When you’re cornered and don’t have a friend you can count on, He is there. When you need brain and brawn, He is there. And when it seems like all hope is lost – HE ARRIVES!
Rene Descartes: Private Investigator!
Episode 1: Cogito Ergo Done
When you’re cornered and don’t have a friend you can count on, He is there. When you need brain and brawn, He is there. And when it seems like all hope is lost – HE ARRIVES!
Rene Descartes: Private Investigator!
Episode 1: Cogito Ergo Done
I always thought outer space would be more glamourous than this.
I joined the Spacemen’s Academy as soon as I was out of school, thinking that I might get a chance to explore the outer systems, maybe be an Alien fighter, or even scrounge for Palladium – but no. According to the Space Federation, my eyesight is 20-80, I’m not “physically capable of operating space weapons”, so I’m just a pilot of a freighter on an Inventory Fleet.
I fly alone for StarMax Systems’ Frigate StarMaxFC0012, replenishing all StarMax beverage and snack dispensaries on any given planet, spaceport, or other service station. It sucks.
I figured that this trip I was taking would suck as well, but much to my surprise, and very contrary to my expectations, this would prove to be one of the most fantastic experiences of my life….
[Edwin the Singing Penguin is a rising star in the anthropomorphic-operetta circuit (not to mention the underground anthropomorphic-operetta scene); a penguin of singular talent, drive, and deep emotion and expression. As he ascends to what will without a doubt be star studded and glorious career, we make necessary time here to both chronicle and laud his conquest of both anthropomorphic-operetta and music itself! ]
Translated and reprinted from La Republica:
“Sunday, February 15, 2015:
In what was surely one of the most spectacular evenings of opera in recent memory, Edwin the Singing Penguin took the stage at the Auditorio Nacional Adela Reta to make his South American debut.
There had been much excitement and anticipation leading up to the opening performance for Trafalfo e la Pizza di Amore, which served as the additional debut for librettist Dr. Herbert Montreaux. While his critical writings have carried much weight in Montevideo and beyond, his artistic oeuvres had hitherto been only digested among the small art houses of the western states of America, and enthusiasts of both the contemporary avant garde and the nascent sub genre of anthropomorphic operetta were eagerly anticipating the affair, as well.
However, there was little doubt as to what the largest cause of the buzz around this particular bill for the Auditorio Nacional was for: Edwin the Singing Penguin. In this day and age of instant stardom and the breakdown between the artist on stage and the man in his private chamber, the relative ‘unknown’ status of Edwin the Singing Penguin is surely a distinctive marker. Near as we are to the Falklands, we have all naturally heard the reports of a penguin with an earnest appreciation for operatic performance. One of course immediately questions whether such a moniker is meant to be taken literally, and those stories seem to be purposefully vague. No visual record exists, only a smattering of recordings from the “Shackleton Hut Club”, which our research has revealed to be more a bordello than opera house.
Equally intriguing was how Dr. Montreaux, who has only been on this continent twice, for a lecture series in Bogota in 2003 and again in 2008, as part of the “Conference on Hegemony and Propaganda”, held that year in Buenos Aires, could be so intimate with so fresh a talent as Edwin the Singing Penguin to have already collaborated with Edwin the Singing Penguin on this operetta, writing the libretto and assisting with Edwin in the arrangement of the musical score.
Dr. Montreaux characterizes their pairing as a matter of chance:
“It was a perfect confluence of circumstances that I should happen to have been traveling to Stanley Island for respite right when Edwin was first heard at the harbour, humming in that velvety tenor of his. News certainly travels quickly in those quaint little hamlets, so I naturally took in a performance at the Shackleton Hut Club, and was, obviously, completely agog”
Dr. Montreaux was decidedly coy regarding Edwin the Singing Penguin’s true identity, as either a complete marvel of biology or simply a man dressed as a penguin, and rehearsals at the Auditorio were closed to the public. Rumors had been circulating that the cast consisted entirely of penguins that Dr. Montreaux had gathered and trained to sing and dance, and despite the growing global awareness of Edwin the Singing Penguin, he was nowhere to be seen in the weeks leading up to the performance.
As such, there was a palpable air of eagerness as the seats in the Auditorio began to fill. The utter spectacle surrounding the operetta brought a much more disparate audience than is normally seen at such debuts, and indeed, it became widely known that Mem Nahadr was going to be in attendance.
The program notes were a marvel in themselves, containing a voluminous address by Dr. Montreaux, who has never been known for being terse in his publications, which outlined the central themes and motifs of the operetta, as well as a thorough explanation of those themes’ solid grounding in critical theory.
The mystery was now finally revealed: Edwin the Singing Penguin was indeed a penguin who could sing like a man and not a man who looked and/or dressed like a penguin; the cast consisted almost entirely penguins, with Edwin playing the title role of Trafalgo, who, amid bouts of insomnia and hallucinatory encounters with beings of his own mind’s creation, manages to win the love of Eva, daughter of the insidious Count Grecci, who, it is revealed, has been poisoning Trafalgo with tainted pieces of pizza while Trafalgo is tutoring to Eva in the Count’s castle. Both Grecci and Eva were to be played by penguins named Ilthuain and Isolde, respectively; the delightful Raquel Pierotti was the only human on the play bill, who was undertaking the role of Treva, Trafalgo’s teaching assistant and secret admirer.
Finally the lights dimmed, and the house managed to quiet their chatter and animated predictions, if not their hearts.
What followed has of course been well documented on Twitter and other facets of social media; but please take a moment to let this reviewer, who has been paying close attention to opera, both in Montevideo and abroad, give his professional opinion.
Were the opera to have lasted no longer than the overture and the first act, it would’ve been a total tour de force, a rapturous victory of art, and the most amazing single thing I have ever seen on a stage. Edwin the Singing Penguin is not a great vocal talent, but if we are to make allowances for the fact that he is, after all, a penguin who taught himself to sing, he is a miracle.
The poise and control exhibited by this penguin, who, it must also be remembered, is hindered by lungs which are several sizes smaller than even an undersized tenor, is nothing short of breathtaking. His plumage was immaculate and gave the impression of imperial armor and was befitting of his command of the stage for those first glorious minutes of the operetta.
The resulting pandemonium which ensued can be chalked up to the unreadiness of the other penguins, specifically, the fact that they seemed to be ordinary penguins that Dr. Monreaux had dressed in elaborate costuming and simply set upon the stage. Much credit must be given to the professionalism of the orchestra and of Edwin and Miss Periotti, who carried on as best they were able amid the loud and unceasing squawking; Dr. Montreaux appears to have desired to create this effect as a metaphoric element. There did indeed seem to be a certain discordant beauty to the cacophony of the high pitched calls the other penguins were making among themselves; however, the increasing amounts of penguin feces present on the stage soon made for an atmosphere and odor too pungent to bear for many in attendance.
It would behoove Edwin the Singing Penguin to move on to new collaborators, given his talent. While the daringness of Dr. Montreaux, which has certainly never been in short supply, is certainly appreciated by this reviewer, such an antagonistic style is ultimately an inhibiting factor for the development of what may surely be one the new stars of opera.”
“Oooo-oui! That looks like some of that “High Powered Rocket Fuel” I’ve been hearing so much about lately!” said Wesley, wide-eyed. His breathing was in clumps, rolling out of him and down his chest as he handled the unmarked bottle of clear viscuous liquid Norman had produced from his orange satchel, twirling it slowly like a rotisserie gas-station hotdog, the liquid shuffling over itself in globs.
“Ah, why, yes Wes, it is some of that “High Powered Rocket Fuel”, replied Norman, tongue poking out of the edge of his mouth.
Things were getting out of hand; I wasn’t sure why I came here. There are those evenings when one realizes the exact proportions of their own depth only the moment after they’ve plunged slightly below, slightly too far to get back. Wes of course is a Mariana Trench of spiritual and psychic exploration- this I know. But evenings like this, when Wes puts on his multi-colored lights and that music, and strong drinks gave way to various strains of bud, and normal conversation turns mystical, and that strange aura burns off Wes and you feel it too, to say nothing of Wesley’s strange friends like Norman, who take too many washroom trips and spend slightly too much time in there and then foment a certain sinister weirdness- these evenings tend to sweep you away; High Powered Rocket Fuel hardly seems out of place. I am compelled.
“Well, let’s see what all the fuss is about” I say. Jesus! Why did I say that!
“Howard! Good man!” Wesley eyes appear to glow blue. He uncaps the bottle, tilts it, viscuous fluid inching towards him. “How much do I need?” he asks.
“Not much. A sip will do; a gulp will probably be over-doing.”
“Ha! Well, Norm, I’d be nothing if not a gulper and one who belabors any point that could be made. Here’s a point…of departure! Ha! Let’s go there! Let’s just abandon rational thought for the rest of tonight!” He takes a considerable chug; his face contorts and scrunches. “Good Lord! Miserable! It’s like eating glue!”
“It helps if you drink something with it.”
“Fucking right.” Norman has already taken a sip. I try to gauge how much he’s taken, but depth perception has become an issue for me.
The bottle is in my right hand. The liquid looks like molasses, clear, thick, granules of varying size floating around at varying paces.
“Jesus, it’s like a cosmos, uh, a galaxy!”. I’ve just said that aloud; no indication, thankfully, of either of them hearing me….or Spencer. Spencer! I forgot: Spencer is on the couch, passed out; he surpassed his depth almost immediately and has drowned, metaphorically speaking. Although, in the red and green light emanating from Wesley’s lamps, Spencer looks….spectral. Wrong word, probably. Jesus, I shouldn’t be drinking any of this. A sip, though; a sip.
But, of course, its more than a sip; tooooo drunk. A paste-like texture, warm; I imagine akin to eating damp paper towel.
“How quick does this work?” I stutter.
“Now” says Norman. He cocks an eyebrow; tongue now drooping out of the left side of his mouth, a curt and tense smirk slowly ascending up his face. His facial hair looks like writhing ants. Oh god: horrible paranoia: I can’t trust Norman.
Don’t trust Norman. He just wants to get us fucked up to laugh at us, or worse. But he is Wes’ friends….Jesus. I feel as though my legs are being slowly hoisted up in a hospital bed. It seems as though I can imagine a scenario of hospitalization for what seems to be intestinal inflammation whilst still maintaining stuttering conversation with Wes, who is now victim to a fit of giggles.
“Right now, I really want to watch television; I hope to God it works! I’d be devastated, just DEVASTATED otherwise! Hahaha!” he howls, head tilted back on the couch.
Television: Soccer Highlights: Sunderland against Newcastle: Sunderland wins in dramatic fashion at the last moment: Paulo Di Canio, manager of Sunderland, runs up and down the touchline screaming, leaping, punching the air.
“Hahahaha! He’s a LUNATIC! And a NAZI!” bellows Wesley. “And just look at those grub-faced people in the stands! Jesus. 40,000 people sitting together to watch teenagers kick a ball! My god! We’re all insane!”
This shit is hitting me weird. The room is normal beyond optical effects that my earlier combination of substances tends to produce, but my brain feels like a computer. I begin to understand the connectivity of synapses, veins, musculature; I am conceptualizing my body in exquisite detail. Flashes of my earlier hospital bed imaginings: Doc says I got the worms.
Television: A Show Called “Morgan Freeman Is God”, wherein Morgan Freeman explains all of phenomenological reality. This is Wesley’s favorite show.
“My savior! Norman! Have you seen this show before?”
“No”. Norman looks metallic in the easy-chair, inert, overly-observant; a fucking human-android drone.
Jesus, that can’t be real; but if it were real, I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Like, I imagine, easily, that Norman could in fact be a highly sophisticated robot designed to spy on random people purely for the sake of spying on random people, an avatar of common experience. Like, people just watch video of this fucking robot going around living a normal (Oh my god! NORMal! That would make sense!), uh, a normal human life- well normal in the sense that using recreational drugs would be normal; just pure voyeurism and scopophilia to the max. And idiots would watch it, too.
“Ha! You said it! Yes, Norm, this show is amazing. Did you know that Morgan Freeman understood the universe when he was a child?” Norman gives a noiseless chuckle. I don’t like him; his vibes are no good. And this shit is hitting me really weird; various strains of thought and cognition seem to be trailing off like laundry lines from my forehead, branching out in every direction; reverberating phrases repeated over one another until it becomes a mash of noise.
“When I was boy I was fascinated by my shadow”
“Ha! I TOLD you! Wait for the visuals!”
“It seemed strange to me that the only way I could perceive light was its absence. It made me wonder: what is nothing? Does it have tangible properties? Could it in fact be….something…after all?”
“Hahahahahahahaha!” Wesley’s laughter is enveloping the room, like that pink insulator shit behind the walls; like it’s coming from the walls. Good Lord!
On the television: sudden zoom into Morgan Freeman’s right eye, in which is contained the Milky Way; continued zoom towards the patch of the Milky Way which contains the Solar system; faster zoom, past the Oort Cloud, past what one assumes is Pluto, over Neptune, under Uranus, between the rings of Saturn, right next to the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, its many moons hurtling past like beads of sweat, continuing through a multitude of asteroids, past Mars, Earth growing larger and larger in the screen; slower zoom, through clouds, towards north America, over the mid-west, birds eye view towards a city, streets, trees, apartment, through the ceiling- stop, hovering now, fly-on-the-ceiling view overlooking a living room: a young man wearing a paisley robe drinks liberally from an unmarked bottle containing a viscous and clear liquid; another sits sprawled in a bean bag chair, appearing to be stoned to the gills; a figure who has been lying down sits up and looks at the television, which portrays the very same room.
“Woah! Its us!” Spencer shouts. Woah! Its us! Shouts the figure on the television. Atop a manikin whose head has been removed is a camera. Cut to said camera: pov : man on the floor heaves with ruptures of silent laughter; man on bean bag looks on in utter horror; man on couch begins drinking from the unmarked bottle.
I look up and see a moth or cricket or spider or some fucking bug on the ceiling; it does not appear to have a camera attached to it. Looking back at the television, I see Wesley’s face contorted with manic laughter bathed in orange light on the screen.
“Wait!” He shouts, channelling to some random tennis match amid more rippling giggling. “I’ve got an idea. My apartment is perfect for like, a talk show!”
“What?” I’m confused. Spencer lies back down and is again unconscious; his non-prescription glasses fall to the floor.
“I agree” says Norman, scratching at his chin.
“Yes! We’re going to film it, too, from each of our own perspectives, then we can edit it and do shit with tryptich and whatever else. It’ll be great!”
“Our phones! So let’s make our characters….so I think it should be a literary show, don’t you?”
“Absolutely. Let’s be co-hosts, Wes, and we’ll be interviewing Howard about a new book he’s just published.” Rasps Norm.
“Ooooh yes! You dig that, Howard?”
“I think so.”
“Okay! So, I’ll be called Kyle Francois. Norm, you can be Ryan- or Norm. Co-host; side-kick, yes? Howard, how about Jesse Marks, author?”
“Works for me”. I feel as though someone is hugging me from behind.
“Okay! Great! So, Jesse (hahaha!), wait outside until I come get you; we’ll just like, roll with it. You can improv, right? Hahaha! Okay!”
He seems different. Wesley is one to take a bit or joke or whatever as far as it will go, and he seems to have created a backstory for this character known only to him.
Outside is cold. Wesley lives near a small creek, and I can hear ducks being throttled by an animal that is making a wretched and high-pitched squeal. My phone is on, camera set to video. I am recording Wesley’s door, white, plain, for an unknown amount of time. A disconcerting sense of hollowness enters my mind, that somehow there’s nothing behind this door, that I’ve been duped.
But then Kyle Francois opens the door, and I enter into a room that is bathed in orange, the multi-colored bulbs replaced. A song is playing which sounds like National Health….or something like that. Kyle and Norm are pantomiming laughter and jovial gesturing, Kyle sitting agile and cat-like on the arm of the large blue easy chair where Norm reclines, hands clasped together. Kyle has changed his threads, replaced his robe with red-grey camouflage shorts, a heavy wool plaid jacket, and hiking boots; Norm has put on a snap-brim cap.
“Let’s fade out the music, ” Kyle whispers to Norm. His voice has changed slightly from Wesley’s, which I suppose makes sense since he isn’t Wesley…
“Welcome, welcome to another episode of the….show. This week we have the pleasure of having Jesse Marks, who’s just put out a new novel. But first: Norm, would you offer Jesse a drink?”
“Of course! Jesse….what’ll you drink?”
“Ahhh, well, I’m a whiskey man, in truth….uhhhhh” I’m toooo drunk and toooo stoned and tooooo Rocket Powered. Kyle is talking in a bizarre mixture of antiquated idioms and a vibrant jutting hep-type vernacular. Norm returns with a glass that is half whiskey and half High Powered Rocket Fuel.
They begin discussing the newest book Jesse Marks has written about a man who grapples with the conflicting religious beliefs of his Scientologist father and his Orthordox Jewish mother amid the chaos of the immediate aftermath of 9/11 in NYC. I watch, live, on my phone’s camera as Jesse Marks responds in listing, slurred, nonsensical answers, punctuated with crude grunts and curses. None of it makes any sense. Kyle is tossing a pen in the air and catching between his fingers:
“But what does the protagonist WANT! What does he want! Norm, his protagonist wants something, I ask him what that is!”
“Kyle, I’d say given the motivational ambiguity, perhaps the protagonist, Roger, wants what he already has.”
“Ahhh splendid! Do you agree, Jesse?”
“Uhhhhh….I just wanted to convey a man’s attempt to connect to a natural truth in the face of an artificial….uhhhhh…”
“What about your controversial over-use of semi-colons?”
“Shit…maaan…..9/11 WAS a fucking semi-colon in history….shiiit”
Fade to Black.
[As you may be aware, Dino Manonne is a man of many adventures and exploits, peaks and nadirs, (near) successes and catastrophic failures, all of which make him a vast mountain range of experience. From time to time, he sits down and types some of them out for us: Dino Remembers– Jesse]
A Total Fucking Waste of My Time: I Blow My One Chance of Collaborating with and Fucking Goldie Hawn
So it’s Valentine’s Day, 1981 or ’82. Don’t quite remember because, again, I was pretty fucked up and 1972 until 1985 feels like it all happened over a weekend. Doesn’t matter.
But anyway, we’re at Clive’s house for his Valentine’s Day shindig, which back in those days was basically a fuck fest. I am very lucky to have been invited to this party- no idea how it happened. Crystal Grass* was never a “big deal” at any point, I’ll freely admit. But I suppose in the music business or any business it helps to “know people”, and we certainly knew people who allowed us to score some high quality “party favors”, which was certainly another large part of Clive’s parties.
So it’s a fun night, we’re up our own noses, schmoozing, boozing, and I see Goldie Hawn. Now, I was certainly a fan, and on top of that, she’d been talking to Clive about trying out another record, because I mean every fucking movie star tried out a record in those days, so I’m thinking I can get in on all of that, if you catch my drift.
So I amble over there, probably white-nosed and google eyed, but fuck it. It’s a fucking party and it’s not like everyone else there wasn’t a jittering freak, too. I’m talking like 6 words at once- basically like, “this is going to be both a chance for Goldie to break out again and for a new direction for the band we shouldn’t be thinking too much about all this fucking bullshit space or cowboy shit we need get back to thick cuts and thick jams and shit and “Goldie” was a pretty solid album but it was like fucking 4 or 5 years too late and like it could’ve been more thick if you feel me like it sounds like she’s skipping in a fucking garden for some of those tracks she needs to be like screaming you know fucking primal grooves if you feel me because that’s the thing these days Clive is shit is fucking plastic like we need goop on our tracks you know what I mean like I can see like Goldie like standing over a fucking manhole cover like fucking hefting it up and screaming down into the gutter at the fucking rats and vermin and alligators you feel me and like they’re making this wretched fucking retort roaring back up at her and you just put like a hefty fucking beat on top of that right and it’s fucking see-saw this fucking you know balance between good and evil but there’s a bit of each in both if you know what I mean Clive I’ve got the fucking tapes I’ve been laying this shit down Clive you feel me?”
And what was so great about those days was Clive was not entirely opposed to the idea, based on my pitch, and I was getting some fucking traction. Goldie wasn’t completely on board but then again, what the fuck did she know about music, anyway?
So I’m feeling pretty alright, it’s Valentine’s Day, it’s Clive’s party, let’s fucking party. There was a band there, which I think I was actually supposed to be a part of, but again, back then people just kind of did whatever the fuck the wanted. So I’m trying to warm up to Goldie because I’m fucked up and I wanna jam, schmoozing some more with Clive because I need to get my name on something that isn’t just B level back up shit.
Then the band is playing, and Clive, whose now as totally out of his fucking gourd as I am, for some reason wants me to get up and sing some shit or something. I don’t really know for sure anymore. So fuck it, sure, let’s sing a song or whatever. But at this point I’m just thinking about Goldie, seal the fucking deal. So I stumble up there and I’m just going to fucking nail it:
So that’s my big fucking oeuvre, which I’m pretty convinced as gone over swimmingly. It has not. In fact, the general atmosphere of uncontrolled libidinousness has freaked Goldie the fuck out, and she now has changed her mind about not only working with me but with the whole album. Not good.
It was these sorts of things which, in looking back, definitely contributed to my early exit from the band and the first of a few hiatuses from the business. But by the same token, fuck it, you know?
*Dino was keyboardist and back up singer for Crystal Grass from 1976-1981, a group led by singer/songwriter Steve Leach.
The other day I was a bit of lint under my dresser.
I lay motionless in the shade, time not existing for me, as centuries passed by me and days accumulated like little bits of paper. I watched a thousand people build false-fronted saloons with swing doors. Volcanoes developed on my now unused loafers.
It’s too cold.
“It’s too cold!”
One year I saw an ant; he sniffed, felt me with his feelers, then dragged me away. There was only darkness.
Rick the Ant argued unsuccessfully with the other ants that perhaps they should leave apartment no. 7. There were only a handful of them left; maybe they should start over somewhere else.
But they wouldn’t listen. They could smell something yummy in the kitchen, and they all went running toward it.
When the inevitable happened, when they were all coated in cleaning fluid, slowly suffocating on the fumes or drowning in puddles, Rick really couldn’t complain: it was really yummy.
Whatupskis! So, it’s been awhile, dooders. Totes my bad. But I’ve been doing a lot of artistic shit on the side, to say nothing of the fact that I kinda view all of my life as a living novel/art instillation, so, like, putting things down on paper or on the internet just seems kinda inadequate, amiright?
Buuuuuut I know Jesse asked me to pitch in from time to time, so I got really fucked up and looked through my fridge last nite. FEED YOUR HEAD.
Oh man…..I’m really hungry. I’m so hungry….so hungry….that….I don’t know what to get in the fridge….guess…..guess I’ll take a look.
It’s…..fridge is so cold.
Oh…I think, uh, I think I had….some muffins. Let’s see.
Ohhhhhhh no there’s, there’s, uh…..no muffins. Maybe I ate them yesterday……
Sometimes I forget……muffins…..well, uh, well, maybe I have some, oh, uh, some pizza leftover from the other day: no, no pizza, either. I’d really like some pizza….like, pizza with some pepperoni, yeah that’d be sweet….and maybe, uh, sausage….yeah….yeah…that’d be good, yeah..and maybe some mushrooms too, yeah….mushrooms, uh, mushrooms are okay on a pizza for me….yeah….and…oh, it would tastes so good….yeah….it’s almost like I can taste it now. Pretty good. Yeah.
I guess I could go and, uh, get it now: call the place, uh, order my pizza then walk down there to get the pizza then walk back here and eat the pizza. Yeah, sweet, I think, I think….I think that’s what I’ll do….make the call. Yeah. I’ve got a loud phone, I forget.
There, I ordered it.
But it’s….oh! But its really…it’s so cold….just…..no way, too much. I’m going to be hungry forever….forever….
Yeah, I know. Pretty fucking awesome. Yeah, I know. It is kinda like Burroughs and Joyce looking through a fridge together. Thanks.
Well, chowser Bowser. I’ll check in later with some more BOOM BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE.