe that was a permanent solution. Sooner or later they tumble to the fact that they are no longer getting through and then they move as quickly as possible.
I paid the check and thanked the waitress and tipped her exactly ten percent so as not to draw attention with either niggardliness or extravagance. I did, however, risk leaving a pamphlet with it. I liked that waitress. Her name was Deedee. I wanted her to be informed about the coming great changes.
In my apartment, I carefully replaced the lining in my hat. The aluminum foil had become worn and would soon start to admit the probe rays if I failed to take action. Once, not too long ago, a hole that I allowed to go unrepaired had allowed a probe to get through and lead me into a spate of obsessive masturbation that lasted for a week. Since that time, I have been more vigilant.
I noticed that one of the boxes of pamphlets in the corner wasn’t properly lined up with the others and hoped that it hadn’t been that way for too long. The probes can sense the disturbance in the resonance field. I corrected the error and hoped for the best.
This man who had been elected president was a papist. What could this mean but ruin? A sign of the end times! How could a man who was aware think otherwise? Since he had taken control of the government, and even more so since the new pope had come to power, the beams had become stronger, the heralds in the sky had appeared more frequently and my harassment by the police had become more obvious. The strange thing was that he himself seemed to be unaware of the conspiracy, perhaps because he represented a counter conspiracy. His predecessor knew some of it. “Military/Industrial complex”. Ha! It was far, far broader than that.
It was almost ten o’clock, which was when I was supposed to meet with my Controller. He walked and in the park at that time every day and we had a few minutes to converse.
The clouds of doom were only metaphoric on this bright and sunny morning. I was the only one in the park with a coat. It made me stand out, but a trench coat could conceal more shielding than a light jacket.
I spotted him immediately along with his keeper, a pleasant tempered woman in early middle age, who had, for some reason, never married. The Controller turned his golden eyes on me as she unhooked his collar, but bolted off in another direction. He could learn more from sniffing a tree stump than I could from reading the entire newspaper.
I approached and waved at the woman, her name was Elizabeth Martin, and said “Nice morning!”
“Isn’t it though? How are you Mister Case?” She called over to my controller as he was starting to dig at the base of a tree. “Moosie! Your friend is here!”
His ears pricked up and he bounded toward me. He nearly bowled me over as he put his paws up on me and slobbered all over my hand. While it was abhorrent to me, I tolerated the physical contact because it was part of his cover. “We must talk,” he muttered while still licking my hand.
I had psychically encoded my report and needed to pass it to him. I knelt down so we were face to face and pulled it from my pocket. “Moosie, I have a present for you!” I held up the pink rubber Spaldeen and then tossed it fifty feet. He dashed after it and picked up the information without effort.
“You and Moosie have such a rapport.” Said Elizabeth. “Do you and your wife have dogs?” She gazed at me archly; she had subtly accented the word wife rather than the word dogs. I thought it best to keep my response neutral.
“I can’t have pets where I live.” I forced a sad smile.
“Your landlord won’t let you keep one, or maybe your wife is allergic?” Again the accent on wife. Was this some sort of code?
The Controller was starting to roll around on a squirrel corpse. Elizabeth saw and clapped her hands together loudly. “Moosie! Stop that!”
I knew it was my cue to move. “I’ll go get him Miss Martin.”
“Thank you so much. I simply can’t have him bringing that smell into the house!” She met my eyes. “And please, call me Elizabeth.”
I dashed after my contact and grabbed his collar pulling him away from the dead rodent. He looked me in the eye. “It’s about time.” He said. “I wish that I could do something less disgusting to get you alone to talk!”
“I’m sorry,” I said, “Elizabeth was asking personal questions,... I was distracted.”
“She is a slut, she wants to suck your energy so you can’t perform the mission. You must maintain your celibacy!”
“I know, I know.”
“Continue to evade her probing about your personal life. You have no personal life. Your life is the mission.”
“I understand.”
“Alright then. Today you need to meet with six people. Any six people, but they should be as divergent as possible. Talk to them about Russia, Cuba, Baseball, Mrs. Kennedy’s hats, whatever, but find out their favorite color! I need to know the key wavelengths for more people so I can arrive at an average.”
“Favorite colors, o.k.”
“You’d better go now. You have a lot to do.”
I led my controller back to his keeper and bid them both goodbye.
As I walked away, Elizabeth called after me. “Give my best to Mrs. Case.”
I almost faltered in my pace. Did she know my mother? Had I ever asked Deedee her favorite color? I needed another cup of coffee. My controller had repeatedly told me that I should have as much of the stimulant beverage as possible. It keeps me sharp for the battle. I didn’t need to ask Elizabeth. The Controller lived with her after all, he would know already.
I knew what people thought who casually observed the workings of my life, even the small parts that I allow the public to see, to them I appear to be insane. It tortures me for people to see me that way, but I must do these things in order to accomplish the great work. Sometimes “Moosie” called upon me to inform the public about some aspect of our work. Those times were the worst. I don’t like the way people look at me when I talk about what’s really going on. Most of them are dupes; hapless pawns of a conspiracy so great that even those of us who are aware of it can barely fathom its intricacies. Even worse is being told to “move along” by police officers, as if I was a common criminal. Mocking me with their eyes. They want me dead, but they can’t just kill me straight out. Not now, not yet, but time is coming that they will be able to execute me for thinking the wrong thoughts. Can’t they see I’m trying to save their lives?
From what my controller told me, I fashioned a master chart that delineates all of the connections for my own reference. It takes up an entire wall of my apartment and has many amendments tacked up on it on small pieces of paper. I keep promising myself I’ll redo the entire thing on a single large sheet, but the situation and the relationships are fluid, ever changing. Those who are duped by the shadow reality created by the conspiracy find it impossible to believe that our rulers, our owners, would go through so much trouble to fool them. If they only knew exactly how and why they were being duped, they would whistle a different tune, that’s for sure!
It turned out that Deedee liked pink. I admit surprise. People who favor pastels usually seem less honest and straightforward than her. I would have expected her to be a more committed red or blue type. Pink is the same color as the Spaldeen that I used to carry information to the controller. I would have to make special note of that on the chart.
I realized that I had no favorite color. I would have to ask the controller what that meant. I wondered if maybe all agents had no favorite color, that all frequencies of light effected their emotions equally.
“Puff the Magic Dragon” was playing on the radio in the Woolworth’s diner. It had been preceded by “The Monster Mash”, last year’s hit, but Halloween was coming up in a week and it was appropriate to the season. Dragons and monsters. If only they knew. If only they knew.
My life was actually far better than it had been before my controller discovered me. I didn’t know that the feelings and intuitions that I had related to something greater than myself. There was some comfort in knowing that there actually was a conspiracy to control my mind and that I was actually hearing strange instructions being beamed into my consciousness by the agents of darkness. I am not insane.
It was a wonderful day when Elizabeth Martin first spoke to me. The rays had been doing their evil work. I had been thinking the most unclean thoughts…thinking them with the most unclean words. She said I looked troubled. Not knowing who she was, I was understandably reluctant to tell her that strange voices were telling me to fornicate with almost anything and that Jesus would love me for it, so I just told her I had had a bad day at work. It was a lie. A sinful lie. I had been living off of a small inheritance for a few years.
She asked me my name. I said, “Joseph Case”, but even then, my own name sounded like an alien construct to me. I had not yet learned my true name.
She asked me to watch her dog for a moment while she went to make a phone call. As soon as she was out of sight, the animal spoke to me.
The dog turned huge, intense brown eyes upon me. “I have been looking for you.” He said, matter-of-factly.
I was alarmed and at first pretended not to hear him. I stood rigidly gripping his lead in my white-knuckled hand.
“Don’t ignore me. I’m here to save your life.”
Those were the words! I knew that those would be the words spoken by the one who would explain everything! I was ecstatic!
In the few moments we had that first meeting, he laid out the bare bones of what it was I had been experiencing and how I could be instrumental in defeating the dark design that they were a signal of. He told me that we must meet often and he would instruct me in my part of the plan for the world’s salvation. I would work alone and would never meet another agent except him until the plan was completed. At that time all the agents would become the new philosopher kings and help Jesus return to Earth!
Just before Elizabeth returned, he told me how to block the rays and gave me my first assignment. When she sat down, she asked me if I came to the park often.
“All the time.” I said.
She beamed. That’s so nice! Moosie likes you, I do hope we will see you often.”
The controller told me to line my apartment walls with aluminum foil to block the rays. A lining of it in my hat would be required when I left the house. I must keep myself scrupulously clean and all products of my body had to be carefully disposed of. No parings of my skin or nails could be put out with the garbage. They must be burned and the ashes flushed down the toilet. My clothing could not leave the house with any stains of sweat, saliva, mucus, urine, feces or ejaculate, therefore I had to pre-wash all of my things before I went to the laundry. I must avoid physical contact with others, particularly women and I must not have intercourse. It was imperative that I keep all of my vital fluids in check.
The force that was our enemy was known as the “Goromes”. They were monsters from a malevolent dimension who have been rampaging through our universe for millions of years. They reached our planet some thousands of years ago and have been responsible for all the misery that has marked human history. The Kuboshes, who were agents of the Goromes worked hard to distract humanity with sexual impulses. They reached across space-time to affect sensitive tissues with heat and moisture and swelling until all the victim felt was need for release and the powers of the world meant nothing. They defiled our very bodies to advance their evil program. I knew that castration would protect me, but the controller forbade it and forced me to get by with an aluminum foil shield in my under shorts. I complained of the discomfort to The Controller. His opinion was that removing my genitals would cause quite a bit more discomfort than that. Furthermore, it was a good discipline to maintain my purity against the demon Kuboshes on my own strengths.
The Goromes needed the sex energy of mankind so they could bring the Tumblebugs to Earth. Tumblebugs were psychic war machines that came in the guise of conglomerate corporations. Their mission was to tell people to indulge in sinful sex and ignore the incursion of the Goromes. They use the stolen sex energy in their advertisements and as beamed weapons against agents like myself. The result is that most of humanity is insane, driven mad by the Tumblebugs, but I have become aware. I am now, for the first time, in control of myself. I am not insane.
It was important for me to appear as “normal” as possible and not stand out to avoid instant termination by The Goromes. The controller insisted that that I appear as a perfect unremarkable member of society to his keeper in particular. The reason for this was unclear to me, but I complied. As far as Elizabeth Martin was concerned, I was a junior account executive with an advertising agency on Madison avenue, a job I had actually held before the sex rays got too strong. At that time in my life, although I didn’t know it, I had been a servant of the Tumblebugs.
The faces of people in the streets and on television show so little awareness. They simply go on with their happy lives without a clue as to the reality of the human condition. Charles Fort seemed to show remarkable insight when he said “I think we might be property.” It was not insight, but a statement of known truth, for Fort was an agent like myself. His writings are the Bible’s Third Testament.
I stopped to purchase newspapers at a stand near the park. I grabbed a Daily News, a New York Times and a Herald Tribune as well as a racing form and a copy of Popular Mechanics. The newsie was an Italian man with shifty eyes and a pencil line moustache. He was eyeing a cop who had picked up a Daily News and flipped straight to the comics page but had yet to make any indication of intent to pay for it known. As he was chuckling over the antics of Little Orphan Annie, I reached into my pocket for a dollar to pay for my reading matter. In rapid succession I fumbled the papers and then dropped some change. I drew the attention of the officer when he caught a glimpse of the foil lining of my trench coat. As I bent to pick up my papers and change, the cop asked, “Does that keep you warmer, Mack?”
I attempted to remain composed. “Why, yes. Yes it does! You should try it.”
The cop gave me a strange look. Did he suspect more? He gave a short laugh. “Ha! You bust me up! I don’t know how well the silver would go with the blue.”
“So you like blue?”
He held the inquiring expression. “You think the uniform of the New York City police department is funny? This blue is my favorite color!”
That was two down, four to go. “Of course not, officer. You have a nice day!” I paid the newsie, received thirty cents change and hurried away.
I needed to get to my apartment before noon so that I could receive the message of the title. This was one of the many ways Kuboshes communicated with one another. WPIX was running “One in a Million” and an episode of “The Phantom Empire”. The meaning of the serial title was laughably transparent, but the reference in the title of the light ice skating musical was less obvious and would require study. I would have to consult the metrics. I switched off the television. All I needed was the titles of the films. I wouldn’t need to consult it again until the afternoon.
I returned to the street and started counting New Jersey license plates as I walked five blocks north. The number of them on that walk at that time of day provides one of the twelve metrics used by the Kuboshes. Today there were six. When I had all twelve, I could set up the graph.
Then suddenly there was the image of Khruschev standing on a hill of corpses making an obscene gesture at me as a convoy of flying saucers streamed overhead. Nazi storm troopers with vampire fangs pointed machine guns at me while giggling like little girls! A dog defecated on the Declaration of independence and a legion of boys pointed and laughed at the dog and at my horror. An atomic mushroom sprouted over the island of Manhattan in the form of a laughing devil face! Khrushchev pounded the Earth with the heel of his shoe while sporting a gap-toothed grin.
I reeled from the vision! Tottered like drunken sailor right there on the street. The vision passed as quickly as it had come.
A middle aged man put his hand on my shoulder. “Are you alright, buddy?”, he asked.
His touch was electric and terrifying. If any of the Gorome poison that I had worked so hard to rid myself of should seep into my clothing it would set me back several weeks worth of ablutions. “Don’t touch me!”, I screamed. “Don’t transfer your devil juice! Don’t open me to the sex vibrations!”
The man stepped back looking confused. In my alarm, my hat had come off and the sex rays were suddenly streaming into my brain. I grabbed it off the sidewalk as quickly as I could and jammed it onto my head.
The man said, “Sorry pal, I was only trying to help!”
I was distraught. “You bastard, you damned bastard!” I was on the verge of tears.
Hey, buddy, you’re in public, there’s ladies present! Watch your language!”
“Ladies! Energy sluts! They want my power! Fuckfuckfuckfuck fuckity-fuck! That’s all they want and I am left like Sampson, shorn and blind!”
A younger man jumped forward and grabbed the collar of my coat. “You better shut up you crazy son-of-a-bitch!” He had hair in a pompadour, a lot of pimples and was chewing on a toothpick. “You take the crazy shit somewhere else, get it?”
He released my collar and I hurried off before a cop decided to show up. “I am not insane!”, I muttered under my breath. The visions didn’t come to me often when I was in public. I mostly had them at home. The visions could be triggered by all sorts of things, but thoughts about sex or the government or my mother were most likely to bring one. I think the Kuboshes were attempting to interfere with my collecting the metrics.
I turned and looked down the block and closed and opened my eyes slowly while reciting the Lord’s prayer. On the fourth opening (on the line “on Earth as it is in Heaven”) I counted the red and green lights out to the horizon. Three red, the second metric. There were six cabs waiting at the stand on the corner, the third metric. The clock at the automat was two minutes slow compared to my watch, the fourth metric. Pies at the automat on 42nd‘s windows were lined up blueberry, blueberry, apple, custard, the fifth metric. I had a piece of the apple while I observed women’s hats. Pillboxes proliferated, but I was looking for floral motifs. I counted four out of ten, the sixth metric.
I know the metrics sound like they are random. Let me point out that they can be gathered from a great number of different sources. The invaders have remodulated the laws of chance by their presence placing odds for certain occurrences higher or lower than would normally be expected. Only certain types of human minds can be trained to perceive these fluxuations. My controller has such a mind.
As I left the automat I passed a pretty young woman who wore a lavender silk scarf. I took a chance.
“lovely scarf.” I commented.
“It’s my favorite color!” She chirped merrily. So noted.

Slob Chic by Chris Rich

Slob Chic.

With steamrolling consumption bearing down, avid anti consumers will do well to live like Henry Thoreau. .From Walden we get this gem, "I'd rather sit on a pumpkin and have it to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion".

Of course, a bit more grace and vivacity than the priggish Concord Curmudgeon makes the run more fun but his basic premises are sound and increasingly essential to ward off encroaching affluenza.

We aren't likely to be crowded on velvet cushions but the search for pumpkin options well rewards the effort.

.Henry is Slob Chic's grandpa but it was a common feature of life as recently as the material starved home lives during World War Two when people just made more of their household stuff because they couldn't buy it due to strict rationing of nearly anything needed for the war effort.

The aesthetic is grounded in enhanced utilitarianism. A free object from the nations bloated avalanche of castoff stuff is MORE valuable than a store bought object sold to serve the same purpose.

Why give Ikea a dime for shelving when the land provides milk crates, produce boxes, wine cases, boards and such in overwhelming abundance?

A wary look at curbside trash will often reward the searcher with all kinds of useable furniture up to and including a couch. Upgrades are always possible and the rejects can finally resume their trek to the landfill Valhalla or recycle rebirth.

The castaway stuff of our complex and demented material is, by itself, unimaginable wealth to impoverished peoples of the Sahel who make most of their usable stuff from sticks and baling wire.

Consider the plastic milk jug. This thing can be by turns a plant pot, a funnel, lamp shade or furnish good stock for guitar picks or any other purpose suggested by need for the plastic.

With a little imagination and appreciation for a materials intrinsic utility potential as it careens through the trash stream, one can eliminate entire categories of costly consumer clutter and its bite on the wallet.

And, when you move, you can always send it back on its journey to the landfill knowing you gave it a temporary reprieve.

And the best part is the reserve snob gloating one can apply to guests. "Hey, check it out, we just tricked this whole dump out and it didn't cost a dime, have a glass of the great Syrah we bought with the money while we wait for the steak to come out of the broiler."

There's the rub. The best way to rein the heartless corporate world is to stop giving them so much money. Here's a fun hierarchy.

When you need some consumer thing run this string. 1. Can I scrounge it? 2. Is it in a thrift shop, yard sale or second hand source? 3. Can I get it from a small family owned business or wholesaler?

A thorough Thoreau run down this chain may be the only real power of direct choice we can bring to bear on laissez faire run amok.

You may well discover that the number of things you need to feed the mega hogs maw are few and comfortably far between. That, in turn, lets you save more or work less and reduce your exposure to the other side of the merciless laissez faire coin, that shabby travesty called 'the workplace'.

And if it catches on we may one day see the pests shrink back from their drive to make little profit centers of us all.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Reassessing Radarman by Seth Deitch

Reassessing Radarman

Seth Kallen Deitch

I have got to say that although it has not always been true, today I am a huge fan of Nelson Black who was Radarman’s creator. It’s not his fault that he couldn’t draw worth a damn, for fate had decreed that he leave both of his thumbs on Iwo Jima. It is for this reason that the Radarman comics are not held in very high regard in spite of the striking originality of the storytelling. As a youngster, I dismissed these books which I saw only when I went to get my haircut. For some reason, the local barber never had any Marvel or DC titles, but only Gold Key, Archie and other second and third rate imprints.

Radarman was originally published by Falcon Comics and ran for a few years starting in March of 1963. As I have said, it was not well thought of. I reached for Radarman only after I was sure that there were no copies of Magnus, Robot Fighter in the pile. Even so, a few issues somehow found their way into my collection via bad trades with my playmates and were among the stash that sat behind the furnace in Uncle Shemmie’s basement on Long Island where I spent many a happy summer, only to be rediscovered following his more than timely death in 2006 at the age of 102.

When I came across an issue of Radarman, my first reaction was “What in the name of all that’s pure and sacred is this doing here?” I quickly paged trough it just to see if there were any interesting ads before I tossed it in a trash bag when I noticed that there was a text story. As a youth I generally bypassed these stories that some comic books featured to get onto the next full color story. This time I had the patience of middle age on my side and I discovered that the feature was a chapter of a serialized Radarman novel! Not only that, it was one of the weirdest things I had ever read. I have not read the entire thing as I only have issues containing chapters 3, 9 and 16 and the books are nigh impossible to find at any sort of reasonable price. For your edification, I offer one of those chapters.


Rhonda arrived back at the beach house just a few moments too late, for it was already in the process of being consumed by one of the gigantic mutants. This one looked like it might possibly have been the result of the mating of a bat and a squid which it likely was, and of course it was at least then thousand times the size of either of its parents. She decided to get back in her car and move on before the monster spotted her.

She had to review in her mind as to how her father had gotten so far out of control. Was it less than a year ago that he had been regarded as the world’s greatest fertility specialist? Now he was the world’s most wanted criminal and apparently not even Radarman could find him. Rhonda’s father had searched for the solution that would allow childless couples to finally achieve their dream of parenthood. Not only did he seek to give them babies, but big healthy babies. She comforted herself with the notion that he probably didn’t expect his serum to enable the mating of any two organisms regardless of sex or species or that the offspring would always grow at least as big as a house. Least of all, she prayed he had no idea that these creatures would hunger for human flesh exclusively and have an instinctive desire to smash cities. Even if he didn’t know these things, it seemed careless of him to have simply poured his samples down the sink.

She was forced from her reflections and off the road by a rampaging Grasshopper-mouse the size of an airliner that was tearing its way into a shopping mall and hundreds of people fled in mindless terror. The grasshopper-mouse was briskly gobbling up the slower ones. The pokey little Studebaker wasn’t going to be a solid or swift enough vehicle. She saw a abandoned Jeep parked in the mall lot and ran toward it. Since she had been forced to change cars so frequently in the last few weeks, her skills were well honed and she had the Jeep hot-wired in mere seconds. She had to get back to Waterbury, if there still was a Waterbury and find Jim! He was the only person who knew how to contact Radarman.

Since the mutants had eaten most of the army, Radarman was the only force in the world that could confront these creatures successfully. Even that mighty being, however, might not be able to prevent more from being born. Rhonda sped off between two of the grasshopper-mouse’s six furry legs with the gas pedal to the floor.

In Waterbury, Jim Baskin had run to the roof of the Star-Sentinel building to get a better view of the city. Four immense bunnyhogs were working their way up 19th street although one of them had stopped to do battle with a gorillachicken that had resulted in the complete destruction of Oddfellows Hall. Thankfully, most of the people had been evacuated from that part of town so most of the creatures were just sniffing around. He wished his car had not been destroyed by the manduck. The bizarre catholicity of sexual attraction had not effected him as it had the rest of nature, so it was difficult for him to imagine having the sort of desires that would lead to the conception of such a creature as nature now suddenly seems to allow. He assumed that his microwave charged blood was not susceptible to the same malign influences.

He had to protect the city! He touched his ring and spoke the word. “KLYSTRON!!!!” He was surrounded by the familiar energetic discharge that altered his very atoms and where once had stood an ordinary science teacher was now the astounding RADARMAN! He leapt from the roof held aloft by the power of Radion energy and he scanned the horizon with a powerful radar field. As he found the mutant that was closest to him, a sixty foot tall rosebush-dog. The creature was loathsome beyond description and Radarman was consumed with disgust. He directed a stream of microwaves at the heart of the creature which barked and whined and fell over onto a gasoline truck that exploded upon impact sending flaming petals everywhere. The superhero moved on the next mutant, a snailgiraffe, and was about to engage it in battle when he spotted the Jeep making its way up Industrial Parkway. Flying high over the city, Radarman scanned the vehicle and, to his horror, discovered that the driver was Rhonda! He dove down to street level and landed in front of the car which slowed to a stop. Rhonda leapt out of the car and ran toward him.

“Radarman! Thank God!”

“Rhond….er, Miss Grant! Why are you here? It’s simply not safe!”

“I need your help, Jim Baskin is somewhere in Waterbury! We were separated when a squirellswan destroyed the TV studio in Oakville!”

“Jim is safe, Miss Grant. I got him out of here.”

“Where is he? I must find him!”

The electromagnetic paladin hesitated for just a second.

“He is in a secret lab working on an antidote to the fertility serum. In the meantime, I’m trying to find your father and save as many lives as I can.”

Yet again, Radarman wondered why he kept up the charade of a double life. Rhonda was his fiancé after all, but he still harbored the fear that she would consider him a freak if she knew.

His musings were interrupted by an awful roar from the snailgiraffe as it crawled toward them along the highway. From the opposite direction came a mushroomcow. Radarman picked up Rhonda and lifted into the sky just as the two hideous mutants collided. With his left hand, he sent a blast of microwaves against them and something strange took place. The two evil beasts vibrated and then seemed to liquefy and flow into one another forming a towering mound of raw protoplasm. Then the mound started to bud off pieces that were living creatures having the characteristics of both mutants. In mere seconds there was a herd of mushroomcowgiraffesnails milling about and rapidly increasing in size.

“This is an unanticipated development,” said Radarman.

“I’ll say! I have my father’s notebooks, but they’re in the car in the middle of all those mutants.”

“I have to go and get them!” Radarman flew Rhonda to the top of an office building and left her there safe for the moment and then headed back to the Jeep. He hovered over it and heated the air under it with a microwave beam slowly lifting the car into the air. Once it was high enough, he pushed it through the air to the top of the building where he had left Rhonda.

In an office in the abandoned building, the super hero and the science reporter went over the books to see what they could find out.

“This is astonishing!”, Said Radarman, “According to this, the creatures we have encountered are only the beginning! The serum has effected all life on a molecular level. As of now any living species has been enabled to produce young with any other living species, and that is quite bizarre enough, but the serum will soon be effecting things on the sub-molecular level! When that happens, living things will be able to produce offspring with inanimate objects!”

Rhonda was perplexed. “Inanimate? You mean a cat could successfully mate with a saxophone, for instance?”

“Precisely! And it won’t end there. The serum is designed to also act at the conceptual level!”


“A living thing or a non-living thing will be able to produce young with abstract concepts!”

“Huh? Do you mean that we could see a hybrid of a footstool and justice? A hamster and algebra? A dog and doggedness? ”

“And each and every one of them hungering for human flesh! Terrifying, eh? This must be stopped! The entire universe is threatened if there is a general breakdown in the differences between one thing and another.”

Rhonda had imagined many ways in which the world might come to an end, but this had not been one of them. They both sat for a moment in silence when suddenly, the window exploded inward.

Aviators of Tomorrow by Seth Deitch

Aviators of Tomorrow, A pulp rediscovery
Seth Kallen Deitch

When Hugo Gernsback began running occasional fiction in his magazine Science and Invention the idea was an immediate success that he followed up with the world’s first dedicated Science Fiction magazine, Amazing Stories that spawned countless imitations. One such imitation was with great enthusiasm released upon the general public with the title Aviators of Tomorrow. This expansive series of short novels was written by no less than fifteen authors under the house name of Charles Allen Westerleigh in one hundred and one semi-weekly issues all appearing in 1926. These are by no means the finest example of the pulp genre, but they are without a doubt among the most difficult to find. By great good fortune, an almost complete set was found in an abandoned country outhouse near Cosgrove, Indiana in 1946 and were preserved carefully in an attic by their discoverer, Miles Wright who alerted the world to the existence of the magazines in a letter to a fan publication in 1961. Since that time, only three complete copies of an issue of Aviators of Tomorrow have come to light. I have a Xerox copy of one of these.

This mag is some wild stuff. I do not have the space to reproduce the entire novel, but the following sample chapter should provide evidence enough of the vibrancy of writing that went into this obscure publication.

Chapter 3
Taking Action

After the airliners started falling from the sky throughout Europe, Colonel Rawlings thought it was a good idea to make his way to headquarters as swiftly as the autogyro could carry him. That was the place to start, he was certain of that.

The young Aviators of Tomorrow kept their European base of operations in a network of tunnels within the Rock of Gibraltar. As he sped over southern Spain, Rawlings spotted yet another downed Zeppelin. With a quick and practiced hand on the cockpit telegraph key, he inquired as to the well being of the survivors. Receiving a confirmation that they had already been assured of their impending rescue, the colonel continued onward.

It wasn’t long before the monolith of the Pillars of Hercules appeared on the horizon. He signaled ahead and the upper tip of the rock slid soundlessly aside to reveal Rawlings’ personal gyropad. The rotors spun him down to a perfect landing.

Standing close at hand was Flight Lieutenant Johnny Ames, the tow-headed Indiana farm boy who at the age of thirteen was the finest pilot of his age on this or any other planet! “Colonel Rawlings!”, he called out in greeting. Rawlings climbed out of the cockpit and shook Johnny’s hand warmly. “What’s going on, Sir? I heard about the falling Zeppelins, what could be causing it?”

“Johnny, I’m afraid we have a grave problem on our hands here.” Said Rawlings.


“I won’t mince words Lieutenant, it may be the greatest challenge we have ever faced!”

Blood drained from the youngster’s face. “You mean greater than the invasion of the Lunar Spider People?”1

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“Worse than the maniacal machinations of the Magnet Master?”2

“Worse than that.”

“More alarming than the super-storms of the Chinese Weather

“Oh my, far more serious than even that!”


Rawlings stooped a little to bring himself eye to eye with the youthful flyer and placed a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Don’t you worry, Johnny, Don’t you worry! Has there ever been a challenge too great for the Aviators of Tomorrow to meet and conquer?”

The boy lifted his chin and shot the cuffs of his smart uniform. “Never!” he exclaimed.

Rawlings nodded sagely. “That’s right, Johnny, never.” With that, the pair turned and walked into bowels of the labyrinthine headquarters.

Within minutes a meeting of the entire Aviators of Tomorrow corps was underway in the super scientific situation room. As well as Johnny and the Colonel, in attendance were Tex, Morris, Smilin' Brady, Betsy, Eveready Rob, Newton and Norton the twins, Milo and, of course, Martian Bobbi.

Colonel Rawlings removed a glass slide from his pouch and inserted it into the projector where it threw a map of Europe on the screen. In several places there were red marks. Rawlings said “Each mark represents the location of an airship that has crashed within the last three weeks. The heads of the pan-European Aero-Defense Command believe these not to be mere accidents, but the result of villainy utilizing super-science!”

Almost in perfect synchronization, the young Aviators of Tomorrow said “Gosh!”, of course with the exception of Martian Bobbi who said “Bobbi!”

The Colonel continued “There is evidence, based on the work of Professor Caldwell of Yale University, that these crashes are the result of applied gravity control!”

“But that’s impossible!” Cried Betsy. “Even with super-science, no one has ever been able to control gravity!”

“If only it were so, Betsy. Worse yet, Professor Caldwell has disappeared. We suspect that he may have been kidnapped. This leaves us without the expertise of the only person who would have any chance of understanding this diabolical phenomenon. This may well be the worst situation we have ever faced!”

Tex stood up. “Now wait thar just a stretch, Colonel, yew mean that it’s worse than the Mystery Robots thet attacked Paris?”4

“Oh yes, Tex, far worse than that!”
Milo spoke up. “Surely not worse than the super cannons of the Bird Soldiers?”5

“I’m sorry, Milo, it is.”

“Bobbi?” Inquired Martian Bobbi.6

“That was almost as great a challenge, Martian Bobbi, but this one is greater still.”

The Aviators were indeed stymied by the seeming magnitude of the difficulty they now faced. Gravity control! Nature's most intractable force bent to the will of humanity, and the most callously criminal of humanity at that! The crashes had all been identical in nature as well as the subsequent robberies. Helm control would be lost in a luxury zeppelin that would then come slowly to earth in a remote area. The back of the ship would break as if under a great weight once it had touched down driving the crew and the passengers into the open. That is when the flying disc pirates would show up in their strange aeroplanes. These sky pirates spoke an unknown language, but there was no mistaking the coarseness of their character or the lewd tone of their comments. They were brutally thorough taking anything of value, money, jewelry, clothing as well as any stocks or bonds that the gentlemen aboard might have. In a matter of minutes the disabled ship was abandoned along with its occupants who were left only in their underclothes. In one of these incidents the chairman of one of America's most important textile concerns was relieved of some hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. In another, the crown jewels of Belgium were stolen. Who could be behind these crimes?

Rawlings decided to take Johnny and Tex with him to seek the aid of the British Intelligence Service. Rawlings was owed a favor by the head of the Service, Sir Geoffrey Waddington-Smythe.7 Sir Geoffrey had it in his power to make available all manner of exotic aircraft. The three got into the autogyro and instantly set off for London. Our intrepid heroes followed the coast until they reached the city of Lisbon and the headed northwest for the British isles and it was at that point in their journey that Tex cried out “Ya’ll look!” The Colonel and Johnny both looked where Tex was pointing, exactly to their rear as it happened. They were being followed by one of the flying disc aeroplanes of the Sky Pirates!

“Man the rear guns, Johnny!” said Rawlings, “I’ll see if I can shake them off our tail!”

Johnny crawled back to the gun bubble and strapped himself in. The gun was quite unusual and quite powerful being one of the vibratotron weapons captured from Doctor Walter Crane, the notorious Earthquake Maker.8 Johnny carefully set the complicated controls of the device to the narrowest focus possible and then pressed the activation key. The disc shaped craft started to vibrate but held its position. “Gosh, Colonel! It’s staying in one piece! What could it be made of?”

“Try broadening the focus, Lieutenant, but be careful! Don’t let the beam fall below the horizon!”

“Gosh, no!”

The broader beam was held steady on the pursuing aeroplane and the vibration became more pronounced. Finally, the aircraft pulled away, apparently without damage. Johnny asked, “How could they survive the vibratotron? No aircraft that we have or know how to build can last a second in that beam!”

Rawlings smiled. “At least, not without Martian Bobbi’s help.”9

“That’s for sure, but what are we going to do about the disc ship?”

“There isn’t much we can do with only the gear aboard the autogyro. We’ll see how Sir Geoffrey can help.”

British Sky command occupied a two-mile high skyscraper in the heart of London where all manner of aircraft could be seen coming and going from landing strips on its high parapets. The autogyro scooted into an opening about three quarters up the lofty structure.

They were met by Sir Geoffrey even before they had exited the aircraft. Sir Geoffrey energetically pumped Colonel Rawlings' hand and said, “By Jove! It's good to see you old man! Good to see you! When I got your message I was appalled at the statistics, appalled, I tell you! Think of it the rich and noble being victimized by the crass and lowly! Something must be done at once, we'll see to that!"

Sir Geoffrey spoke a little bit more quickly than Tex was used to. He asked, "Whut'sit he said?"

Johnny said. "He's glad we're here."

"Wail, he should've just said thet then!"

Sir Geoffrey led Rawlings and the two lads to his office where he saw to it that everyone was seated comfortably and supplied with a cup of hot tea. Johnny and the colonel sipped happily. Tex sniffed at his cup suspiciously and quietly put it aside.

Rawlings wasted no time getting to the point. "Sir Geoffrey," he said, "We face a most daunting challenge, perhaps the greatest we have ever faced!"

Sir Geoffrey gripped the arms of his chair and leaned forward. "Good Lord! I'm stunned, old man, truly stunned! Are you insisting that I believe that this is greater threat than the Cloud Army?"10

"It barely compares, Sir Geoffrey."

"Oh, come now, surely it cannot be greater than the Underground Empire!"11

"I'm compelled to say that it is!"


"Sir Geoffrey!"

"I'm sorry, please forgive the language old scout, but this is most distressing! Do you mean to tell me, that this exceeds the sheer, mind crushing horror of the Polar Demons?!?"12

"I beg that you attempt to calm down, Sir Geoffrey, but, yes, in fact it does!"

"Then I fear that this is beyond even the power of your brilliant young flyers! I believe that providence alone can aid us now!"

"But you haven't even heard what the problem is yet!"

"RIGHT! Righto. Well, perhaps you had best fill me in then!"
And Rawlings proceeded to tell Sir Geoffrey Waddington-Smythe of the sky pirates who seemed to control gravity and how even their most terrifying weapon failed to destroy one of their aircraft.

After the recitation, Sir Geoffrey sat and stroked his neat mustache and nodded his head slightly. "Perhaps...just perhaps mind you, the British Aeroforces may have something to help you!"

1. As told of in Aviators of Tomorrow book #1, The Adventures of the Young
Aviators of Tomorrow.
2. Who's story is related in Aviators of Tomorrow book # 12, The Aviators of Tomorrow face the Magnetic Monster.
3. The tale of which is rousingly recounted in Aviators of Tomorrow book # 4, The Aviators of Tomorrow against the Ill Wind from the East.
4. Which the alert reader will recall from Aviators of Tomorrow book # 16, The Aviators of Tomorrow vs. The Metal Menace.
5. The story of which can be found in Aviators of Tomorrow book # 8, Aviators of Tomorrow- Curse of the Bird Men.
6. Indeed, as you will recall from Aviators of Tomorrow book #5, The Young Aviators of Tomorrow Journey to Mars!
7. The nature of said favor is explained in gripping detail in Aviators of Tomorrow book # 19 Aviators of Tomorrow- Desperate Days.
8. This amazing weapon’s history is dynamically described in Aviators of Tomorrow book # 22, The Aviators of Tomorrow- The Man who Shook the World!
10. How the threat of the Cloud Army was overcome is illuminated in Aviators of Tomorrow book # 13, The Aviators of Tomorrow and the Mystery at Fifty-Thousand Feet!
11. The rise and fall of which is delineated in Aviators of Tomorrow book # 25, Aviators of Tomorrow against the Underworld Dictator!
12. The story of which unfolds in Aviators of Tomorrow book # 9, Aviators of Tomorrow- Peril at the Pole!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fragment 1 of "Perils" by Emma Vlenio


"Dr. Ferrin will see you now." The secretary said to me and I pushed the door open accompanied with the familiar buzzing sound. Dr. Ferrin turned around in his armchair as I entered, he offered me a seat and looked at me with his elbows on the desk.

"The ER called this morning."

"I know."

"Self-inflicted behavior is difficult to stop, but we are working towards a better tomorrow."

"Sure. Why not."

Why did you do it?"

"I couldn't sleep."

"Did you take your medication?"


"It didn't work?"

"It did make me sleepy."

"Why didn't you sleep?"

"I was thinking about doing it."

"What triggered it?"

"Nothing particular."

"How does that make you feel?"


"I don't mean the medication."

"Then it made me want to go to sleep."

"How was your day?"


"How were your classes?"

"I didn't go."

I don't recall the rest of the conversation. I was counting the Jack in the Box Super sized cup stacked up on his window sill. All of them were super sized cup, how many gallons of coke can one drink? There were about 20 of them, how long did it take him to finish almost 10 gallons of soda? How on earth did he open the window? Maybe he never opens the window. Fast food bags filled up the trash can. I liked his black leather armchair, it was super sized too and looked extremely comfy.

My phone started vibrating 2 minutes after I finished my session.


"It is me! I am at the airport!"


"It is me! I am at the airport!"


"Come and get me."

My palms started sweating, and I held my cell phone in my hand as I ran all the way to the airport.

Arrival terminal one. There: T was still wearing the red scarf.

I don't remember what we spoke of, but we never ran out of things to tell. I had the impression that we didn't take any public transportation and we walked all the way to my flat, where we could be alone. On the 7th floor balcony, we sat on the swing and watched the sunset. After a bottle of wine and a great dinner, we both felt asleep on the sofa with our glasses still on but we woke up felt refreshed. I can't tell you when was the last time I woke up without feeling dizzy. Rays of sunshine seeped through light green curtain and sat on the wooden floor, the sweet smell coffee saturated the apartment. I joined T for an espresso and decided to go swimming in such a lovely day.

There we were, in our swimming costume, saying: " One, two , three, jump!" Right before my feet hit the water....

My alarm clock went off...NO, PLEASE NO, NOT NOW, I don't want to wake up now. I was searching for the snooze bottom with my eyes closed. My roommates were speaking loudly in the hallway. As I stumbled to the bathroom, there was a post-it on the mirror:" Call Dr. Ferrin today. T's funeral at 2pm."

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Vaudeville Booking in Chicago, 1939 (WPA)


from WPA Federal Writer's Project

STATE Illinois
NAME OF WORKER Afred O. Philipp
ADDRESS 144th St. & Ridgeway Ave., Midlothian, Ill.
DATE April 13, 1939
1. Ancestry Irish
2. Place and date of birth Ohio, 1891
3. Family Wife and six children
4 . Places lived in, with dates Midlothian for past 12 years.
5. Education, with dates Educated in a Military Academy in Ohio
6. Occupations and accomplishments, with dates Learned telegraph operating...........Later went into the "employment game." Now works part time in an in Chicago, 174 W. Washington St.,
7. Special skills and interests All around office man. Special interests - making money
8. Community and religions activities Is Precinct Committee man (Dem.) and member of Catholic Church
9. Description of informant About 5' 8" in height. Weight 185 lbs. Has an artificial leg (right), other foot cut off near ankle. From Hopping freight train while a kid in Ohio. Smooth shaven. Loud voice. Corpulent.
10. Other Points gained in interview

You are perhaps familiar with the routine work conducted in a general employment agency in Chicago. Maybe you've seen a scuzz barge into a gyp joint and slip Jesse James a saw-and-a-half for a slug jub, and being tagged a v. n. t. the placement clerk starts pumping and soon has him doing his song and dance, so - Hey? What am I talking about? My gosh, do I have to explain everything? Oh well -

A "scuzz" is an applicant with no vocation, although not necessarily a common laborer. A "sawbuck" being a ten-dollar bill, a "saw-and-&-half in consequence becomes fifteen dollars. A "slug" is $1.00 in U. S. currency (one buck to you) and so a "slug job" is a position paying a salary of one dollar per hour. The placement clerk has a card containing code letters indicating the alleged merits of the applicant, and "v. n. t." denotes "very neat type." "Pumping," or "to pump," is telephone solicitation. "Song and dance" is the applicants' personal interview with the prospective employer. So there.

There are other Chicago employment agencies, licensed as such by the state of Illinois, that are less familiar to the general public. These are the various theatrical booking offices. And for today's lesson is "how to get the dough" we will devote ourselves exclusively to the "fair booking agency" in all its wily and devious manifestations. The particular clinic in which we will conduct our research is the -BARNES-CARRUTHERS FAIR BOOKING ASSOCIATION - occupying the entire fifth floor of the Grand Opera House Building, at 121 North Clark St.

This veteran firm is the sole survivor of a long list of fair booking agencies that flourished in Chicago during the "good old days," before Major Bowes and the vaudeville agents horned in. There was the World Amusement Service, Ethel Robinson Agency, the W. V. M. A. Fair Dept. (a Keith-Orpheum affiliate), the United Fairs Booking Association, the Weyerson Amusement Company, the Earl Girdella Agency, the Joe Bren Productions, and various others. This was in the pre-depression era when hundreds of county fairs throughout the middle west had gobs of filthy lucre to squander, and fair booking agencies were created by God for the express purpose of relieving the rustic of his burden of greenbacks.

It was customary for a county fair association to hold a meeting in January or February of each year, at which meeting they voted appropriations for their fair, which would be held the following autumn. Let us assume the fair had voted ten thousand dollars for races, premiums, and free attractions.

This is merely an example, of course, by way of illustration. The ten thousand dollars would perhaps be distributed as follows: Three thousand as purses for the harness races; two thousand to be cut up into a number of prizes for the best corn, cows, beans, bulls, lettuce, lambs, and other agricultural products of the county; and five thousand for "free attractions" i. e. - the acrobatic, aerial, and animal acts that perform between races on a platform in front of the grand stand. This free attraction money was the grand prize for which the Chicago fair booking agencies competed furiously.

Each fair booking agency had a number of circus or novelty acts signed up for the fair season, usually from about August 15. to October 15th., and the acts were guaranteed a minimum number of weeks' work, most contracts specifying at least eight or ten weeks to be played within the three-month period. Each agency thus had for its objective the peddling of its own acts to the greatest number of fairs possible, for the largest price obtainable. Unlike the agencies booking theatres the fair booking agencies do not operate on a commission basis.

The agency signs up a man and woman aerial team at a salary ranging from $175.00 to $250.00 per week, and then sells the act to the fair for every possible dollar above these figures that the most persistent high pressure salesmanship can squeeze out of a sometime gullible fair secretary. An act signed up with a Chicago booking agency for $200.00 a week will frequently sell to the fair for $400.00. (Yep, that's one-hundred-percent commission. Did I hear you crack about state laws governing employment agencies? Aw, forget it, what's a law or two among friends.

The terms of a contract between the agency and the act is a matter of strict privacy. And no "regular" act would even think of divulging its contents, at least to the secretary of the fair or any member of the fair committee. In the above instance the fair secretary, at the conclusion of the fair, pays the act its presumed salary of $400.00. The act retains its own $200.00 (actual salary) and forwards the remaining $200.00 to the Chicago booking agency. In cases involving large sums the acts are not trusted to bring in the swag, a trusted member of the agency coming personally to the fair grounds to collect.

The financial transactions involved in the fair booking game must have reached a staggering total during the "good" years. Consider, for example, our neighboring state of Iowa with its ninety-nine counties, each one of them running an annual County Fair. In addition there were always a vast number of State Fairs, Tri-State Fairs, Fall Festivals, etc. During the prosperous post-war years our own Illinois State Fair (held annually at Springfield, Ill.) frequently spent twenty-five thousand dollars for free attractions for a single week.

The principal sales medium was the lavish Fair Catalogue issued annually. Each fair booking agency had its own profusely illustrated catalogue, exploiting the "thrilling double trapeze act," "sensational high perch act," "hazardous feats performed on the high wire," "spectacular hand-to-hand gymnasts," "Marvelous display of pole balancing," etc., etc., not forgetting that "these acts are under exclusive contract with this office." This book was essentially for rural consumption, and was calculated to amaze and astound the committee of the Gizzard County Fair, in Arkansas.

A slick city promoter well versed in theatrical lore could grab off all the acts he wanted and from the curb at the W. Randolph and N. Dearborn Street corner, for practically coffee and doughnut money. Naturally the performers themselves paid for these catalogues, the prices varied slightly according to the size of the page, material, cuts used, etc., but the usual price was fifty dollars a page.

The catalogues were mailed out each year to the various state and county fairs, but this sales program was also supplemented by personal contact on the part of field man from the agency who attended banquets and meetings held by the fair men and attempted to sway the potential customer with demulcent palaver.

But enough of the drab business details. Let's turn to the acts themselves, the performers, the actual workers and producers, the primum mobile, the ostensible reason for the agencies' very existence, - aside from the purpose of making money, which, as every right thinking person knows, is a secondary consideration on the part of gentlemen who run employment agencies.

And so, let Benchley's Bounding Broomstick carry him where he will, our own skinny shanks will carry us across the street from the County Building, at 121 North Clark Street, into an old elevator, and up to the fifth floor, where we emerge into the spacious offices of the Barnes-Carruthers Fair Booking Association.

There is a small waiting room separated from the large main office by a low railing, and the sole furnishing of this waiting room consists of a very hard bench with a seat highly polished through continnual contact with the pants of the job seeking acrobats and aerialists. There are two or three uncomfortable chairs, less highly polished, but equally hard. The low raining affords an unobstructed view of the entire main office. Near the gate sits the usual pretty girl at an information desk and switchboard. Out of sight, in smaller offices, sit E. F. Carruthers and M. H. Barnes, the heads of the firm. Sam. J. Levy, general secretary and all-around handy man, presumably has a desk somewhere; but his continnual activity in every part of the office precludes the possibility of locating it. A meagre complement of clerks and stenographers completes the office personnal.

Time - the spring of 1939, which Chicago is celebrating (on April 10th.) with a snowstorm. We pour ourselves out of the elevator and into the small waiting room. I say "we" advisedly. Although I am apparently alone you are with me in spirit. (I hope.) The room was far more crowded than is usual at this time of year. Many were performers that I knew, pals of former years; but there were a few new faces, acts that were strangers to me.

"Hello Alfredo, what are you doing here?" Paul Armento greeted me. "You've a stranger around the booking offices, aren't you?"

"Yeah, I just dropped in to say hellow," I answered evasively. "You're looking good. How are you tumbling these days, still got your old speed?"

"Well, I'm not exactly burning up the pad, but I can still turn over," Paul was a mighty tumbler in his day. "I'm pulling more of the easy routines now, like boranis and tinsikis; but I'm still doing backs in a swing, and I can still pick up a high full."

"Who're you working with?"

"I'm doing a three-act with a couple of kinkers. Don Ray and Joe Samuels, maybe you know 'em. Comedy acrobatic with a table rock finish."

"Say, Paul, isn't that Nick Machedon over in the corner? Used to do triple bars with his brother, - the Machedon Brothers."

"Yeah, that's Nick. He's still doing a stick act."

"Last time I worked with Nick was on the Bell Circuit," I reflected. "We toured Mexico together in 1927-28. I remember his knockout finish; somersault over the middle bar, kip-up, into giant swings, and a double away, - all in swing time. It was sure a flash routine. Can he still clear the middle bar?"

"Oh, he still manages to get from end-bar to end-bar," Paul answered. "But he's cut the somersault; just does a fly-over now. And, of course, he's slowed down. You know, Alfredo, there's so little work now that an act can't keep in trim any more."

A performer standing close beside Paul broke into the conversation. His face was vaguely familiar, but I could not recall him.
"How the hell can a performer do a good act these days, without a chance to work and keep in practise?" he demanded. His tone was decidedly bitter.

"All you do, day after day, is hang around agent's offices, relief stations, or the W. P. A. And yet these lousy agents still expect you to do a good act."

"Now here, ladies and gents, is a distinct and refined contribution to American literature - "lousy agents." I've heard the expression hundreds of times, but have never seen it in print. In speaking of a firm, office, or an individual agent, an actor will invariably mention the correct name. But in speaking of all agents as a class a performer will, nine times in ten, refer to them as "lousyagents", making one word of it.)

Also in the crowded room were - "Perrone & Ricardo, Sensational High Perch Act," - Paul Lorenzo, owner and manager of "The Four Lorenzos," - "Aerial Larkins", a man and woman double trap act, - Earl Wright, owner and manager of "Wright's Canines," - Hoshi Taketa, manager of a troupe of Japanese acrobats, - Gus Gerbin, of "The Six Demascos, Arabian Whirlwind Tumblers," - "Hi Hubert, Sensational Cloud Swing", - an assortment of clowns, and several artists unknown to me.

It should be stressed here that fair booking agencies do not secure employment (or engagements) for individual artists, except in such cases where the lone artist does a "single", i. e. - an act by himself. The fair agency is in the business of placing only compete acts which are ready (produced and rehearsed) to perform before the public. In the case of acrobatic troupes, or other large acts, it is only the owner or manager of the act who makes the continuous rounds of the agents' offices. Acts wherein all members work on the commonwealth plan (splitting salaries equally) one of the partners is usually chosen to "do the business for the act."

"Say, what are all these joeys (i. e. - clowns) doing here?" I asked Hubert.

"Trying to horn in on the Stadium show, "Hubert replied.

"You mean that Cirque Olympe, or so called Greater European Circus, that's going to open at the Chicago Stadium next week. Who's putting it on?"

"The Stadium Corporation itself is running the show, but I guess they're using mostly all Barnes-Carruthers acts."

"Don't worry, old Mike Barnes has got a finger in the promotion," asserted Nick Machedon.

"Naturally Barnes has to hustle and promote a few dates to keep his acts in chow money so they'll still be alive by the time the fair season opens," commented Hubert.

"Yeah, its disgusting," Paul Armento put in. "Who the hell ever heard of acts hanging around the fair booking offices at this time of the year?"

"Nobody did, until the last few years," Nick sighed reminiscently. "Remember how we used to book fairs in the old vaudeville days? I remember I always used to sign up with Mike Barnes for the following year, I'd bring my photos, cuts, and catalogue matter up here and then forget about it. I'd go out and play vaudeville, and this office would never see me again until it was time to open on the fairs."

"Say, do you think vaudeville will ever come back?" a young chap inquired innocently.

"Aw, for, - wh - aw, for Christ's sake!" snorted Hubert disgustedly, as he strode across the room and slumped over the rail.

"By the way," I interposed, "they don't give you a guarantee in the contracts any more, do they?"

"No fair office does, not any more," Gus Gerbin stated. "A fair contract to-day means only one thing. It gives the office you sign up with the exclusive right to sell and handle your act during the fair season. And if they only manage to sell you for two weeks you can't go anywhere else and look for work. All the fair contracts issued to-day are one-sided. They tie up the act, but don't obligate the office in any way."

"Yeah, but what to hell can you do about it?" asked Enos Perrone, hopelessly.

The young chap came up for another attempt.
"Listen, you guys, no kidding. I'm serious," he insisted. "Do you think vaudeville will ever come back?"

Friday, August 22, 2008

Meathead or Pinhead? by Chris Rich

Meathead or Pinhead?

by Chris Rich (from his blog "Geezeworld" ;

I've lately been focusing on my amateur social anthropology hobby by doing an apocryphal query into the qualities of two opposed clans, the meatheads and the pinheads. My own allegiance is to the meatheads or the modern day counterpart to Thomas Jefferson's Sturdy Yeomanry.

While I'm a hopeless Roosevelt Liberal, I have an abiding respect for fellow meatheads who may not agree with my politics. The values I share with Meathead World are more important for now. Meatheads are essentially pragmatic sorts and are goal oriented. They have stuff to do, usually turning on making a living and building a family or building something. They are the nations driving wheel.

A typical meathead is like an archetype of Odysseus, the Resourceful Person. Meatheads can fix broken things and make wonderful things when left to do so. They are rarely distracted by preciousness of the "lofty and the beautiful' proposed by one of those dead wretched Euro-Philosophers that Dostoevsky laughed at. Fyodor was a meathead.

I get uneasy when I'm not among a reasonable cohort of meatheads. Right now, living in effete, terrible Cambridge, I am in a Pinhead epicenter and there is constant aggravation derived from this Pinhead immersion.

Pinheads are 'role' oriented. Goals are secondary compared with role maintenance. A dedicated pinhead is forever immersed in his or her own bad home movie, a legend in their mind and yet, not mindful or perceptive, more likely oblivious.

So when Pinhead management is your lot or you befriend these hapless trainwrecks plan on em fucking shit up. Pinheads will eat your cd's because the goal of not chewing them is as nothing beside the role of playing em loud while drunk.

Pinheads will beg favors and then not follow through and leave unseemly messes because the follow through was a goal thing and some distraction,(Pinheads are easily distracted by shiny things), led them off to role management.

Pinheads tend to be high maintenance. And here am I trying to help music, what an idiot move for an irredeemable meathead as 'artistes' of every description tend to be pinheads as art making is, after all, more of a role, a beret to wear, than it is a goal.

I am friends with a number of honest meathead artists in outcast jazz, folk and punk rock but the usual goofs I end up shepherding are astonishing unmindful, flailing pinheads from hell. Boston/Cambridge is a pinhead petri dish.

I suppose it all could be viewed as an aspect of civilization. Meatheads are grounded in ancient hunter gatherer contingencies while Pinheads would die in such a demanding milieu. Civilization is a Pinhead enabler.

So for my fellow meats who read this, thanks for doing your part to keep the human thing running. For you hapless Pins who read this, sorry to harsh your mellow, rain on your parade and poke a hole in your role but you really are horribly vulnerable to problematic events such as a likely replay of the Great Depression coming soon and your effete incompetent dime store intellectual lives are your own worst problem. Must suck bein' you.


The Tank Town Modulators (1931) by Rob Chalfen

Recent Discoveries:
"The Tank Town Modulators", Pt. I

by Rob Chalfen

Dr: thought you might like update on recent wax discoveries, lately
unearthed in steamer trunk in Afghanistan. All are test pressings for Champion c. 1931, all unreleased. One can only surmise what might have motivated these recordings, or indeed Champion's reasons for signing them in the first place. Why so many sides were cut, yet none released, must for now remain a mystery. Your considered response is of cource welcome.

from Champion Recording Laboratories ledgers, Paramsia Illinois, April-July, 1931

"The Tank-Town Modulators" (kz/uke/tromb/C-melody sx / acc / tamb / opheclede / vocs; personel unknown).
This band is registered as 'Novelty combination', although the exact nature of the novelty provided is up for grabs.

All sides presumed fox-trots, until proven otherwise.

Recordings are presented in order of emergence from trunk.

Stop me, mama, before I do the Stroll

Cocktails for Three

What do you mean to do with those spoons?

What is the meaning of this?

Where Am I?

Clam Town Moan (A Bivalve Tizzy)

That's my eyebrow now

Yellow's the Number

Payola Shout

Knees On Fire

Imaginary Wednesdays

Harmed by Silence

That's Shelf-Life Jones

Silence & Doubt

Salt & Batteries

The Nicola Tesla Demonstration Record (One Step)

My Familiar Fingers

Somebody sell me a Clam

Miss Chaulky Neglects

Cylinder of Bees

Firefly Buzz

It's Clam Up!

Sidecar Signorita

Dont Bring Me Camphor

Dont Sit under the Tesla Coil (With anyone else but me)

Flunky Shuffle

Bestiality (waltz)

Fugue and Trepidation

Xylophobia / Pyromania (novelty suite in random tempo)

Face the Food

Not Now, We're Eating!

When the Face in the Mirror Says 'Hello'

Pass the Crustaceans

Face in the Custard

Electric Jimmy's Hello Song

That's not Mustard on my tie (it's Religion)

Dont Get Chummy

Touch But Don't Look

It Ain't Sacred, Whatcher Doin'

Imposition Tango

Im Null, He's Void

Gettin' Angry in Here

Fatso Wants A Planet

Mama's Got the Vapors (Daddy called the FBI)

Hobo Reveille

Not Yet, Not Here, Not Now

Pillbox Derby

Static Serenade

Ballad of Salad

Egyptian Take-Out

Perfidy (tango)

Simian Sam

No Thanks, Im Sleeping

Freeze That Question

"The Tank Town Modulators" Pt. II

While many have revelled in the recent discoveries of previously unheard sides by the Tank Town Modulators, few are aware of the many sides they are alleged to have recorded under assumed names for other labels. The following is a summary of most of those that have so far come to light - as the Gee Whiz Boys on Cameo & The Similar Six on Regal. These last, however, may well be a long-rumored 'doppelgager' band, which sounded and played exactly like the Modulators, but this may never be definitively known.

Slept All Day (But He Wont Say Why)
Frophouse Twitch
By the Light of Your Fire-proof Eyes
Bronze That Chicken
My Stucco Mood
Bodice Pout
St. Tilden's Imp
Slappin' the Cabbage (polka)
Reclamation - March
Levitation Waltz
Cremora - A Pan-American Whitener
The Floozie & the Chowder
Bet You Can't Get There Twice
Passivity - A Parlor Trifle
Pocketful of Bromides
Dance of the Flatfoot Hoaxers
Caution and Theft
The Second Louise
Trouser House Moan
Don't Get Ideas
Shumway Pout
That's Some Feelings, Dear
Alternator Phizz
Velocity Shout
Flip Town Skid
Waffle, Mr. Portly!
Simian Sound Salon
Take A Powder, Any Powder
What It Is, When It Was
Trunk Tramp Tiddle
Hymie Trombone
Technology Samba
Precambrian Swing
Bumpkin Floss
Elgar's Truffle
Tuna Effluvia
I Talk, You Shudder

Those in posession of these or any similar sides are probably hallucinating.

thank you


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The LAMC and the DEA by Jonathan Scheuer

The League of Automatic Music Composers was a collective of experimental composer/engineers in the San Francisco Bay Area which existed from 1978 to 1983. The LAMC is great for a lot of reasons: the members pioneered using networked microcomputers to generate sound, they used noise, extended just intonation and microtonal scales, they connected computers and analog instruments in innovative ways, they focused on live performance rather than composition on tape, and they were more interested in experimentation and unpredictability than aesthetic refinement and results. Consequently, when the computers were "on," the results are
enduringly fresh and exciting. All of this was done by writing machine language code on computers whose one kilobyte of memory provided"processing power less than that of a twenty-first century coffeepot," as LAMC veterans Tim Perkis and John Bischoff put it. New World Records' The League of Automatic Music Composers CD collects ten LAMC performances from 1978 to mid-1981. All of the music on this disc is fascinating, and often beautiful.

The CD's otherwise very informative booklet doesn't discuss the LAMC's covert connection to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, which is understandable, considering the controversy involved. Apparently this was an extension of an initiative which had begun a few years earlier when Morton Feldman was brought on as the DEA's unofficial composer in residence. Feldman was beginning to write his extended pieces, and the idea was that listening to these and to comparable work by Cage and others would help to train agents to withstand the tedium of protracted stakeouts. Results were mixed. Feldman pocketed the much-needed money, and a handful of performances were sponsored, apparently without the performers being aware of the funding background. (This is not surprising-- playing underpublicized gigs in rooms half full of uncomprehending squares is SOP for New Music ensembles). A minority of agents found the listening experience very useful, a majority found little or no value in it, and two agents subsequently left the DEA to pursue their own artistic goals.

The DEA's institutional goal in sponsoring the LAMC is more obscure (see Mellish's interesting, inconclusive discussion of the subject in the International Journal of Drug Policy , v16.5). Apparently it was related to efforts to resolve rivalry within the agency between teams who had come from the Treasury Department's Bureau of Narcotics and others from the
FDA's Bureau of Drug Abuse Control. The Bureau of Narcotics and the BDAC had been merged in 1968 as the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, under the authority of the Justice Department. Despite such notable successes as the 1972 French Connection bust, intra-agency rivalries persisted, and cooperation with the Customs Service's Drug Investigations unit was negligible. Some younger agents decorated their cubicles with xeroxed copies of underground cartoonist Robert Williams' "Law of the Lame," a lampoon from 1970 of former Bureau of Narcotics chief Harry Anslinger and the haplessness of the Bureau's undercover force. After Richard Nixon re-reorganized the BNDD as the DEA in 1973, DEA director John R. Bartels, Jr. realized that rivalries within the agency could be normalized and managed by reframing them as generational tensions. To this end, he initiated several controversial but non-mission critical programs as an arena in which these conflicts would play out and, hopefully, resolve. The DEA's New Music initiatives of the 1970s and early 80s were thus part of the agency's ongoing internal psychodrama.

It's not clear which, if any, of the principal human members of the LAMC were aware of the League's DEA connection. As yet, no-one has come forth to explain or defend the covert sponsorship, as, for instance, Gloria Steinem has done regarding her early CIA ties. I'd say it's a safe bet that LAMC founder Jim Horton was not the DEA liaison. In any case, nobody narced on League members (there may have been a deliberate hands-off policy). And the creaky, leaky flotilla of American experimental music wended its wayward way into the Reagan era as if nothing at all had happened.