Zanzibar Circus 2.18.19

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Jonathan Kieran is the author of the Rowan Blaize series of epic contemporary fantasy books (Brightbourne 2012), as well as the critically acclaimed (Midwestern Book Review, Manhattan Book Review) Confessions From The Comments Section: The Secret Lives of Internet Commenters and Other Pop-Culture Zombies. He is also the creator of the comic strip Zanzibar Circus. Jonathan’s work has also been featured on The Daily Dot.com and in a plethora of other ‘zines, newspapers, and alt-weeklies. Click on the book covers above and to the right if you want to learn more about Jonathan’s titles and perhaps spend some of your hard-earned money on his multi-formatted gifts to the human race.

Look for a major surprise in Summer 2019. Jonathan is also currently writing and illustrating an epic new work slated for international release in 2021 (Brightbourne). Drop-in at leisure for updates. Mr. Kieran promises to provide them, but only once in awhile—he doesn’t get paid to blog.

A Lazy October Update

As Summer weather malingers in the dusty woodlands of central California, I look back at an extraordinarily eventful year (even by my oft-eccentric standards) before the Holiday Onslaught.
Oh, but the level of activity promises to accelerate even further in 2019, with every possible effort and device—literary and otherwise—calibrated to attain maximum overdrive at the international Frankfurt Book Expo in 2020, where I will be launching the two most important works of my career. It will be a monumental trek between now and then, but one which I am most devoted to undertake.
Until the Frankfurt “explosion,” I’ll remain fairly noisy on Twitter—@JonathanKieran—and will certainly pop-in from time to time on the other official sites with the odd Zanzibar cartoon or existential harangue, as is my wont. One might even countenance a metamorphosis or two as the weeks and months pass. It will be my pleasure to share anything significant. Otherwise, see you in Germany two years hence. ~J
P.S. Here’s an unabashed bragging-photo of one of my favorite writing/lunching/lolling spots atop a cliffside near Monastery Beach in Carmel, CA. Yes, it was taken today, after I had been complaining for weeks about the refusal of Summer weather to pull up stakes and drag its sweaty circus out of town. I wasn’t complaining after five minutes of reveling in this beloved aerie, however. Expect lofty work when all is said and done, given such evidently vibrant scope for imagination and sensory sustenance. Magic is afoot, in sunshine and in shadow. Amusez-vous bien.
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Jonathan Kieran is the author of the Rowan Blaize series of epic contemporary fantasy books (Brightbourne 2012), as well as the critically acclaimed (Midwestern Book Review, Manhattan Book Review) Confessions From The Comments Section: The Secret Lives of Internet Commenters and Other Pop-Culture Zombies. His work has also been featured on The Daily Dot.com and in a plethora of other ‘zines, papers, and alt-weeklies. Click on the book covers above and to the right if you want to learn more about Jonathan’s titles and perhaps spend some of your hard-earned money on his multi-formatted gifts to the human race.

Jonathan is currently writing and illustrating a new masterpiece of epic dimensions. Drop-in once in awhile for updates. Mr. Kieran promises to provide them, but only once in awhile, because he doesn’t get paid to blog endlessly for free.

Flashback Friday

Another impending move, another house sold … the semi-peripatetic life has suited me for creative, financial, and spiritual reasons since the days of my youth. I am happy to report that the present days (and what “youth” remains) are still being spent in the pursuit of adventure and whatever alluring-but-elusive glimpses of magic may be attained amid this mortal coil. Speaking of the Sweet Bird of Youth, however, I fished-out these photos from yesteryear during the recent packing process. The first pic was taken in Biarritz, France, September 2002, as I was reclining on a couch in the hotel room, windows wide open to the rhythm of Atlantic waves caressing the shoreline at sunset. The sounds of cooks and servers getting ready for evening customers could be heard in the restaurant just below the room and in others along la croisette, but it was hardly disturbing. People don’t rush madly to accomplish anything in Biarritz, in September or otherwise. Their furtive preparations had instead the effect of a lullaby, as might be discerned from the expression on my face. And, no, this was not a selfie. Selfies didn’t exist in 2002. Whatever the case, we’ll call this one “The Alchemy of Biarritz and Kava Kava”.

(By the way, dinner that night was stupendous: duck confit and langoustines.)

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AS FOR THIS NEXT photo, all definitions and explanations escape me, at least insofar as aesthetics are concerned.  I only know that the shot was taken during the same  European expedition in September 2002, but in the heart of Paris. Apparently I was feeling “priestly” that day, though I can assure you it is merely a trick of the light and a Nehru-collared black button-down of which I was fond at the time. I suppose the crucifix was a bit much, but I was fond of that, too. I wonder whatever became of it? Hell’s bells, we’ll just call this “Father J Crossing the Seine” and leave things at that.

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Keep moving, y’all.

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Jonathan Kieran is the author of the Rowan Blaize series of epic contemporary fantasy books (Brightbourne 2012), as well as the critically acclaimed (Midwestern Book Review, Manhattan Book Review) Confessions From The Comments Section: The Secret Lives of Internet Commenters and Other Pop-Culture Zombies. His work has also been featured on The Daily Dot.com and in a plethora of other ‘zines, papers, and alt-weeklies. Click on the book covers above and to the right if you want to learn more about Jonathan’s titles and perhaps spend some of your hard-earned money on his multi-formatted gifts to the human race.

Jonathan is currently writing and illustrating a new masterpiece of epic dimensions. Drop-in once in awhile for updates. Mr. Kieran promises to provide them, but only once in awhile, because he doesn’t get paid to blog endlessly for free.

 

Just For Kicks: Zanzibar Circus 6.19.18

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Jonathan Kieran is the author of the Rowan Blaize series of epic contemporary fantasy books (Brightbourne 2012), as well as the critically acclaimed (Midwestern Book Review, Manhattan Book Review) Confessions From The Comments Section: The Secret Lives of Internet Commenters and Other Pop-Culture Zombies. His work has also been featured on The Daily Dot.com and in a plethora of other ‘zines, papers, and alt-weeklies. Click on the book covers above and to the right if you want to learn more about Jonathan’s titles and perhaps spend some of your hard-earned money on his multi-formatted gifts to the human race.

Jonathan is currently writing and illustrating a new masterpiece of epic dimensions. Drop-in once in awhile for updates. Mr. Kieran promises to provide them, but only once in awhile, because he doesn’t get paid to blog endlessly for free.

Oh, the Carnage and Lifelong Scarification of Temptations Unresisted! #Pastries

I could see the danger clearly the instant I opened the box …

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Without doubt, this nondescript cardboard package had been sent by an enemy of diabolical cunning and almost incomprehensible Evil! Oh, the tiny sticker on the outside of the heinous delivery read: “Lafayette French Bakery and Café in Carmel, California,” but I knew that anything containing objects this lethal, this astonishingly insidious, could only emanate from warped minds hell-bent upon the ruination of all that is good and redemptive in civilization. What to do? What to do?

How on earth could one unsuspecting man diffuse such potentially explosive and catastrophic devices of mass-destruction (for that is clearly what they were) without risking the exposure of my fellow countrymen (and women) to the deadly fallout of nougaty goodness, rich chocolate despair, and widespread lemon-curd radiation? In those grim moments I grappled with the existential ramifications and a quaking sense of my own, tenuous mortality. The clock on the wall ticked with accusation and foreboding. Time was of the essence! Others were going-about their affairs, blissfully unaware of the Tsunami of Ruin about to come crashing down upon their innocent heads!

A decision had to made! Taking the first volatile Instrument of Certain Doom in my hand …

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… I knew that there was only one way to rid the earth of such calamitous forces. I gave myself, so that others might continue and thrive, that good people across the globe might rise to greet each new day with the sheer exaltation that comes with being alive.

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Sacrifice is never easy, and the carnage is brutal to behold–often remembered only in grainy, indistinct footage that can never pretend to capture the magnitude of the bloodshed. The courageous among us, however, forge onward. We do it because we must.

We must.
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Jonathan Kieran is the author of the Rowan Blaize series of epic contemporary fantasy books (Brightbourne 2012), as well as the critically acclaimed (Midwestern Book Review, Manhattan Book Review) Confessions From The Comments Section: The Secret Lives of Internet Commenters and Other Pop-Culture Zombies. His work has also been featured on The Daily Dot.com and in a plethora of other ‘zines, papers, and alt-weeklies. Click on the book covers above and to the right if you want to learn more about Jonathan’s titles and perhaps spend some of your hard-earned money on his multi-formatted gifts to the human race.
Jonathan is currently writing and illustrating a new masterpiece of epic dimensions. Drop-in once in awhile for updates. Mr. Kieran promises to provide them, but only once in awhile, because he doesn’t get paid to blog endlessly for free. That would make him a Wattpadder or a Smashworder, not a writer.

Checking-Out to Check-In

It has been awhile since I’ve blogged anything newsy on the official site (including Zanzibar strips) and there are reasons for that which I would like to take a few moments to explain.

First, I have been steeped for the past six months in the preliminary planning and initial creation-phases of my next, as-yet-untitled book, slated for release in 2019 by Brightbourne. It’s going to be a massive piece of work—lavishly illustrated and certainly the most ambitious project I will ever tackle in my lifetime, and the creative energy required to “pull off” such a feat is all-consuming, as well as a trifle terrifying, albeit in a good way. Drawing all the existential components together to essentially braid the synthesis of focus, desire, and discipline needed to accomplish such work makes everything else pale in comparison, by necessity.

Second (and no less crucial than my first point), I am repelled utterly by the tsunami-sized wave of pointless, trivial, hackneyed, and infantile “writing” that has swept across our popular culture at every level. The majority of people simply have no business venturing beyond the composition of a grocery-list when it comes to literary efforts, much less adhering to even the most basic standards of publication. I will gladly wear the mantle of “elitist” when it comes to this issue, and shall stand firm for the genuine writer’s dedication to superior craftsmanship, a trade that can claim roots in long years of steady discipline and talent well-nurtured.

Trust me: a master carpenter is not going to tell you that your uneven, uninhabitable birdhouse is a work of fine craftsmanship that merits an equal place alongside his (or her) professional creations. Not everyone deserves a trophy.

At all events, in a dead market flooded chiefly with thousands of puerile soft-porn “novels” written (and self-published!) by bored, illiterate housewives, or thrillers cobbled together with the creative equivalent of wallpaper-glue by old men who watch too much television, American Literature is, without question, at its nadir.

Then again, so is the culture of which the above-mentioned sort of dreck is merely a pestilential symptom.

That cannot be helped—the pendulum will have to swing in the opposite direction, and swing hard, before all of this detritus is brushed into the oblivion from whence it came, and where it belongs.

The same goes for blogging and for regularly posting opinions and ditherings and blatherings in a cyberspace already deafened by the roaring and lowing and chattering of the masses.

I don’t know why seasoned, professional writers even bother to do it, especially if they’re not getting paid. Look what incessant blogging has done to Neil Gaiman’s output. My G-d.

Another point: Nothing is ever really free, but if something is given away recklessly for “free,” I guarantee you that, 99.99% of the time, it is not worth even the most cursory glance.

Everything I shall have to say about the world, the cosmos, and its workings shall henceforth be found strictly within my books, and one shall have to pay for them. It’s a publisher’s job to entice potential audiences to do just that, at their cost, not mine.

Other than that, I’ll provide general-info updates when necessary and perhaps the occasional cartoon when fancy strikes.

Amid all of this, the greatest irony remains: the conglomeration of social media crap has got to be maintained to some degree by anyone in the publishing industry. These Official Facebooks, Twitters, .coms, and Instagrams should ideally be business cards for the serious writer, no more no less.

And no one should ever get excited about a business card.

Rather, get excited about the work that “card” represents. And if you’re a serious, seasoned writer, thank your lucky stars that literacy-levels are still high in Europe.

Ta, for now.

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Jonathan Kieran is the author of the Rowan Blaize series of epic contemporary fantasy books (Brightbourne 2012), as well as the critically acclaimed (Midwestern Book Review, Manhattan Book Review) Confessions From The Comments Section: The Secret Lives of Internet Commenters and Other Pop-Culture Zombies. His work has also been featured on The Daily Dot.com and in a plethora of other ‘zines, papers, and alt-weeklies. Click on the book covers above and to the right if you want to learn more about Jonathan’s titles and perhaps spend some of your hard-earned money on his multi-formatted gifts to the human race.
Jonathan is currently writing and illustrating a new masterpiece of epic dimensions. Drop-in once in awhile for updates. Mr. Kieran promises to provide them, but only once in awhile, because he doesn’t get paid to blog endlessly for free. That would make him a Wattpadder or a Smashworder, not a writer.

Classic Retro Kids’ TV On-the-Cheap by Jonathan Kieran: MR. DRESSUP

CLASSIC RETRO KIDS’ TV ON-THE-CHEAP! by JONATHAN KIERAN

TODAY’S DUBIOUS HONOREE: MR. DRESSUP (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 1967-1996)

A single adult man who keeps a biologically unrelated little boy living in a tree in his backyard? Welcome to kids' TV from the CBC!

A single adult man who kept a biologically unrelated little boy living in a tree in his backyard? Welcome to kids’ TV from the CBC!

GUILTY OF VEHICULAR FANSLAUGHTER: Ernie Coombs (Canada’s answer to Mr. Rogers … only a lot more caffeinated and likely to bounce off the cardboard walls)

RUDIMENTARY ANALYSIS: Nothing touches the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) for producing tatty but creative kids’ shows that were built to last and rife with mangy-looking puppets suffering from Borderline Personality Disorders! As a bumpkin-child in the woods of upstate New York, I couldn’t wait to fill my impressionable mind with that one-of-a-kind brand of folksy Canadian Crazy that the CBC pumped into our living rooms on a daily basis via programming like The Friendly Giant and the legendary Mr. Dressup.

Mr. Dressup was probably the “King” of cheesy children’s TV, at least for youngsters in our region who depended upon the seemingly limitless pipeline of entertainment thrift utilized by producers just across the border — producers who had to stage a show with nothing but four or five Ping-Pong balls, construction paper, two asbestos oven-mits and maybe a ukulele. The brain-trusts in Toronto knew how to BRING IT! I only wish today’s bloated and shiftless TV execs could do in an hour with their $9 million budgets what Mr. Dressup’s team obviously did in 10 minutes for a few bucks and a six-pack of Carling-O’Keefe.

Mr. Dressup ran daily from 1967-1996, amassing over 4,000 episodes packed with wanton childishness. That was the whole point! Like most children’s TV programs since the days of Caesar and Cleopatra, the setting and context of the actual characters on Mr. Dressup lacked verisimilitude. Wait. Scratch that. The set-up made absolutely no freakin’ sense whatsoever. First of all, you had a loner-type adult person with no fashion-sense and no apparent prospects for marriage (Mr. Dressup) living in a tiny house crammed with semi-magical knick knacks and strange outfits that were kept in something called a “Tickle Trunk” while, out in the back yard, a child biologically unrelated to the adult lived in a tree.

Uh huh.

On the Mr. Dressup show, the treehouse-dwelling child was a freckled puppet named “Casey”. Casey looked like an unfinished Lady Elaine Fairchilde marionette stolen from the Mr. Rogers set, fitted with a blond page-boy wig and wrapped in a tea-cozy. A parade of disheveled, disoriented and equally unrelated puppet-people streamed constantly through the door of the little house to visit the adult loner and the boy he kept in the backyard tree. This highly unusual and improbable “family unit” was unexplained and therefore taken for granted by the viewing public at the time. We called it “the magic of children’s television.”

Today they call it “a particularly disturbing episode of Law and Order:SVU.”

But that’s how kids’ programming rolled in the days before unseen parents allowed their irritating real-life children to play in the park unsupervised with an obese purple dinosaur on Zoloft that taught them to chant endless verses of black magic composed by Lucifer, Lord of Hell.

In terms of plot, the Mr. Dressup show was rather formulaic and predictable, which was an attribute beneficial to a developing child’s mind, I believe. That whole dynamic has certainly changed. Mr. Dressup, ever-exuberant in his bow-tie and suspenders, would greet his friends in TV Land and prepare them for a morning of storytelling that always involved the retrieval of some indicative costume from the Tickle Trunk. The costume was usually made out of colored gauze, tinfoil and discarded candy wrappers, but we didn’t care, as kids. Sometimes, to our horror, the Tickle Trunk wouldn’t even open, forcing Mr. Dressup to actually “coochie-coo” the damn thing until it coughed-up the goods. That trunk was a coy little tramp.

Once Mr. Dressup donned the Kleenex cape or the fake beard made out of cotton yanked from a thousand Q-tips, he would tell some brief fairy tale that sent us all off to Imagination Town in our pea brains. After that it was time to head out into the backyard for a visit with Casey in the treehouse. The best part about Casey was actually his constant companion, Finnegan the Dog, who looked like an unlaundered sailor’s sock after a nine-month tour of duty. Finnegan the Dog was great because he was entirely mute. Couldn’t bark a note. Couldn’t growl. Couldn’t talk. He was the only silent creature of Irish extraction I ever saw. Mr. Dressup or Casey would talk to Finnegan or ask his opinion about something and the puppeteer would merely make Finnegan’s “mouth” move silently and he would whisper the answer in Casey’s ear. Casey would then translate/interpret Finnegan’s response. He was the original Dog-Whisperer, that Casey.

The entire, belovedly creepy Mr. Dressup crew -- l. to r. the clearly "out of it" and obviously overmedicated Aunt Bird, Alligator, Mr. Dressup, Casey, and Finnegan the Dog

The entire, belovedly creepy Mr. Dressup crew — l. to r. the clearly “out of it” and obviously overmedicated Aunt Bird, Alligator, Mr. Dressup, Casey, and Finnegan the Dog

An assortment of guests would soon follow. An alligator-puppet cleverly named “Alligator” might drop by to yammer-on about God-Knows-What and at least once a week you could count on a visit from Aunt Bird, who was the show’s requisite “dazed and confused” elderly puppet. Poor Aunt Bird never made much sense, always looked like she had possibly been mauled in an alley by Finnegan the Dog’s more aggressive canine relations, and she was a definite candidate for Lady Rogaine or whatever it is they recommend for women with unsightly bald patches. Sometimes in tow with Aunt Bird was her niece, Miss Biz, a bug-eyed specimen who was as neurotic and disconnected as Elaine Stritch. Miss Biz, with only about a dozen strands of pink, wispy boa-feathers protruding from her lumpy head as “hair” clearly inherited the Female-Pattern Baldness gene from her dizzy aunt. I always figured there must’ve been an ostrich or maybe a vulture in that follicle-challenged bird-family’s woodpile. Anyhow, after all of this pointless but riveting Goodness, Casey and Finnegan would go to sleep in the treehouse, Aunt Bird and Miss Biz would fly off to whatever sorry, hair-lined nest they called home and Mr. Dressup would conclude the show with a consultation of the Wise Old Owl, which was a framed picture of an owl that would magically come to life and open its cardboard eyes, roll them, say: “Who, who, to-wit, to-woo …” and then offer some word of encouragement to insecure children all over the world … or at least within a 150-mile radius of Toronto, Ontario.

It’s amazing how such low-budget yet creative and lovingly crafted productions had the power to mesmerize children, once upon a time. These characters became as familiar to us as friends when we were young and life was a bit simpler. It all went down not that long ago — as noted, the Mr. Dressup show racked-up 29 years of whimsical entertainment and over 4000 little episodes before the Tickle Trunk demanded a cut of the syndication profits or went on the fritz and refused to reveal its secrets for the unappreciative ADHD demographic of the burgeoning Cyber Age. That’s okay. When the asteroid hits and the Zombie Apocalypse is unleashed upon what precious little is left of civilization, we’ll all be forced to live in treehouses with pets rendered mute by radiation poisoning. I figure I’ll be one of the few who’s ready.

Thank you, Mr. Dressup.

DEFINITIVE DIALOGUE: “Three little birdies, happy and gay. Three little birdies fly away.” (Classic chart-topping Mr. Dressup lyrics)

WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Ernie Coombs, who played Mr. Dressup for almost 30 years on the CBC, went on to become a popular figure on the college lecture circuit, especially for generations of students who had “grown up” with the beloved children’s program. Ernie Coombs passed away in 2001. RIP, Mr. D. As for the OTHERS …

Casey from the Treehouse

Perhaps scarred by a youth spent living in the backyard tree of an unrelated adult male, Casey found the transition to adulthood somewhat difficult. Between government checks and visits to his parole officer, he still finds time to audition for local children's theater and enjoys macaroni art. He lives in Winnipeg.

Perhaps scarred by a youth spent living in the backyard tree of an unrelated adult male, Casey found the transition to adulthood somewhat difficult. Between government checks and visits to his parole officer, he still finds time to audition for local children’s theater and enjoys macaroni art. He lives in Winnipeg.

The discombobulated “Aunt Bird”

WARNING GRAPHIC: This is a photo from the Ottawa Police Department's homicide unit, taken Thanksgiving Day 1996. It is the last known photograph of Aunt Bird. Her surviving family members refused to speak to Pop HazMat about the murder, which appears to have been related to the infamous "Savory Stuffer's" string of serial killings that terrorized Canada in the late 1990s.

WARNING! GRAPHIC: Above is a photo from the Ottawa Police Department’s homicide unit, taken Thanksgiving Day 1996. It is the last known photograph of Aunt Bird. Her surviving family members refused to speak to us about the murder, which appears to have been related to the infamous “Savory Stuffer’s” string of serial killings that terrorized Ontario in the late 1990s.

The Tickle Trunk

Of all the Mr. Dressup cast-members, the Tickle Trunk appears to have fared the best in private life. Tickle Trunk (pictured on the left) is now owned by Lance and Bartholomew,  a fabulous Greenwich Village couple who specialize in restoring worn-out receptacles of all shapes and sizes. "We needed a place to keep our collection of damask napkins and, well, we certainly love to tickle," said Lance. "It was really a no-brainer."

Of all the Mr. Dressup cast-members, the Tickle Trunk appears to have fared the best in private life. Tickle Trunk (pictured on the left) is now owned by Lance and Bartholomew, a fabulous Greenwich Village couple who specialize in restoring worn-out receptacles of all shapes and sizes. “We needed a place to keep our collection of damask napkins and, well, we certainly love to tickle,” said Lance. “It was really a no-brainer.”

EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC: Casey and Finnegan … Classic Moments to Treasure.

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Jonathan Kieran is the author of the Rowan Blaize series of epic contemporary fantasy books (Brightbourne 2012), as well as the critically acclaimed (Midwestern Book Review, Manhattan Book Review) Confessions From The Comments Section: The Secret Lives of Internet Commenters and Other Pop-Culture Zombies. His work has also been featured on The Daily Dot.com and in a plethora of other ‘zines, papers, and alt-weeklies. Click on the book covers above and to the right if you want to learn more about Jonathan’s titles and perhaps spend some of your hard-earned money on his multi-formatted gifts to the human race.
Jonathan is currently writing and illustrating a new masterpiece of epic dimensions. Drop-in once in awhile for updates. Mr. Kieran promises to provide them, but only once in awhile, because he doesn’t get paid to blog endlessly and believes that any “writer” who gives-away a lot of stuff for free is a Wattpadder or a Smashworder.