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February 18, 2019: Website updated and revised.

Bust Of Mr. Jaundiced



Ho hum. Been there, done that. Don’t bother to ask his opinion; he’ll only yawn and stare at you. Just a nasty, petty jade.

“Sea Jackals Of Dubai” Now Out: Into The Ruins Issue No. 13, Summer 2019


ITR Cover


The previously discussed, long anticipated, lucky 13th issue of Into the Ruins is now out. This Summer 2019 issue comes as a 7″ x 10″ book packed with 106 pages of stories of a deindustrial future, an Editor’s Introduction, a letters to the editor section, and an essay by Karl North. Veering from high seas adventure (my own yarn, Sea Jackals Of Dubai) to a future academic treatise on the peculiar swimming habits of our industrial age, from the conclusion of Violet Bertelsen’s stellar novella, The Ghosts in Little Deer’s Grove, to the triumphs and challenges of a low-energy future lived down on the farm and out on the hunting grounds, the latest issue of Into the Ruins continues to present fascinating visions of our deindustrial future.

This is a beautifully laid out and published, small press, dystopian/apocalyptic SF magazine with a lot of careful attention to detail. Well worth checking out:

Review: Soulless, The Case Against R. Kelly

I swear I have no idea what this guy's music sounds like.

I swear I have no idea what this guy sounds like.

Soulless, The Case Against R. Kelly, Jim DeRogatis, Abrams Press, 307 pp.

I’m mostly familiar with the author from his biography of Lester Bangs (my favorite rock critic in Creem back in the ’70’s) and other writing about rock’n’roll. Let me confess that, old, white fossil that I am, I don’t know anything about R. Kelly’s music. DeRogatis covered him, however, as part of his beat as the music critic on a Chicago newspaper. Hometown boy Kelly was a prominent part of DeRogatis’s coverage, a talented young man with a rough, downright dysfunctional upbringing who overcame that and other handicaps to become a huge, hitmaking machine in R&B music. Possessed of a knack for pop hits, Kelly blazed the charts for a phenomenal stretch of time (don’t ask me to recite any of the titles). All the while, despite the success and the constant media attention, ugly rumors dogged Kelly, stories about his predilection for underage women and bizarre menages in his luxurious homes.

DeRogatis may be nominally a music critic, but he considers himself first and foremost to be a journalist, dedicated in the best tradition of his craft to doggedly unearthing the truth no matter what the consequences. In direct, workmanlike prose that doesn’t distract from the story, DeRogatis tells the grim tale of his persistent, decades long effort to bring out the truth about R. Kelly and to see that he and  his victims were done justice.

Backed by his newspaper and ably supported by other journalists, DeRogatis hunted down witness after witness, most of them reluctant and unwilling at first to talk, who finally broke down and recounted grim stories of their miserable experiences with R. Kelly, a degenerate, abusive pervert if ever there was one. And all of this in the face of legal harassment on the part of Kelly’s  counsel, threats, subtle and otherwise, by Kelly’s minions, and having his door shot out one night in an obvious attempt at raw intimidation. Not one to be daunted despite his cherubic appearance, DeRogatis stuck to his guns and had the ultimate satisfaction of seeing R. Kelly’s elaborate fantasy world collapse and the Pied Piper (as Kelly liked to style himself) finally brought to justice.  As I write this review, Kelly is already enmeshed in serious criminal charges with more likely pending.

The recent exposure of Providence only knows how many prominent men as despicable sex pigs (Weinstein, Epstein, Louis C.K., Cosby, the list is really long) is dismaying, but predictable. Give a man power and wealth and it frequently goes directly to his crotch instead of to his head. I don’t mean this as a knock against pop stars, but more against rich people in general. I seriously think that any guy with a net worth of more than $10 million should be followed constantly by a police officer just to make sure he behaves himself and keeps it in his pants. You might call that socialism; I call it a necessary measure for a better society.

This book is tough to read in many respects since it features accounts by victims of the miserable things that Kelly did to them, to include his need to control their every movement as if they were his toy dolls, and the damage and trauma he inflicted upon them. If you have the stomach for it, I recommend it as an excellent example of the good that journalism can still do, even in our current, miserably degraded circumstances. Thanks to DeRogatis and many others, R. Kelly isn’t able to ruin any more young women’s lives.

Lino the Lizard Loan Shark

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(Please note the pinkie ring.)

LINO:  “I’m telling you, it’s not the money, it’s the principle of the thing.”

TONY:  “Do you believe this reptile?”

PAULIE:  “Now hold on, T. Maybe Lino’s got a point there.”

The Hickoids At The Black Cat, 04 AUG




































The only reason I heard tell about these jaspers playing was the fact Sean Epstein hipped me to the upcoming show. Legendary Texas wildman band the Hickoids sure enough lived up to their rep, playing crazy, stomping, twin guitar rock’n’roll done cowhand shitkicker style: thundering riffs, screaming vocals, and discordant, dueling leads. One big highlight was their blood and thunder cover of Benny And The Jets. The gig was held at the Black Cat’s tiny, new Red Room bar, immediately adjacent to the main hall on the second floor (the dank and cramped basement has been rented out to retail, another sign of increasing 14th Street gentrification). It was weird since only the bar was air conditioned in the dead of a DC summer and the rest of the place (to include the men’s room) was a hot, humid, airless mess.

This was probably one of the best rock’n’roll shows in DC this year and maybe, like what, twenty people showed up, all or most friends of Sean. Granted, it’s August, colleges are out and people are on vacation, but that’s still indisputable evidence what a boring, square town DC is. I managed to be the lucky duck that snatched their poster down from the wall, hence the scan above. I tucked it away in my gaudy cowboy shirt. From the men’s room, I heard someone outside sigh in disappointment  when he realized the trophy had been taken away from him. Ha ha. Ain’t bragging if you done it.

The Hickoids have been around for about 35 years by their own admission and are a fixture on the Austin rock scene. They give their music that real Texas try (full bore, no let up), are funny as hell (another Texas trait), and I hope they play for 35 more years. Everyone of you that reads this should see them if they’re in your town or within a radius of five hundred miles or so. They’ve got a new double album out, All the World’s A Dressing Room: Live In L.A. 08.24.2018.  Run out and buy it. Or better yet, save yourself some stress and click the second link below with one of those little old piggies of yours.

Lost To The West – A Lively, Readable Account of Byzantine History

byzantineLars Brownworth, 304 pp., Three Rivers Press.

My interest in the Byzantine Empire was piqued by the 11th Century chronicles of Michael Psellus (see the review in a previous post), so I ordered this relatively short, recent history of the Empire’s history from the founding of Constantinople by the eponymous Illyrian badass and ardent Christian convert, Constantine the Great, to the fall of the city in 1453, her mighty walls shattered by enormous Ottoman cannon. This is a lot of material to cover and the author does so briskly while also being careful to be thorough and accurately sourced. The back jacket of the book states that Mr. Brownworth is a former high school history teacher, but he shows as much flair for writing popular, accessible history as many other, more highly accredited authors.

Like all empires from Rome onward, there is a large focus in the book on the Byzantine emperors and their personalities, an unavoidable consequence of studying any autocracy where everything (at least supposedly) turns on the word of just one man. A parade of characters passes down through the long ages, some outstanding, many contemptible, and a great deal utterly mediocre. Brownsworth makes the interesting point that as long as an emperor was strong and knew how to organize the empire’s resources (with special emphasis on the broad, fertile Anatolian plain), the Byzantines flourished or, at least, held their own. This was a remarkable feat in light of the constant series of threats posed to the empire over centuries, beset from all sides, Persians, Slavs, Bulgars, Crusaders, Arabs, and worst of all and finally, the Ottoman Turks. It was only when the Byzantines were deprived of Anatolia by the Turks that the empire truly began to falter and at last fail.

The author notes that while Western Europe was plunged into illiteracy and Frankish kings lived little better than peasants, learning and luxury still flourished in Constantinople and the empire’s other great cities. He points out that for centuries the Byzantine Empire acted as a buffer for Western Europe, a bulwark between the weak, disorganized feudal realms and the rampant forces of Islam. Much learning was gained by the West from the Byzantines, especially after the fall of Constantinople when many Greek scholars fled to Italy seeking patronage from the Pope among others. This history does a valuable service in filling in a large gap in the general picture of medieval European history.

I think the most valuable thing to be gained from this book is a sense of the remarkable strength of the Byzantine polity. Located in the very cockpit of empire, prone to invasion by land and sea from all directions, attacked by powerful enemies almost from the beginning, and riven by dissension (religious and otherwise), treachery, and disloyalty, Constantinople and its empire still managed to somehow persist in a distinctly recognizable form for over a thousand years. And when the end came, the last emperor (also named Constantine) died fighting in the breached walls for his city and his people, a true medieval paladin.

I recommend this book to fans of medieval history and to anyone interested in a good account of a very strange and alien, long passed civilization and culture whose echoes still loudly sound today.

Alexander the Great as Zeus-Ammon

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At the Oasis of Siwa, after a dangerous trek across the desert that almost killed him and his entourage, it was revealed unto Alexander by the high priest of Amun that his true father was not Phillip of Macedon, but Zeus-Ammon, the almighty deity graced with curved ram’s horns in token of his puissant omnipotence. And so Alexander donned the regalia of Zeus-Ammon to acknowledge his glorious lineage.

Όλα χαλάζι, ο Δίας Άμμων!

Carl Panzram Portrait

































I watched a documentary about Panzram last night and that inspired me to draw this today. Something about being trapped in a windowless hotel conference room brings out the artist in me. The documentary showed pages from Panzram’s original manuscript, his biography written in pencil and smuggled out of prison. They also showed extensive clips of an interview done in ’79 with Henry Lesser, the prison guard who befriended Panzram and smuggled out the biography.

Panzram’s life story is hard to take, a brutal tale of his almost continuous abuse and torture, most of it at the hands of one prison authority or another, followed in turn by Panzram’s vicious, horribly violent crimes to pay back the score, with his rage directed at the whole human race, a miserable, hateful cycle that finally ended with him being hung for murdering a prison superintendent. Panzram’s life succinctly illustrates how hard and downright sordid life was for many people in 19th Century America. None of this, however, excuses any of the terrible crimes that he committed.

Of course, my picture is nowhere near as good as Joe Coleman’s portrait (he was all over the documentary; he’s got to be the Prussian Psycho’s biggest fan) that depicted Panzram down to every last scar and bulging veins. Then again, since I’m not Joe Coleman, that means I don’t have to dress like him. Thank G*d for that small favor.

Ring A Ding Ding Visigoth Style


In those pre-mass communication days without so much as even a radio or TV, much less the Internet, you had to make your own fun. And on that fateful August day in 410 CE, Al and his fellow Visigoth pals had themselves a stone gas! Nothing like putting the world’s capital to the sack to brighten your day. Incidentally, his teeth are dingy because real barbarians don’t care squat about proper dental hygiene.






Album Review: “Sympathy For The Beast” – Twink & The Technicolor Dream





















This is a good psychedelic rock album with an appropriately bizarre, excellent cover by artist Kim Deitch. Twink is a semi-famous rock drummer who has provided percussion for underground ’70’s bands like the Deviants (in collaboration with the late rock journalist Mick Farren) and the Pink Fairies. Like Gary Lachman, the musician from Blondie, Twink shares a fascination with the Great Beast, that consummate charlatan and fraud, Aleister Crowley. Regular readers may recall my previous review of Lachman’s Crowley bio.

Crowley wrote prolifically and a lot of it was poetry on magickal and erotic themes. Twink has used the poetry as lyrics for an hour long album of flipped out acid rock raveups and lengthy, meandering, metaphysical noodling. The first cut is a particularly standout rocker with a killer riff and some powerful drumming by Twink. This album did remind me a lot of Hawkwind with chugging riffs counterpointed by off the wall, out of left field screaming guitar solos. Although I’m no admirer of Crowley as an artist, his poetry in this context complements the music well, often being chanted to give the air of a spell being cast. Music and poetry combine to create a flippy, heavily lysergic vibe.

Since I’ve noted the album’s similarity to Hawkwind, I might as well raise the critique often leveled at that band, the songs all seem to go on forever and just blend into one really long album. My response to that, however, would be to recommend that you adjust your mood (however you might want to go about doing that) until you turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.

I recommend this album to Crowley fans, music lovers in search of something offbeat, and most of all to lovers of wild, rocking psychedelic music. Play this late at night when you want to feel really weird and spooky.