Monday, May 25, 2020

"Everything is Fine..."

Walking down through muddy, lower, poorly-lit ruts in the life path today.

I would like not to kvetch overmuch here, and focus instead on some positive things:

My wife felt really moved listening to former US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy give valid advice on loneliness, before, during, and after the pandemic.

Doing sweaty exercise in the morning, watching comedy and travelogues, however, has been my healthy self-medication since I started having panic attacks and not being able to sleep for up to 3 nights in a row.

Recently, armed with sleep of sometimes up to six or seven hours per night (this is a very welcome contrast to conditions before), I have been able to enjoy things I haven't been able to enjoy since November, such as writing pulp fiction for pleasure (the Terror of the Trdlo saga in March) and listening to sad music without slowly capsizing my own soul into a deep, sticky sea of tar.
I can listen to sad or disturbing music again and feel comforted that I am in a similar boat, rather than just getting pulled under by it. 

I feel empathy for the fellow humans - young musicians - who covered the song below and made this video during the worldwide pandemic. They are acknowledging fears that a lot of us are facing.

The title of the song means, "Everything's fine, everything will pass" - I don't speak Russian, and don't understand the lyrics, but I think the protagonist of the song (or the video's interpretation of the song) is trying to reassure his girlfriend or platonic friend that, although things are scary, and although he's walking around their Russian panelák-building-filled housing development at dusk and at 3 am and they can't sleep, things will eventually turn out right.  Maybe she's reassuring him, too.  Maybe they are both trying to convince themselves and each other at the same time.

Click for an alternative way to reach the video:

Maxim Rudenko and friend do a great cover and video HERE

The original band who created this song is Несогласие - which to my Cyrillic-illiterate eyes looks like HE-CORN-ACNE, but really is Nesoglasiye - a Russian word which means "Dissent" or "Disagreement" in English.  They started a few years ago as a tight, energetic, but undistinguished punk rock band with songs like Haters Gonna Hate but have since evolved into something transcendent and Joy Division-esque.

A video at YouTube with image of the album cover

The idea of "Everything is fine" being said but conveying the opposite gets a different approach in   Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft's  Alles ist Gut (Translation: Everything is OK)

This chilling song intones a hypnotic pattern of messages: "Be still...still!  Close your eyes!  Please think about nothing!  Believe me! Because everything is OK." 

I imagine the protagonist shuddering in an underground bunker during a (nuclear?) war, fiercely clutching his child or his lover, trying to calm this person down, trying to convince himself that the horrific reality outside and nearby will not puncture the safety of the bunker.  Maybe muffled gunshots and explosions are sounding outside, coming closer.

Of course, this could be the full weight of an oppressive government, anthropomorphized, telling the Everycitizen to shut up and drink the Kool-Aid.  Or it could be something awful that is personal or domestic.

Any interpretation of the song finds the meaning that everything is actually NOT good!  

In any case, DAF is well worth your time to listen to.

Sadly, Gabi Delgado-López who was the core of the band with Robert Görl died this March 22, aged 61.

Also, the great electronic music pioneer Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk died April 21, 2020. 

Kraftwerk's Die Mensch-Machine was the first record I bought for myself in 7th grade.  My aunt was kind enough to buy me the English version, The Man-Machine at Christmas that year. For years afterward, whenever a friend let me on their high-school low-wattage radio station, I would beg to play the German and English versions on two turntables, one started slightly before the other. Out would crackle: "Wir sind die Roboter" then "We are the robots" shortly after.  It worked well to put the two records spinning slightly out of sync with the instrumental swirling part toward the end of "Neon Lights", too.
Anyway, take good care of you and yours and stay safe!


Thursday, May 7, 2020

Revolting Nature

Some post art on their blogs and preempt reader complaints by calling these "Lazy Art Posts"
- Me, I can't offer any apologies - this is what I want to post today...

Trdelniky, not so much the pastry as the odious fictional beasts, the trdla, have been obsessing me of late.  They were the monster baddies in my big fat recent story:     

                                                               The Terror of the Trdlo

I will purge the trdlo soon, but ease out of this obsession gradually, with a Lazy Art Post on the theme of Nature in Revolt, a subject adjacent to the trdlo.

"The Hunter's Funeral Procession" - Mortiz von Schwind via Wikimedia Commons
From Tereza Papamichali dot net
Laibach - The Hunter's Funeral Procession (From the Wunderhorn Trilogy)

And then there is the Third Movement of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 1.

Josef Vachal, The Discussion of the Animals With People.  From what I understand -very imperfectly: The animals kvetch that they act as watchdogs, they help people, they taste good to people (!) but what all of them are looking forward to is humans kicking the bucket (lower right corner).

These emotions and situations are asking for gameable treatments.

1. At the dying of every Old Year, the beasts of the Ancient Forest, which is itself only a remnant of a remnant of the archetypal Urwald which stretched over the entire continent before the ascendency of humans, are granted three days grace to travel to the umbilical stone at the absolute center of the wood.  From dusk until dawn on the final three days of the year, all regional animals (and bestial monsters) can speak the Common human tongue (which belongs to no animal, and is thus neutral ground for all animals).  They meet in the clearing around the stone and confer on important matters.  A human without recourse to other magics, who needs information from an animal eyewitness to a dastardly deed, or to the secreting of fabulous treasure, or who wants the answer to an important question, could consult the animals during their rare loquacious interval.  Certain legendary heroes did so.  But the legends also warn that animals are unwilling to speak to, or be seen by humans at this sacred conference, or even in transit. Transgression is likely to rouse the collective wrath of the entire Forest, in all its beasts and spirits.

2. The disunited beasts of the Ancient Forest, and even those of the farms and hamlets of men which border the woods, swell a larger and even more excited congregation around the stone at this year's Year-Turning than any previous gathering.  This year, a leader is rumored to be using the temporary grace of a common language to unite the beasts, despite their differences, and lead them in planning a murderous simultaneous coordinated mass attack and overthrow of humanity's dominion.

3. If the party are animals, elves, or other non-humans, they are, or are mistaken for, expected attendees meeting around the umbilical stone.  Cyrus, the would-be-unifier of the animals, is assassinated in the midst of a rousing anti-human revolutionary speech by a crossbow bolt that "looks and stinks of human manufacture."  The party is slandered as being the culprits, and of being traitors in league with humans.  They have to make their way to their home turf on the outer edge of the Forest, and have to cross thousands of acres filled with now-hostile groups of beasts and monsters to get home.  Yes, this idea is stolen from The Warriors (1979).

4. During the three last days of the Dying Year, farm animals at the Manor Farm at the edge of the Ancient Forest can be overheard plotting in human Common to murder the drunkard minor human noble who runs the place with his human staff.  The pigs seem to be taking a leadership role, and say they have a plan, which requires eldritch magic, large quantities of human blood, and unshakable faith in the animal revolution, to extend the ability of the animals to speak Common for all time.  If that does not work, some of the pigs admit, all animals will have to learn to speak Porcine as a plan B.  Cough! - Animal Farm.

5. During the last three days of the year, animals from all corners of the world stream by moonlight to the clearing at the heart of the Ancient Forest.  They will dance in vast concentric circles around the sacred umbilical stone.  It is said that daring sorcerers can extort terrible knowledge and powers from a forest being kidnapped en route to this Grand Sabbat.  The powers and knowledge to be gained increase in proportion to the ferocity of the beast and difficulty of its capture.  The potential consequences to the red-handed sorcerer for discovery by the assembled animals are even more terrible. For a human to even witness the animals' moonlight transit at this time, much less the sacred circle dance, is forbidden under penalty of death.

6. In the primeval woods, in the deepest night of the autumnal Turning of the Year, the party sees a row of torches approaching through the darkness and trees and hears a peculiar dissonant musical wailing coming closer.  The song sounds like a funeral lament, but it seems insincere.  There is a mocking, festive undertone.    The animals marching on hind legs and singing, some wearing human clothes, stop nearby in a previously unseen clearing (or a clearing which uncannily didn't exist in the daylight) and begin to set up a torch-lit funeral feast. If the party's actions permit, the animals will explain in human Common that they are celebrating the funeral of a greatly-feared, very successful human hunter of the local district.  They will wonder at his foolish arrogance, that he chose to go hunting at the sacred Turning of the Year, when animals' power is greatest, when it was easiest to arrange his demise.  They will go on to say they have nothing against other humans, and invite the party to feast with them.  The meat at the midnight dinner will resemble spit-grilled boar, and will be explained away, if inquired about - "natural lifespan, etc." but if the coffin the animals were carrying is opened, it will reveal the human hunter's body field-dressed like venison, and with several substantial chunks sawed off.  On this discovery, or in any case, when relations with the party deteriorate, or the animals deem the moment ripe, the full community of beasts will attack.  The animals will lose the ability to speak Common, stop using weapons and wearing clothes, and fall back on all fours at daybreak.  They become afraid of fire (even the fire they have been using) and attempt to flee.

The Terror of the Trdlo - All links thrown together in one giant hot dish

This poor nun just wants to make a smoothie
My entire story, The Terror of the Trdlo:

Part I - The Adventure Begins (But Not Really the Terror, Yet)
Part II - Zdenka vs. The Green-Eyed Monster (Jealousy - That Is)
Part III - Nun: The Wiser
Part IV - The Hermitess
Part V - Silvernose Arrives Minus His Weird Girlfriend
Part VI - She's Gone Feral
Part VII - A Little Traveling Music
Part VIII - Horror at the Hermitage
Part IX - The Rutting Moon
Part X - Herbal Interlude
Part XI - "It's Blood"
Part XII - Empty, Disturbed, Dead
Part 13 - Hut Stinking of Musk
Part 14 - The Howling, Squealing Horde
Part 15 - Something Wicked This Way Comes...UP
Part 16 - A Heaving Sea of Beasts
Part 17 - Hymns Above the Battle's Din
Part 18- Wreathed in Blue Fire
Part 19 - Not Exactly a Witch
Part 20 - This is the End

No, really, what IS a  trdlo  or trdelník?

Do they really clog up the modern-day center of Prague?  YES.and yes.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Beware the swarms under the Rutting Moon

The seldom-seen trdlo (plural trdla) inspires the spit cake confection of the same name, also known as trdelník or Prügelkrapfen, among many other names.  Wildly inaccurate caricatures of the beasts as cute tubular hedgehogs attract customers for the cakes or pubs named after them. 

The actual animals are shy, reclusive rodents that can only be found in a few temperate, forested hill and mountain habitats with a particular mix of metals in the soil.  The different mix of minerals and metals in the soil of even close-nearby regions apparently repels and sickens the beasts.  Certain alchemists assert that copper is the trdlo-sickening element in these soils.

Trdla can dig through dirt half as fast as they can run on the ground. They require ten minutes to pant, snort, and wheeze every 120 feet of continuous digging.  They leave mole-like linear ridges of displaced soil on the surface in the wake of their passage.

The behavior and demeanor of the trdlo takes a radical turn when the stars align in the infrequent Astral Cluster conjunction during its month-long autumnal mating season, the Rutting Moon.  Something like the combined frenzy of Tasmanian devils, wolverines, and lemmings overtakes both males and females.  Trdla swarm through the land like a wave of army ants, fighting each other and any animal they encounter, mating violently in-between and during such aggressive actions.  They secrete a sticky, oily musk that is overpoweringly pungent.   

Perfumers, alchemists, and sorcerers sometimes pay a small value coin for each stinking trdlo carcass. They extract the musk glands and render them into components useful to their fields.

Description: Trdla are coarsely-furred in brown, gray, or black like wild boars. They have bristle-furred barrel-shaped torsos banded with corded muscles.  They stand on four squat legs tipped with sharp, shovel-like, clawed toenails.  Their tiny, baleful red eyes have black irises and are spaced around their circular, lamprey-like mouths, within which concentric circles of sharp teeth recede into the creature’s yawning bloody-red gullet.

The short low-volume grunts and snorts trdla use occasionally to communicate with other trdla give way to deafening and nearly continuous full-on howling, snarling, and squealing during Astral Cluster/Rutting Moon conditions.