World Sex Spots (1968)

Ferenc Sari
Newfact Library

Looks like a somewhat smutty travel guide, perhaps in the "mondo" tradition, but is in fact a really dirty, dirty book about the daughter of a guy who works for some strange combination of the C.I.A. and F.B.I.  Every time Dad moves the family to a new city--London, Dallas, Chicago, Athens--his daughter finds an opportunity to audition a new perversion, usually motivated by cultural stereotypes of the region (Dallas involves horses, for example, while Athens presents an opportunity to open Door No. 2).  I would describe it all in more detail, but we'd probably both get arrested.

Goofy on the Make

Dirty T-Shirts

Feast of Snakes (1976)

Harry Crews

With Faulkner's Sanctuary as a template, southern writers have been trying to out do each other for years now in writing the perfect novel of backwoods booze-soaked debauchery, most often focusing on unresolved racial/sexual tensions that end up exploding into horrific acts of violence--all of it unfolding in small rural hamlets where the heat and humidity always seem to be at 90/90.  Here Dixie desperation takes the form of  Joe Lon Mackey, who at the young age of 20 already realizes his future will be one long humiliation after another.  Once the captain of the high school football team and undisputed alpha male of the county, Mackey now runs his dad's liquor store in rural Georgia and helps organize the town's annual "rattlesnake round-up."  As the town gears up once again to host a few thousand snake enthusiasts, Mackey must confront his suddenly shitty lot in life.  These humiliations include 1). being married with two kids to a woman he hates while his high school love/lust object is off at the University of Georgia screwing some citified member of the debate team; 2). watching as a younger guy enjoys all the sexual and vehicular privileges associated with being "King Rattler."; 3). having a sister who has gone completely insane and spends all day in her room watching TV. 

I read Crews' novel Celebration (1999) a while back and was slightly underwhelmed.  But this is a real corker--horrifying but also poignantly hilarious in places.  I can now see who Joe Lansdale has been emulating for most of his career. 

Praying Hands x 3

Found in Chicago thrift store (July 2011)

Some Great "Gags" for Your Next Summer Comedy Movie

I'm not really a "make stuff up" writer, so I don't have any screenplays going at the moment.  But I did recently think of some great "gags" that would be perfect for someone out there who might be writing a “zany” comedy.  Since I probably won't find a place for them in my own work, I thought I'd put them out there for someone else to use.  I think they’d all be really good for anyone looking to put a couple extra “sure-fire” yucks into his or her movie. 

Okay, so for this first gag, you'll need to have your main character go swimming.  And it needs to be at the beach, or a pool, or a gym, because this gag will be a lot funnier if there are a lot of people standing around to see it happen. In other words, it can’t just be a creek or someplace out in the middle of nowhere.  Okay, so your guy is just about to jump into the water when he notices a really sexy lifeguard on duty.  Maybe she’s up in her chair twirling her whistle around, or even better, just walking back and forth in a hot bikini keeping an eye on things like lifeguards do, all cool and remote.  So now you’ll need to have a shot of your character suddenly getting a great idea—a sort of “light bulb over the head” moment (although if your movie is more plot driven, maybe he already had the idea before he got to the pool or the beach--that's up to you).  Okay, so now the guy jumps into the water for a quick swim.  But almost immediately he starts thrashing around in the water.  But he's not really in trouble, you see, he's just pretending like he can't swim, or maybe even that he's actually drowning.   His goal here is to make the sexy lifeguard jump in and "save" him.  What better way, he's thinking, to get a chance to meet this girl up close and personal?   So sure enough, with our guy flailing in the water, the hot lifeguard jumps in and pulls him up to the shore or the poolside.   But that’s not really the funny part because our hero has another trick up his sleeve. Even though he's perfectly okay and not drowned at all, he's going to lie still as if he really were drowned.  Maybe he even spits up a little water to make it all look more realistic.  Anyway, his goal here is not only to meet the hot lifeguard babe, but also to "trick" her into doing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on him.  He figures, not only will I get to meet this great looking chick, but it will also almost be like making out with her even before going out on a date.  What guy wouldn't take that deal?!  So anyway, our guy is lying there with his eyes closed just waiting for the big payoff.  Maybe he even puckers up a bit for comic effect.  Now here comes the funny part.  Okay, so just as his dream is about to come true--whammo!  someone who is the exact opposite of "hot" swoops in and does the mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on him instead.  Maybe the lifeguards are changing shifts, or maybe the new lifeguard is better at CPR.  In any case, a real “Olive Oil” or “Helga” type jumps in and locks lips with our hero--or maybe even a dude, or maybe even a gay dude!  It's funny because it's such a last-second turnaround and a great comeuppance.  Mr. Cool thought he had it all figured out, but then he gets this really unwelcome surprise, one that might even teach him a good lesson.  The audience will go nuts. 

Maybe you can’t justify taking the time in your movie to have your character go swimming.  Fair enough, not all stories can take place near pools and beaches.  Well, how about a haircut?  Again, I don't know because I don't write movie stories, but it seems like everyone needs a haircut every so often.  So here's a great gag I thought up for the barbershop just in case your movie doesn't take place near any water.  Okay, so this gag starts with your guy going to the barbershop for a quick trim.  The important thing here is to make sure the audience understands that this is no ordinary haircut.  It's a really important haircut.   Maybe he's got a hot date or an important business meeting coming up.  At any rate, he can't just be on his way out into the woods or going to prison the next day or something, for reasons that you'll see below.  Maybe he says to the barber, "Got a hot date tomorrow, Joe, so make me look good!," or something to that effect.  Okay, so our guy is sitting in the barber chair reading a magazine and not really paying attention.  The barber, meanwhile, is finishing up this extra special cut with one of those big electric buzzcut razors.  So here's where things get wacky. Just as the barber is finishing up the trim, a really hot looking chick jogs by on the sidewalk out front.  Maybe she even stops and bends over to tie her shoe so that the barber gets a really good look at her shapely buttocks.  And here's the gag: the barber is so distracted by the hot babe out front that he completely forgets what he's doing and cuts a huge chunk out of our guy's hair!   Maybe it’s a big, unsightly bald spot, or perhaps a straight-down-the-middle reverse-Mohawk that makes him look really weird and  “crazy.” Either way, the timing couldn’t be worse because of his important appointment coming up, and that makes our hero’s predicament all that much funnier.  Now he’ll have to wear a funny hat on his first date or go into the boardroom with a crazy toupee.  Either way, it will be hilarious.

If neither of those fit into your project, I have one more that might just do the trick. This one would be especially good in a "buddy" movie, or really any film that has a bunch of young single guys in it.  Okay, so this time our main dude is at the gym and he's brought his buddy along as a spotter for some bench presses.  To set this one up real good, you'll need to have some conversation on the way in about how important it is to have a spotter during this workout, because our guy is going to try and benchpress more weight than he ever has before. Maybe he's going for a personal best among the circle of young single dudes, and he needs his friend there both as a spotter and as a witness to his accomplishment.  In any case, it's really important that he have a spotter.  Okay, so our guy gets on the bench and gets ready.  Once the weights are on the barbell, he takes a couple of deep breaths, and then wham--he's lifting the weights.  So here's the funny part.  Just as our hero gets the weight free and clear over his chest, his spotter-buddy sees this really hot chick on the other side of the gym!  "Be right back, buddy," he tells our hero.  And our guy can't do anything about it because he's struggling to keep the really heavy weight up over his body.  But he can't hold out forever!  Now we cut between the spotter-buddy making small talk with the babe on the other side of the gym and our hero slowly losing his strength under the barbell. Our guy is huffing and puffing, but his spotter-buddy is so into this chick that he's not paying the least bit attention.  And then, when he just can't take it anymore, our guy lets the barbells come crashing down on his throat.  We hear the sickening sound of his trachea cracking.  His eyes bulge out and a trickle of blood comes out of his mouth.  He's dead!  Thirty minutes into your film and your wisecracking Vince Vaughan or Jack Black or Seth Rogen or whoever you have playing your jaunty man-child bachelor type is dead, dead, dead.  No one saw that coming, making this the "Psycho" of comedies.  Congratulations, I just put you in the running for a Palme d'Or.

Hilarious Leno Gag

Azeet, Paratrooper Dog (1972)

General Motta Gur
Nashville Nelson

Azeet is a paratrooper dog with only one ambition in life: bite every enemy of Israel right on the ass cheeks.  Billed as a "true story," we follow along as Azeet assists the Israeli army in a series of heroic adventures.  These include:

1. Finding two soldiers trapped behind enemy lines.
2. Rescuing two tourists in the desert who had been waylaid by Arab thieves and left in a cave to die.
3. Raiding an Egyptian beach to find a stranded group of navy frogmen.
4. Helping rescue a tank crew stalled in the desert.
5. Sniffing out marauders crossing over the border.
6. Sniffing out mines under the snow on Mt. Hermon.

It all starts out fairly reasonable enough. Azeet seems to be doing the things a dog might actually do--finding scent trails, hunting down missing people.  But by Chapter 3, when Azeet puts on scuba gear and then single-handedly knocks out an Egyptian sentry (of his own initiative apparently), you have to think a line has been crossed between true dog story and elementary school propaganda. If you don't want to go back to the pre-67 borders and love dogs, this book is for you.

The Burning (1972)

James E. Gunn
Dell 0861

For professorial types, this starts out as the greatest novel ever written.  John Wilson, brilliant sociologist and man of academe, drives to his midwestern campus one night only to see his university in flames.  An angry mob, stirred up by a political movement called the "Lowbrows" and under the direction of an opportunistic U.S. Senator, has decided to put the "eggheads" out of business once and for all.  Wilson feared this day was coming.  Slowly but inexorably, the people had been coming to mistrust intellectuals, especially after the Senator's inflammatory hearings at the House Committee on Un-American Academic Practices.  One by one the colleges begin to burn...

Wow. Sign me up. What a prescient channeling of the Palin/Santorum regime of 2020. It's the future, ripped from today's headlines. No Republican currently running for President will admit to believing in evolution.  Soylent Green is people, people!

Unfortunately, from here the book becomes more a simple "man on the run" story as Wilson must elude the Lowbrows and make it to New Orleans.  Rumor has it that other less stupid countries still value science and learning, albeit in a very restricted and utilitarian way.  As Wilson tries to stay one step ahead of the lowbrow menace, he laments that sociology never achieved the scientific rigor of chemistry, physics, and other hard sciences.  If it had, he thinks, perhaps this could have all been avoided.  

The Burning isn't really a "novel" so much as three long stories involving Wilson's plight, interesting for the historical moment of each installment.  Part I, in which Wilson finds himself a hunted man on the run from mobs and Congressional idiots, dates from 1956--right square in the middle of Cold War anti-intellectualism and fears about mass cultural decay.  Part II, in which a drugged John Wilson finds himself on trial (the Senator takes a page from Hitler's book and blames the eggheads, led by Wilson, for burning down their own university to garner public sympathy), dates from 1969 and the "hippie" assault on university order.  Part III, in which nameless pilgrims who still remember some of the witchcraft of the old days (i.e. science) wander the now feudal, superstitious, and generally stupid remnants of the United States, appeared in 1973.

Sociology returns with a vengeance in this last section as the pilgrim and his pilgrim girlfriend sample a few different civilizations in our stupid future.  They hang out with some farmers, who seem generally mellow.  Then there are the "Neo-Scientists" who live in New Pittsburgh and still have the witchcraft of elevators.  Then New Pittsburgh is burnt to the ground by the Luddites.  The pilgrim learns that New Pittsburgh can only work if it has access to slave labor, whereas the free-ranging warrior/raider life of the Luddites only works with the women enslaved.  In search of wisdom, the pilgrim couple enters an old church where it is said "the truth" resides.  Just when you think Gunn is going to cop out and go all Christian on you, however, a button is pressed and the church turns out to be a spaceship that blasts off into earth orbit.  A voice tells our two agrarian pilgrims that their final test is to figure out how to use all the witchy science stuff in the capsule so as to make it over to a space station orbiting the earth.  They figure it out and are greeted by...John Wilson!


The Executive's Wife (1968)

Ninki Hart Burger
Collier Books

Training manual for all the gals who decided to spend the sixties not having sex nor staying single; or perhaps, a primer for those very same gals if and when they landed an "executive" husband.  From the back cover:

The wife--Asset or Liability?  The verdict often decides whether the man gets the job.  Like it or not, the wife is very much part of her husband's corporate career.

Somewhat remarkably labeled a "business" book, The Executive's Wife explains how to deal with frequent relocations, your husband taking long business trips, entertaining your betters, and keeping the kids quiet so hubby can rest. Additional information is provided on being a "helpmate," "housewife," "mother," and "bookkeeper."  There is also advice as to how one might solve "tension-inducing problems in sex, drinking, and gambling" (his, apparently, not hers).

Pretty standard self-subjugation manual, although I was taken with the following tidbit.  A wife tries to understand her husband's obsessive hobbies.

Vic always has something to absorb him.  The latest is to build a library of classical music by taping FM-Stereo radio programs.  You wouldn't think we could get into a wrangle over that, would you?  But when Vic goes after anything, it's all the way!

"He bought another tape deck so that he could dub one tape on to another and delete the commercials.  Then he decided he wanted each composer's works on separate tapes so that required still more dubbing.  When he wasn't taping music of the air, he was dubbing.  And while he was dubbing, he was setting-up a cross-reference, catalog-filing system."

Soon all Vic cares about is his taping, dubbing, and cataloging. It makes him rude to guests, remote to the children, and late to bed.  What is a wife to do?    This wife, at least, decided it was probably best just to let Vic get it all out of his system and not to complain in the meantime.  But I was struck how profoundly true this passing observation is: men do tend to be obsessed about organizing music, maybe even more so than listening to it. True with iTunes, true even in the days of reel-to-reel dubbing.

Transformative Mysteries III

I demand to live in a world where the following is possible.

A sleepy summer weekend with two films opening wide: Larry Crowne and Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon.  No one is particularly exited by the prospects, but having come to expect so little anymore, no one is particularly outraged either.  Middle-aged white guy courts middle-aged white girl.  Michael Bay takes one step closer to generating the most synthetically pure shockwave in the history of the motion picture. 

But what if bored cinephiles had access to technology that allowed for an exchange, a transposition, a “Freaky Friday” that could restage two relatively generic films into something more sublime?  In short, I want the ability to switch Tom Hanks and Optimus Prime.  I want to see Optimus Prime courting Julia Roberts in Larry Crowne, and I want to see a gigantic Tom Hanks battle Decepticons in Transformers 3.  Given all the digital wizardry we have access to now, not to mention all the money I have shoveled atop the dying embers of the Hollywood bonfire over the years, is that really so much to ask?  When do my dreams get to come true on the big screen?

With no explanation given whatsoever, a 50’ tall Tom Hanks takes over in the role of Optimus—no armature, no make-up, no digitally processed voice effects, just Khaki Dockers and a plaid short-sleeve shirt.  He fights the Decepticons with the usual wit and modest demeanor of the Tom Hanks we all know and love, apologizing to pedestrians before he throws Skywarp down a busy street, or saying something self-deprecating to Megatron before they battle to the death in Lake Michigan.  I suppose he’ll need to “transform” into something to maintain the preschool wonderment of the franchise—perhaps a trusty Volvo.

But even Tom Hanks can only do so much to polish a giant mecha-turd like the Transformers franchise.  More interesting, I think, would be seeing Optimus Prime in Larry Crowne.  As we open, Optimus has been laid off from his job as head of the Legion of Metal or the Rustless Avengers or whatever the hell he’s been doing for the past 30 years.  Despondent, he is encouraged by his childbots, Subprime A and Subprime B, to go back to college.  There’s some low comedy as Optimus discovers the typical university campus was not designed to accommodate his massive frame—perhaps he accidentally takes out the centuries old colonnade leading to the library or backs-up over the Dean’s new Porsche ("I apologize, Dean Reynolds, but your vehicle was temporarily lost in what I believe your refer to colloquially as the “blind spot’").  Maybe he takes a History class and gets in a hilarious argument with his liberal professor over the necessity of occasionally destroying entire civilizations for the overall good of the universe.  “You will find, Professor Tompkins, that the Torg-bots of Andulus-12 will not respond favorably to your cherished reason and diplomacy.  They are programmed to respect only violence and power.  They would leave the earth a tattered husk adrift in the solar winds before your starry-eyed diplomats could even make it to the spaceport.”   Can’t linger here too long, however, or else we’ll simply become Robot Chicken.

So he meets Julia, sweet, sweet Julia.  At once he is smitten.  And though she is only a fleshy humanoid woman that he might crush with a flick of his phalangeal pulley array, he finds himself strangely awkward in her presence.  Usually confident and loquacious in all situations, he becomes tongue-tied and oddly inappropriate (“Can I assist you in greasing your chassis later this evening, Professor Tainot?  Excuse me, I should not have verbalized my odd longing to inspect the specifications of your skeletal framing.  Perhaps you would assist me in greasing my chassis instead?  Again I must apologize.  I have just now received a software update indicating that chassis-greasing in the human species typically only occurs after the third interface.  I did not mean to offend.”  And so on.  Really, it just writes itself). 

Optimus can’t fit on a scooter, obviously, but there’s no need to jettison this scene of romantic joie de Vespa.  In fact, the scene could be made even more profound and meaningful.  “I am afraid my metric tonnage prevents my transport by ‘scooter,’ as you call it; however, I have calculated another option that may prove more feasible.”  And then, for the first time in their relationship, Optimus transforms into his other identity, an extended-cab model 379 Peterbilt truck.  The music swells as Julia Roberts, still idling on her Vespa, looks on in wonder and amazement.  “I invite you to relocate your vehicle to the rear of my trailer,’ says Optimus.  His payload door opens and a ramp descends covered with rose petals.  “Please, Professor Tainot, I invite you to accelerate up my ramp and into my main cargo hold.” Julia is hesitant at first.  Can she really be in love with this strange humanoid student-bot that has just transformed into a Peterbilt truck right before her eyes?  She thought she was too old for love, that she would never love again, and yet….

Julia Roberts revs her engine and scampers up the ramp.

The trailer is pitch black inside, at least at first.  But as her eyes adjust, Julia sees that Prime’s cargo hold contains the riches of a thousand years traveled across a thousand galaxies.  Platinum servos from Kaldar-7; the luminous feathers of a Gorlond harvested from the nests of Outer Torqew; a rare diamond-codex monkey from the Talnasia system.  A beautiful necklace of unknown but dazzling jewels materializes in mid air and then slowly lowers itself around her neck.   And then, quietly, tenderly, a door opens at the front of the trailer.  Optimus has opened the hatch to the sleeping compartment of his extended cab model 379 Peterbilt form.  With a soft flash of light, the standard issue acrylic sheets morph into silk and satin.  A candelabra self-ignites on the bed stand. 

There is an awkward a pause, until at last Optimus speaks.   “I am but a simple fighting bot,” he says, his voice noticeably cracking with emotion, “but I know that I love you, Professor Tainot.  Somehow, I feel I have always known you, across the eons, and that we shall be one across the centuries."

Tears in her eyes, Julia advances, tentatively at first, but then with ecstatic joy spreading across her features.   Yes, she loves Optimus too, she can see it now.  She makes her way toward the threshold of the sleeping chamber.

But then a violent shaking knocks Julia to the ground!  The entirety of Optimus’ metal frame seems to vibrate, its hinges and joints groaning.  Julia bounces from one wall of the trailer to the other, as if Optimus were twisting and tumbling through open space.  The trailer door reopens and we see some large, fleshy object begin to make its way into the compartment.  Julia looks on in horror.  What is happening?  What is that thing inexorably advancing into Prime’s cargohold?  “Optimus!” she screams.  “Optimus!  Help!”   But there is no answer, only the inchworm undulations of the strangely organic intruder.

A look of horrific realization steals across Julia’s face.  “Oh my god,” she mouths soundlessly to herself, the camera dollying-in and tilting-up in classic Spielberg fashion.  We then cut to her POV and see what appears to be…..yes, it’s a giant human finger!  And at the tip is a painted fingernail sparkling with pink glitter and the shimmering image of a prancing unicorn.  A second finger appears out of nowhere and suddenly Julia is caught.  She holds tight to her lover’s roll bar, but it is no use, the giant fingers gradually pull her out the back of the trailer.

We cut to a wide shot outside the trailer.  It’s a little girl holding Optimus-as-379- Peterbilt-truck in the palm of her hand.  With the other hand, she deftly extracts a struggling Julia Roberts, tiny and flailing.  But this is no ordinary little girl.  She wears a gingham dress with lace collar, to be sure, but a third eye blinks impassively in her forehead, her bald cranium encircled by four equidistant “goat” horns.  For this little girl is….an alien from another world!

But there is still yet more movie fun to be had.  The camera tracks past the 4-horned girl still immersed in her play.  The mise-en-scene suggests a familiar yet slightly “off” living room—the chairs, lamps, and wall hangings of another world.   As the camera continues moving, we see a series of dolls laid out side-by-side on the carpet.  There is a doll that looks eerily like Amy Adams.  Another resembles Drew Barrymore…Meryl Streep…Megan Fox…and so on.  Finally the camera rests on what appears to be a video monitor of some kind, an alien “television set,” if you will.  An animated commercial appears on the screen.  It shows a little girl playing with dolls, ones that look just like the actresses we’ve just seen on the carpet.  We can’t hear the dialogue, nor could we understand it even if we did—but we see the animated little girl holding a Julia Roberts doll—she bends the doll’s legs backwards, tucks the head into its chest, detaches and repositions the arms.  Suddenly Julia Roberts has been “transformed” …into a canoe with oars!

Dear god, we realize, this is a planet where it is the female of the species that exhibits genital mastery through transformational doll play. 

As this mind-blowing epiphany washes over us, offscreen, away from the alien TV, we hear the horrifying sound of bones cracking like broken celery.  Roberts screams,  “Optimus!  Save me!”  But there is no rescue, for we will now fade to black.

Representatives of Micheal Bay should feel free to contact me by email to discuss points and residuals. 

What Have They Done to You, Ben? (1968)

Bill Reade
Bantam Books

Young Jamaican boy out fishing on a British estate is shot and killed, maybe by accident or maybe in cold-blood, by one of three poachers out looking for pheasants (poaching tip: the secret is to go out the night before and leave bird feed soaked in liquor everywhere-- the next day, the birds are all drunk and you don't even have to shoot most of them).  After the boy is killed, the three poachers hurry to a local pub to sell their pheasants so that they can get some quick cash and lie low for awhile.  But when a cop shows up, the pub owner rats the three out, which leads  to more shooting and the death of the pub owner, his wife, and the cop.  Also, one of the poachers gets run over by the van during their get-away.

Now we're on the run with Ben and Sam, the two remaining poachers.  Sam wants to go off on his own, but Ben demands that they stick together until the heat blows over.  And you listen to Ben, because he's the one who shot all five people in the last 24 hours and still has the shotgun.  They camp out for a couple of days in a remote field--but then one morning Sam kicks Ben in the throat and then walks back to his house in the village.  For some unknown reason, there follow a few domestic scenes with Sam and his wife.  He hides in the attic for about five pages and then gives himself up.  But neither Sam nor his wife are heard from again, so really, what's the point?

Back to Ben.  Turns out Ben has amazing survivalist skills, and so he goes to an abandoned country estate and creates an elaborate bivouac out of weeds, and sticks, and moss and similar nature stuff.  His goal is to live there unobserved for a couple of months and then sneak up to Scotland where apparently it is very easy to get hydroelectric jobs with little to no questioning.

But then a novelistic intervention!  We change from third person to first person to pick up the story of Sarah, a middle-aged police superintendent who dated Ben in the days leading up to WWII.  He was the love of her life and she hasn't so much as kissed a man since he left to go off to war and then mysteriously vanished some twenty years previous.  The police want to know if she has any clues about where Ben might go or what he might do.  She says she doesn't, but then immediately remembers an old country estate--now long abandoned-- where they spent their last night together.  Bingo!

From here we jump back and forth from 3rd to 1st person as the noose tightens around Ben.  I particularly enjoyed a chapter where Ben, tired of eating trout everyday, lures a squirrel into his bivouac and then snaps its neck.  We're supposed to think this makes him seem more crazy, but really, who could eat trout everyday for 2 months, especially if he possessed the skills to charm squirrel meat right into the pan?

After one unproductive trip to the old manor, Sarah returns again once she knows the police will be there in three days to conduct a thorough search.  She finds Ben and they do their best to catch up for the past 20 years.  But then comes the inevitable question about Ben and the murders:

"What have they done to you, Ben?" Sarah asks.

Turns out Ben was in some super secret British paratrooper force during the war.  Captured in Holland, he was taken to a hospital/jail where the Nazis trained young interrogators in how to torture people for information.  Even though his captors knew Ben didn't have any real information, they nevertheless told the Nazi students that he did--and so Ben was mercilessly "interrogated" for three months and then sent to a concentration camp.

After the war, Ben had come to realize he hated all of humanity--Nazis, British, Americans--everyone stinks!  So he turned to a life of crime and isolation, leaving behind his pre-war identity entirely.

Sarah tries to convince Ben to give up, that he's sick and doctors will cure him if he'll just turn himself into the authorities.  But Ben is convinced they will shoot him on sight.  But Sarah keeps pushing her argument.  When that still doesn't work, she gets control of the shotgun and marches Ben at gun point toward the advancing police line.  Everything's going to be alright, she assures him.  But then a local dimwit, still incensed about the pub murder, runs into the field with a pistol and shoots Ben three times in the gut.

Final lines in book: 

"You promised me they wouldn't shoot!"  I nodded, tears running down my face, dropping onto his face.  "You promised, you bitch," he said, and then he died.


Moral: Men should always trust their own judgment when it comes to possibly getting shot.


A Nice Neighborhood (1975)

Edith-Jane Bahr
Dell 6423

Young wife and mother recently relocated from Manhattan to a Jersey suburb called "Robin Hood Dell" (or as she calls it, "Dum Dum Dell) is up late one night feeding her newborn daughter.  She just happens to see her neighbor in a flimsy negligee letting a strange man out of the back door.  Oo la la!  The same thing happens the next night.  Oo la la again!  After the third night, the neighbor is....dead!

Must be the jealous husband, right?  Nope.  On the fourth night, he's dead too.

Fairly standard whodunit primarily distinguished by the wise-ass tone of the narrator.  Feels a lot like Desperate Housewives in its cavalier, jaunty approach to a capital crime.  M'eh. 

"The Zookeeper" with Kevin James in Biblical Prophecy

Recipe for the "Sugar Weiner" Inserted into John C. Lilly's "Man and Dolphin" (n.d.)

Unknown Author

John C. Lilly's Man and Dolphin, first published in 1961, promised that interspecies communication was just over the horizon.  In making that prediction, the book inaugurated our modern image of the dolphin as an intellectual peer to mankind.  All of this is well known and not worth repeating, really.  We still can't talk to dolphins, of course, and increasingly we can't even talk to vast swathes of our own human population, so maybe wanting to talk to everyone and everything is overrated anyway. 

The only thing to add about Lilly's dolphin project is some trivia related to the largely repressed Mike Nichols/Buck Henry oddball film of 1973, Day of the Dolphin, in which two dolphins trained to speak English are kidnapped in a plot to blow up the President of the United States aboard his yacht.  Here is what the WikiGods say Pauline Kael had to say about that:

Pauline Kael, the film critic for The New Yorker suggested that if the best subject that Nichols and Henry could think of was talking dolphins, then they should quit making movies altogether. 

God bless Pauline Kael, snarkist extraordinaire even before the first Gen-X'er drew an ironic breath.  More trivia about Day of the Dolphin: The movie was originally going to be directed by Roman Polanski, and he was actually in London scouting locations when his wife, Sharon Tate, and friends were murdered by the Manson Family in August of 1969.

What is fascinating in this particular edition of the book, however, is a former readers' inclusion of a shopping list composed in advance of what looks to be an extraordinarily courageous weiner roast.  A scan of the document appears below:

We are left here with two basic interpretative possibilities. Perhaps this unknown reader with an interest in dolphins was merely stocking up on a quartet of diverse and unrelated supplies: weiners (Kahn's), bacon, mayonnaise, and sugar.  But I would like to think this slip of paper is actually a recipe rather than merely a shopping list, the blueprint for a delicacy that we shall call the "Kahn's Bacon and Mayonnaise Sugar-Weiner."   And as I found this book at a local thrift store in Chicago, the Kahn's Bacon and Mayonnaise Sugar-Weiner recipe theory should be seriously entertained, considering this city is notorious for staging a variety of sausage meats in often startling configurations.

Somehow I can see this working.  Perhaps it was even a precursor for preparing what in 1961 promised to be the holy grail of forbidden sausages: the dolphin dog.

A Most Contagious Game (1956)

Samuel Grafton
Pocket Books 1102

Lo and behold, a hidden gem!

Dan Lewis is a cub reporter in Philadelphia sent by his editor to infiltrate and write about the New York City "underworld." A couple of days later he's on a train to Manhattan with $5000 in a money belt and a plan to let the story "find him."  And it does.  No sooner has he checked into his fleabag hotel for the first night, thugs break into his room, steal all his money, and rough him up a bit for good measure.  Cut off from his money and his editor (who conveniently absents himself for the month), Lewis quickly finds he's going to have to live by his wits for awhile.  For company, he has a self-nominated "existentialist" who works at a greasy diner on the lower east side, and "Kay," a young woman orbiting the city's real criminals who nurses Dan back to health after his beating. 

Grafton's strength is in capturing the generally aimless, moment-to-moment life of the criminal world.  One truly inspired paragraph notes how criminals, artists, and bohemian-types are united in their hatred of society, and demonstrate that hatred by refusing to live according to the same clock as the straight world.  Staying with Kay and a few other criminal boarders, Dan is dumbfounded when one woman starts roasting a turkey late one afternoon for no particular reason. 

Eventually Dan meets up with one of the top bookies in the city, working first as a bodyguard and then later as a possible successor to the man's criminal empire.  The game is "most contagious" because Dan finds he has a real aptitude for the criminal life.  Will he get sucked into the racket forever or make it back out to the straight world?  Read and find out.

Other moments worth noting: early in the story, Dan has to elude a detective before he blows the reporter's cover.  Ingeniously, Dan ducks into a TV studio where they are broadcasting a live game show called The Human Ordeal, a swipe by Grafton at the then popular trainwreck Queen for a Day.  One contestant on the Ordeal must hang by his thumbs for 2 minutes in order to win hospital money for his son with spinal meningitis.  Dan wrangles his way onto the stage so that he can disrupt the proceedings, create confusion, and slink away (a device used a few years later in Hitchcock's North by Northwest).

Also interesting here is the menage-a-trois "come-on" of the cover.  "I moved in with a couple of molls!"  The good folks at Pocket would have liked you to think this was the central problematic of the novel, but as so often happens in the pulp bait-and-switch game, this dilemma confronts our protagonist for less than one page.  Brought back to Kay's apartment (shared by several crooks, male and female), a cheap blond makes a pass at him one night in the hallway, mainly to piss off Kay.  Dan resists, and two pages later he's out of the house.  So that's that.

Grafton passed away in 1997 at the age of 90.  Below is the bulk of his New York Times obituary, which I include here in the interest of pulp intellectual history.

Mr. Grafton, who continued to contribute to national magazines into the 1980's, became widely known through his syndicated column, ''I'd Rather Be Right.'' Appearing in as many as 120 newspapers nationwide, it ran from 1939 to 1948 and supported the New Deal, the Spanish Republic and Gen. Charles de Gaulle's Free French, among other things.

Born in Brooklyn and raised in Philadelphia, Mr. Grafton started writing for The New Republic as a teen-ager. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1929 and that year won a national essay contest and, with it, a reporting job on The Philadelphia Record. He moved to New York in 1932 and became editor of The New York Post's editorial page.

Complex Camera Scheme

"Zookeeper" Checklist

Zookeeper with Kevin James opens this weekend and there’s not a god-damned thing you can do to stop it.  Moreover, it will probably make a lot of money genuinely entertaining people you can’t stand; or more charitably, the pre-adolescent children of people about whom you have no real opinion.  You may even find yourself forced to see it due to circumstances beyond your control.  If so, Godspeed and good luck.  To make your experience slightly less hellish, please feel free to print the following checklist and take it with you to the theater.  It is a comprehensive inventory of things that we can probably expect to see in Zookeeper.  As each of these comedic affronts transpire, you can amuse yourself by checking it off the list.  After you're done, you can even score your results.  Have fun!

Zookeeper Checklist                                               

[ ]  Kevin James eating a pastry

[ ]  Kevin James eating a large bag of chips

[ ]  Kevin James involved in comically futile fitness routine

[ ]  First Appearance of workplace bully, either “boss” or rival employee

[ ]  Kevin James’ comic double-take at hearing first words spoken by talking animal

[ ]  Kevin James humiliated in front of “love interest”

[ ]  First cursing zoo animal

[ ]  Feces thrown

[ ]  Feces stepped in

[ ]  Love interest overhears Kevin James talking to animals; thinks he’s crazy

[ ]  Kevin James invents awkward, unconvincing story as to why he was
                 talking to an animal

[ ]  Love Interest surprises a pantless Kevin James, mistakenly assumes he is
                about to have sex with a zoo animal

[ ] Kevin James invents awkward, unconvincing story as to why he was
                 pantless in zoo pen with animal

[ ]  Zoo animal speaking with “funny” ethnic and/or regional human accent

[ ]  Joke about sexual allure of “swollen” or “red” hindquarters

[ ]  Kevin James mistakenly consumes disgusting zoo animal food

[ ]  Elephant using trunk to douse Kevin James and/or workplace bully

[ ]  Running gag involving llama or camel renowned for either stinking or spitting

[ ]  A zoo animal behaving in a way that defies our typical view of species (i.e.
                 monkey afraid of heights; pacifist lion, etc).

[ ]  Kevin James fart attributed to zoo animal

[ ]  Zoo animal fart attributed to Kevin James

[ ]  Primate makes inappropriately bawdy remarks about Kevin James’ love

[ ]  Kevin James takes shot to the balls

[ ]  Kevin James takes repeated shots to the balls

[ ]  Zoo animals execute a cooperative caper to assist Kevin James, but
                 without his knowledge (each animal displaying a distinctive "skill")

[ ]  Zoo animals engaged in “typical” male recreations (i.e. poker, bowling, cigar smoking, etc.)

[ ]  Zoo animal paired with “nagging” spouse

[ ]  Love interest tells Kevin James she’s always liked him for “who he really is.”

[ ]  Humiliation of workplace bully, most likely in pile of animal dung

[ ]  Ending in which zoo animal implies, by words or by winking, that Kevin James and love interest are about to have sex--most likely the monkey voiced by Adam Sandler.


       Perfect 30:    
Warning! May actually be a subversively brilliant critique of the genre

It's the end of the world and I feel fine.

Could my little (brother/sister/cousin/nephew) really think this is funny? Am I really related to such an imbecile?

Like watching a 'King of Queens' marathon with the flu  and no access to a remote

The sweet spot of shit

Slightly less terrible than predicted; better than Grown Ups, certainly

Sincere apologies to all the talented people involved in this project

The Beloved Chohans Speak Their Peace (n.d.)

Inspired thru El Morya and Miriam
Golden Sierra Printing

It is now time that VOICES of the CHOHANS be let speak.  This is a dictation direct from the HEARTBEAT of ME, EL MORYA and My BELOVED MIRIAM.  I speak in Our behalf representing the First Ray of CELESTIAL BLUE.

I AM CONFUCIUS. I represent the Second Ray, CANARY YELLOW.  I rejoice for the Ecstasy of this moment!

I AM ROWENA of the Third Ray. Yes, I AM ROWENA, a Lady CHOHAN.  Have you noticed how wonderfully WE Ladies are making the grade these days, as relative to the old days when women were housewives?

I AM SERAPIS BEY of the Fourth Ray.  I AM Custodian of the ASCENSION FLAME at the BROTHERHOOD at LUXOR, on the Nile.

WE ARE VISTA AND CRYSTAL of the Fifth Ray.  As you can well imagine, My Name "VISTA" would meditatively carry you into a vast labyrinth of Cosmic Beauty, color, and most exquisite forms.  Thru My PARTNER IN LOVE, BELOVED CRYSTAL, you can very well figure out that SHE has the qualifications of "crystallizing" into third dimension equasion [sic] these exquisite forms pictured within the periphery of MY Cosmic Laboratory.  Our color is GRASS GREEN.

[ed. note: Vista and Crystal also appear to represent the Sixth Ray(s), RUBY AND CHRISTOS, but the text is slightly unclear on this point].

WE ARE ST. GERMAIN FREQUENCY with My long lost, but forever regained PORTIA.  ARCHANGEL ZADKIEL AND HOLY AMETHYST are also holding fort on the Seventh Ray. 

G.V.P. AND THE QUEEN OF LIGHT SPEAK: WE ARE G.V.P. AND THE QUEEN OF LIGHT. Our color is RUBY, and WE represent the Aquarian RUBY FOCUS Sixth Ray [ed. note: the Sixth Ray now appears, after the Seventh for some reason].

THE TWO NEW LIGHT RAYS SPEAK:  WE ARE THE TWO NEW LIGHT RAYS OF THE GREAT CENTRAL SUN, THRU EOLIA.  OUR COLORS ARE IRIDESCENT RUBY AND IRIDESCENT MOTHER-OF-PEARL.  Our Personal Individualities embrace the Names of "RUBY' AND 'CHRISTOS" [ed. note: see Ray 6].  WE hail from the GREAT CENTRAL SUN, and WE pour Electro-Magnetic Energies to all who invoke our service. 

[ed. note: published in "Grass Valley" Calfornia....Ha!]

Possession Sequence

Killer Cop (1975)

Dom Gober (aka Joseph Nazel)
Holloway House

Second book in Gober's (Nazel's) "Black Cop" series for Holloway House, most famous for its titles authored by Iceberg Slim (Pimp, Trick Baby, Mama Black Widow).  This excellent site reviews Black Cop and provides a bit more background on Gober's (perhaps overly) prodigious output for Holloway.  Today we often align all black crime fiction from the 1970s with "blaxploitation," but as the many ads for other Holloway titles suggest, these books were actually marketed as "black experience" fiction. 

Detective Jim Rhodes is a black cop on the LAPD, working the narcotics division and trying not to run afoul of a racist police force, city, and country.  In Killer Cop, Rhodes wants nothing more than to get away for a little fishing and hunting in a buddy's cabin up in the mountains.  Unpacking his van, however, he soon discovers that he has a wounded brother in the back.  No sooner does he have his mystery guest bandaged and on the couch, Rhodes is besieged by the killers looking to finish the job on the wounded man.  Much of the book details Rhodes' scheme to retrieve his guns from the van, take out his mystery adversaries under the cover of darkness (Rhodes is also a Vietnam vet, of course), and get the wounded guy to the hospital.  Rhodes is able to save himself but not his wounded stowaway.  So when the local police show up to lay down the law of this racist society, all they see is a black man with a bunch of rifles and four dead bodies on the property.  Hauled into jail, Rhodes' proof that he is LAPD means nothing to these racist county crackers (who, remarkably, though they are probably no further away from L.A. than Arrowhead, act and talk as if they're straight out of Alabama circa 1955.  Please inspect the white cop on the cover--he is clearly modeled after Rod Steiger from In the Heat of the Night (1967)).  It doesn't take much for Rhodes to outsmart the younger, stupider cop, and soon he's on his way to find out what is behind all this violence, an investigation that eventually leads him to the BFF, which in this context stands for the Black Friends of Freedom.

Given Gober's extraordinary output, it's hard not to read Killer Cop as a weekend-long caffeine fueled improvisation knocked out asap for the $500 Monday might bring.  During the drive out to the cabin, for example, Gober's protagonist seems to riff mentally on any and everything that comes through his mind--a way of adding 20 pages or so before getting to the actual plot.  All in all not that great.  Pretty terrible in fact.  But historically, at least, an important counter-narrative to swill like this. 

Leering Smoker