Monday, August 14, 2017

Quote of the Day

"Fear stalks the land.  (As usual; so what else is new?)"



Covert Sonic Weapons Deployed in Cuba

What follow are the first three paragraphs of Matthew Lee and Michael Weissenstein's 8-9-17 Time article entitled "U.S. Diplomats in Cuba Attacked With Sonic Weapon That Caused Hearing Loss":


"The two-year-old U.S. diplomatic relationship with Cuba was roiled Wednesday by what U.S. officials say was a string of bizarre incidents that left a group of American diplomats in Havana with severe hearing loss attributed to a covert sonic device.

"In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of former President Barack Obama's reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

"Some of the diplomats' symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been exposed to an advanced device that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences. It was not immediately clear if the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other purpose."

To read the rest of the article, click HERE.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

UNTIL THE LAST DOG DIES Sightings

A brief update on my forthcoming novel, UNTIL THE LAST DOG DIES:  The official publication date is now November 21st (one day before Assassination Day, appropriately enough).  According to many reports, trained observers have seen Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) of the novel floating around in the ether, as can be seen in this dramatically non-blurry photograph right HERE.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Uncle Brucker the Rat Killer

Back in April my editor at Night Shade/Skyhorse asked me if I would provide a blurb for Leslie Peter Wulff's debut novel, Uncle Brucker the Rat Killer.  He assured me the novel would be right up my alley.  Since it was the beginning of midterms at CSU Long Beach, where I teach five English classes, I didn't think I'd have time to read an entire novel, but I decided to take the impractical path instead and dive into the manuscript anyway.  I was so glad I did.

As I said on the cover of the book, I knew this novel was going to be a winner as soon as I started reading it.  What really clinched it was this line on p. 7:  "...a family of rats living in a public library can learn to read an abridged dictionary."  The book is filled with absurd statements like this one, what appear to be scholarly facts about the secret lives of rats, all of which seem haunted by the magic realist imaginations of Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino, but spiced with a homespun American twang.

The reader learns incredible revelations about rats from such fanciful texts as the Specialized Rat Encyclopedia, From A to Z.  For example, did you know that there are 487 words in the rat vocabulary, that rat cakes can turn humans into interdimensional vermin, that rats originate from a place called Rat Land located in a universe somewhere next door to ours?

What is the central plot of Uncle Brucker the Rat Killer?  Our sympathetic teenage hero, Walt (whose uncle is the titular character), lays it all out early on in this passage on pp. 55-56:

"After the Second Uprising [a savage war between rats and humans that occurred several years before the story begins] we pushed the rats back and they've been laying low since then.  For six long years the rats have been gearing up, preparing, building the bridges and digging the tunnels that match up one dimension to the next.

"Now they were gathering at the other side of the Portal.

"A million rat army, waiting for the go code....

"But where was the Portal?  Where were the rats coming through?

"Uncle Brucker was determined to locate that damn Portal and find out for himself.  But it wouldn't be easy.  All he had to do was what the entire US Army and all its Generals could not accomplish." 

Wulff's novel layers one absurdity upon another, but always with a straight face, almost as if he were channeling the dry stand-up humor of comedian Steven Wright.

The protracted scenes near the end of the novel, in which an amnesiac Uncle Brucker is lost in Rat Land, have a whimsical yet deadly serious quality about them that reminds me of the best work of William Kotzwinkle (Dr. Rat, Hot Jazz Trio, etc.) and Richard Brautigan (In Watermelon Sugar, Sombrero Fallout, etc.). 

The folkloric qualities of R.A. Lafferty's classic tales (found in such collections as Nine Hundred Grandmothers) are evoked near the end of the novel when Uncle Brucker seeks the help of the President of the United States against the oncoming rat hordes (from pp.183-84):

"Like all elevators in the White House, it doesn't go straight up and down, it zigzags from floor to floor for security reasons.  Uncle Brucker watched a spectacular display of lights and arrows on the control panel, and he thought of what he wanted to tell the President.

"The President answered three calls on his cell phone.  Each time he apologized to my Uncle with a we'll-talk-later wave of his hand.  They zigzagged past a swimming pool and the bowling alley, and they stopped at a floor with no number that few people know about.

"The Boss is an unsmiling white-haired woman of few words who took charge of the floors beneath the white house.  In a military uniform of no particular rank or service, she greeted them at the elevator.  Other than the 9mm automatic and the Master Key, she carried two flashlights on her belt, one marked Boss and the other marked Emergency President.  She had worked in the White House for ages and everyone called her Boss.

"At the end of the hall, the Boss unlocked the door to a special room.  Inside, shelves and shelves of shoes left behind by the Presidents throughout the years.

"'Find a pair that fits,' said the President.  'The Boss will sign them over.  It's my way of saying thanks.'"

Though Wulff's style can be favorably compared to the disparate fabulists I've cited above, the fact is that this novel feels completely original and ultimately stands on its own as a unique, postmodern fable for our peculiar age filled with uncertainty, nonsense, paranoia, and occasional acts of unexpected kindness. 

So, please, I urge you to find the Dimensional Portal nearest you, if you can, and plunge headlong into the topsy-turvy world of Rat Land with Uncle Brucker the Rat Killer as your steadfast guide.

Leslie Peter Wulff's Uncle Brucker the Rat Killer was published by Night Shade/Skyhorse on July 11, 2017, and can be purchased through Amazon by clicking HERE.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sasquatch Vocalizations and Sounds

Do you need an alternative to that staid old New Age meditation music you've been listening to for so long?  Do you desperately desire the perfect background sounds for your wedding and/or bar mitzvah and/or funeral?  Do you suffer from incessant insomnia?  If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, I suggest trying out Sasquatch Vocalizations and Sounds Parts 1 through 4!  All you have to do is stretch out on something halfway comfortable, relax, crank up the volume on this baby, then wait as you slide slowly off into Nirvana or Slumberland or whatever unique paradise you wish to visit in order to escape the workaday worries of everyday reality.  You won't regret this, my frail human friends and/or acquaintances, you won't regret this at all....



Saturday, August 5, 2017

Curse of the Man Who Sees UFOs

If you have an extra ninety-one minutes on your hands, I suggest taking a look at Justin Gaar's 2016 documentary Curse of the Man Who Sees UFOs (available through Netflix, Amazon Video, and on DVD courtesy of Virgil Films and Entertainment).  Saying that this film is about a former filmmaker named Christo Roppolo who spends most of his life videotaping hordes of UFOs hovering in the skies above Monterey, CA hardly does it justice.  The film takes several emotional/psychological twists and turns the viewer will not be expecting.  You really have to immerse yourself in Roppolo's brain to fully appreciate it.  

As writer Thad McKraken recently said about this film on DISINFO.COM:  "So utterly strange.  I love how you see craptons of people constantly making the argument:  with all the technology available to us these days, why have we not gotten tons of good UFO footage?  These people have apparently never heard of the internet and should definitely watch this film.  This guy (Christo Roppolo) has so much UFO footage it’s ridiculous, and the thing is [...] he’s filming and runs into other people that verify they see what he’s seeing.  Tons of neighbors and old friends who validate his stories, and it’s tough to see what their motivation would be for doing so."  
And what does a man randomly setting himself on fire have to with all this?  Who knows?  Just check out the film and find out....


Friday, August 4, 2017

Ishmael Reed's MUMBO JUMBO

From Jonathan McAloon's 8-1-17 Guardian article entitled "Mumbo Jumbo:  A Dazzling Classic Finally Gets the Recognition It Deserves":

"[Ishmael Reed's] 10 novels are, for the most part, subtle satires on race, worked into settings such as the OJ Simpson trials, a US civil war in which photocopiers exist and a wild west where cowboys wield laser guns. But Mumbo Jumbo is the most dazzling of them all. Set ostensibly in the 1920s, Reed’s novel follows conspiracy theories ranging backwards and forwards through time. A 'plague' called Jes Grew has spread from New Orleans and caused half the country to dance recklessly, enjoy jazz and have a new appreciation for African American culture. Religious orders like the Knights Templar and the hi-tech Wallflower Order (responsible in Reed’s novel for the Depression and the US occupation of Haiti) seek to destroy an ancient Egyptian text that the Jes Grew may 'want'.

"But Jes Grew is 'an anti-plague', the spirit of innovation and freedom of self-expression itself: 'Jazz. Blues. The new thang … Your style.' Reed took a snatch of the preface to 1922’s The Book of American Negro Poetry, in which James Weldon Johnson says 'the earliest Ragtime songs, like Topsy, "jes" grew' – they just happened – and turned it into a clever literary device that exposes people’s prejudice.

"While some believe the media invented Jes Grew to sell papers, Harlem Voodoo priest Papa LaBas is drawn into the search for its ancient text. Unbeknown to him, a Muslim scholar has already found it, translated it and had it rejected by a publishing house. The slip is found next to his dead body: 'The "Negro Awakening" fad seems to have reached its peak and once more people are returning to serious writing … A Negro editor here said it lacked "soul" and wasn’t "Nation" enough.'

"Made up of newspaper cuttings and party invites, handwritten notes and footnotes, contemporaneous and contemporary photographs, Mumbo Jumbo gives one a sense of Reed just using everything that captures his own imagination. This is exhilarating because, like jazz, the novel feels improvisatory and ambitious. Reed embraces ridiculousness, while lending the ridiculous weight. It is a funny book about conspiracy theories that nonetheless feels serious and true, encompassing potted histories of Voodun loas and the Crusades, essays on Christ’s laughter and the cotton trade ('Was it some unusual thrill at seeing the black hands come in contact with the white crop?'), and a postmodern alternative creation myth involving Osiris, Incas, Homer and Moses."

To read the rest of McAloon's article, click HERE.