Necrotic Spring Cleaning

As a home owner, I have had to remove a broad range of dead critters from the property over the last couple of decades. The day we moved in, there was a dead baby bird on our doormat. On the roof, I discovered several years’ worth of raven and crow victims, and had to spend a couple of hours removing half-eaten pigeons and pigeon parts.

Then there was the dead mouse. And the dead rat. And fragments of a skull that likely once belonged to the squirrel prey of the predatory orange tabby that used to live next door. His kills were legion, and I still dread ever having a look at what might be stored and desiccated behind our backyard hedge.

With the spring thaw and the receding snow comes the revelation of the new crop of trash and remains that got buried in the winter. Today, I found a candidate for most exotic corpse yet excavated on my land.

A squid. An entire dead squid, about the size of my hand. I’ll be removing him once he finishes melting out of the layer of ice.

Bear in mind, I’m in Montreal. Miles from the water. And squids are not local.

Obviously, this came from a fish shop. I imagine someone bought it, decided they didn’t really know how to prepare it, and then threw it away once it started to go off. Then it got fished out of the trash by an animal looking for an easy meal. One of the squirrels, or perhaps another urban-wildlife scavenger, moved it to the side of my house before deciding it, too, didn’t fancy squid after all. At that point it was dropped in the snow, covered over, and preserved for me to discover in March.

So, y’know, yuck.

I’d rather have more chunks of pigeons to sweep off the roof. I am not looking forward to scraping up this slimy, gooey cephalopod. I’m also not looking forward to the flashbacks the next time I order a plate of calamari.

A Little Pussy

The new kitten is working out well. Having brought the number of cats in my home up to the nice round figure of 846 (by my rough calculation at least), she is settling in well and integrating with all the others. The kitten has secured all the choice spots on the cat-tree-jungle-gym and established the order in which she is to be fed (first). Her development continues at a rapid pace and, as of today, she has safely suffered through a rite of passage that must befall every kitten – falling into a bathtub full of water for the first time. She did so with dignity, grace and surprisingly little panic or alarm.

The interloper in question.

The interloper in question.

Although her socialization with her brethren has gone smoothly, her arrival has thrown the established balance out of whack and thoroughly screwed up the feline sexual politics of the house. Our five-year-old male is particularly confused by the new girl in his life. He doesn’t quite know how to act around her, and this has extended to his sister. Everybody is fixed, so it shouldn’t be much of an issue. Or so I thought.

Last week, I came out of my office late at night to investigate strange noises. They were cat noises, but unlike anything I’d ever heard from my own brood – a vibrating staccato of nervous energy. I looked around for a moment before spotting the male, Finnegan, in what can only be described as a passionate embrace with his sister, Casey. They were in the cat bed that lies beneath an antique telephone table. She had her paws wrapped around him in a hug, he was on top, trying to hump her in the missionary position.

The missionary position. Two cats. Siblings. Fixed.

In the midst of this tryst, they both slowly turned their heads towards me, as though this crime against the natural order of things, this violation of God’s laws, was perfectly ordinary, utterly mundane.

“Yeah? What?” said their bland, indifferent expressions.

To better paint a picture of this precise moment in my life, I have prepared a short film presentation. In this eerily close re-enactment, the part of myself will be played by Shelley Duvall.

Although Mr. Kubrick has remained slavishly faithful to the event as it unfolded, he did take some small artistic licence by giving me a knife and a vagina. Had I a knife, I might have attempted to slay the abomination on sight. Had I a vagina, it’s unlikely I wouldn’t have emerged from my office at all. I’d still be in there obsessing about my brand new vagina. Other than that, it’s pretty much 100% accurate.

Having been discovered in their unnatural act, the cats disengaged. To further distract them from their animalistic urges, I fed them, though it took a while longer for the boy to lose his painfully stubborn erection that caused him to walk around like a hunchback for several minutes after his case of human-induced blue balls. Can a cat even get blue balls when he’s had his testicles surgically removed? Apparently this one can.

I’m still trying to recover from the post-traumatic stress of what I saw, but I feel like I’ve personally witnessed the universe askew – like this was some lesser seal of the apocalypse, a sign of the beast, or a harbinger of the Lord Cthulhu.

I remain shaken to my core and can write no more of the disturbing incident.

The Worst Thing on the Internet

Five years ago I was in Alaska to take in the sights. It was a nature vacation, full of mountains and glaciers and forests. And there was also plenty of majestic wildlife to behold. Killer whales and humpbacks, bald eagles and spawning salmon. There was even a random black bear taking a swim in a river.

Nothing, however, compared to the dolphins. I saw them on the return trip, as our ship sailed back down the coast between the endless series of islands that keep the Pacific at bay and maintain calm river-like waters for much of the run between Skagway and Vancouver. One morning they appeared at starboard, racing the bow as it cut through the sea, leaping out of the water every few seconds.

I ran down to our stateroom to grab a camera. Although I was destined to get no pictures of the airborne dolphins (their leaps being too quick, too fleeting), it was while I was in that cabin that I got treated to the best view I could hope for. I just happened to look out the window at precisely the right moment to see a dolphin fly out of the waves, just a few feet from the glass, and hang there, perfectly boxed in the panoramic frame as it matched the speed of the ship exactly. It was a beautiful, magic moment in my life. It was over in less than two seconds flat, and I’ll never forget it – even though that memory has now been ruined forever.

The internet can taint anything. Between tweeting and retweeting, Facebook sharing and your run-of-the-mill “Hey, check this out” emails, nothing wholesome and decent and beautiful is safe anymore. No longer will I associate dolphins with that split instant of precisely framed wonder in a northern coastal corner of British Columbia. When I think of dolphins, I’ll think of this.

Aquatic auto-erotic necrophilic inter-species exhibitionist bestiality aside, it’s his self-satisfied “O” face that really troubles me. Nobody needs to see this kind of moment of intimacy. Not from a dolphin, not from any species. What happens in the aquarium should stay in the aquarium, and I curse the smart-phone photographer for sharing this with the web. And then I curse everyone else on the web for sharing it – myself included. I can’t unsee this, and now, neither can you.

I hereby declare this video clip to officially be, now and in the foreseeable future, The Worst Thing on the Internet. And I know whereof I speak. I’ve see those two girls and their one cup and everything they put in it. I’ve seen those three guys and their one hammer reducing the number of guys by a factor of one. And, obviously, I’ve seen my fair share of Islamic-Fundamentalist execution videos. How could I not? They’re ubiquitous on the web. Like funny-cat videos. It’s getting so a coptic cab driver can’t even drive around with a crucifix hanging from his rearview mirror without inspiring an inpromptu flashmob of decapitation enthusiasts, each armed with their own knife and recording device.

I have to take a moment out, however, to provide some constructive criticism here. I know there are all sorts of middle-eastern countries in radical upheaval. The blood is running in the streets and camera technology is rolling in the hands. But Syria, a word if you will…

Syria, seriously, you have got to get some sort of whetstone to sharpen your knives. I’ve got shit to do. I can’t spend an extra five minutes on every decapitation video while you try to hack through some infidel’s spine with a rusty spoon. It’s all about pacing. And our attention spans in the west are very short, especially when we’re trying to be horrified. That’s why every Saw film had to open with a gruesome kill right off the bat. We don’t want to wait around for plot development while we’re jonesing for a cheap thrill. And we certainly can’t invest any more of our precious internet porn-surfing time watching you commit brutal murder. Not unless there’s a clever twist ending. Again, like a Saw film. Learn from them.

Let me play executive producer for a moment and give you and all the other assorted radicals some notes on your little iPhone snuff films. First of all, mix it up a bit. Does it always have to be a decapitation? They’re so predictable. Guy with knife goes for the neck, saw saw saw, cut cut cut, head comes off, show it to the delighted crowd of spectators. It’s 2013. Decapitations are soooo early twenty-first century. Time marches on, so up your game. Have you looked into disembowelings for example? Quicker in execution, slower in payoff, but they can be quite showy. Real crowd pleasers so long as the crowd stands upwind.

Second, do your research. And I don’t just mean you should improve your decapitation methodology (which, let’s face it, needs work). But crack open a history book if you haven’t already burned them all and read about the fun and games they got up to in the middle ages. I’m not saying you have to reinvent the anal pear (and you probably would have to reinvent it if you wanted one because I can’t remember the last time I saw an anal pear for sale at Walmart, and they usually have EVERYTHING). But back then, they knew how to throw a gruesome execution with only common household items. Remember, when in doubt, go pyre. It’s always a home run with the fans, and warm on those chilly desert nights.

Third, you need to upgrade your digital technology. I don’t care if you have the latest iPhone or iWhatever. That shit’s fine for selfies, but you’re shooting snuff. You need a wider aspect ratio. Invest in a real digital camera that’s actually designed to shoot home movies (and snuff). I know the iPhone is convenient and Apple seems to go hand-in-hand with crimes against humanity, but the end results speak for themselves. Someone is giving their life for your movie. Sure, they’re an infidel who lies with dogs for not acknowledging the one true god as you define him and is therefore beneath contempt. But show the teensiest bit of respect and at least shoot the murder well.

Which brings me to my final point, so I really need you to focus here, because I can’t stress this enough. You cannot hold a camera steady while you’re shouting Allahu Akbar at the top of your lungs in a religious fervour. Look, I get it. I appreciate your passion. It’s what makes you a cinéma vérité artiste. But let’s face it, God may be great and all, but he makes for a shitty tripod. The dude can perform miracles, but one miracle he can’t seem to do is turn your arm into a Steadicam while you’re in bloodlust mode. So skip the high-volume worship mantra during your money shot and shoot silent. If you really think the film is missing something after you screen a rough cut, you can always ADR it and loop your voice in with the chorus of other Allahu Akbars, okay? I know you don’t want to feel left out in the moment. The blood is pumping in your veins and spurting from the open arteries of your victim, and you want to participate. But respect your art. Get your shot list. Celebrate later.

Remember, I say this not as a film critic, but as a fan of cinema in general. The future of the mondo-gonzo genre of filmmaking lies in your blood and entrail-soaked hands. Do us proud.

The Swarm

“I’ll take ‘Bad Michael Caine’ movies for five hundred, Alex.”

I’ve been swamped — or should I say swarmed — of late. Aside from running around dealing with a bunch of organization and writing tasks, most pressingly I’ve been dealing with that latest invasion of nature in my house.

A couple of years ago, you may remember it was raccoons. This time, it’s wasps. A whole nest of them resides under the exterior paneling above my front door. They’ve been getting into the house lately, much to the delight of my cats and the horror of my wife. After disposing of ten of them in the vestibule one day, I went outside, armed only with a step stool and a vacuum cleaner, and proceeded to suck up another five hundred of the little bastards in one hour flat.

Supposedly, this variety of wasp dies off in the late fall when the queen leaves to find a warm place to hibernate, so the problem should resolve itself soon. I’ll remain on vacuum patrol until then. And one day, once it gets really chilly out, I’ll open up the vacuum cleaner and take the bag to the trash. There’s nothing like a cold day to calm down an eight pound sack of pissed-off wasps.

I’ll try to keep you up to date on a sting-by-sting basis.

*

One of the infrequent attendees at my movie night soiree is Rachel, who made an appearance and stayed for the film this week. With advance knowledge of her presence, I came prepared to exchange gifts. We have an arrangement, you see. She brings me exotic pilsners from the distant land of Saskatchewan every time she visits home and, in exchange, I taunt her about her phobias like a fucking asshole.

Rachel has a thing about broken bones, as I discovered last year when Adam Green‘s film Frozen drove her from the building at the halfway mark. She didn’t quite flee screaming, just cringing and gagging. With that in mind, I brought the infamous movie-night whiteboard filled with the following menu selections:

Finger Breaking Good (1976) – Mobsters try to muscle in on Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe only to find they play for keeps down in Kentucky – one piggy at a time.

The Bone Crusher (1981) – A loan shark grows weary of his job breaking people’s legs and finds a new lease on life when he switches to breaking people’s arms.

Snap Goes the Femur (1990) – The heart-warming true story of a downhill skier who bounces back after a career-ending injury.

Ribbed for Her Pleasure (1995) – A construction worker, pinned under a ton of sheet metal with a crushed rib cage, finds true love with a passing angel of mercy who talks him through his ordeal.

Fractured (2008) – A world famous stuntman refuses to be recruited by the CIA until he breaks every bone in his body during a failed motorcycle jump. How can he say no when they offer him a new identity, a new face, and a new skeleton made out stainless steel?

Rachel stayed for the movie anyway. Mostly because all of the above films are entirely fictional — phony fabrications on my part. For now at least. If there are interested producers out there, I’m available to write any of them for scale.

Call me. We’ll cut a deal.

*

Referring back to those writing tasks I mentioned earlier, there will probably be more multilingual translations of Longshot Comics coming in the near future. Europe keeps on calling and I hope to make some deals while the Eurozone still has a currency to pay me with.

Also, later this year, my short story, Bayonet Baby, will be appearing in the Weird War anthology from War of the Words Press. I’ll post a heads-up once it’s out.

Don’t look at me like that.

The Elephant Corpse In The Room

Looks like I missed all of June as far as blog updates go. I know I had a list of topics to discuss around here somewhere. I dunno where I put it. Yesterday was kind of a blur of insomnia after staying awake for about 36 hours for no particular reason other than it’s summer and I don’t really sleep for that whole season. Not because I’m partying and having fun — just because I’m hot and uncomfortable.

Anyway, after the recent elephant-hunting activities of the head honcho at GoDaddy, Eyestrain Productions has switched web servers. This is the first blog post on the new server, so I’ll cut it short just in case it all blows up in my face. Like a misfiring elephant gun going off in the face of that CEO fuckwad, Bob Parsons. Fingers crossed.

Raccoon Redux

You may remember the fucking-raccoon comic jam page that was inspired by my very real vermin — er, I mean cute interloper — problems. Nearly two and half years later (during which the page went missing at one inker’s house) it’s done at last. And I thought you might like to take a look at the finished product. You’ll note the changes to panel three in particular, elevating that frame from good to awesome.

“Fucking Raccoon” is one of many comic jam pages that will appear in issue #9 of What the F—? to be published by Rick Gagnon shortly. Check the website in the coming weeks for details on how to order your own copy (not to mention any number of back issues).

Footpad Footnote

It seems all my readers have been sitting on the edges of their seats. Every time I meet one, they demand to know what’s going on with the family of raccoons. Well, I’ve poked a flashlight under my front step a couple of times recently, and it seems they’ve left the building for good. The emergency backup nest has served its purpose, and now they’re movin’ on up.

Movin’ on up, but not far.

On the night of my recent birthday celebrations, I was seeing the last of my guests out. There were a few on foot, and a few others leaving by car. No sooner had the car engine started up than a raccoon — Mama by the looks of her — came out of one of our neighbour’s front yards (Cindy Sherwin, Pulse News in fact) and trotted casually across the street, right in front of everybody.

Marr, who was in the car, rolled down the window and shouted to me, knowingly, “Fucking raccoon!”

“Fucking raccoon,” I concurred. I’ll miss them all.

Inspiration Where You Can Find It

There have been a few more comic jams since the last one I wrote about, and I’m happy to say I’ve been at all of them. Well, relatively happy. I could have done without certain aspects of the one that accidentally took place during the NHL playoffs. Unless you’re a hockey fanatic, you really don’t want to be in a Montreal bar when the Habs are in the middle of a hotly contested series. Any bar. Because even the sparsely patronized dives (like the one we do our jams at these days) fill to the rafters with crazed, drunken hockey zealots who spend the entire evening screaming at the top of their lungs whenever their home team so much as touches the puck.

The Montreal Canadiens were eventually eliminated from the playoffs, ending the dire imperative for fans to torch police cruisers by the dozen. The city coffers were thankful, the automotive economy less so.

When the jam was reconvened last Thursday, I had my current raccoon woes in mind. Yes, the family is still living underfoot, but largely without incident. Despite the peace treaty that exists between us, I decided to lay out a disparaging raccoon page and pencil panels one, five and nine. The rest of the page was quickly filled by other contributors as the evening progressed. As usual, Rick Gagnon took all our work home and was already busy inking the results when I asked him to send me a scan of the page as it stands.

Simply because it amused the hell out of me, I present “Fucking Raccoon” as a work in progress. You’ll be able to see the final product in a future issue of What the F***?

The Trouble With Hairy

There was a recent eviction in my neighbourhood. I only found out about it after the fact, when our neighbours rang the doorbell and told me, “Um, there’s been some drama.” More people were gathered outside, gawking and gossiping amongst themselves. Apparently my house was the centre of attention for some reason that escaped me.

It turns out, a few houses down, one of my other neighbours had discovered a whole nest of raccoons on his roof — a big mama raccoon and half a dozen babies. He put the babies in a box and moved them outside, and then sawed off the tree branch that was allowing the mother access to his roof. When she returned from a round of foraging, she was dismayed to find there was no way home and her babies missing. It took an hour or so, but she located the box of offspring and the collection of humans cooing over how cute her litter was. After chasing the bipeds away, mama raccoon immediately set to moving the whole brood, two at a time, to her emergency backup nesting spot she had obviously scouted out much earlier.

That just happened to be under my front porch.

I knew there was a space between all that slate and concrete and the ground beneath, but I never imagined it could accommodate an adult raccoon and a pile of babies. I still wouldn’t have believed it, except my neighbour had photographic evidence of the whole raccoon relocation. It’s now a popular video on YouTube.

I’m content to let madame raccoon raise her family under my porch. The babies will likely outgrow the new nest by mid-July and they’ll all move on after that. Unfortunately, it seems their mother isn’t quite so happy with the new digs and is already scouting for an upgrade. As I write these words, I have a peeping tom up in a tree in the backyard looking through my office window, hoping to find a way to sneak onto my roof and claim squatter’s rights. Well, the tree is little more than a sapling so it’s unlikely she’ll ever find a path to…

Bugger. She’s figured it out. Our adjoining neighbour has a fence, and a tree, and a balcony, and a ladder. It’s a complex puzzle to work out, but a raccoon’s ability to problem-solve is quite something to witness. Give them another three millions years of evolution and raccoons will be running the planet. They’ll be the dominant life form and our descendants will be trying to figure out how to get the raccoons’ garbage cans open in the middle of the night so they can feast.

After snapping these pictures of our fearless mother raccoon, I went back up on the roof to make sure she’d left the building. Although she’d yanked off all the drain covers from both our roof and our neighbour’s, it appears she didn’t find any viable nesting spots. Time will tell. I’ll update you in the future, assuming she doesn’t decide she’d prefer to raise her family inside our house and sends us and our cats packing.