Fellow-travelers, greetings from the edge of the Great Beyond! As I gaze into the abyss (and perceive, just as Friedrich Nietzsche warned us, that it gazes back at me), visions of the future form in my slightly foggy mind.
Visions of… you! Yes, you, doing something… something obscure, uncommon… something odd, very odd, in this, the 21st Century, the era of people so distrustful they would rather catch a deadly virus than take the vaccine against it!
You are seated atyour computer, reading an ebook!
A very naughty ebook, I might add. How do I know? Certain subtle signs… or not so subtle, if you’re a guy. I never bothered to count, but I seem to have approximately equal sales to both pitchers and catchers, if you catch my drift?
Or maybe it’s a book that makes you uncomfortable, for some reason. It’s a brutally honest tale of childhood, helplessness, and sexual abuse… but far be it from me to dictate your tastes in erotica or pornography!
What’s the book’s title, you ask? Alas, the spirits refuse to adjust the focus on my Beyond-O-Scope, and it’s too blurred to read. But I do know what you are thinking!
You are thinking “Good grief, what a piece of shit! I disagree with everything this author has to say, in this or any other book he or she has ever authored, and I have developed a profound personal dislike for him or her! Furthermore, this writing style sucks donkey dicks! It’s somewhere between reading Vladimir Putin’s annual speech to the Duma, and the science-fiction novels of A. E. Van Vogt! I can’t believe the publisher paid… oh wait…”
And then you remember that you are reading a self-published ebook, and there are no editors, proof-readers or publishers standing in-between you, naked, and the writer’s wounded, bleeding, pus-oozing, maggot-infested ideas.
Nothing at all!
And you smile… yes, smile… because YOU, lucky human, BOUGHT THIS BOOK ON SALE, at discounts ranging from 25-50%! At that rate, even this sordid, cliché-ridden piece of monkey excrement is a bargain!
And bravely, brushing the flies off the carcass of Western literature, you turn back to your screen and read on!
I told you I would not dictate your tastes in sexually titillating reading, and I won’t. But let me politely SUGGEST this:
If you buy my ebooks from Smashwords (adult filter set to “All Erotica”) between March 5-11, including the memoir “Growing Up in the Orgone Box: Secrets of a Reichian Childhood” at 50% off ($3.49), and/or my non-fiction interspecies romance novel, “Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover,” at 25% off ($5.24), YOU WILL NOT BE BORED AND WILL NOT REGRET IT!
Your precious time will be spent reading only carefully-crafted words picked for the peak of perfection, woven into epic, thunderous, yet strangely tender tales, stories that seem hauntingly familiar yet unutterably alien, true stories that no other writer dares tell, and tells as well as me, the one and only Malcolm J. Brenner!
Wait! My astral vision is coming back into focus, somebody has turned the knob, cleaned the lens! I see clearly now, the fog is gone…
…In the future, I see you reading an ebook I wrote. You are nodding, smiling, perhaps chuckling a little, sipping a cup of your favorite beverage and carelessly nibbling an oatmeal cooking with raisins, oblivious to the crumbs falling into your keyboard… and you are HAPPY!
And I am very, very grateful! Thanks, readers, comrades, fellow-travelers, and anybody else who appreciates my stories, or buys them to burn in a self-righteous bonfire! The joke’s on you, asshole, your kid has purloined a copy and is reading it under the covers at night, by flashlight! — Malcolm
The report of my death was an exaggeration. — Mark Twain
Hey there, fellow Malcolm followers! (Yes, I am a follower of myself! That makes sure SOMEBODY reads these blog posts, aside from the FBI.) Been a while, huh? Like, March, almost two (count ’em, 2) years ago? Deux ains? Dos años?
I haven’t updated this blog since then, and doubtless both of you are wondering, “What the hell happened to Malcolm? Did he fall off the edge of the world, or get eaten by a Bigg’s orca whose echolocation mistakenly identified him as a nice, plump seal?
“Was he abducted by the good aliens, the bad aliens, or the aliens we just don’t know about? Shanghai’d into the white slave trade, chained to a desk, churning out cheap porno novels for the Yakuza or the Sinaloa Cartel? Did he take some drugs and go mad, because, you know, drugs (the bad ones, anyway) do that? Or did the dolphins carry him off to some deserted island, to study him in greater detail?
“Alas, we’ll never know! R.I.P., you crazy motherfucker! You wrote the best sex-with-a-dolphin novel I ever read!” — Anonymous Hipster in San Francisco
It is tempting to envisage such improbably romantic scenarios, but sadly, it is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! What REALLY happened was… I got sick. Real sick! And I couldn’t write to save my life.
I suffer from vertigo, which is a VERY debilitating condition, and CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), which is more of the same. CFS feels like crushing tiredness and the absolute imperative to sleep, but when you awaken you don’t feel any more rested than you did before you nodded off! And my vertigo, which has so far defied diagnosis despite a brain scan, is so bad sometimes that it nauseates me. If I sit on the rotating office chair at my desk, I’m unstable. It’s easier, and safer, to slouch on the couch.
Then there is also the Perugia nodularis that afflicts my skin, but that’s so gross, let’s not go there. I use a lot of gentamicin ointment and adhesive bandages, leave it at that. What does the name mean? It’s Latin for “itchy bumps.” You had to ask, didn’t you?
These maladies make it very difficult to organize and focus my thoughts in a way that promotes the kind of easy, clear writing I like to produce. It’s been this way since 2016, and in the spring of 2020, with COVID-19 stalking us like a hungry predator, I simply couldn’t write anything anymore. I felt crushed, isolated and depressed.
In short, I felt just like everybody else! My attention span was shorter than a goldfish’s, my balance was all in my ankles and often the room would spin like I was riding some demonic merry-go-round. Other days, I felt more energy, pretty normal! But if I exerted myself, like I wanted to to get some freakin’ things done around here, I paid for it in spades for days afterward.
Recently, in order to cope with this condition, I’ve had to learn how to not tax myself, how to pace my efforts, and not to expect too much out of me.
The good news, health-wise, is that aside from these annoyances, I don’t seem to have any of the really deadly or debilitating diseases of old age. No cancer, heart disease, senility, Alzheimer’s, emphesyma, liver problems… the list of things I DON’T have is probably a lot longer than the list of things I do!
So I count my blessings and offer prayers of thanks to Fortuna, the Roman goddess of Chance, who appears to me as a magnificent serpent with a purple Mohawk (no, I don’t know how that happens!). And she tells me I’m a fool to make any offerings to her, because she’s merely a mask on the macro qualities of the inherent quantum instability of the Universe at the sub-micron level.
“Below 10 to the minus 23 centimeters, everything is random.” — Dr. John C. Lilly
And Wet Goddess? I sold out at Christmas! My remaining stock wasn’t that huge; fortunately, demand was only a fraction of last year. I now have another 48 copies on hand (sold one, sending one to Thea, who gave hers away to a friend), ready to go. I have been especially gladdened by readers who are ordering additional copies to share with somebody else! That’s great!
I really don’t care if I sell a lot of books, or make a lot of money at this self-publishing game. What I really care about is that the ideas I am promoting — that we humans are not alone ON THIS PLANET in possessing self-awareness, deep thought and curiosity about the other inhabitants of the world — become more widespread in society at large, and more acceptable to the (sometimes) rational minds of scientists.
How much time I have left in this world, I do not know, and I’m pretty sure I won’t live to see the changes I would like to bring about come to pass. It should be enough to ignite the torch, and leave it to my daughter’s generation to carry it forward. Think peace, and a happy New Year to all my readers.
Hey, gang, here I go again! Only I lied when I wrote that headline, because these babies are brand new bargains and rarin’ to go! Drive ’em off the lot for up to 1/2 price, no trade-in required and no tiresome negotiations! I just didn’t think you’d believe me if I said that in the headline!
Yes, it’s the annual Summer/Winter Sale at Smashwords, my favorite purveyor of e-literature. Why? Because, with exquisite taste, they published me, when all other e-book distributors gave me either derisive scorn, or mocking laughter, at the thought of publishing a human-dolphin romance novel!
Well I’ve shown them, haven’t I? Since 2010, over 2,150 copies of Wet Goddess: Recollections of a Dolphin Lover sold in 18 countries, not including South Korea, which for some reason has a ban on Western books going even to U.S. service personnel, but a psychiatric institute in Beijing did order a copy to complete their collection on decadent, imperialistic Western sexual perversions, I guess. Got to keep up with trends in mental illness, after all, and delphinophilia is one of the latest!
(When looking for my books in Smashwords, be sure to set Filtering in the blue bar at the top of the page to Include all Erotica, otherwise you’ll never see them!)
To get a 25% discount on Wet Goddess regular price of $6.99, use this code: WE48B.
Not only that, but the memoir that rips wide-open the weird, creepy, seamy side of my childhood, and exposes New Age psychiatrist Dr. Wilhelm Reich for the idiotic fraud he was, Growing Up in the Orgone Box: Secrets of a Reichian Childhood, is on sale for 50% off!
What’s it like to be only 5 years old and lying on a couch, butt naked, with a dark, bitter man staring at you, who is going to hurt you, molest you and cause you only pain? And soundproof walls and a locked door stand between him and your father?
This book tells that story, reveals my mother’s callous indifference to my welfare, and exposes the dangers of believing in pseudo-science, or any unwarranted belief system whether religious or not, rather than your own child.
To get a 50% discount on Orgone Box regular price of $6.99, use this code: BJ25B
The Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale lasts from July 1-July 31, and they call it that because when it’s summer in this hemisphere it’s winter Down Under, right? Right!
And, maybe, I will get out an e-book copy of my straight, heterosexual sex-with-an-alien science-fiction novel Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair in time for the sale. I’ve had some people who don’t like the audio book asking for it, and it’s time I did it, because it sure is gathering dust in paperback! Stranger things have happened, pigs have flown.
But basically you should buy my books for 2 reasons:
1) They are supremely entertaining, if weird, stories that happen to be true, and
2) I need to increase my gross income, so I can support my writing habit. And I’m Jonesing bad, man, bad!
NEWS FLASH: At precisely 8 p.m. on June 30 (if hostess TerriLee has her act together, likewise me, and the internet gods smile upon us), I will be a guest, for the second freaking time, on the podcast True Crime & Coke. This marks a new level of sophistication in my career as a dolphin evangelist, because it’s the first time anyone has asked me to be on a second time!
But this time, the subject won’t be those clever dolphins and their unstoppable sex drives. Instead, it will be two experiences in my life which affected me profoundly: The influence of the mad 1950’s pseudo-scientist Wilhelm Reich on my family when I was a child, documented in my memoir Growing Up in the Orgone Box;and, decades later, in my 30’s, learning to become a Witch (yes, not a warlock) from my first wife Seafoam, only to suffer, some 20 years later, a complete loss of my faith in ritual and magic as my marriage to my second wife (I can’t remember her magical name, so I’ll just call her as I do in my most recent science-fiction novel Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair, Susie Louise) crumbled around me, taking my profession, home, family and sanity with it.
I don’t know exactly how long the program will be, 1-2 hrs. (I can’t go much longer than that, especially starting at 8 p.m.) is the usual, or whether listeners will be able to ask questions by text or call in. All that is to be determined, is above my pay grade, is being contemplated by cool and objective minds far greater than mine… or any humans! Muuu-hahahahaha! But, if you’re not too busy digging your new flower bed in the evening hours, or working on a canning project, or finding a cleaning solution that remove those stubborn blood stains from the curtains, why don’t you tune in?
Members of the Neo-Pagan community particularly invited, not because I’m going to try to talk you into or out of anything, but maybe you can find something in my story to relate to. After all, who among us has not, at some time, doubted the efficacy of their magic? And Reichians? Sure, they can listen in if they want, and learn that their “Great Man” (Reich’s own term for himself — modest, much, Wilhelm?) had serious feet of clay. A man who, despite having written a textbook called Character Analysis, proved to be an absolutely clueless idiot when it came to analyzing the character of his closest associates.
What more can I say? I’m going to reveal some really awful family secrets? Yes. I’m going to spill my guts? I’m going to set my hair on fire? Sorry, no seppuku, no ignitions, but, as said of the celebrated Mr. Kite in the Beatles’ song,
“A splendid time is guaranteed for all, and tonight Mr. Kite is topping the biiiillllll!” (Cue the calliope.)
I think it can be safely said that I do know what anthropomorphism is. In its simplest form, it is endowing non-human entities, be they animals, plants, objects or just natural forces, with human traits, like awareness, reason, and emotions.
Especially emotions. We are long past the point of imagining a god is mad at us personally or collectively because a storm passes over… but a tornado, typhoon or hurricane may elicit that response, because the damage is more severe, or widespread, or fatal. Legally, we still refer to things that are foreseeable but unlikely and unavoidable as “acts of God,” a term that shows the piety of our lawyers, if not their wits.
We must thus be very careful in our dealings with other animals, who do not share our human ways, not to anthropomorphise them; we do so at our own risk! For instance, that grinning chimpanzee isn’t happy with you, it’s about to rip your face off!
Exposing your canine teeth (fangs) is a sign of aggression in chimps, even though grinning among us humans is a sign of pleasure. Moral? Just give that chimp a nice, close-lipped smile, and retain your face a while longer.
Same with a dog that humps your leg; this often comes up in discussions about how Dolly the dolphin used to rub against me. She was definitely masturbating, but chances are about 90% that your dog doesn’t have sex on its mind when it humps you, it has dominance.
I say that because I saw it in action. Long-time readers will remember that before I acquired Epic I had two other dogs from Grants, N.M., Pixel and Pugsley. Pugsley was a neutered Husky bitch, one of the smaller dogs that Husky enthusiasts tell me do most of the actual sled-pulling.
So that was Pugsley’s raison d’être. Then Cay came to stay at my place and brought with her Keiko, an utterly untrainable (to Cay, anyhow) 80 lb./36 kg. male pit bull mix.
When the dogs had settled into a predictable dominance hierarchy, with Keiko uncomplainingly on the bottom, every night, after they ate, Pugsley would hump him. Keiko pretended she wasn’t there. For the two dogs, this served a dual purpose: for Pugsley, reassurance of her dominant position over Keiko, and for him, the ability to completely blow her off, because she was fixed, whereas Pixel, who was my mate at the time, wasn’t, and Keiko got her pregnant when… well, that’s another, sad story.
But the point here isn’t to make you any more sorry for me than you already are, it’s to explain that humping for dogs, and many other quadrupeds, is not only sexual activity but a crude form of dominance behavior, expressed by both males and females, and should be interpreted thus in non-sexual situations. The “obvious” betrays us because we are conditioned to think of humping as involving sex. Not always!
I think it can also be safely said that many, if not most, scientists familiar with marine mammals will accuse me of anthropomorphism in allowing my relationship with Dolly to develop to the degree that it did, but this isn’t true either. In fact, I can safely say that, because of my experience, few other humans are as aware of the differences between humans and dolphins as I am!
So what do I make of the late Drs. David and Melba Caldwell, co-authors of many scientific papers and the popular, anti-revisionist, pro-U.S. Navy book The World of the Bottlenose Dolphin, when they say, as they do in the book,
“Dolphins are not little people in wet suits.”
By this, I take it the really mean,
“DON’T FUCKING ANTHROPOMORPHIZE DOLPHINS!”
but they were much too polite to put it that way, at least in print.
On the surface, this homily seems like a foregone conclusion. As a species, bottlenose dolphins are vastly older than us, having retained their current form, including the large, 3.3 lb./1.5 kg. brain, much more convoluted than our 3 lb./1.36 kg. model, for the past 12,000,000 (that’s 12 million, for the numerically-challenged) years. We have had our current, erect primate form only since Homo Erectus about 2 million years ago, and our current level of physical and cultural evolution, Homo sapiens, for about 250,000 (one-quarter million) years at longest. Obviously, these creatures who exist without tools, weapons, protective clothing or even manipulative appendages (aside from their mouths) could teach our species a thing or two about SURVIVAL SKILLS!
What I found really surprising about Dolly’s behavior was how much it WAS similar to human behavior, and I don’t think this just my interpretation. For instance, consider the situation when I brought “Elaine,” a young woman (just turned 18, not that it should interest you) I wanted to have a serious (read sexual) relationship with, to meet Dolly, “the gentlest of all the dolphins,” her trainer and the woman who coaxed me to shoot photos for her never-written book claimed.
Dolly, of course, had her own damned ideas!
Am I wrong when I label this behavior “jealousy”? It caught me totally unawares! I had never imagined that a creature like a dolphin could regard me as her exclusive property, to be defended against all interlopers for their attentions, whether her own species or not!
How did Dolly know, sense, or figure out, that Elaine was my girlfriend, a rival for her affections, and not my sister, or niece, or daughter? I remember that day there was absolutely no feeling that I had any type of “contact,” or mental communication, with her at all. And not for lack of trying! I was sending her my thoughts — she just wasn’t letting me know she was receiving them!
Years later, when I read David Holroyd’s account of a similar experience with a captive dolphin in Great Britain, I knew my analysis was correct. When dolphins don’t want to communicate with you, they shut down ALL the channels! That’s how you know you’re fucking up.
I could run this post a lot further, but I’ve already published 2 today, and I need some time to make these points, can’t do it willy-nilly. Bare with me, and I’ll get around to telling you why dolphins ARE sometimes “little humans in wet suits”!
Port Charlotte, FL — In acknowledgment of the forthcoming military UFO/UAP report to the Senate Intelligence Committee, inappropriately chaired by that fount of misinformation Marco “I missed more votes than anybody!” Rubio, Eyes Open Media, publisher of weird books, announces a major price cut on one title.
Mel-Khyor: An Interstellar Affair has been reduced from $14.95 to $9.95 for a limited, but at this point indeterminate, time. Shipping remains at $3.99, making total purchase price for the book + S/H $18.94, a saving of $5.00 over the previous price.
It wasn’t really necessary to point that out in the previous paragraph, but I want to make sure you realize I’M PRACTICALLY GIVING THIS FREAKING BOOK AWAY JUST TO GET IT READ, I’M MAKING SKIN-OFF-MY-KNUCKLES THIN PROFIT MARGINS HERE, AND I CAN’T AFFORD TO DO THIS FOREVER!
“I’ve probably lost my mind, due to all the daily stress I suffered during the four years of the previous administration,” Brenner confirmed from his cinderblock, hurricane-resistant, above-the-flood-plain home near the Hospital District of Port Charlotte, “but I have reduced the price on this book by around 33.333… etc. percent, a significant amount, I figure, to provoke some sales, get some reviews and get the public talking about my ideas about what UFOs/UAPs might be, they way they are talking about dolphin sex and dolphin personhood in lounges, bars and oceanariums across this country.”
Mel-Khyor tells the breathtaking tale of Susie Louise McGonagall, a professional English teacher and amateur mother and housewife, and her encounters with three men:
•Her first husband, who becomes an abusive, alcoholic jerk;
•Her second husband, an investigative newspaper reporter;
•And preceding them both, Mel-Khyor, the engineer and only living survivor of a alien spaceship that crashed almost in Susie’s back yard… or so she remembers! And the investigative reporter must find out the truth… if their relationship can survive Susie’s painful recollections of life with “the jerk,” and the buried memories of her other strange, almost-human lover…
The story progresses on four time lines, from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado to the rings of Saturn and beyond, in one constant, intertwined plot, leading to a provocative ending.
“Jeebus, there’s enough wit, sarcasm and genuinely weird sci-fi in here, including consensual sex with aliens, for a dozen of those so-called books the so-called sci-fi writers are churning out lately,” Brenner lamented, holding his novel up before a verdant, cascading wall of bamboo while the motor drives flashed and the flashes whirred. “It’s a wonder they’re still showing ST:TOS on MeTV, I guess nothing great has been written in this genre since 1967?”
And look! The book even has a newspaper review… a weekly, but it’s a real newspaper on news print stock with ink and big presses and everything!
You know what an Odd-servation is, don’t you? It’s something you see that doesn’t quite fit in the general pattern of events. Something that is a quarter-wavelength out of sync with everything else, an inconvenient fact, a truth that you’d rather ignore but it keeps jumping out of the general blur of The Matrix and startling you, like the Woman in the Red Dress that Mouse programmed.
Herewith, some of the Odd-servations I’ve encountered in the last 15 years, with, where appropriate, commentary as to what the photo means, and how I came to take it.
The End of the Trail
“The End of the Trail” is, of course, the title of fin de 19th siecle American artist James Earle Fraser’s testament to the cultural decline of Native Americans and their ultimate defeat at the hands of the bilagaana (Navajo, white person) or washichu (Lakota, greedy one) invaders. I took this picture with my cell phone while walking the dog one afternoon. I think it expresses my feelings rather well, so I present it here without comment, except that my daughter asked why I didn’t want to put a footprint on it.
Nightmare in Pink
Let’s be clear:
• This is not about RACE. My comments would apply no matter what race the clothes horse, above, was.
• This is not about FASHION. That quality is notably lacking in the subject’s mode of dress. The clothing has apparently not been selected for its effect on others, or to make a positive statement about the wearer. It is, in fact, anti-fashion.
• Nor is it about BEAUTY, a subjective evaluation based general norms and seasonal shifts. Beauty is, apparently, the last thing this clothes horse worried about!
• Nor is it about GENDER, because the subject would be just as unappealing if she were a he!
• THIS IS ABOUT CLASS, AND NOT HAVING ANY! Not social class, like what rules the UK, but class that speaks of self-respect, that indicates pride in one’s identity and delineates one’s place is society. No, I don’t wear a necktie any more, but here in Florida, I assure you the damn things are totally optional for any meeting more formal than a casual drink, especially in the summer, when the poor location reporters on local TV have to wear a jacket, slacks and tie on camera and make it look good, in 90ºF (32ºC) heat and relative humidities above 70%, which is just killer. I mean, a T-shirt gets soaked in 5 minutes in conditions like that! Get some self-respect, Clothes Horse, and show some STYLE!
Stop Signs 1 and 2
(1 L) This is the stop sign at the corner of Easy, which is the street that my house sits on, and Key, which intersects it. It’s a quiet neighborhood, except for the fact that the Charlotte County Fire Department is only about a half-mile due west, and Easy Street is used by every ambulance heading for the nearby hospital complex a half-mile north. So we have sirens going off frequently, and ambulances speeding down the street, lights flashing, all the time. A nice, quiet, neighborhood, like I said. And that avian, perched on top, is a mockingbird, if you were wondering. A nice, quiet, songbird. Yeah, right!
(2 R) Stop signs, like all modern road signs, have a reflective coating based on the 3M Scotchlite patent, a material which reflects light back to its source no matter what angle the screen is at. That made front projection of movies, and specifically the “Dawn of Man” sequence that opens Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, possible.
It also means that stop signs light up according to what light is projected on them, an effect most visible at twilight. I took one flash shot of this sign and half-a-dozen by available light, no flash. The landscape was drab and the sunset looked washed-out. I went with the flash shot, and have never looked back. About a month ago, corner of Key and Westlund, one block east of my house.
The World’s Longest Shot
“It’s shot from guns!” — Old TV ad for Quaker Puffed Wheat & Puffed Rice
Even as a little kid, it always struck me as odd and ironic that a breakfast cereal with a Quaker — a Protestant sect known for actively practicing peace — for an icon advertised itself as being “shot from guns,” a slight prevarication about the exact process used to produce the fluffy texture of their grain products. So what?
Little did I suspect, in my youthful naïveté, that I would later in life actually meet someone who fulfilled the very fate of that doomed grain, over and over again!
HE LET HIMSELF BE SHOT FROM A FUCKING CANNON! OVER A BUNCH OF CARS, INTO A NET! THE LONGEST SUCH SHOT ON RECORD AT THE TIME, AND WHAT’S MORE, HIS WIFE AIMED AND FIRED THE CANNON!
In such a roles-reversal relationship, the husband needs to feel secure that his hubby doesn’t harbor any hidden resentments against him, no?
Well, this photo shows the first big assignment I got for Harbor Style magazine, the first one that took me out of town. All the way to the Desoto Super Speedway, outside Bradenton in Manatee County! The human cannonball was David Smith Jr., a short, unassuming guy you’d never figure for such an oddball job, but it runs in his family: his father did it too.
Here, Smith Jr. is shown in a fundraising stunt put on by a local auto dealership, firing himself over 18 new cars and trucks, a record no other human cannonball had ever logged before. For every second Smith stayed in the air, the dealership would drop $1,000 on new cars that month, December 2007. Big deal! Bigger deal: the cannon was also the starting gun for the Florida 400 Sprint auto race! Zoom zoom!
I had no doubt I could light the photo, as I had several powerful strobes that could have optical slaves attached, basically a photocell with electronics that make it sensitive only to short pulses of light, like an electronic flash produces. I set up two on light stands at a 45º angle to the net, a powerful Vivitar 635 handle-mount flash (colloquially referred to as a “potato masher” for its design) and a smaller but almost as powerful Vivitar 238 shoe mounted unit. A third unit was attached to the camera’s hot flash shoe, so it would fire as the camera was tripped and trip the other two units with its flash.
But… to catch the action, I put the camera in motor drive, which didn’t give the flashes time to recharge between shots! Oh no! I knew I might get a couple of dark frames… but what I never expected were the flash pots! They lit up one frame a thousand times brighter than my pathetic strobe units, and my camera’s shutter speed of 1/125 of a second and manually-set aperture of f4 turned out to be exactly the right exposure for my Fuji S2 Pro’s CCD sensor.
After I filed the shot with Harbor Style, I figured it might have some national or international appeal, so I spent several hours trying unsuccessfully to sell it to international press and news organizations. Nobody bit, but HS did pay for my travel.
Hey, it isn’t ever day you get to shoot a guy getting shot out of a cannon, is it? Isn’t that like being an anti-missile missile?
Malcolm’s Psychedelic Breakfast
Herewith, a photo of waffles, taken when I still had my Canon 30D digital camera in 2015. The 30D was only 8 megapixels, though, and old, and the thought of shooting with only the resolution of a half-frame 35mm was not encouraging.
No, these waffles were not psychedelic, although they were gluten-free, canned peach-enhanced and doused with genuine American Vermont maple syrup, by gum! You can’t eat that wonderful stuff in Russia or China, hell no!
And the morning light on them, shining in the eastern kitchen window, was beautiful, severe and dramatic. The subject had the prerequisite backlight, so necessary for food — note the translucency of the peach halves! I didn’t have to do a thing, so I took a picture.
An Odd-servation? Yes, because it picks out the food item and celebrates it, celebrates the peaches, the butter, the maple syrup, the indecisive quality of the waffles, a food item that thinks it might be the sole of a waffle-stomper, if only it weren’t so damn digestible!
And there you go. This is my own personal Odd-servation, and every time I look at it, delicious tastes and smells come back to me. Isn’t that why we take pictures, to freeze time?
All photos taken with an iPhone 7, most in the parking lot of a local Winn-Dixie supermarket. Wherever possible, identifying details of the license plates have been obscured; otherwise, these are the digital equivalents of box-camera negatives, and should be treated as such: nothing fancy! Enjoy, and ponder what it all means when we roll the bones!
“If I wanted to hear from an asshole, I’d fart.” Or you just might stay where you are and await the scream of tortured metal…
Conflicting opinions… What would John do?
And if you don’t know who Bob Dylan is, or what he was, or represented to Baby Boomers, don’t ask your folks, ask your grandparents… but only if they are, like, cool! You know, they do yoga, smoke weed, spout poems that don’t rhyme and there’s a gleam in their eye when they reminisce about ‘shroom hunting in the cow pastures just outside Sarasota in the early 1970’s?
Yeah, them. Ask them who Bob Dylan was, and why his anthem “Like a Rolling Stone” (sorry, stoners, this has nothing to do with the Stones) is quite possibly the greatest rock song ever written: because it embodies the sense of loss my generation suffers from, not only the loss of our brothers in the meat grinder of Vietnam, but the sense of loss of control over our own lives.
PORT CHARLOTTE, FL. – It was a Saturday morning, sunny and quiet, and Florida writer Malcolm J. Brenner was feeling pretty good for a change. The crippling combo of vertigo and chronic fatigue, which had weighed on him for years, weren’t bothering him much, and the many superficial scars from Perugia nodularis, a weird ingrown-hair condition created by inherited psoriasis, were somehow healing. All in all, the morning was ripe with favorable omens, and Brenner felt an uncommon sensation of hope wash over his thin, 5′ 9″ frame.
Grasping the blue, artificial fabric leash attached to the muzzle on his mostly-black-Labrador bitch Epic’s snout tightly in his left hand, Brenner stood in his doorway and took stock of the situation. For their morning walk, the first of the day, the dog and her master turned right at the end of his driveway and followed the sidewalk clockwise around the block on which Brenner’s unassuming but totally adequate yellow General Construction house, a remnant of the 1959 Florida housing boom, stood.
The driveway was getting rather pitted, Brenner noted, and he thought of calling an asphalt contractor for a bid. But that would have to wait until he replaced the decorative wooden post that the bitch had pulled down. Epic had run out her cable barking at a neighbor and his dog walking by, and the cable was connected to the post, which fell down. (“If you push something hard enough, it will fall over.” – Fudd’s First Law.) Fortunately, it wasn’t a load-bearing structural member for the carport, and the roof of the structure remained intact, somewhat to Brenner’s surprise. It had been a few days since the incident, and he counted his blessings.
Suddenly, a loud rustling caught Brenner’s ear, coming from a native cabbage palm to his right. The tree stood adjacent to his lot, at the corner of his neighbor’s property, a nice normal couple named Willy and Rachel, and their several kids. Brenner glanced up, and could see the green, leafy fronds of the palm’s crown in violent motion. Some kind of action was going on inside, something not the common squabbling of birds, as Brenner had seen many times before. Something possibly… BIG.
Taking a moment to reflect on what could be causing the rustling, Brenner mused aloud, to his dog in particular, “I bet that’s a squirrel, Epic, the birds don’t make that much noise!” And then, throwing caution to the four winds, the couple set out on their morning circumambulation… the path taking them right under the suspect tree.
“We had only gone two steps, and then it struck me,” Brenner recounted, sweat beading his 69-year-old brow. “I mean, it didn’t really strike me, or the dog, but it just barely missed us! And it didn’t seem to jump from branch to branch and miss, like they sometimes do, it just fell straight down and landed right in front of us, startling me and bringing Epic to a sudden halt.”
Something small, gray, and fuzzy. Something that barely avoided the stony concrete sidewalk an inch away in its rapid descent, something that landed with a loud THUD! in the soft sand that passes for soil in Florida, leaving a small crater, which Brenner surveyed later.
Not a coconut; cabbage palms don’t grow them. Not a dead bird, or a broken branch, or a cluster of palm berries, like he might have expected, but… a squirrel!
Yes, a ferocious, wild, undomesticated creature now lay before them on its stomach, immobile. Only the Fates knew if it was dead or alive… and capable of attack at any moment!
There was a millisecond of stunned silence. Even Epic, who, being a dog, as the late 19th Century English adventurer Rudyard Kipling pointed out in his classic childhood espionage novel Kim, could fall asleep in the road and wake up instantly just as the wheel of an approaching wagon was about to crush her, was struck dumb by the rodent’s sudden and unexpected, calamitous descent from the vegetative organism, and stood unmoving, too startled by the sudden spectacle to even bark, or whimper helplessly.
“The English have a word for it,” Brenner later recounted breathlessly in the still, humid air, “what is it, Godspell? No, that was a Broadway Jesus musical back in the Seventies. It must be something else… wait… damn it, it’s on the tip of my… oh yeah! Gobsmacked! That’s how Epic and I both felt, utterly gobsmacked by this damn kamikaze rodent plunging towards the Earth and barely missing us! Another two feet and it might have landed on my head, giving me a new, Donald T***p-style hairpiece for free, and possibly knocking me out, too!”
Epic had no comment on the situation, but her soft brown canine eyes betrayed her stress, even hours later.
But before either dog or man could so much as bat a lash, the rogue rodent recovered its senses, gathered its wits and disappeared in a blur of gray under Willy’s white Toyota truck with a camper shell on its back, the good strong fiberglass ones, not the cheap, thin aluminum ones. And then it was gone, gone for good, for better or for worse.
Brenner shook his head, recalling the rampant craziness of the moment.
“I seen them varmints jump before, and a-yup, they’re pretty good at making leaps even a cat would think twice about, and grabbing a branch skinnier than an anorexic model with bulimia, and then they’ll just skitter right on up that tree and out of sight,” Brenner recalled, “but this one was just plain GONE, man! I mean, ZOOM, gone, down on the ground right from under our noses, and that was it. Over and done with. Gone.”
His senses reeling, his mind churning, Brenner and Epic nevertheless managed to complete their morning walk without further incident. But hours later, the ramifications of the event still troubled him.
“That squirrel had no business being in that tree,” he opined. “I mean, I know they live in trees and all, but that tree… that was a bird tree, maybe even a bat tree, you know, a tree for flying things, and squirrels… they definitely do not fly! I seen ’em, they fall down just like you or me, and land with a thud. So that squirrel musta been up to some mischief there, maybe looking for his breakfast eggs or some hatchlings in a bird’s nest. Yeah, they’re supposed to eat nuts and stuff, and they look all cute and cuddly, but they’ll fool ya and chow down on some baby birds if they can get ’em! Squirrels don’t live on nuts alone!”
Two days later, the incident still left Brenner shaken, and shaking his head in disbelief.
“This world we-all are living in, what’s it coming to when a man, standing on his own property, walking his own dog on his own stretch of sidewalk, has to fear the fall of a robber squirrel from a tree? It could have hurt me, wounded me, or even crushed me, if it was an elephant and not a squirrel, and Epic let it escape without an apology, or even so much as a howdy-do!
“It ain’t natural! Ain’t nothin’ natural left except Dr. Bronner’s Soap, and I hear they make that from mary-jawanna these days. What’s the world coming to? It coulda been a burning jetliner, or a falling satellite, or even an big ol’ asteroid, roaring down to extinguish human civilization forever! But a squirrel…?”
He left the portentous words hanging heavy in the dank, thick air, and poured himself another drink. Epic lapped water nervously from a bowl on the floor.
The proper authorities have been notified, and are taking action to prevent squirrel falls from interfering with the day-to-day life, work and recreation of other Charlotte County residents. Reportedly, they are installing Chinese-made falling squirrel catchers, like a wide, plastic ring, around the trunks of every tree in the county. Further down the road, they are considering the cost and effectiveness of requiring arboreal squirrels to wear mini-parachutes when tree borne. But the shock stays with the victim.
“I can’t get over it, and neither can my dog,” Brenner concluded. “She ain’t been the same since that… danged thing dang near fell on us! She’s been whimpering and howling and keeps looking up tree trunks, like she expects a danged cheetah or something to jump down and rip her up! I don’t know what’s coming next, and I can’t eat nor sleep at night for worrying, and I can barely pour a drink of tequila to calm my nerves. It’s a regular calamity, I tell ya. A regular calamity!”
Among local mammalogists, exactly what the squirrel was doing in the tree that morning remains a matter of intense speculation. Was it gathering an innocent, vegan breakfast of palm berries, or were its furry jaws slavering in anticipation of a bloody meal of baby birds? Or maybe even something unthinkable, unguessable, unimaginable, something that only a hunger-crazed rodent would contemplate?
Only the squirrel knows for sure… and he or she isn’t talking.
Editor’s Note: John, what are you trying to do to me? I need more copy on this! You’ve given me 6 paltry inches, and we’ve got a hole the size of Alaska on page 3 because Numbnutz pulled their ad over the dolphin sex story on page 4, and they are now threatening to cancel their whole year-long contract with us! I know this is pretty thin, but can you somehow stretch it to 30 or even 40 column inches? Come on, guy, pad it out a little like you did with that story about the overweight chick in Spandex. I know you can do it by deadline, just give it the old college try, and for once get it in on time! My wife is threatening to leave me and take the kids if I don’t make it home in time for supper tonight! Mama Mia! — Ralph
The year, 1969, and I was a senior at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida. I had a small circle of friends and acquaintances, oddball, intellectual types like myself, and one of them was into shortwave radio.
His last name was Drescher, and that’s what we called him, because he wasn’t fond of his first name, but what it was I forget. It doesn’t matter, what matters is that, one night when the etheric circuits were properly aligned, Drescher found himself communicating with another ham radio operator in China, which in those unenlightened was called “Red China” to distinguish it from the fortress island of Taiwan, 1,307 miles (2.103 km) off the eastern coast, held by rebel Gen. Chang Kai-Chek, one of the most inept military leaders of the 20th Century, against the forces of the Red Army led by Communist Party Chairman Mao Tse-Dong, who enforced a Spartan lifestyle on his billion or so “comrades” with an iron fist in a steel glove.
Now that you understand a little of what this part of the Cold War was about, imagine Drescher, alone one night, picking up a shortwave operator who speaks English in China! What are the odds? What are the odds that he was talking with a Communist Party member? Remember, in what the West calls a Communist society (actually an atheist cult of totalitarian hero-worship), The Government owns everything, including your ass, and resources are allocated according to the unalterable decisions of The Party, who operate in the best interests of The People, which, for some reason, never includes you. So an individual owning something as revolutionary as a short wave radio was a crime, because anything that revolutionary could also become an equally effective weapon in counter-revolutionary hands!
It was the custom of international short wave operators at that time, and may still be today, to exchange cards with each other, documenting the date, time, frequency and location of the operator they had contacted, and having supplied this information, Drescher one day came to school and astonished all of us with his readings from a copy of The Sayings of Chairman Mao, the sacred text of the Red Chinese masses!
It was a fat book, with large type of an odd font, and rather small, with a slick, plastic over then unknown in the West, undoubtedly so it would be more durable in the hovels of the peasants who pored over this manual of Party orthodoxy. It would either have made George Orwell proud, or very, very afraid. The impression was of something foreign trying to pass for ordinary, except for that glaring red cover. You couldn’t avoid that, any more than you could avoid the first stanza of the Red Chinese national anthem, The East is Red, broadcast by the first Chinese satellite to orbit the Earth, after every 30-second data dump. The East is Red, over and over and over again ad infinitum, until the damn thing’s orbit decayed and it incinerated itself in the atmosphere as it tumbled down from the skies, years later.
I think hearing that piece of music repeated so often must have driven some Chinese scientists nuts, but that’s the price you pay for choosing to be born into a closed, totalitarian society run by a sociopathic mass murderer. It does have its price! We can honor them without knowing their names.
The Red Book made Drescher an instant celebrity not only among our group, but all the students at school, and was written up in the local papers. I’m sure his story even made the AP wire. I don’t know about the others, but I felt rather proud of Drescher for having taken this step toward international peace, trust and reconciliation. Among Drescher’s skills was he also played ping-pong, and this flowered into the Era of Ping-Pong Diplomacy. Last I heard, Drescher had been invited to Red China to participate in some kind of international ping-pong tourney against other players from Latvia, Tibet, Albania, Slovenia and Brooklyn, N.Y. I don’t know how he did, because we all went to different colleges and I never heard from him again.
What matters, and has stayed with me all these years, is some of those sayings. Profound, but profoundly cynical and brutal, too.
• Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.
• Women hold up half the sky.
• The guerrilla must move among the people as a fish swims in the sea.
And so on. It is thus in remembrance of Drescher and his Little Red Book that I present the following sayings, pieces of wisdom and random scraps of data, most of them by myself but some by others (credited, where known), for your amusement, contemplation and pondering. Let a hundred flowers bloom, and we’ll all have hay fever! Bring on the Revolution, and up against the wall, motherfuckers! Pigasus for President, Yipee! — Chairman Malcolm
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the thermonuclear reactor. – Chairman Malcolm
What does not kill me, gives me post traumatic stress disorder. – Fred-Rick Neat O’Shea, Irish-German philosopher & drunkard
I love NASA, but they have the ability to sometimes transform the ethereal into the mundane.– Michael Collins, Apollo astronaut.
If you happen to be smoking a joint with a fire-breathing dragon, remember not to ask it for a light. – Toasty the Bear
If you invite a porcupine to a balloon party, do not be surprised when it blows up in your face. – Chairman Malcolm
He who lives by the reality show, dies when his ratings plummet. – Chairman Malcolm
She had no time for horses, she was just too busy with all those men! – Lucy Worsley, English historian, on the sex life of Catherine the Great, Czarina of all the Russias and rumored zoophile (another Commie lie, turns out)
If we as a species are to be judged by superior beings on the basis of “Tiger King,” then we are most assuredly fucked. – Chairman Malcolm
You cannot kill a lie with another lie, you can only kill a lie with the unvarnished truth. But it should be delivered as gently as possible, because nobody likes to realize they have been stupid enough to believe a lie. – Chairman Malcolm
If you can handle it with Kubrick, then you can handle anything, because he’s 44 times as difficult as anybody else. – Anton Furst, production designer on Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam movie Full Metal Jacket.
“Doing the right thing” is, in the short run, often unprofitable. But in the long run, it is inevitable. – Chairman Malcolm
The last four years have proved that ignorance is less blissful than advertised. – Stephen Colbert, host of The Late Show, in late 2020
It was a very attractive location on the Baltic Sea. This was a dream holiday destination for people like myself, back in the ’30s. I soon sensed that the facility was consciously designed as a kind of ghetto for scientists. – Ruth Kraft, rocket scientist, on Peenemünde, the German Army rocketry works, before World War 2
Evangelizing is just advertising for a belief set rather than a product or service. – Chairman Malcolm
Any human, dropped naked five miles from shore, immediately loses at least 100 I.Q. points no matter how smart they were when dry. – Dripper the dolphin
I’d rather die a big death than live a small life! – Elfo the elf in Matt Groening’s animated series Netflix series Disenchanted
I always wanted to be in entertainment… you know, in Hell I was a communications major! – Luci the demon in Disenchanted
Seems like whenever people get in a hole, they get jealous of dogs. – Paul Sackler, screenwriter of Fear and Desire, Stanley Kubrick’s first low-budget film
What made me an American radical? History, unvarnished history! – Chairman Malcolm
To live a long and happy life, absorb this fact: Every day, all over the world, people die horrible, unnecessary, agonizing deaths. Try to avoid being one of them. – Chairman Malcolm
That concludes today’s study lesson, comrades! Remember, you will be tested on it! Now return to your jobs in the People’s Manure Factory, and long live Chairman Malcolm a zillion billion years, unless it gets boring! Then, all bets are off.