Preview: Sanity’s Edge, progress report

This is a short excerpt from my novel-in-progress, Sanity’s Edge. Our protagonists Jamai and Youssou have left their homeland in exile; Jamai has chosen to leave Youssou, due to his erratic mood swings, and has joined a branch of the Order of Elias in the hopes of finding a place among people of her own kind. This is proving not so simple as she believed.

This is still a draft version and will be liable to revision. Comments and critiques are welcome. Enjoy.

The debriefing began that afternoon. Cyrano had the appearance of a well groomed wild man. He was taller than average and had to duck stepping over the threshold into Alejandro’s casa. His was a thick body with a flat nose that might have been broken on more than one occasion. And he had a mane, a literal flame red mane and beard with no hint of a mustache. All that was stuffed inside a deep blue dress suit whose creases had seen better care than his beard.

The other fellow, Lloyd George, was not so tall but unnaturally thin and clean shaven, even to his scalp which bore the signs of week-old stubble. He was also in a dress uniform, though his seemed more comfortably ivied-in than Cyrano’s. His stare darted here and there, taking in the surroundings while being unfailingly polite to Alejandro and me.

I found the big man’s interrogatories usually came in the form of a one-way shouting match. That, combined with the fact that apparently I might have been a little soft spoken, made for a bit of a tense session.

“I suppose the first time was when I was seven and the village ant totem–”

“SPEAK UP, GIRL! I CAN BARELY HEAR YOU!”

“–and that’s when I found out our elder Odu Molefe had been collaborating with them the whole time, can you believe–”

“DON’T MIX SUPPOSITION WITH THE FACTS! FOCUS, GIRL!”

I had to endure two days of this interrogation before I could even slip in one question, perhaps the only one that mattered to me. The small fellow, Lloyd George, tapped his padd like a mad keyboardist while the fat guy Cyrano sat as a rock on the Mara Plains, glowering directly at me. Alejandro was getting up to fetch us all coffee when I blurted, “Is there anyone else like me?”

Alejandro paused, recalling the one occasion I’d put the same query to him. Cyrano scoffed, “Certainly not. That kind of power in so youthful–”

“No, I mean, are there any other gifted people out there?”

“Like you?” Lloyd George prompted.

“Yes.”

The two interlopers exchanged arched glances. Perhaps it wasn’t so much a telepathic exchange as they’d worked together so long as a team that they thought along the same patterns. At any rate it was Lloyd George who answered.

“Why yes, we have wards much like you in our branches all across the globe,” he beamed. “Some have similar power levels to your own, some can be quite innocuous. Alejandro for example–”

“There’s nobody exactly like you,” Cyrano emphasized, and here his bushy mustache twitched at the right cheek. “Your powers are unique. That is why we’ve taken such an interest in you.” He seemed prepared to move along but I wasn’t done.

“I had another question.”

“Oh, what now?”

“I was wondering if you could help me find something to do with myself. Some kind of employment…”

“You want a job?”

“Y-yes,” I nodded. “I want to do something useful. It doesn’t have to be anything big. In fact I’d prefer it if I could find someplace not so public, where I could disappear in the back or something.”

“What do we look like, an unemployment office?”

“No, but you must have connections.”

“For Chrissakes, what do you think you’re doing here? You’re a murderess!”

Some dishes clattered in the kitchen. “I’m sorry…?”

“Huh, she’s sorry,” Cyrano huffed, nudging his companion. “You damn well ought to be. You should be grateful we’re even taking you in. we could be breaking ten thousand laws just hiding your sorry ass!”

“I didn’t mean to kill them, I panicked!”

“And how do we know you won’t panic in the future? What’s to stop you from doing it again?”

“Because I remember it! Because I can’t get it out of my mind!”

I had to stop; I’d started breathing in shallow gulps. Alejandro had to catch me as I slumped over the table with one hand bracing me up. Cyrano was noticeably silent, though his spirit matched the slow boil in mine. “Getting back to this business with Sydney,” Lloyd George interjected, “may I ask, umm, how did you know all that?”

“She told me. I already explained that.”

“Impossible,” Cyrano said. “We–!” He hesitated, cracking his fists as he huffed more deeply than before. “These are things known to only a handful of us on the Order’s Inner Circle. Sydney Merryman is gone. That’s established fact.”

“You may be wrong,” I said. “From what I could perceive Massoud didn’t want to steal our bodies. I don’t think the vast majority of Sydelle’s kin want to. They’re not after our bodies, our children, for their own pleasure. That’s just what we think based on what Sydelle has told us. I think they just want their purgatory to end. I think they just want to die.”

Our guests exchanged another doubtful glance. Lloyd George began, “Cyrano, maybe we should consider–”

“Oh don’t you be stupid too, man! It’s pure bullshit. Talking spirits? That’s never happened before. In the last five hundred years not one soul has been recovered, not one! Am I supposed to take this shit to the Inner Council, tell them everything we KNOW is wrong, based on the word of a stupid girl?”

“But my vision–what I saw–!”

“Maybe you filtered what your thought was a vision through your own perceptions,” Lloyd George suggested. That creature suffocated you. Perhaps oxygen deprivation caused you to fashion your ideas into a comfortable narrative.”

“No.”

“Miss, it is a possibility we should consider–”

“I said NO. I know what I saw and I won’t be dissuaded from that by the Fat Guy here.”

“Settle down, girl,” Cyrano growled.

“Who the hell do you think you–”

“SETTLE DOWN!”

Was it me, or did the rafters shudder? Dust sifted down from above as he continued. “Our people have been watching those maniacs for five hundred years. You can’t come crawling up out of the bush at nineteen years old telling us how to run our affairs. You’re barely out of diapers.”

“I’ve lived more in those twenty years,” I corrected him, heat rising into my cheeks, “than either of you fucking toubabs.”

“Cyrano…” Lloyd George’s eyes shone bright. He slapped a palm onto his companion’s knee. The fat one’s brow furrowed as his knuckles popped with what should have been a painful balling of the fist I was glaring at.

I had no idea what he could do and didn’t much care. “Oh please, try it.”

Senores,” Alejandro called, though honestly I think his voice only penetrated the periphery of our mutual glares. “Let’s call it a day, debemos? We should give these tense sessions time to rest before we resume.” Lloyd George nodded at least. After a few more moments where our eyes locked, Cyrano swerved his gaze away.

I pushed off the divan without a backward glance at either of my two acosters. “You can see them to the door, padre. I don’t know why I’m wasting my time with you people.”

Alejandro followed me as far as the circular stairwell leading upstairs. “Thanks for standing up for me,” I muttered. “You don’t believe me either, do you?”

“You have to understand it goes against everything we know,” he said.

Sweet Ngai, I didn’t want to talk about this. “Maybe I’ll just leave.”

Both hands slapped on his hips. “And where will you go?”

“I DON’T KNOW! Maybe I’ll go back to the bushes I crawled from, or maybe I’ll see if they’ll have me back at Abyei-Bentiu! That’ll make everybody happy!” it should have been satisfying to slam the door to my room on his face, but somehow it wasn’t.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.         Mike’s Amazon page:

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

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Kurt Vonnegut Slapstick (1976 novel) review

1-Slapstick(Vonnegut)

I haven’t read a book quite this fast in a long while, and I was barely trying. Published in our fair nation’s Bicentennial year, we have the story of twins separated by their judgmental parents, and a granddaughter the brother twin comes to care for. Family is the core virtue of this satire, even to the point of ludicrousness. Don’t expect it to be an endorsement of what we laughably call ‘family values’. Our protagonist is essentially a modern Neanderthal who with the help of his sister Eliza becomes by turns a genius, an idiot, a pediatrician, the last President of the United States and the King of Manhattan after a flu and the Green Death destroys civilization as we know it.

1 vonnegut lonesome no more

A means is also discovered to contact the Afterlife which turns out to be as boring as nails, so much so that it’s referred to as a ‘Turkey Shoot’. The biggest religion at the end of the world is the Church of Jesus Christ the Kidnapped. The insinuation that the Chinese are shrinking in stature may have been written in jest but by today’s standards or any other, it might be considered racist. The style is breezy and pure Vonnegut, sparing in detail and broadly farciful with even the most tragic of events. A step up from Breakfast of Champions.

Well, I am used to the rootlessness that goes with my profession. But I would like people to be able to stay in one community for a lifetime, to travel away from it to see the world, but always to come home again,…Until recent times, you know, human beings usually had a permanent community of relatives. They had dozens of homes to go to. So when a married couple had a fight, one or the other could go to a house three doors down and stay with a close relative until he was feeling tender again. Or if a kid was so fed up with his parents that he couldn’t stand it, he could march over his uncle’s for a while. And this is no longer possible. Each family is locked into its little box. The neighbors aren’t relatives. There aren’t other houses where people can go and be cared for.

–Vonnegut interview extract, Todd F. Davis (January 2008). Kurt Vonnegut’s Crusade; Or, How a Postmodern Harlequin Preached a New Kind of Humanism. SUNY Press. pp. 95–97. ISBN 978-0-7914-6676-6. Retrieved 13 July 2011^

1 vonnegut slapstick

 

Mikes’ 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

 

 

[ shared blog] Saturn surpasses Jupiter after the discovery of 20 new moons — Scents of Science

A team led by Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard has found 20 new moons orbiting Saturn. This brings the ringed planet’s total number of moons to 82, surpassing Jupiter, which has 79. The discovery was announced Monday by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center. Each of the newly discovered moons is about five kilometers, or […]

via Saturn surpasses Jupiter after the discovery of 20 new moons — Scents of Science

The spirit of Woodstock should animate us all

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We don’t need a Woodstock 50. Right now we are so divided, so unrighteous as a so-called Christian people, we could never pull it off. You know what, yes, it was messy, there was drugs in the juice you drank and frankly once it was over, Yasgur’s Farm probably looked like a war zone. It actually happened in Bethel, NY, 43 miles from the actual Woodstock. And it was the last time such an event could happen. But god, think about it.

Damn right, just stop, think about this. At its peak there were 400,000 young people gathered in its muddy fields. Apart from two people who died {one from being accidentally run over by a tractor and the other from ‘insulin usage’], there was no violence, no murders–but there were two births. Almost half a million kids got together for four days of peace and music. I would challenge any Trump rally to boast as much.

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Never mind, they can’t. Their forte is rancor and racism. Every time I put on Crosby Stills Nash & Young’s song “Woodstock”, I repeat it, at least four times. One, because I love it and two, I think we could all do with getting back to the land, back to the ideal. It became part of a story I once wrote about a concert, a very special concert. I was five years old when Woodstock happened, but that whole ’60’s vibe kind of informs the writing I do, that spirit of unity and brotherhood that crossed artifices such as race and gender.

I’d probably sell more books if I had pursued the whole Dystopian Future model. It certainly worked for the Hunger Games. I don’t think we need that. We’re already heading for a dystopian future as far as I’m concerned. You don’t have a future if its built on cynicism. All you wind up with is…well, what we’ve got now. I don’t want the people I write about to be in a world so f—ed up that I wouldn’t want to live in it. We have to believe we’re better than this. If we don’t believe we can make things better [and I’m speaking broadly here], we’ll never work to make it happen. And then we might as well all be the mindless drones our rich oligarchs expect us to be.

Naïve? Perhaps, but until something better comes along I’ll stick with it.

 

woodstock-jonimitchell

 

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

Mike’s Amazon page:

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

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Grizzly (1976) review

girzzly poster

Roll ’em out. Bring on the bad animals. Let’s hear it for Night of the Lepus, Food of the Gods, Empire of the Ants–Grizzly!!!

Back in the day, following Jaws (1975) there were a slew of Giant Animal pictures meant to capitalize on people’s fear of nature, the perception of nature gone wild and taking her revenge on mankind. The environmental movement was still in its infancy, which also had to factor into the prevalence of these flicks. Few of them were of Jaws-level quality, although Food of the Gods at least had an H.G. Wells pedigree. And really–giant carnivorous rabbits? Oh Deforest Kelley, how far you’d fallen. To be fair, Night of the Lepus had the excuse that it was released in 1972, three years before Jaws redefined terror.

night of lepus poster

Where does Grizzly fit into this? Released in 1976, a year after Jaws, it was spawned by a family outing where producer & writer Harvey Flaxman’s family had encountered a bear. Rightly panned as a Jaws rip-off, it had the virtue of including Teddy, an eleven-foot Kodiak bear as the title villain. Inadvertently it reunited actors Christopher George, Andrew Prine and Richard Jaeckal, who’d also appeared in supporting roles in John Wayne’s Chisum (1970). George is Mike Kelly, the Park Ranger with the dubious task of tracking down this ursine interloper; Prine is Don Stober, the unfortunate helicopter pilot, and Jaeckal as naturalist Arthur Scott.

The film does have its pluses. How often do we get to see a bear tear down a look-out tower?  Although the species in question, Arctodus ursos horribilis was a conceit invented for the film, it was based on the giant Pleistocene Era species of Short-Faced bears. These bears, of which there were two species in North America, were about the size of a grizzly but not as heavily built. It may also be one of those rare instances where you find the dumbest thing a person’s ever done, alongside the smartest thing a person’s ever done.

Dumb action first. Two hikers have already been killed. The killer has been positively identified as a bear. Armed with this knowledge, what does this beautiful Park Rangerette do? She goes skinny-dipping in a waterfall. Guess who’s behind the falls? Oh, here comes Teddy!

The movie climaxes with the smartest act. Kelley and Stober finally track down the bear, who takes down their helicopter and kill the hapless pilot. In desperation Kelley fires a bazooka right at the bear, which is vaporized in a shower of blood. Yeah, come back from that, you S.O.B.! All in all Grizzly was a cut above the rest…a slight cut, considering the competition, nonetheless…

LINKS:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly_(film

Short-Faced Bear

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.  Mike’s Amazon page:

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

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Butterfly & Serpent: Smile

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Looking ahead a bit, I think. This sketch details where I want to take Jamai, although to be perfectly frank, this brash happy version, confident in herself and her sexuality, will have to pass through fire getting to this point. That’s where the third book in the trilogy, Sanity’s Edge, will take her. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is still available at amazon.com.  Mike’s Amazon page:

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

 

Elton John & John Lennon live: Yeah, but what about the show?

So many blogs have been written about the last legendary concert appearance by John Lennon, alongside Elton John in Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 1974. Clearly you’d think there was nothing new to say. The problem with all these pieces is that they all say THE SAME DAMN THINGS–it’s John Lennon’s last live show, he and Yoko got back together after the show, he’d done it after a bet over his hit single “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, yada yada. No one ever talks about the actual performance.

Ya know what? I’m not going over all that crap again. We know it. I’m going to leave some links at the end of this blog, if that’s the kind of background you want. This is my blog, my observations. The rest you can easily find elsewhere.

Among the frequent hand-me-downs from my brother Kenny was an Elton John Band single from 1975, “Philadelphia Freedom” (MCA-40364), a damn good song in its own right. The B-side, ‘Recorded Live’ the year before, was “I Saw Her Standing There”. Beneath the song title in small letters it read ‘Featuring John Lennon’.

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I didn’t know he’d done a live show with Elton John, beyond that one song. I wasn’t reading a lot of the nascent rock music press; I was barely aware there WAS one. Oh I knew about Rolling Stone, peripherally. My thing was comic books, Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 and the CBS Radio Mystery Theatre. Those were my ways of distracting myself from my dad’s marriages and divorces, our frequent moving back in forth between two towns. From the time my mom and dad split up to the beginning of high school, I’d attended three elementary schools and bounced three times between two junior highs. I was also learning how to impale myself with insulin shots, after five years of having them inflicted on me.

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-two examples of the inevitable bootlegs-

Putting the foregoing aside, I think I was very lucky, certainly better off because of my parents and siblings. Back to cases, that single was the only official release of that singular performance, outside of the inevitable bootlegs. Elton’s live LP Here and Now (1976) was a contract-fulfillment item. While good, it was a truncated single-LP collection culled from two performances done a year apart. Side One was taken from a London performance for invalid children at the Royal Festival Hall in May1974; Side Two from the aforementioned Madison Square Garden show.

In the 1970s an Elton John concert was a thing not to be missed. And because I was underage, I always did; I didn’t turn 16 years old until May of 1980. In 1995 Gus Dudgeon compiled a 2-CD album of both concerts in their entirety. CD-2 features that long-lost three-song set featuring John and Elton: “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” and “I Saw Her Standing There”. I’ve just finished listening to those CDs today in my car. I’m here to rate that performance while it’s still strong in my head.

Just to start with right after Elton’s introduction, while John is tuning his guitar I heard a few bars of “I Feel Fine”. I’d listened to this deluxe CD before and I’d never noticed that before. Both Johns give an energetic performance of “Whatever gets You Through the Night”, and I’ll bet John Lennon was having more fun doing this than he’s had in years. No politics, no preaching, just two guys duetting beautifully together, jamming on pure rock ‘n’ roll.

whatever gets you throu night

John is less prominent on “Lucy In The Sky”, but it IS Elton’s cover. He’s there for backing vocals and reggae rhythm guitar; you can hear his guitar in the right channel on your stereo. What’s never mentioned is the fact that this is the ONLY time John Lennon performed “Lucy” live in any capacity. The Muscle Shoals Horns blowing in the chorus add an extra zest to the live version.

madison-square-garden-1974-john-lennon-and-elton-john

Back-In-Time-Elton-John-and-John-Lennon-performing-I-Saw-He-Standing-There

Finally John announces “a number from an old estranged fiancée of mine called Paul”, the first and only time he sang “I Saw Her Standing There”, as it was always Paul’s vocal. With Elton’s band behind him, John gives a roaring performance, vastly superior to the pussified version that Tiffany foisted on us in 1988. Really, how DARE she emasculate a Beatles classic that way? There were tears all around, and Elton allowed the pandemonium to go on and on, even though he still had 40 minutes left to go in his concert.

That was John’s last glory moment on a live stage, almost the last anyone would hear of him for five years. The times we would have with him during his brief comeback season in 1980 would be too tragically short.

Links:

John Lennon joins Elton John onstage at Madison Square Garden, New York

https://ultimateclassicrock.com/john-lennon-last-concert/