Zanzibar Circus 3/17/22

It’s been awhile. Happy St. Patrick’s Day. At least the aliens are green.

#ZanzibarCircus #JonathanKieran #JonathanKieranAuthor #DarkComics #Illustrations #DarkHumor #AlienAbductions #AnalProbes #LittleGreenMen #FarmToTable #SustainableFood

My One and Only Bradshaw

There can be little question that I was fated to meet and become a friend of celebrated multi-media artist Robert Bradshaw, whose recent death at age 90 I am now saddened to report. Along with the sadness, I find myself a little bewildered that his passing was not marked with much (if any) public fanfare—Bob had long been an award-winning stalwart of both the Carmel and Palm Springs, CA artistic scenes, his work gracing some of the finest galleries in California and abroad. Nevertheless, Bob was retired and significantly older. He is survived by his longtime companion, Angelo, and I get the distinct sense that, with advancing age, the two (quite understandably) retreated a bit from the social activity demanded by the artistic milieu in Palm Springs, where Bob passed away.

Then again, Bob was always an enigmatic spirit who relished the wide success of his atmospheric, unique multimedia paintings and cared fairly little for the more glamorous elbow-rubbing that came along with the thrill of sales and gallery openings. Wry & dry of wit, gentlemanly to his very core, and wise in a winsomely mercurial fashion, Bob was a marvel. The story of how we met and became friends is truly one for the proverbial books.

After living for a year in Europe in 1993, I returned to the USA and moved almost immediately to California, scanning the Western “horizon of all horizons” for new opportunities and meaningful life-adventures in San Francisco. That city was still inhabitable by the hoi polloi in 1994 and I was able to find an apartment (in the then-newly revamped-and-revamping Hayes District) and a job quite easily. At the time, I was working as a waiter and barista at a fantastic three-level restaurant housed in a stately old Victorian on Diamond Street. The place was called “Ryan’s” and its namesake owners, Michael Ryan and his wife, chef Lenore Nolan-Ryan, decorated their popular eatery with some of the quirkiest, most brooding, and enchantingly surreal artworks I had ever seen on display in such a setting. I commented upon the superb quality of the paintings on my first day, in fact, and Mr. Ryan mentioned that these works had been created by their longtime friend, Bob Bradshaw, who lived a few doors down in their apartment building and who owned a successful home goods store on nearby Castro Street. At the time, Bob was painting as an enthusiast, rather than as a professional.

Fast forward to late 1996. I had left San Francisco for the quainter climes of Monterey, down the Central Coast, and had completely forgotten any initial remarks made about the paintings that bedecked the Ryans’ restaurant in the city. I had moved into an apartment complex not far from the heart of downtown Monterey and, coming and going as one does, I often noticed a slightly older gent in his 50s standing on his balcony directly above my own apartment, drinking his coffee (or martini) and gazing out at the beauty of the nearby oak grove. Being of a neighborly disposition, I waved and exchanged greetings whenever I saw him. Chatted about the weather or other niceties. We didn’t introduce ourselves beyond first names, but after a couple of months in the new place, the gentleman kindly invited me up for a home-cooked dinner. Lamb was on the menu and there was apparently an abundance of it. He couldn’t possibly eat all of it himself. The invitation was so friendly and casual that I was not inclined to beg off, so I dressed appropriately and went upstairs later in the evening to get to know my neighbor.

The moment I walked into the entryway of his smartly decorated place, something jogged my memory. Something I could not quite put a finger upon. My congenial host fixed me a drink and asked me to relax in the living room where we could carry on a light conversation as he worked diligently on supper around the corner in the kitchen. We made small talk about ourselves and our backgrounds, breaking the ice easily because we were both well-traveled and facile conversationalists. But something about his apartment’s decor continued to intrigue in a riddling way. I looked about, searching for clues in the very ether. What was it? After a few more moments sipping a Cosmo (the beverage de rigeur, then) and savoring the smells of braised lamb, the puzzle seemed ostensibly solved. The paintings on the walls—evocative and enchanting, like fever-dreams whispered by Hieronymus Bosch into the somnambulant mind of Salvador Dali—jolted me out of my cogitations.

“You know something,” I called into the kitchen, “the paintings you have throughout your place remind me very much of these works that decorated a restaurant I worked in a couple of years ago, up in the city. An excellent place called Ryan’s. They have virtually the same ambience, I swear. Sorry to say that I can’t remember the artist’s name.”

A grey-haired head, owlish behind round spectacles, popped briefly around the corner. “Not to worry. You have a good eye. The paintings you saw at Ryan’s in San Francisco were mine. I’m the artist, Robert Bradshaw. I painted all of the ones you see here, as well.” Then his head returned to the dinner preparations, having delivered that revelation in the most dry, matter-of-fact tone imaginable.

I nearly fell off my chair! What were the chances?

Needless to say, I had made a friend for life. Fortuna has her irresistible rewards … when she spins her wheel with an extra bit of serendipitous flair.

Over the ensuing years, Bob and I had ample opportunity to stay in touch and get to know each other better as both pals and artists. He bit the bullet and submitted some of his works to the very selective Carmel Art Association, becoming an almost instant success. I published my first work of fiction (a comic novel under a different nom de plume) to delightful cross-country reception in 2000, and Bob was as thrilled for me as I was for his watershed moment. It had been his dream sell his work at some point in life; he had started out as a professional illustrator decades earlier, so we had quite a few things in common.

Best of all, Bob took me under his wing for a spell and demonstrated his unique creative method, which involved a complex process of multiple India inkings on distressed canvas or hard board, followed by multiple ink-washes to uncover and reveal successive layers of visual atmosphere, followed by the later interpolation of his charming and surrealist figures and subjects. I was spellbound and fairly grateful to learn such a curious technique from a master—by that point, Bob had already become one of the most celebrated figures on the Carmel art scene. I have created a couple of works utilizing his style (combined with my own touches) but the time has not yet come to reveal them. Like Bob, perhaps I shall wait to unleash them when most of my many and varied other artistic projects have been achieved and the hour is ripe for a bit of a paradigm shift.

More than anything, Bob was crucial in terms of his ability to understand and respect artistry in another professional, especially from the standpoint of our friendship—a delicate balance often fraught with more than a hint of competitiveness and neurosis in the histories of other “friendly” artists, great and small. Believe me: artists and writers are just as notorious for not getting along as they are for establishing salons populated by their (usually) seething and competitive selves. Count me in, but count me out, if you catch my drift.

As the years went on, the one thing lacking in Bob’s otherwise contented, hermit-like existence, was intimate companionship. This void was filled when he met his life-partner, Angelo, in the early Aughts. I was so happy for him. Bob and Angelo relocated to Palm Springs not long after and we stayed in touch, regularly at first and then more sporadically. I was happy to buy one of Bob’s paintings before he moved South; it still hangs with pride of place in my home. In recent years, time and distance made our communication much more sporadic, but the lasting state of friendship was never in doubt. It was with great delight that I noted Bob’s even greater successes across the Palm Springs and Southern California art scenes in the years before his retirement.

There are at least a few dozen other marvelous “Bob Bradshaw Stories” I could rattle-off, but in honor of Bob’s own fondness for personal privacy I shall respectfully refrain. He revealed much to me about his background, exciting life, and the experiences that formed his inimitable character. Suffice to say, I am honored to have been his dear friend and mourn his passing, well aware that Bob lived a charmed private and artistic existence that would be the proper envy of so many across the wider creative landscape. To learn a bit more about Bob’s extraordinary gifts, as much of his past as he was willing to share with endorsement, and his ongoing legacy, have a look at the following gallery page, where his work is still featured and where it continues to thrive.

Arrivaderci, Roberto! Say “Ciao” to Federico, Giulietta, and Nino Rota in the Vast Beyond, where starlight fades and every mood of moonlight reigns sensuously supreme.

#RobertBradshaw #RobertBradshawArtist #PalmSpringsArt #Surrealists #CarmelArtAssociation #MultimediaArtists #Obituaries #JonathanKieran #JonathanKieranAuthor #JonathanKieranArtist #Reminiscence #ArtAssociations #ArtTechniques #ArtGalleries

What’s Behind Door No. 3, pray tell?

This new piece from San Francisco Gate states that it is now less-expensive to go to Paris than it is to tool around Disneyland in California.

So, basically, they’re saying it makes more economic sense to visit a dump than it does to get taken like a chump.

Neither option appeals at this time, thank you. Let’s rearrange the playing board. How does New York City stack-up against, oh, I dunno—Dollywood?

#JonathanKieranWriter #WorldTravel #NewYork #Disneyland #Paris #Dollywood #Economics #Vacation #ApplesAndOranges #BagelsAndCorndogs #JonathanKieran

Come Back to the Five-and-Dime …

Hard to believe, but on February 22, 1879, an enterprising merchant named Frank Woolworth opened his first namesake “five-and-dime” store amid the wintry streets of Utica, NY, having no clue that his brainchild would, by 1979, form the largest chain of mercantiles on the planet.

Vending everything from roasted peanuts to tchotchkes to saltwater taffy to dry goods, Woolworth was about as emblematic an institution as America ever boasted. Perhaps most famous for its ubiquitous lunch counter service, where one could nosh on crunchy breakfast hash-browns or the most grizzled and greasy of noontime burgers, Woolworth stood head and shoulders above all other chains for nearly one hundred years.

Of course, just as soon as Woolworth had reached its apex in terms of ubiquity, along came the K Marts and Wal-Marts of the world, not to mention the come-hither burger seductions of McDonalds, enticing die-hard customers away from Woolworth’s bountiful bins like so many famished bottle-flies migrating from one moldering carcass to a freshly splayed cadaver. Oh, Ronald, you garish minx! The doom of Woolworth was sealed in short-shrift and, by the late 1980s, the legendary chain had become largely … legendary.

In the Aughts, the entire company changed its name and its corporate emphasis to Foot Locker. What a come-down. (Well, feet are typically found on the floor.)

Whether or not Woolworth might have retained some of its luster and adapted to the changing times to give proliferating horror-spawn like Family Dollar Stores an eventual run for their money is a mystery never to be solved. It certainly didn’t help that the once-indefatigable concern’s most infamous heiress, Barbara Hutton, allegedly blew through men, hooch, and money like an elephant through the store’s Peanut Packing section. That sad little gal knew how to party.

Otherwise, Happy Birthday, Woolworth’s-cum-Foot Locker! You surely put thousands of everyday Mom-and-Pop shops out of business at the height of your glory, but you were only showing the world how behemoths are supposed to “behemoth” and, in the long run, you weren’t a patch on the Walton Family and their endeavors. Besides, there’s something to be said for the look of the classic American Main Street long-defunct, and what could look more “Main Street” than the old Woolworth sign amid the hustle and bustle of yore?

#JonathanKieranWriter #JonathanKieranAuthor #Woolworth #DaysGoneBy #PoorLittleRichGirls #AmericanEnterprise #LunchCounterGlory #BarbaraHutton #JonathanKieran

Nunsense and Big Screen Dreams

Initially, I was going to write a snarky article about the two nuns in Southern California who embezzled from the private Catholic school they were running in order to go on luxurious gambling vacations together. The old battle-axes robbed working people to the tune of $850,000 by setting up a Very Special Sister Slush Fund to maintain their less than immaculately starched habits. (Ha ha ha the jokes simply write themselves whenever Catholics are involved.) When the constituents of this Catholic academy complained that these manly looking Ladies of the Wimple were always jetting off to Vegas while the school itself was operating on a shoestring budget, the gals allegedly declared that a “rich uncle” was footing the bill for their extracurricular nunsense. At all events, the Concubines of Satan got caught and the bigger, burlier, more diesel-ready of the two Holy Terrors fessed up. She has repented and is going to spend a probably eventful year in jail, so all I have left to say is that Roman Catholicism (or at least that institution’s Persons in Power) remains the gift that keeps on taking. There you have it.

Otherwise, I’ll mention only that, among any number of moribund projects in my hopper, there is now also a short film. Yes, my first. The screenplay is flowing blithely from the synapses even as we languish together in relative obscurity, Gracious Reader. Just wait until I am able to tell you about the things I will be forced to do in order to raise investment capital for the project. No wayward nuns involved. Scout’s Honor.

Eh, that’s it for today. Carry on.

#JonathanKieran #JonathanKieranAuthor #NunsOnTheLam #Embezzlement #BrotherCanYouSpareADime #JonathanKieranWriter #Commentary #PointlessBlogging #Projects #ShortFilms #Financing #Aspirations

When in doubt, go back to Byzantium

Life currently sucking a lemon? World off its nut? Feelin’ LOW? Get thee hence to Byzantium, or what memories are left of it, via John Julius Norwich’s classic A Short History of Byzantium. That’ll put some starch in your goddamned undergarments. Trust me. Just keep knives away from your tongue and red-hot pokers from your eyes. Also, do not name your son “Constantine” or your daughter “Eudocia” or your struggling non-binary spawn “Theo—ANYTHING”. M’kay? Also, listen to Mylene perform a striptease and pretend that you are in the 7th Century, surrounded by porphyry.

Meet me at the intersection of Sex and Insanity, whatever. Who CARES?

And finally … you ain’t heard the last of me.

(I always wanted to say that to someone, somewhere, when I was feeling a tad on-the-brink. I guess I just did. Better already? Not quite, but it’ll do until “better” comes along.)

PS: Icons and art will actually LAST … unless you destroy it, you image-spooked motherfuckers of damnable history. Destroying and fearing the depiction of a human person is as superstitious and as ignorant as pretending an image is divine or miraculous. It’s creepier to destroy an image, in fact. Fear-saturated cunts.

There. Whoof. That’s somewhat out of my system. Eat my umbrage.

#WaitingOnTheAsteroid #JonathanKieran #Author #Byzantium #BlindedByTheRedHotPoker #SickAndTiredOf_______ #Rumination #BackToMedievalBasics #CalmDown #PointlessBlogging

Of Course There is Hope for the Human Species

Today, January 7, 2022, I have the pleasure of informing readers that the leading or most “trending” search by countless millions of humans utilizing the gargantuan powers of the Google behemoth is:

Dr. Pimple Popper Popping Blackheads

How encouraging to know that a significant segment of the globe’s population is reverting to old-fashioned, wholesome forms of amusement amid these troubled times.

Ah, Google. The glory of a perceived anonymity that, in actuality, reveals the putrid truths about widespread human fascinations for all to see. What a particularly festering irony to behold!

But hardly a surprising one—the ogling of rancid pustules being lanced and squeezed is constantly in the Google “Top Ten” trending searches. A regular family favorite!

Bow down and tremble at the realization that your fellow adults are seeking-out this brand of entertainment with such secretive gusto. And don’t blame it on kids. For all today’s grown-ups know, they’re probably googling for porn, not pimples.

It’s over, amoebas. ’Twas a rather long, unpleasant, and painful experiment, but a few hundred thousand years of pimple-popping voyeurism (and accompanying thrills) are coming regrettably to an end. The undetected* asteroid is on its way.

Is it not the zenith of poetic justice that the earth itself may prove to be the most gloriously “popped pimple” of them all? 🤗

Sayo-freakin’-nara!

(*Undetected because astronomers were doubtless watching video of a “physician” in a bikini suck infected blackheads from the obese ass-cheeks of a hairy dude named “Bubba,” instead of scanning the universe.)

#HeartwarmingObservations #OptimisticRejoinders #TheJoysOfMisanthropy #KissYourPimplyAssesGoodbye

Just Another Voice, Braying Amid the Din

Jesus wept.


That’s one of the handful of things I believe to have actually, probably occurred “as written” in the otherwise motley hodgepodge of boring-ass accounts known as “The New Testament”.

If Jesus didn’t weep, He damned well should’ve wept. Who would fail to weep, a little, after taking a gander at this fucked-up existence? This world did not spin into being—one infinitesimal offshoot of an ancient, unfathomable BANG—to favor the weak or the torpid or the slow or the stupid or the lazy or (Jesus is REALLY crying, now) The Good.

Some researcher who earned my respect in the past (fuck it—I can’t remember his name at this late hour) once emphasized that humans are a surprisingly forgetful species, in terms of the generational retention of important events. Whether it be the original insult or squabble that started a decades-long family feud or the factual reason(s) why millions of people perished in world wars, plagues, or other natural disasters, human brains—left to their own devices and without access to up-to-the-minute documentation—tend to get very murky about serious sociological details after 40–50 years. Even after 20 years, crucial “lore” begins to break-down without unimpeachable back-up. Oh yeah.

And let’s face it: How unimpeachable do you think your “back-up” will be in 10 years? 20 years?

Facts get skewed by the average human mind within hours of witnessing “acts” that have genuinely taken place, much less the recollections of yesterday and youth. Don’t even think about giving an accurate account of some event you did not behold with your own eyes or hear with your own ears, ever.

The irony is that humans do this all the fucking time, concerning matters that have absolutely nothing to do with their own, frequently myopic, world “views”. Humans claim to see things they never saw, to have been connected to events far removed from their immediate experiences, to possess insight regarding matters that might as well be stuffed up the darkened assholes of undiscovered sea snails hoovering the sands at the bottom of the Marianas Trench.

We lie. We twist. We misspeak. We distort. We … lose perspective.

Often with the biggest smiles on our faces and the finest intentions planted in our frontal lobes.

What was my original point? (SEE! TOLD YA!)

Humans are not reliable witnesses, in general. We are not reliable memory-keepers when it comes to even the most important matters, without aid of unimpeachable documentation, and quite often our “documentation” (I’m looking at you, Old Testament and New Testament) is rather sketchy. This is why humans have, over the centuries, devised contracts and ledgers and promissory notes and judicial bodies and cameras and tape recordings and videotapes and computers and secret SPY CAMS and sundry.

And even when we see something happening, collectively, as it happened, as captured by some visual recording technique, our harebrained species will still fucking come-up with twelve different interpretations of what we are all able to witness over and over and over again with our very eyes. Different spins. Various delusions. Political assertions. Denials.

Why do I bring this up? Why do I mention this opinion, this well-researched observation about the capacity of human memory, individual and collective? (Oh, and it was historian/philosopher/theologian John McGuckin who “turned me on” to this principle—I did indeed just remember that without Googling or toggling. But, hell, I may be mistaken.)

I bring this up because we are a species in particularly serious trouble, at this point in Time.

Not that we have ever been out of serious trouble, ever, at ANY particular point in time, but some “moments” are better than others and it seems we fare best in the “moment by moment” framework of existence. I think we can all agree on that point, in the depths of our little blackened & grilled aortas.

We are in deep shit.

Our own ingenuity, as a species, has brought us to a point wherein the very protons and electrons within an atom can shudder or explode at our command. We have more power over and workable understanding of natural resources than at any other time in recorded human history, more access to such resources. We have greater sway over the horrors of disease and injustice and troublesome engineering than ever before in the annals of our kind. We have swift access to more useful and broadly disseminated information at our very fingertips than any civilization could have ever dreamed possible.

And we are still fucking everything up. Amid such thrilling promise, we nevertheless stand, tip-toed, on a precipice before the Abyss.

The kicker? This is hardly the first time such a thing has happened to us, as a species. Not by a long shot.

Ask the bloated, gluttonous Romans of Late Antiquity.

Ask the ancient Egyptians at least seven or eight earth-shattering times in their long and astounding empire.

Ask the Renaissance.

Ask the Russians.

(Don’t ask the Chinese—they already have this latest interlude mapped-out and whistling.)

In our day, as in every other “day,” those who should be held the most accountable are the least accountable.

Those who ought to “know better,” forfeit their knowledge in favor of personal and political agendas—which are always, ultimately, personal.

In an age where absolute freedom of expression has never been more accessible to the masses, those freedoms are being “canceled” by sanctimonious dogmatists on both ends of the political peanut gallery. More to the point, humans are utilizing this amazing new access to expressive freedom in reckless and damaging ways.

Let us be frank: 70% of the contemporary and glorious Information Highway is used for pornographic purposes. Tits and dicks and people fucking … well, everything they can fuck, apparently. “Things” have gotten to the point wherein I cannot stomach the daily news reports online. Reports of previously upstanding citizens snagged in base and even barbaric cyber-rings of wickedness. One level of depravity seems to replace another, day by day, week by week, month by month, and the media seems breathless to report such things. Women, children, animals, vegetables, and, yes, men abused and trafficked, abusing and trafficking.

I guess the media must indeed reveal such things. It behooves a society to know, even if the same society doesn’t really do jack-shit to address the core horror. After all, we have a pill and a plan and publicist for everything. A cornucopia of resources.

Just like Bacchus.

Well, all of that is what it is, and some would say: “Power to the People!” in that regard, and I echo that statement. I’m not against freedom. No way, baby. In fact, there is no such thing as a lack of freedom.

Seriously.

If people “feel” they are not free, they have been and continue to be free to overthrow their oppressors by all sorts of ways and means, justified and unjustified. I support that. Some throughout history have killed themselves to escape intense pain, oppression, daily agony, and the reasonable knowledge that their fortunes are unlikely to change. I support that, as well.

I certainly prefer so-called happy endings, wherein outside individuals of courage rise to the challenge and fight to free the oppressed and the captive and the suffering.

But if the courageous are in short supply and the horizon is one bleak, obsidian night for any individual with control of his or her faculties … escape as best you can. Even unto death. What greater freedom can there be? To reject and outwit one’s oppressor, against every probability and without recourse, and escape. Escape and run for your life, even if you are shot in the back as you run.

I believe that every civilization has the right to destroy itself and then be refashioned amid the slog of a merciless Dark Age. Go for it.

I was personally devastated by two more tragedies in the news this week—the adult piece of shit who “allegedly” plowed into the Christmas parade in Wisconsin (WISCONSIN, for Christ’s sake!) and the “kid” who “allegedly” shot and killed three other kids and a teacher at his high school.

Two different circumstances, different individuals. Who knows what made the adult do it? Psychosis? Well, if so, the powers that be saw it coming, and coming, and coming.

But let’s just coddle. Coddle coddle coddle.

That’s always a great solution with human beings. Forget about the time and effort it takes to instill character into a child as a parent—let’s just coddle, instead. Whether your parents are merely “present” or your only parent is the government … coddle away. Psychoses flourish like algae in such circumstances. Look at all the pretty colors! The phosphorescence. The DIVERSITY!

The kid who ”supposedly” shot those individuals in Michigan—they are killed DEAD, they will never be seen again in any world or existence, not as they lived and breathed—what made him snap?

Well, even a cursory glimpse at the heartbreaking affair affords a major clue.

Crumbly. Ethan Crumbly.

Jesus Christ Almighty. (And I type that with antagonized reverence)

What chance did that little sonofabitch have in the public school system in Michigan with a surname like that?

CRUMBLY?

Think of the decades of neurosis built-into a clan with a name like that. Especially along the merciless Northern tier. I’m not making light of anything, either. My mother hailed from a family whose French surname translated into “Little Idiots.”

Yeah.

Oh, they were wonderful people, but also known for “issues.” The surname got attached to them at some point in the past, for a big smacking reason, probably.

But at least they could hide it because most people on the U.S. side of the border would rather be impaled than speak the Quebecois that 80% of their own surnames belied.

CRUMBLY. How the hell does the name “Crumbly” get attached to you in a family history? In the 20th Century?! You’re sentencing your kids to DOOM by keeping that name. Don’t buy guns and marry dominating fat women who will only make you and your spawn look weaker because she is desperate to overdo everything in order to overcome the burden of taking-on the name CRUMBLY. Change the surname! Everyone’s surname has been altered or twiddled over the centuries. Change it, assholes.

(And don’t scoff. The emperor Caligula had senators tortured and killed because he heard they rolled their eyes when he introduced his horse as a member of the same Senate. Little details get NOTICED.)

People—parents—-in these coddled times think that their offspring are pure as the driven snow. Angels, every one of them! Look at their faces and poses on Instagram! See how they smile on my Facebook timeline? Their teeth are shining white, as well! Oh, fake-adore me vicariously by “liking” this photo of my CHILD.

Children are, for the most part, feral little fucktard monsters. The ones born and bred into the public school systems since the grievous infiltration of post-Structuralism were/are even more devious and savage than the pre-World War specimens, by far. There has been a massive disconnect, but that’s another essay.

Suffice it to say that, today, in any public or private school, there exists an emotional disorder for every fucking pimple.

Trust me—I know. I grew up in the milieu that gave birth to this insatiable Hydra. If anyone thinks that most children are cherubic, delightful bits of fruit dropped from the steamy womb, think again.

I had a lot of strikes against me as a kid: born into a successful business family on the border of Quebec, where the vast majority of your youthful peers were hulking farm-kids and, frankly, products of inbreeding.

I wasn’t popular in my own home (!), so it was paramount that I find a way to become popular in school, where we were sent for eight hours a day while Dad sold cars and Mother ogled soap operas while pushing the occasional appliance-button, both of them working-up resentment to pile upon their kids when everyone got home sweet home.

I was lucky that I looked good. All apologies for admitting that ugly children exist in this world, but they damned well do—you know it, I know it, we ALL know it.

Certainly, when I was growing up, routine plastic surgeries and invasive cosmetic makeovers were not an option for any child dwelling outside of Manhattan or Beverly Hills, so kids had to live with what happened to explode and subsequently sprout from the birth canal.

Spare a thought for ugly children. I saw them being tortured mercilessly by other, better-looking, inherently vile children at school, and I remain stunned that our high school remained free from gun incidents, because our region was Gunny Gun-Gun Guntry.

Another thing must be said: in my experience, all children are bullied in a public school system. There’s always a nemesis or two, always a gripe, always a conflict that must be dealt-with.

I was raised by wolves, but they were smart, sarcastic wolves, so I had a few weapons at my disposal and adapted when the going got really tough. Overcompensation. Be the smartest but also be the most aggressive and pushy, if you sense the sharks circling—and sharks are always circling.

If someone pushes or hits you—sorry, you weak-wispy weebies of Today—hit them back and right in the nose, even if they eventually overpower you and you lose the fight. The fact that you scored a bloody nose will be THE ENTIRE STORY passed around the lunch-room over sloppy joes and “tuna burgers.”

And don’t pick on kids who truly don’t have the wherewithal to defend themselves. If you make it into the “safe,” “un-pickable” crowd, just walk away or tell a teacher. Seriously. If you try to intervene, as a child, on behalf of a bullied child, you’ll lose all your status and be bullied, too. Children, as shifty and wicked as they are, should not have that burden on their shoulders.

Unfortunately, and quite contrary to the Happy-Dizzy “thoughts” of today’s (and yesterday’s) nincompoop parents, 80% of the teachers in any given school suck HIND TEAT when it comes to talent or oversight, and they couldn’t give a half-hearted fuck-in-the-night about the fruit of your loins. They don’t. The remaining 20% of truly kind and dedicated teachers are GOLDEN, even if they’re a bit drunk as they give their lessons.

(Hey. You’d hit the gin at breakfast, too, if you had to deal with the Neanderthal crotch-fruit being trundled into our bumfuck high school, all of them as eager for an education as they were for acute acne. I do not hold it against Mrs. Anderson, Mr. Storn, Mrs. BoShard, and Mr. Privy that they were a bit tanked every day. They were excellent teachers, despite the hooch, and they cared, goddamn it!)

At the same time, it was wonderful, as a child, to see parents who attended school functions, art shows, sports events, and “parents night” extravaganzas, etc. I could see the love and pride that other parents displayed for their children, and it was a happy, if wistful, feeling. These were working-class people taking the time for their kids. Compared to the rest of the demographic, my parents were wealthy (although only upper middle-class in the wider estimation of the world) but they attended nothing. The one time my Mother drifted through a Parents Night, my science teacher told her: “He’s amazing and brilliant and a pleasure in class, but I think he’s depressed underneath the exterior and I think you’re the problem.”

Well, that was the end of parental school-venturing in my ancient days.

One point I wanted to make, I suppose, or one question I wanted to ask is: WHERE are these troubled kids getting guns and why do they turn to guns as a solution to their agonies?

My father was a gun-owner and gun dealer, in addition to his primary work. We saw guns around the house only in locked cases. Maybe we saw them being cleaned with precision in my father’s workshop, but only under the strictest allowance of observation. My father was many things, but he was an impeccable handler of firearms. The abject seriousness of firearms was ingrained, at least in me. There was a healthy fear. Some might prefer to call it “respect,” but I think that “healthy fear” is more suitable. I’ve never met anyone more responsible with guns than my father.

My Grandparents (to whom I was much closer than my parents) were the exact opposite. My Granny kept a loaded .57 in her knitting basket, and the mothball-ish depths of the immense hall closet was stacked with rifles—all of them loaded.

But my interest in guns was ambivalent, as a child. I was not obsessed with them, nor was I disinterested. I fired my fair share in strictly controlled target practice episodes, as a youth. Hunting traditions were dying-out in my region, as I came of age, and I left the area permanently just before coming of age.

I certainly experienced troubles and conflicts as a teen—a botched love affair with a slightly older woman and a clandestine terminated pregnancy sent me off the rails, but in spite of all the rage that could be mustered by the testosterone flooding a 17 year-old brain and body, a gun never occurred to me, even in the darkest depths.

Why not? What makes one reckless-ass kid choose a gun to “solve” issues and what keeps another from not even considering such a thing in his (or her) remotest thoughts?

Looking at the issue from past personal experience combined with many subsequent years of observation, I can only come to a few conclusions.

First, no child, however unformed his brain, chooses a gun to solve conflict unless he has already been taught that use of a gun is a viable and effective way to solve conflicts. Period. Either parents present that model to children—in a manner that allows for gunshot as a means of settling disagreement—or children have indeed been influenced (without harsh warning and guidance from parents) by the twisted “romance” of teen school-shooters/murderers who have accrued a kind of bizarre, gothic notoriety over the past three or four decades, in all the morbid, blazing, and attendant “glory.”

I have to admit, as well, that the escalating goriness of mainstream entertainment plays a major part, though the contextual presentation of violence in media was not always subject to the tender mercies of moral relativity.

Stir all of that into the current cauldron of shitty parenting, staggering narcissism fueled by social media and—a presto!—welcome to the Age of the Deadened. A huge swath of civilization that eschews character in favor of “characteristics.” An army of idiots that forsakes imperative for impulse. A teeming mass of soulless flesh-bags that fears lack of notoriety or some flicker of fame more than it fears death and annihilation.

It’s happening.

But take some cold comfort in the fact that it has happened many times before.

Whatever you do, don’t open a history book. You’ll risk seeing how it all ends and how fragile and uncertain an eventual recovery can be.

And given the current ability/potential of the human race to destroy its own sanity, in addition to the earth’s environment and even climate via excess, neglect, and nuclear weapons (gee, remember those old bugaboos?) the very idea of “recovery” may be erased.

One thing is certain: there will be excruciating tears shed at the sight of empty seats around holiday tables this month.

Are we living to embrace the often unfair yet unquestionable beauty of our world, to leave even a small ”something” of kindness and beauty as we pass through?

Or are we living to consume and die? Fuck the world being left to the future, or to children.

Whether one has children or not, as vile as many of the little fartlings might be, the future belongs to so many kids who will grow-up to be Admirable and True.

They deserve something proper to work-with, though we seem to be doing our best to turn so many magnificent resources into desolate ruins.

(This entry is dedicated to my celestial partner in misanthropy, Florence King. Make me a Cosmo, Flo’—I’ll be there before you know it. Possibly with friends.) ~Jonathan Kieran

#StateOfTheWorld #Repetition #JonathanKieranAuthor #MerryChristmas

Fort Knox Has Nothing On Everyday American Product Packaging

Compared to the challenge of opening a plastic package of sliced sandwich meat, I have little doubt that I could waltz up to the fabled Fort Knox, open each steel-reinforced vault with a casual twerk of my ass, load up with gold bars and then pirouette into the sunset with merry visions of obscene lifetime yachting adventures.

Forget nukes, caldera volcano explosions, plagues, locusts, and random EMPs caused by the cataclysmic friction of Kardashian thighs rubbing against each other: The over-packaging of everyday American products is the Great Doom lurking on the horizon of our most apocalyptic nightmares.

The distinctly American obsession with over-packaging every mother-freaking thing that can possibly be sold under the sun, no matter how banal, shall be the catalyst that one day drives us all to turn upon each other in mad cannibal rages of species-annihilating psychosis. (Well, at least in America—they don’t have this problem in Germany, for example.)

What is it about the American consumerist psyche that demands the First Level Cardboarding, Second Level Plasticization, Third Level Childproofing, Fourth Level Strip-Stippling, Fifth Level Batwing Pull-Tabbing, Sixth Level Metallic Peeling, and Seventh Level Moron Safety-Valving required to access a meager package of cold medicine or bloody f*#$ing underarm deodorant?

One would think the average person were attempting to get their greedy paws on weapons-grade plutonium instead of splitting fingernails down to the agonizing quick in a struggle to remove the “quality wrap” atop a canister of shaving cream.

The nation is manic with this practice. Superfluousness, thy name is a dental floss container! Excessiveness, thou art the gilded layers of bottle-throttling bullshit around a six-pack of ginger ale!

Don’t even get me started on the prestidigitations and other blood vessel-bursting maneuvers needed to denude a desperate little microwave combo-meal these days.

At first, I thought, “Why get frustrated? This kind of labyrinthine overproduction is probably a boon to someone’s economic livelihood! Factory workers in the heart of Indiana are able to put food on the table for their kids by stirring vats of the six different types of glue needed to seal the nine different “cherished customer choices” offered to get the hell into this box of breath mints. This means that the country is still manufacturing … something.”

Then I look at the sextet of lingual labels on any given thing and see that the whole goddamned lot of it comes from China, or worse, CANADA.

Talk about getting one’s timbers shivered.

From whence derives this nearly neurotic facet of American hyper-elaboration? Packaging certainly was not always this Byzantine in scope.

I thought and thought about it with the laser-like precision of an anthropologist peering backward into the mists of human experience long-forgotten but nevertheless hard-wired, by this point.

And I had my answer!

It all came from that freakish and tragic spate of Tylenol cyanide poisonings back in the 1970s or early 1980s. I barely remembered the panic as a child and was stunned to imagine that all these subsequent years of overwrought wrapping and foolproofing were the result of one madman’s anomalous and sinister interference.

But here we are. And it’s getting worse. The saddest part? Not only is the continued phenomenon frustrating and terrible for the environment. It is also completely unnecessary.

I mean, after all, it isn’t as if Americans are inclined to harm each other for no good reason, these days.

~JK

#JonathanKieran #JonathanKieranWriter #ProductPackaging #IronicTimes #LittleFrustrations #BigTrouble #CulturalObservations #Consumerism

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Hear ye, hear ye, any that care and possess the most meager speck of curiosity. Mr. Kieran is currently and furiously working on all four (maybe five 🤔) of his final writing/illustrative projects in simultaneous fashion. He can’t wait to be finished and rid of these legacies so that he can vanish with due haste into the most forlorn of mountain caves imaginable and there practice to his dying day any number of monkish asceticisms or maybe flat-out sorcery. Who the hell can say? Happy Holidays!

In Praise of the Overlooked Gem

Oh, even the keenest eye can fail to catch initial sight of such radiant wonders, though they glimmer like earthbound stars amid the muck and mire.

I have such a jewel to exalt—a film, in fact. Few praises of mine have been heaped upon contemporary films these days, but I would be remiss to let an encomium to the following work of art go unspoken.

The name of the movie is The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a mesmerizing anthology written, produced and directed by infamous genius-brethren Ethan and Joel Coen in 2018. I watched the two-hour wonder last night in bed via Netflix and I must say: rarely have I been so satisfied by a fairly random selection from the queue. Six enthralling original tales of the desperation, thanklessness, arbitrary ruthlessness, and general lack of mercy surrounding the human species and its condition amid the beleaguered world and its vicissitudes.

Of course, we are speaking of the Coen Brothers, here, so these six brilliantly filmed stories are set against the backdrop of the Old West, each vignette festooned with the whimsical blend of mayhem and macabre for which the brothers are rightly renowned. Boasting a superb cast from beginning to end and peppered by marvelous performances from the likes of Liam Neeson, James Franco, Tyne Daly, and Tom Waits, this little masterpiece burrows its philosophical way into the heart of human helplessness and extracts a gleaming bullet of nihilistic merriment. Yeah, you read that correctly.

The whole thing is graced by one of the most creative scores in recent memory: When A Cowboy Gets His Wings was an Oscar-nominated tune from this delicious endeavor.

Tired of reading about the latest anodyne comic book dreck set to infest theaters and streaming services? The Coen Brothers clearly felt the same way when they made this haunting work.

Give it a look-see and be reminded that creatively ambitious films of unique quality and visceral power can still be crafted.

#JonathanKieran #BalladOfBusterScruggs #CoenBrothers #Cinema #WildWest #Anthologies #JonathanKieranWriter #FilmReviews #ContemporaryWesterns

Possible Brian Laundrie Campsite Found in Kardashian Ass-Crack

Amid a whirlwind weekend that saw ramped-up action in the hunt for Florida will-o-the-wisp, Brian Laundrie, Americans of every stripe have taken to social media outlets, comments sections, and shakily held iPhones to deliver their crucial brain defecations. Even high-government investigative geniuses like ever-youthful & fully moisturized “Dog The Bounty Hunter” have trained their ostensibly immortal powers toward the search.

“He was here,” said the aforementioned Dog while flipping-back the tresses of a long, lustrous, and totally sun-silken mane. “I smelt ’im near this campsite,” said the natural blond to no one and to everyone in particular, “but I gotta get back to the sixth set of scientifically engineered watermelons I just married, and to that person attached to the melons, otherwise I swear to myself spelled backwards that I’d give this my full attention.”

But Dog was not the only cultural touchstone bedecked in a lace-front wig and strangling weaves to add breathless revelations to the present crisis. An entire nation—nay, an entire planet—stood transfixed as Official Emblem of American Elegance and Dignity, Kim Kardashian, announced that there was a chance, however slight, that the missing Laundrie had set-up camp in her own vicinity.

“I believe he spent a night or two in the crack of my ass,” Kardashian told reporters in trademark demure tones. “I can’t be certain, due to the complex topography of that geographical quadrant, but I sensed the slight sting of a campfire on Sunday night, possibly on the brink of the Third Fissure, and then I shat a pop-tent and an empty can of Campbell’s Pork ‘n’ Beans on Monday. Now, that’s not exactly unusual for me on a Monday,” Ms. Kardashian was swift to clarify, “but given the present situation, it did give me pause.”

“But did you actually see Laundrie access and enter your ass-crack?” said Mundis Markouli of the Associated Press.

“No,” replied Kardashian. “My posterior cam was offline for the weekend, unfortunately.”

Pop Hazmat will continue to pursue and update this story with the breathless gusto for which it has long been ignored. Stay tuned.

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#SATIRE #WhatAWonderfulWorld #Offal #BrianLaundrie #KimKardashian #WhoCanRefusePorkAndBeans? #DogTheBountyHunter #HumansAreOverrated #AllNaturalBaboonAss #BringBackTheGuillotine #CampingInTheGreatIndoors

Who Can Say When the Noodle Boils? Only Time …

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks upon the World Trade Center, amid the emotional upheaval and flat-out shock experienced by United States citizens from all walks of life, one song in particular—from a rather unexpected source—seemed to give the nation’s grief-stricken an inordinate amount of solace.

No, it wasn’t anything overtly patriotic or jingoistic. The tune had not a whiff of Lee Greenwood-esque swoops, rallying yodels, and martial ballyhoos.

Rather, the song was a previously obscure track from an album by New Age chanteuse par excellence, Enya. The song was called ‘Only Time,’ and had been culled from a recent Enya collection called ‘A Day Without Rain’ (or ‘Pain Without Rain,’ or ‘Rain Without a Day,’ or ‘I’m Standing On the Parapets of My Irish Castle Watching the Money Roll In’)—I forget the actual album title, but the song was not easily forgotten.

Americans connected with ‘Only Time’ and its somber, orchestral lyrics about not knowing where the day goes, where hearts flow, as love goes, and where love flies, and so on and so forth. Couched as it was in Enya’s signature vocal layers and the ethereal production values that tend to grab listeners and transport them immediately to a dewy glade surrounded by gnarled and grasping oak trees beneath a budding dawn (while the prior’s evening’s faery revelers twinkle off to bed), ‘Only Time’ was meditative. Its melody and lyrical simplicity were appropriate balms for soothing the scars and wounds of a cataclysmic strike against the heart of human decency.

The track gained airplay across the nation (and world) as if out of nowhere following 9/11, and a portion of the proceeds were allocated by Enya for victims of the terroristic assault. People stopped to listen. They allowed the gentle and mesmerizing atmospherics of the song to permeate their helter-skelter worlds, even if ‘Only Time’ was hardly the kind of brain-frazzling, hyperactive, histrionic, terrier-in-heat banger that would ever stand a chance in hell of being played on Top 40 radio under typical conditions, even at that time.

But the song worked something akin to a noble artistic miracle over 20 years ago, became a much-loved and respected reminder of both immense grief and human hopefulness, enshrined in the wider cultural ethos, and it won Enya a brand new level of respect and an even wider following (as if she needed more of either).

Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that, in the past few months while surfing YouTube, our fabled ‘Only Time’ has made yet another cultural comeback. Yes!

‘Only Time’ is now featured as the brief soundtrack of a YouTube ad promoting Kraft Macaroni & Cheese.

I shit you not.

No dialogue is present in the ad. Just a mother and daughter sitting at a typical kitchen table, enjoying forkfuls of that quick-cookin’ cheesy goodness. They aren’t even holding hands, staring at each other with ponderous significance, or weeping with gladness over the stovetop concoction as Enya’s hymn to human grief wafts over their steaming bowls of cheap elbow ’roni and cheese-related product sauce.

Nope. They are just looking relatively bored, as if savoring the moment of dignity-as-packaged-in-American-fast food.

Only Time. On the table in 10 minutes, if you don’t let the pot boil over and require a glass of boxed wine to deal with the starchy spill.

And people say that nothing is sacred, anymore.

Who knows when the noodle boils, when the sauce spoils? Enya does, apparently. It must be getting more expensive to keep an isolated Irish castle in acceptable staff members these days.

#Enya #OnlyTime #KraftMacaroniAndCheese #YouTube #CrassCommercialism #Licensing #WorldTradeCenter #NothingIsSacred #JonathanKieran #JonathanKieranAuthor #CulturalCriticism #CheesyGoodness