Saturday, August 15, 2020

Preface To Nothing Left: The Sound Of Silence

No-one really believes this but that sound you hear when it's completely quiet & you think what you're hearing is silence but instead it's like the sound of the smallest electrical wire operating somewhere far away?  That sound I like to think is the sound of your brain working.  Imagine!  You might actually hear the sound of your brain thinking of & listening to the sound of itself!

At some point I asked several someones if that were true & they told me it wasn't.  Also I've asked around, you know, in casual conversation, about the sound of tiny electricity in your head when it's otherwise very quiet & most people I've asked don't hear that sound.  One person suggested it might be mild tinnitus.  & in fact, on website after website, I read this:

If the hairs inside your inner ear are bent or broken, they can "leak" random electrical impulses to your brain, causing tinnitus.

As for me, I prefer to think the "leaked" "electrical impulses" come directly from my brain.  Knowing that it's almost certainly not true doesn't dissuade me from embracing it - it probably does the opposite.  It's nice to imagine one being able to literally hear oneself think.  & it's amazing to imagine the moment right before there's nothing left of life when one hears oneself stop thinking.  Being about not to think one's last thought because one simply cannot think any more.

Before I began writing this, before I began thinking about quiet, almost meditative times when I think I am listening to my brain softly whirr, I wrote down this short phrase: penury dirge.

Penury is extreme destitution, & destitution is extreme poverty.  Poverty is the state of having little to nothing, & when one reaches poverty, then travels to destitution, & finally ends up at penury, one can definitely say one has nothing left.

While I grew up in poverty, we were fortunate to have many things.  We always for example had a roof over our heads.  There were many reasons for this.  One was that my siblings were old enough to work & contribute to the household after my parents divorced.  They almost certainly helped pay for the little apartment we lived in when we fled our house when I was four.  The second is that eventually my mother, despite her pride, contacted the government & was able to get welfare payments & food stamps.  The last is that my mother eventually got a job, & one in which it was very easy to steal small amounts of money & things like food - it was at a convenience store - to keep us alive.

It was therefore clear to me I could not in good conscience write any kind of "penury dirge" despite how much I liked the short phrase & instead I started focusing on the little electrical hum in my head.  Which is probably due to bent or broken ear hairs & not on my brain chugging along, second-guessing itself, & absent-mindedly keeping my heart beating & my lungs breathing.

Though I suspect it might be the noise my brain makes after all.

Friday, August 14, 2020

You Saw Me In My Old Movie

Back when I was an actor.

Granted, I was typecast early as a monster.  But I told myself, "Monsters are like the romantic leads of monster movies."  & everyone wanted at least one tooth of mine, & I could grow them back, so I gave them away.

"You gave away all your teeth?" you asked me.  I would've smiled at you, but they hadn't grown back yet.  & my grin is, well, monstrous.

Let me tell you about the movie you saw: it was filmed not in a lake, but on a movie set.  There was a giant pool, about twenty feet deep, which was filled with very cold water.  One of the production assistants warned me that many, many famous actors who had done movies there had quite possibly urinated in that pool.  "Don't they change the water?" I asked & she laughed at me.

In those days I had an almost religious aversion to swimming.  Swimming & advertisements.  Somehow they went together in my head, like asthma & smoking, or corduroys & tattoos.  In my monster wetsuit, I almost drowned so many times the insurance people yelled at the producers who in turn fired the director, who called me later that night in drunken tears telling me he no longer had the will to live.

Could I have fought for a better film?  You said you were mildly amused by it, & people can't say that about every film.  This was in the days before CGI, mind you.  Possibly in the days before make-up, although don't quote me on that.  Was there a green screen?  I remember everyone getting gift bags with squeaky rubber duckies in them, as if the giant pool where many actors (myself, now, included) went "number one" in was actually a mammoth bathtub.  The gift bag did not, unfortunately, contain soap & a scrub brush.

Were you interviewing me for a magazine article?  Or for a job?  These days I am not entirely sure where I am, where I'm going, & nor why I'm there.  It's like my mother used to say, "The teeth will one day get slower in the growing back, & may one day never grow back at all."  One cold winter evening I spent on the internet once seeing where my teeth had ended up.  Some - it turns out - didn't even seem to come from a monster at all!

Anyway, I occasionally go to those shows where I sign pictures of myself for a few bucks & get my picture taken with people who claim to be my fans.  They sometimes dress up as me from some movie or another.  Some of them seem to be versions of me I lost along the way, or have emerged from an alternate reality by falling through a hole in the universe.  Some seem like friends, others like nurses carrying me from one giant white machine to another - "more tests!" they say cheerfully.  I sign whatever they put in front of me.

One more thing about the movie you saw: I don't believe I was actually in it.  It's hard to tell, because of the mask the monster wore, but you'd think I'd recognize my own body, even covered in a monster wetsuit.  It just doesn't seem like my body, you know?  & I've lived with that for my entire life.

You didn't stay long, which is fine.  I was actually just about ready to smile wide - a mouth full of new teeth! - when you left.  I saw you take a bus to an airplane which flew to a boat.  Did the harbor look like a giant pool in a movie studio with water unchanged for decades?  Naw, it was too small.  The world, it turns out, is much smaller than a movie studio, which, truth be told, goes on forever.

They've invited me to a retrospective of my works, & I'm ashamed to admit I'm not in any of them.  There's free food, & a hotel room, & perhaps a panel I must sit on with other old people like myself.  I have started to lie - did I tell you? - I've started to just say the first thing that pops into my head about the movies they think I've made.  A story here about a helicopter which refused to sing.  A story there about the ingenue who chewed tobacco (she's no longer with us, she can't complain or disagree).  Another story about getting rabies from rabbits while in a massive meadow.  Or were they extras dressed up as rabbits?  The audience laughs & laughs.

There was also that one time I thought I saw you in the back of one of these film festivals.  My eyesight is not so good, & earlier that day I'd given away my very last tooth to a fan who was a quarter my age.  I would have wanted to give it to you, had I known you were there.  Then I would've confessed to being a fraud, but I suspect you already knew.

Anyway, that wasn't me in the monster movie.  I was just the monster the movie reminded you of.

Thursday, August 13, 2020


Contrary to popular thought, not all the blues are blue.
Like all roads lead to somewhere, not all roads will lead through.

& even though you say, "Well that's a fine how do you do!"
There are hours of conversation that we have to stumble through.

You pick up your guitar, you strum a chord or two.
While I pick up your diary & begin the flipping through.

Do I invade your privacy? Do I do that to you?
You invade my space with that ashtray that you threw!

You say the sinking sun begins the night anew.
A moment of completion, & now the day is through.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Self Help Radio 081020: Zebras

(Original image from here.)

Seven out of twelve zebras agree: today's Self Help Radio was a fair & accurate description of zebras & worth the time of any zebra or zebra lover should they wish to listen to a radio show about zebras.  I want to point out I only asked twelve zebras because I only know twelve zebras, & it's safe to say that Miranda & Jennifer really don't like me so they were going to say they hated the show no matter what.  However, Homer has generally been honest with me despite thinking me insipid, so I should think his opinion counts for more than, say, Ted-Bob's or Hoofer's, since they've been enthusiastic supporters since we've met.  But seriously, it's hard to get seven zebras to agree to anything these days, if you must know, except "biting flies fucking suck" & "yeah, that's a lion, let's get the hell out of here."

So I'm feeling pretty good about this show, which aired this morning from 8-10am on Freeform Portland.  It's very happily resting now at the Self Help Radio website which you can listen to it any old time.  
Maybe now?  Okay, whatever.  Just remember you need a username (SHR) & a password (selfhelp) to access that or any other file.  The show is two hours long, & what happened on the show is written below.

Miranda & Jennifer says, "If you like this show, you hate zebras."  Why do they despise me so?

Self Help Radio Zebra Show
"Zebras" Zulluu _Zulluu Captured Live_
"Zebras" Chins _Animals & Creatures_
"I Am A Zebra" Elaine O'Connell Lake _My Room_

introduction, definitions, & an interruption

"Zebra" Beach House _Teen Dream_
"Zebra" Yma Sumac _Miracles_
"Zebra Question" Shel Silverstein _A Light In The Attic_
"Neon Zebra" Shonen Knife _The Birds & The B-Sides_
"Zebra Standards 29" R. Stevie Moore _Delicate Tension_

interview with zebra domesticator Karl Blanford

"Beatles Zebra Crossing?" Shriekback _Sacred City_
"Zebra" The Magnetic Fields _69 Love Songs_
"Yak & Zebra" Dame Judi Dench _35 Animal Stories For Children_
"Zebra" Benji Hughes _Songs In The Key Of Animals_
"Red Eyed Zebra" The Deer Tracks _The Archer Trilogy, Pt. 3_

a selection from his "Animal Totem" tape series by the Rev Dr Howard Gently

"I've Got A Zebra - She Can Fly" The Unfolding _How To Blow Your Mind & Have A Freakout Party_
"Zebra In The Kitchen" The Standells _Zebra In The Kitchen_
"Zebras In Zoos" Fred Klett _One Of Ten_
"Maasai Mara" The Ruby Suns _The Ruby Suns_
"Zebra" Cesaria Evora _Cabo Verde_

interview with anthropologist Dr. Madeline Munch

"Zebra Club" The Bongos _Drums Along The Hudson_
"The Zebra Question" Caspar Babypants _Bug Out!_
"Zebra" Ken Nordine _Wink: Ken Nordine Does Robert Shure_
"Horror Pop" Marina & The Diamonds _Mermaid Vs Sailor_
"Zebra Skin Shop Assistant" Danny Adler _Nightshift_

 conclusion & goodbye

"Zebra" Oneohtrix Point Never _R Plus Seven_
"Zebra" Youngsters _Las Vegas Grind!_
"Mr. Zebra" The Chanteers _Mercury Records Doo Wop # 7_
"Zebra" The Nits _New Flat_
"Zebra" Artichoke _26 Animals_

Sunday, August 09, 2020

Whither Zebras?


(Image from here.)

Look at these guys!  How can you ask me why this week's Self Help Radio will be about zebras?  You should be asking why aren't there more radio shows about zebras!  Why aren't there?

Listen, I've spent the past week talking to lots of zebras & it turns out they're really great guys.  A bit humorless but when you spend most of your time trying to fend off biting flies & the occasional hungry lion, you don't get a lot of time to have too much fun.  Still, they're thoughtful & sometimes they wax poetic & you know what?  I don't think I've ever met an animal who has been so grateful about someone buying them lunch.  "I can order whatever?" each zebra I met asked incredulously.  I was like "Sure, whatever you want!"  Mainly they ordered the grass of the day, but if they had wanted fruit or something else, I would've sprung for it.  Even juice.  They rob you with the price of juice at restaurants but I wanted the zebras to be happy.

Granted, these were zoo zebras - I wasn't able to make it out to Africa because of the virus & stuff, & anyway I don't know the languages they speak out there - but the immigrant zebras I met still feel very connected to that place.  Almost wistful, really.  I was like, "You even miss the lions?" & they were like, "No we don't miss the lions you freak.  Are you going to finish your grass?"

It must also be said that the zebras I talked to (except for Brian, who enjoyed being contrary) all seemed very excited there was going to be a radio show about them.  Granted, I had to explain was radio was, & also that they weren't going to get paid (except for lunch) but otherwise they were flattered & quite excited to know someone thought enough of them to make a radio show for them.  They were all just great.  Except maybe Brian.  Brian I think wasn't so much a zebra as just some kind of ass.

Listen tomorrow (Monday) morning to Freeform Portland for a celebration of the zebra with song & talk.  It'll happen from 8-10am on 90.3 & 98.3 fm & online at  You'll make so many zebra friends!  I know I did!