Archive for the ‘Caveman’ Category

Back into the swing of things for spring with March’s First Sunday Prose Readings.  Guest readers this time were Indiana University Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies visiting faculty member Abegunde with excerpts from a continuing “memory work,” a composition neither wholly fiction nor nonfiction; Lisa Kwong, an “AppalAsian poet in the Midwest” and MFA graduate currently teaching Asian American Studies and Freshman Composition, this month reading from new work in progress, mostly essays but also ending with two poems; and historical novelist Annette Oppenlander reading from her latest book, ESCAPE FROM THE PAST:  THE KID, in which time-traveling gamer Max journeys to the wild west of 1881 New Mexico, rubbing elbows with, among others, the original Billy the Kid.  When open mike time came, my offering was a 400-word piece as a sort of background on last month’s “A Saint Valentine’s Day Tale” (cf. February 7), recounting the arrival of the “casket girls” in New Orleans (in one sense covering much the same ground of my 2014 DAILY SCIENCE FICTION story “Casket Girls” — see April 17 2014, et al.) but adding the sense of irony to it that I then transferred to the character Claudette in last month’s offering.  And one other thing, written for an exercise as a 500-word or less story containing the exact words “taxes,” “carpenter,” and “vinegar,” in this case ending up with the title “The Flavor of the Jest.”


It also brought some serious poetry too, but, yes, it was that time again for the Bloomington Writers Guild’s “Last Sunday Poetry Reading & Open Mic,” presented in conjunction with the Bloomington and Monroe County Convention Center.  The featured poets were Hilda Davis, a graduate student in Indiana University’s Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies — and also a seasoned poetry slammer — and Jonathan Holland, a graduate of Ivy Tech as well as a student at Indiana University.  Both presented rhythmic, sonorous works, both personal to them as well as connected to the world about them, ending up almost surprisingly complimenting each other.  This was followed by the open mike session where I had the number four spot in a field of ten, about as many as I’ve seen read from the audience at these events.  I read two poems, one about werewolves and loss of habitat originally published in STAR*LINE, “No One Wants to Run Through the Woods Naked Under a Full Moon Anymore” (see January 27 2012, July 11 2011), and the other as yet unpublished, “Don’t Always Believe Everything You Read,” in which a zombie explains why the New Hampshire motto Live Free or Die fails to reflect reality (“. . . being dead’s cheap enough — / but living free, sorry, / that’s bucks on the barrelhead . . . ”).

And came time Sunday for the Bloomington Writers Guild/Boxcar Books First Sunday Prose Reading, this month with featured writers Tony Brewer and Joan Hawkins and followed by the usual open mike session, but with a twist.  Two writers — Shayne Laughter and . . . moi — would be allowed ten minutes each, rather than the usual three-to-five.

So it began with poet, sometime radio play and screenwriter, and Writers Guild Chairman Brewer demonstrating that he sometimes writes stories too with an allegory of death and the afterlife (and vultures), “The Trouble with Boys” of young lust and death, and handy hints on tanning one’s deer hide.  The second of these also included an odd interruption, a noisy customer who dropped in to buy a book and, somehow in the course of the purchase, shared with all that he was a two-time rabies survivor.  Tony took this well in stride, though, and ended by introducing Joan Hawkins, fedora crowned, who read a piece from a memoir-in-progress, TALES OF SCHOOL AND SUICIDE.  This was about a marathon New Years Day poetry reading in New York’s Lower East Side in the early 2000s, the highlight of which was actress, director, and co-founder of The Living Theatre Judith Malina (1926-2015)* with a striking ChristmasRatrendition of a scene from ANTIGONE.

Then we lesser lights had our time on the stage, starting with Shayne Laughter with the first part of a contemporary story-in-progress, “The Nature of the Beast,” related to her reading of the previous month of “Emmonsburg” (c.f. December 6), a story inspired by her grandfather’s writings about growing up in Indiana.  This was followed by a refreshment break, and then my “longer” short reading of a tale of the just-past holidays, “The Christmas Rat,” originally published in the Winter 2007-8 DOORWAYS and reprinted in THE TEARS OF ISIS, including showing copies of the illustrations used with its first publication, followed in turn by several more readings, the last introduced by poet-essayist Antonia Matthews as being probably “more wholesome” than mine.  (But then when I had finished my story, amongst the applause I thought I heard one person mention she was “glad Christmas is over” so, as I see it, I’d done my job. 😉 )

*Fun Fact:  Though perhaps best known for her work with The Living Theatre, Judith Malina also appeared in several movies including, in the role of “Grandmama,” 1991’s THE ADDAMS FAMILY.


Saturday, along with the excitement of having sold “Bottles” (see post just below), brought the Bloomington Writers Guild’s end-of-year combination business meeting, voting for officers, pot luck party, and open reading, for which I ran for nothing but brought orange slices for a healthy pot luck dessert.  Just like “party calories” though, which do not count, so, too, healthful party food adds no nutrition, so I with everyone else went for the chocolate chip cookies.  More to the literary point, however, I had brought two items for possible reading: one a Christmas story excerpt which would run about five minutes; the other three poems (one of which some people would have heard before but others wouldn’t) which could be read in less than three minutes.

The business/election part ran a bit long so I ended up taking the three-minute option, but adding that the other, a Christmas story involving a vampire and St. Nicholas, would be read “tomorrow” as a First Sunday open mike option.  And so for Saturday afternoon I carroll-borland-as-spidra-in-mark-of-the-vampire-1365795084_orgread the three poems, “as a sort of introduction, to show the up side of vampirism” and all from my poetry collection VAMPS (A RETROSPECTIVE), the jazzy “Hi-Flying,” the unlife-celebratory “Night Child,” and the exhilarating “The Aeronaut.”

Then Sunday brought December’s First Sunday Prose Reading with featured participants Shayne Laughter with “Emmonsburg,” from a collection of stories inspired by her grandfather’s writings about growing up in Indiana; speculative fiction and poetry writer Darja Malcolm-Clarke with an excerpt from a novel in progress, HIS ONE TRUE BRIDE; and Poet Eric Rensberger with “a prose thing” composed by taking an existing text, chopping it up, and reassembling it into a new story, in this case from memoirs by an early American actor, John Durang.  These were followed by the open mike session where, as promised, my reading was of the latter, and larger half of “Naughty or Nice?” as published on December 21 2011 in DAILY SCIENCE FICTION, concerning the vampiress Mignonette and whether she could prove to the Saint that she was sufficiently “nice” to get presents.  And which, by the way, you can find out for yourself by clicking here.

And then two more items to complete the weekend.  Friday I went to the opening night of a workshop production of Jean Anouilh’s version of ANTIGONE, in this case combining dance with the action and very well done.  Then Saturday evening, after the party, brought a visit to the local Bloomington Krampusnacht celebration, considered one of the best these days in the United States.  For various reasons this was the first I was able to get to since the initial one three years ago, for which see below, December 9 2012.

Well it is nearly December, the spirits having been let loose on Halloween, and now spiraling down to the longest night of the year.  So I mentioned in introducing three short poems during the open mike section.  But we had already had featured poet Michelle Gottschlich read, among others, a poem involving a date at local Rose Hill Cemetery (not to mention, from first open mike reader Joan Hawkins, a translation of a “found” invoice concerning shipping a corpse from Tahiti to the US).  The latter also was somewhat in answer to second Featured Poet Eric Rensberger who offered a reading of found and partially “stolen” poems.

The occasion was November’s Last Sunday Poetry Reading, sponsored by the Bloomington Writers Guild and the Monroe County Convention Bureau (cf. October 26, et al.), on an afternoon that, yes, was gloomy and gray, but did have the virtue that it wasn’t raining.  And the poetry wasn’t all necessarily gloomy, though when my turn came I had pre-selected three older poems that played well off the aforementioned  topics, including the introductory remarks I glossed at the top.  Thus I presented “A Little Night Music,” a two-line verse pointing out that love and death happen in daytime too; “Dust to Dust” about a fire in a cemetery, which also had once been part of an arts display project on Bloomington Transit city buses in 2001 (I noted that I didn’t know which the exact bus was, but had hoped it had been the one going past Rose Hill, as well as the fact the experiment was not repeated); and a “Little Willie” (a what?  See February 16; also February 6 2012) which I noted had the distinction of being published not in a genre magazine but a “more respectable” mainstream journal, “Fire in the Hole,” about a naughty boy who dynamites a grave.

As the Halloween Holiday Weekend winds down, Sunday brought, also, November’s First Sunday Prose Readings (see October 4, et al.) sponsored by the Bloomington Writers Guild in conjunction with local bookstore Boxcar Booisis-ecover-194x300ks.  This time, in part because of its proximity to Halloween, I was the second of three featured readers, the others being memoir writer and burgeoning novelist Claire Arbogast and novelist, attorney, and nonfiction writer Karen A. Wyle, the first of these reading a chapter from her Indiana University Press published LEAVE THE DOGS AT HOME and the last a borderline “afterlife fantasy” as well as brief sections from her recent writers’ guide to law and lawyers on the topics of criminal defense and divorce.  Sandwiched between, I read “In the Octopus’s Garden,” lead story from THE TEARS OF ISIS, prefacing it by noting it was inspired by a section of DEATH TO DUST, a book on the things that can happen to a corpse after one has died, as well as with my poem “La Méduse” — which also comes just before “In the Octopus’s Garden” in THE TEARS OF ISIS – to help ease listeners into the right mood.*

*One might also note that, as written by me, MC Joan Hawkins’s introduction to my part of the reading included a disclaimer that listeners should “expect a PG Rating, including such items as Violence, Graphic Decomposition, Overly Fond Memories, Corpse-Eating, Eating of Corpse-Eaters, Semi-Nudity, and Excessively Grotesque Revenge.”  Interested?  Click on THE TEARS OF ISIS’s  picture in the center column.

And comes the last Sunday of the month and time again for the Bloomington Writer’s Guild’s Last Sunday Poetry Reading (cf. May 31, et al.).  This one was a little different, though, in that, rather than individual poets being spotlighted, this month had a local poetry reading and critique group, The Free Range Poets, as its “featured reader.”  Or at least a subset, consisting of Suzanne Sturgeon, Ian Woollen, Jack King, Jerry Smith, and Judy Lafferty Beerman each giving several samples of their work.  This was followed by the more usual open mike session, again coincidentally consisting of five readers of which I, fourth in the lineup, read — with a special nod to Halloween — three poems just out in the current issue of NOTHING’S SACRED (of which I have received a .pdf preview, to be followed soon by a print copy; see also June 24), “The Vampire’s Excuse,” “The Vampire Reflects,” and “Necropolis.”  In all, an enjoyable afternoon accompanied, outside, by not-too-cold weather and some of the most brilliant autumn foliage in several years.

There had been a hiatus for September, that being the weekend of the Fourth Street Festival of the Arts and Crafts with its Writers Guild-sponsored Spoken Word Stage (see September 6), but this afternoon, October 4, brought back the 2015 First Sunday Prose Reading season (see August 2, et many al.), including an “open mike” reading by me.  Sponsored by the Writers Guild at Bloomington (about which more can be found here) in conjunction with Boxcar Books, the session opened with featured reader Samrat Upadhyay, award-winning author of such books as ARRESTING GOD IN KATHMANDU, THE GURU OF LOVE, and BUDDHA’S ORPHANS, who read a short story set in Nepal, “Fast Forward,” from his latest, soon to be published collection.  He was then followed by Wendy Teller, currently working on her first, as yet untitled novel, who read its opening chapter, followed in turn by Molly Gleeson, a mostly nonfiction writer but “dabbling” in fiction, who read her newest (and also as yet untitled) short story.

These were followed by a refreshment break and then the open mike readings, in which I took the third spot of four with a new story (alluded to below on September 19), “His Dead Ex-Girlfriend,” a saga on why the mere fact of one’s significant other having become a zombie shouldn’t prevent a rekindling of romance — or at least going through the motions.

It was the final one of a series of Dark Carnival and, later, Diabolique Film Festivals (see also September 19-21 2014) and so the Friday Night opening session consisted of films the festival people just happened to like as well as feel had lasting value:  JAWS, THE LOST BOYS, and FRIGHT NIGHT.  I skipped the last due to lateness of night plus having seen it (and not for the DiaboliqueLogofirst time) just a year before, but I saw JAWS for the first time on the “big screen.”  While I’m not that much a fan of fish movies (note:  MOBY DICK doesn’t count, whales being mammals, and anyhow despite the title it’s about things other than sea life), I do have to say that one is a good one.  Of course — and sorry, Roger Corman — I now have to set a higher standard for anything else I now see that has sharks. But even without quality action and acting, JAWS was a first, as was THE LOST BOYS, this time in suggesting in a punk sort of way that being a vampire could actually be fun.

Then Saturday came with my once more missing the final movie, LANDMINE GOES CLICK, directed by Levan Bakhai (“Trapped standing on an armed landmine, an American tourist is forced to watch helplessly while his girlfriend is terrorized,” say the program notes), though word of mouth afterward on Sunday said it was intense.  Just not my kind of movie, sorry.  Most of Saturday’s sessions were for short films, but there was one other feature, DEEP DARK, directed by Michael Medaglia (“Hermann, a failed sculptor . . . finds a strange, talking hole in the wall.  The hole has the power to fulfill his wildest dreams, or it just may become his worst nightmare.”), which was of particular interest to me in part as a film about art and 1DeepDarkcreation.  I would recommend it for just being weird in a good way, though its depiction of the artist’s passion for his/her work struck me as being a little bit off, at least in terms of my own experience.  But also (speaking of Roger Corman) it just occurred that he handled the basic theme — artist finds “shortcut” as a substitute for talent — as well many years ago in BUCKET OF BLOOD.

Of Saturday’s shorts, some that stood out were “Black Eyes” by Rick Spears (two children play dead, then play zombies), “666 Square Feet” by Ray Zablocki (especially chilling in that it’s based on a true incident), “Crow Hand!” by Brian Lonano (wonderfully zany new monster), “Lifeline,” Jeffrey Wang (festival winner for best effects and best actress), “Trajectoires,” Phillipe Massoni and Sébastien Jovellar (small-time crime gone bad, with a French bourgeois flavor), “Invaders,” Jason Kupfer (small-time crime gone bad — must be seen to be believed), and “Lapsus,” Karim Ouaret (bigger-time crime and a laundromat, questioning what one is to believe).

Sunday’s program moved out of the Indiana University Cinema to a lecture hall in the nearby Radio/TV Building, with three feature films — including one I had been waiting more than a year to see — and one session of shorts plus extra shorts with the first two features (highlights including “Soccer Moms in Peril” by Damian K. Lahey and ”Son” by Judd Myers).  The first full-length film was a near-future, paranoic science fiction dystopia, LISTENING, directed by Khalil Sullins, about experiments in mind-reading technology and resulting governmental abuse.  It was interesting and raised real questions, although the MV5BMTkyOTkxOTc1MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODAwODQ2NjE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_ending was a bit abrupt from a writer’s point of view (both wonderfully clever in setting up but possibly too easy in execution).  I’d call it the weakest of the three, but still much worth seeing if one has a chance.

Feature two was one I not only recommend but will probably buy for myself if I can find a used copy, LIVE-EVIL.  Tag line:  “This is Biblical-grade shit; I’m an atheist.” (from a deputy sheriff attempting to resign on the spot — fortunately the sheriff talks her into staying).  Or, as the festival docent put it, “so much fun, such a crazy flick,”  supposedly inspired by both GHOSTBUSTERS and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, with the first half in black-and-white and the second half in color, and with the Devil (or maybe just a devil) in a jail cell in a  college town on Halloween night.  Funny, scary, and ultra-weird.

Then, finally, the evening closed with one I’d seen a third of before at NASFiC last summer, TALES OF POE directed by Alan Rowe Kelly and Bart Mastronardi (cf. July 23, also September 24 — including a link to a review by Terry M. West in HALLOWEEN FOREVERMORE — 2014).  This is an anthology film in three parts, the first (that I’d seen before) and in my opinion the best being “The Tell Tale Heart,” with the principals switched from male to female and the old woman a once-silent era film star, with a frame story set in an insane asylum.  The second, perhaps weaker part is “The Cask,” based on “The Cask of Amontillado” but more as a crime story than one about madness, with echoes also from “The Black Cat,” PoePicture“The Masque of the Red Death,” and even hints of “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” (and with a sullen maid named “Morella” to boot, but look also for a fellow asylum inmate’s doll named “Annabel Lee” in part one).  And finally a sort of poem in pictures, “Dreams,” based on (and quoting from) a youthful poem by Poe of the same name, though ending with a nod to the more familiar “A Dream Within a Dream,” exploring some general themes of Poe’s, including the idea that the “most poetic subject” would be the death of a beautiful woman.  (So, okay, I’ll put in the plug:  with the beautiful woman abstracted as art, this is also the overall theme of my THE TEARS OF ISIS, whereby the dedication to Poe at the book’s beginning.  Thus, you see, everything is connected.)  This is an ambitious segment and probably wouldn’t be to everyone’s liking, though it’s a kind of thing I go for, and which in this case I found fascinating (and, weirdly, a little bit reminiscent of Ken Russell’s THE FALL OF THE LOUSE OF USHER, see July 17 this year) although I’d want to look at it at least one more time before I could decide for sure if it ultimately succeeds.

One thing I can say, though:  this is a film I’ll be looking out for to buy for myself.

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