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The Last Day of the Great Laibon [a story]

by Michael Robbins

This story is dedicated to my father.

 

Kiana had been in the wilderness alone. It was against protocol, and exactly what she needed. That’s what she told herself anyway. Lions came to nuzzle her belly, rumbling softly, perhaps due to that acute animal instinct for knowing when something was wrong. Usually they scattered when the Old man came around.

The first time was on the first day of the month, on the first hour past noon. Of course it was. He popped around a tree on those sand scattered Kalahari plains and waved. Kiana started, then bent over the hand-held UV monitor in both her mitts and muttered, “It’s not real.”

800px-Vachellia_erioloba_-_Camel_thorn

On the second day, at the appointed hour, he climbed into the sun-screened Jeep with her with a cheery “Hello!” Her grip tightened knuckle white on the steering wheel. “You’re not real,” she repeated, almost as a mantra. Her bright green eyes shunted her off onto a vision, flashing to the live-feed six weeks past, to the same man, now more emaciated than he’d been at their last contact, seemingly plied with ever-more tubes in every vein. She blinked, jerking to the side, but the man was gone, at least for now.

Twice more she saw him, at a distance paralleling her as she did her job, collecting genetic samples from the indigenous wildlife. It wasn’t normally dangerous work, but it was always better to work in teams. Especially on the Kalahari with its hundred-degree-plus temperatures, sparse grasses, pale sand pans and gnarled camel thorn trees clawing infrequently at the sky. On the sixth day, it almost cost her.

Kiana had sampled some weaver birds but hadn’t been paying enough attention to her surroundings. Which was how the cheetah had stumbled into her. They literally tripped over one another. Luckily Kiana rolled one way and the spotted cheetah the other. Her heart hammered at her ribs with startling ferocity. That was nothing compared to the snarl issuing from the big cat.

Its eyes were cloudy. It must have an older cat who stumbled carelessly into the noonday sun and been blinded. With all the other adverse effects of climate change it couldn’t have been helped. This was not helping her at all, though. Her limbs were still trying not to move. She didn’t seem to have much control over her shrill breathing, something the cheetah’s ears tuned in on with terrible accuracy.

That’s when the Old man stepped around her, waving both long arms and yelling, startling the cat enough that she could get off a shot with her tranq pistol. It took a couple of shots to flatten the agitated beast, but it was done.

The pistol thunked to the brittle yellow grass as the Old Man swung back to her with that familiar grin. “That’s why you shouldn’t be out here by yourself,” he said. “Baby? What’s wrong?”

“…please stop,” she whispered, her overflowing eyes burning. “…god, please stop…you can’t be here…”

“I don’t see why not. The cheetah seemed to agree with me.”

“B-but, Poppa, you’re gone. You’re…y-y-you’re…”

It all came spilling out, all the tears dammed for the past six weeks, all the suppressed emotions, stealing her breath, choking her. The Old Man returned from the truck with a paper bag for her to breath into. He held onto her with soothing words as she hunched over herself, hyperventilating for how long, an hour? All she was able to choke out in all that time was, “forgive me.”

“What for, baby?” he asked.

“I-I wasn’t there, Poppa. I-I didn’t come for the end.”

“The cancer was pretty far along this time. There wasn’t a lot anyone could do.”

As he’d done when she was younger and brought home every stray dog in the neighborhood, teary-eyed, he now dabbed her cheeks with a kerchief that was the same safari-brown as his sleeveless shirt and shorts. “It’s okay, Baby. Say what’s really bothering you.”

She could look at him now, into the smiling eyes that had raised her, the face now smoothed of all aches. “Is heaven real?” she asked.

“It’s better than heaven,” he shrugged. “Go on. You can do it.”

“I can’t.”

“What, the little girl who frolicked with lions? That’s not who I remember.”

“That’s just it. I didn’t want to remember you like that, all wasted away. I wanted you to be strong in my memory. I wanted to remember all the fishing trips with you and Momma. I wanted to remember that big hug you gave me when I came home from my mission.”

“You can still have that. Nothing wrong with that.”

“But I-I’m not ready.”

“I wasn’t. Nobody’s ever ready. That’s okay. I have faith in you, baby.”

“Does Momma hate me, for not coming home?”

He blew a raspberry out the side of his mouth. “Never. ‘Worried’ is more like it. You should give her a call.” Together they stood. “I’ve been allowed this one visit. I’ve probably overstayed it already. Why don’t I help you load that cat in the cage before I get back?”

This was done in no time at all. As she slammed the metal cage shut in the back of the Jeep, he tipped her chin up, chucking her on it. “I’m proud of you, baby.”

She ducked her head with a smile. A stiff breeze whipped through her bones and he was gone. In the depression in the grass where he’d stood, there remained a small red book of Psalms, the one he’d always carried with him for forty years. The one Momma swore she’d buried with him.

Beatles ’64—what a year!

To say 1964 was a fruitful year for the Beatles, as well as a bonanza for Beatles fans, may be the understatement of the past century. At least it was for their American fans, who were treated to seventeen single releases, twelve albums and a motion picture, not including a national tour and two appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. All their native Brits got was two albums and an EP-single.

beatles with the beatles       Beatles EP uk_long-tall-sally-960x960

Actually, a serious analysis would show those numbers are a bit misleading, and in fact England got the better part of the deal. Two albums may not seem like much, but those albums were presented to them as nature (or their British label, Parlophone Records) intended. In 1963 the Beatles also had their radio show, adding up to 39 BBC sessions that year, and a further eight radio shows in 1964. While that certainly was a much reduced schedule for ’64, it was something we didn’t have access to in America, at least not before the advent of bootlegs in the 1970’s.

For the next three years screaming rabid fans would be the norm for the four lads from Liverpool. This new generation of record buying kids had developed an insatiable hunger for Beatles merchandise. The boys could have recorded an album of Gregorian chants, in basic Liverpudillian, and odds are it would’ve cracked the Top Ten charts.

Let’s start with Vee Jay. Introducing…The Beatles was Vee Jay Records’ attempt to cash in on Beatlemania, and that story is worthy of a blog by itself. Before their contract on the music had even expired, Vee Jay re-packaged the same album—twice; first as Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles (October 1964, chart peak 63), and again as a double album, The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons (Oct. 1964, chart peak 143), paired with a greatest hits package by the Seasons.

Beatles Introducing...VeeJay     Beatles sogns pictures etc of fab bs vj     Beatles vs 4 seasons lp     Beatles Jolly_What_by_Beatles_and_Frank_Ifield

On February 26, 1964 Vee Jay offered another misleading title, Jolly What! England’s Greatest Recording Stars: The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage, reissued in October as The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage. While the Fab Four only had four tracks on the LP, none of them live, this was the only place to hear their hit single “From Me to You” until 1973’s compilation The Beatles 1962-1966 (‘The Red Album’) hit the market. The Beatles Story was a double-album propaganda piece that required little to no participation of the band members; and again it was slapped together in response to Vee Jay’s interview record Hear the Beatles Tell All (Nov. 1964). That’s seven down.

Beatles_and_Frank_Ifield_on_Stage     Beatles storyalbumcover     Beatles hear the beatles tell all

https://rateyourmusic.com/release/album/the-beatles/the-beatles-story/

We’ll discuss the official U.S. capitol albums another time. Suffice it to say you can thank Dave Dexter, the Capitol Records exec who’d spend the next three years creating two albums out of one, with the addition of all their singles and B-sides. For now it is time to dispel the confusion…or perhaps to add to it.

The first Beatles album released in North America isn’t what you think it was. Capitol Canada got the jump on us by issuing their second British LP, what we know as Meet The Beatles! a couple months ahead of Capitol US, under the augmented title Beatlemania! With The Beatles. That was followed by Twist and Shout, the Canadian version of their first LP Please Please Me. The final Canadian-exclusive Capitol release was The Beatles’ Long Tall Sally, which incorporated the British EP of the same name with four tracks already released on the Beatlemania! album. The cover design was virtually identical to Capitol US’s The Beatles’ Second Album. From here on Capitol Canada followed the U.S. releases, beginning with A Hard Day’s Night.

Beatles Canada LongTallySally       Beatles Second Album cover

Nor was their time wasted with Tony Sheridan. Their first professional recordings were backing the English singer on five tracks in 1961, although they were credited then as The Beat Brothers. “My Bonnie” (Polydor, 1962) would be the single that brought them to the attention of their future promoter Brian Epstein. And these recordings would be twice issued, as The Beatles with Tony Sheridan and Their Guests, augmented by six tracks featuring Danny Davis & the Titans (MGM/Atco, Feb. 2, 1964, chart peak 68); and then as Ain’t She Sweet, featuring an entire side devoted to British Invasion band the Swallows (Atco, Oct. 5, 1964).

Beatlesmgm w Tony Sheridan      Beatlesatco Ain't she Sweet

Here’s a misleading list of all the Beatles’ albums from 1964:

-Official British releases for 1964: 

Long Tall Sally (EP, June 19)

A Hard Day’s Night (July 10)           

Beatles for Sale (Dec. 4)

Beatles A Hard Day's Night U.K. cover      Beatels for sale

-Beatles releases by Capitol Records for 1964:         

Meet the Beatles (January 20)        

The Beatles’ Second Album (April 10)    

Something New (July 20)    

The Beatles’ Story (Nov. 23)

Beatles ’65 (Dec. 15)

beatles meet the beatles     Beatles Something newBeatles 65 vinyl

Beatles A Hard Day's night United Artists cover
U.S. release A Hard day’s Night, United Artists, released June 26, 1964

-Vee Jay LPs: 

Introducing the Beatles (Jan. 27)

Songs, Pictures and Stories of the Fabulous Beatles (October)      

The Beatles vs. the Four Seasons (Oct.)     

Jolly What! England’s Greatest Recording Stars: The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage (Feb. 26)

[reissued in October as The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage]  

Hear the Beatles Tell All (Nov.)

 

-Reissues of 1961 recordings with Tony Sheridan:  

The Beatles with Tony Sheridan and Their Guests (Atco, Feb. 2)

Ain’t She Sweet (Atco, Oct.5) 

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

 

 

Response to Rick Wiles: ‘we will impose christian rule’

Christian TV Host Rick Wiles: We Will Impose Christian Rule In This Country

I hate to break this to you, Ricky, but, uh…your religion, Christianity? It’s kind of based on Judaism. Every bit of it. The Ten Commandments, Genesis, Noah and the Ark, Isaiah, Jonah, Moses? ALL JUDAIC FOLKLORE. Oh, and Jesus? Yep. He was a Jew. I’m afraid you’ll have to blame the Romans for slapping the ‘Christian’ label on us; our ancestors didn’t pick it, we just decided to own it.

Force me to become Christian? Heh. You have no idea what a Christian is. You and your rabid viewers have no concept of the most basic Christian concepts. You shame us with your bile and your bigotry and your basic stupidity.

Plainly you don’t understand the least thing about Americans. We’re stubborn cusses. You don’t get to ‘force’ anything on any of us. Try and push us to do something; I promise you, we will shove you back and shove you on your ass.

Also, just one more question? Before you stick your foot any deeper down your gullet, exactly WHICH version of Christianity did you mean? My home town’s phone book last year had 20 PAGES or more of listings for churches. Which denomination did you intend to impose on us?

Y’know what, just stop. You’re making this too easy. It’s because of sacrilegious gits like you that I’m no longer among the converted. My eyes are open and my mind is unchained.

Golden Messiah for the ’90’s

Warlock 1-4 (Vol. 2) 1998 Tom Lyle script & pencils

All characters & art, @ Marvel Comics

I usually expect more of this character, this series. I suppose you can’t expect Jim Starlin to script all of Adam Warlock’s adventures, but the depth of characterization, the strange worlds he’d encountered on his watch is sorely missed here.

I suppose my greatest disappointment with this miniseries was with Adam himself; he was always a calm man, rational yet passionate, plagued by the consequences of his actions and the harm this brought to his allies. Here Adam is on an emotional roller-coaster since recovering his Soul Gem [again]. At times he’s his old rational self, at others a screaming memmie that would be perfectly at home in any ’90’s comic. Saddling Adam Warlock with a temper tantrum syndrome somehow renders him…ordinary. A quirk that could apply to this miniseries in particular.

Bringing me to Plot Failure #1. It has been re-iterated time and again that Adam Warlock would die without the Soul Gem. But if past experience is anything to go on, that thing gets popped off his brow with alarming regularity. Recall that the High Evolutionary just handed it to Adam in Marvel Premiere # 1 in 1972, which raises the question of where HE got his frisky paws on it. [That business where a sacrifice is required to acquire the Stone, by the way, insofar as I know is purely an adaptation for the movies.]

Warlock 1998 syphonn #3The villain for the day is Syphonn, another overlord from the anti-matter universe of the Negative Zone. He is a being gifted with an impractical tentacly suit, whose motives…yeah well, we never get to hear his backstory, so we have to take it at his word that he has a good reason for wanting to destroy the positive universe–our universe. There’s no rhythm or reason for his actions. He’s a bit like Maxwell Smart’s Siegfried: “It’s like this, Mr. Smart. There are goot guys unt there are bad guys, unt I am a bad guy.” Indeed he is a being so all powerful, so full of awe-inspiring mojo…that we never hear from him again.

His overly elaborate plan is to raise the dead body of Captain Marvel so that he may bring his Nega-bands to Drax the Destroyer. Drax’s living body will then be a conduit to open a portal from our universe to the Negative Zone. The energies released in the destruction of our cosmos would funnel to something called a Conqueror’s Wheel, which theoretically would be used to turn Syphonn into a god.

Warlock 1998 1 dead CM syphonnw4

For reasons unknown this involves Mar-Vell’s corpse committing five murders across the galaxy, including that of Mar-Vell’s grieving widow Elysius at his gravesite on Titan. Each murder leaves a distinct calling card, a staff adorned with a craved head of Drax. Which brings us to the 2nd Plot Lapse: surely a plan like this would best succeed if the guilty parties did not go out of their way to attract attention to themselves–not to mention the vengeful wrath of not one but TWO protagonists, Adam Warlock and Mar-Vell’s grieving son Genis-Vell.

This also leads me to question Adam’s state of mind. He knows Drax; he called him to bear the Power Stone in the Infinity Watch. After all their dealings together, you would think he could take a moment to consider whether Drax was the object of an elaborate frame-up, instead of rushing to judgment like a damn fool human.

Familiar faces abound. Pip the Troll at least is practically writer-proof; it’s very hard to get his character wrong. Drax the Destroyer is along as well, first as the falsely accused and then as a tool. The son of deceased Kree warrior Mar-Vell, Genis, is not ready to step up as the new Captain Marvel. At this point he’s still a whiney ’90’s brat.

Gamora has very little to do here besides kick random thugs and intergalactic policemen’s fannies, and to pine over her unrequited love for Adam. To Gamora’s question, “Why did you even ask us along to “help”?”, Adam brusquely replies, “I’ve wondered that many times recently myself!” Traditional Negative Zone baddies Blastaar and Annihilus barely rise above the level of cyphers. All they contribute to the master plan is to bluster and get their asses handed to them by Drax and Genis.

Warlock 1998 4 endgame

Syphonn undoes his own scheme first by unintentionally blasting his own Conqueror’s Wheel; and second by foolishly engaging Adam after he goads Syphonn into using the Soul Gem against him, a plan that backfires predictably. If the moral of this series was that anger is self-destructive and counterproductive to one’s own ends, it demonstrated that point admirably. If the intention was to showcase the outlandish adventures of a cosmic entity from beyond the stars, this was a lackluster showing.

http://marvelite.prohosting.com/surfer/reviews/warlock1.html

 

 

A lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest, Michael Robbins has been the author and a contributor to six books. BUTTERFLY & SERPENT, the first book in a series, was published in 2012. Mike takes pride in being part of the American labor force for over 40 years. In his prose he strives for unity, not division; humor over prejudice; and heart over heartlessness. His art page can be found at Deviantart.com

His latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

f & d cover

Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

review–Dispatches by Michael Herr

Required reading. Michael Herr takes you under fire with him and the Marines. You’ll find yourself under siege at Khe Sahn, breath their sweat, the marijuana, the fear. Despite it all, it’ll be one of those places you can’t leave behind. There are the improbable stories of daredevil war photographers such as Tim Page and of all people the son of actor Errol Flynn, Sean. Spot on-observations abound, such as, “The Green Berets doesn’t count. That wasn’t about Vietnam, it was about Santa Monica.”

One of the most apt summaries of the war, filed while it was still going on, appears on pg. 200: “Somewhere on the periphery of that total Vietnam issue…there was a story that was as simple as it had always been, men hunting men, a hideous war and all kinds of victims. But there was also a Command that didn’t feel this, that rode us into attrition traps on the back of fictional kill ratios, and an Administration that believed the Command, a cross-fertilization of ignorance, and a press whose tradition of objectivity and fairness (not to mention self-interest) saw that all of it got space.” This book was hard to get through, not hard to read per se but harsh in its details, and may be the most honest book about the Vietnam War.

In Sudan, an agreement is emerging between civilians and soldiers — Archy Worldys

The leaders of the protest movement and the army hope to have found common ground Saturday, April 27 in Khartoum, capital of Sudan, the first step towards an exit from the political crisis that paralyzed the country for several months. ” We reached an agreement on a joint council between civilians and the army Ahmed […]

via In Sudan, an agreement is emerging between civilians and soldiers — Archy Worldys

Sudan. Darfur worried about new power — Archy Worldys

One week after the dismissal of Omar Al Bashir, the Sudanese people are still gaining ground. The army allegedly gave in to the street yesterday by transferring the former dictator to the infamous Kober prison in northern Khartoum. Ironically, it is in the sinister jails of this penitentiary that the old regime used to imprison […]

via Sudan. Darfur worried about new power — Archy Worldys

Golden Messiah: Jim Starlin steps in

Strange Tales #178-181, Warlock #9-11 (1975-1976)

You know your life has got to be pretty f—ed when the one who has to give you a pep talk is the Mad Titan Thanos. I have never met a hero so plagued with self-doubt as Adam Warlock. The depths of his self-recriminations exceed even those of Peter Parker, who honestly has better grounds for self-loathing. Besides which, the man has also died and been reborn more times than a Star Trek character.

warlockwhy_page_21

It was through the pages of Warlock that we all first encountered the Most Dangerous Woman in the Galaxy, Gamora, daughter of Thanos, before she was a Guardian of the Galaxy or a member of the infinity Watch. I hadn’t realized this until I reviewed my collection. Warlock no. 15 would also be the first time Gamora met Drax the Destroyer–that is, the time that Drax in his rage flew right into her ship and blew it to smithereens. I showed that page to my wife and son, and they reacted the same way: “Damn! Drax has no chill!”

warlock15_14a

warlock15_14b

Writer Roy Thomas and artist Gil Kane had repositioned Warlock as a Savior in his original comic book run. Jim Starlin was another kettle of fish. Sorting through story possibilities in the mid-1970’s, he became intrigued by the character of Adam Warlock. He would guide the strip through its second phase as both artist and scripter, while upending Adam’s role from Messiah into that of the Devil. Oh, he also gave him that funky cape.

Strange Tales V1 #178 (1975_2) - Page 17

Starlin presented a cosmos as psychedelic as the times in which they were published, his ideas broad-ranging while sprinkled with a subtle, warped sense of humor. Some of my favorite stories were penned and inked by Jim Starlin. It was he who introduced Thanos in Iron Man no. 55 in 1972, and transformed a mediocre Captain Marvel into a cosmically aware champion in Captain Marvel no. 29, 1973. The science may be exaggerated, off-kilter, but wasn’t that always the fun in old comic books? As I re-read his old tales, I’ve come to think of him as the Master of Exposition. Starlin can devote an entire two page spread to recaps and backdrop information dumps on all the evil-doings, in a way that’s both entertaining and vital to the tales unfolding.

There have been many blogs about the Magus Cycle already, so I’ll dispense with another in-depth analysis. But let me summarize; an unknown woman summons Adam Warlock. She dies needlessly at the hands of agents of the Church of Universal Truth, which forces him to use his Soul Gem to resurrect her soulless body and interrogate her. The enemy as they say in the old Pogo comic was ourselves. The all-powerful being Adam must defeat is called the Magus–Latin for wise man, magician, or Warlock. The enemy in fact is his own twisted future self. Every action he takes against the Magus, every step forward only seems to lead Adam down the dark path to his evil future.

He is joined in his quest by the ne’er do well troll Pip and, at Thanos’s direction, by Gamora. Equally problematic is the Soul Gem which was given him by the High Evolutionary. In Thomas & Kane’s hands it was a useful tool; in Starlin’s it has become a malignant presence with a vampiric thirst for souls.

st # 179 d of autoclys

Perhaps reflecting his own personal turmoil after his service in the Navy during the Vietnam War, Starlin’s stories incorporate themes of suicide and self-destruction against an omnipresent congregation. While Thanos engages the Magus, Warlock leaps into his own timeline and erases the path that leads to the Magus, but with that bargain seals his own death in two years’ time. Despite the fact that yes he was absolutely, utterly and definitively erased from history, well, the Magus will be back in one form or another. ‘Cos that’s what Starlin does, what any author does when you think about it–he always comes back to the characters he loves.

http://diversionsofthegroovykind.blogspot.com/2012/02/making-splash-jim-starlins-warlock.html

https://www.vulture.com/2019/04/jim-starlin-creator-of-infinity-war-thanos-hates-marvel.html

https://www.blackgate.com/2015/04/11/the-three-phases-of-marvels-adam-warlock-part-two-the-magus-saga/