Listen every week…

DID YOU KNOW… I do a weekly one-hour radio show?

The Uncle Max Radio Show airs on WDCV FM 88.3, Dickinson College, Carlisle, PA, on Thursday mornings at 7 am eastern time… and yes, you can live stream it online… but you can also download each week’s show as a podcast. It’s an mp3 file, around 137 mb, and playable on most media players and other devices manufactured since the Clinton administration (so I don’t get to say “Thanks, Obama”). Click here to download the latest show, along with occasional bonus shows. And click here to see playlists, which I will start posting on this blog starting with the Thanksgiving 2022 show (24 November 2022 airdate). And click here, if you’re on Facebook (I am, too; what’s WRONG with us?), to join the Uncle Max Radio Show Facebook group, where past playlists and permalinks to past shows are archived.

I grew up in Carlisle, PA, and Dickinson College was the intellectual hub of the community (still is, in many ways), and WDCV was your typical small-college radio station. I think their signal was only ten watts back then– barely enough to reach houses in town off campus– and even though timeslots were at a premium and Dickinson students had dibs, I went to a meeting there as a townie– a high school student, no less! — and they told me that I had to have my FCC radio operator’s license (the FCC used to require all over-the-air broadcasters to have what they called a restricted operator’s license; they dropped this, along with other regulations, don’t get me started, in the 80s and 90s), but if I got that, I could go on the air.

I got the license, did the training, got put on the substitute list, and while I think I only ever did one or two airshifts, and I was high school kid awful– I remember playing “She’s Gone” by Hall and Oates and doing awful DJ banter afterwards (“That’s Hall and Oates, and she is definitely gone, one toothbrush hanging in the stand” etc etc) and, for some reason, the then-new single “I Still Do” by Bill Medley– that little bit got me hooked. A year or so later, I started taking broadcasting classes at the Harrisburg Arts Magnet School (where I did a half hour weekly show broadcast over a community station in Middletown, PA), and then went to Temple University for radio-tv-film.

Temple’s station, WRTI, was 24-7 jazz back then, and even then it wasn’t run like a traditional college station. I wasn’t interested in jazz at that time, and while I got on the substitute list there too, I actually had more airtime at WDCV during the summers of my undergrad years than I did as a Temple broadcasting student! This was mainly thanks to WDCV’s wide-open summer schedule. A couple summers in the early 80s, I had multiple shows at WDCV, including a three-hour show with an hour of Beatles, an hour of Beach Boys, and an hour of whomever I felt like featuring, plus a weekly all-Sinatra show. I can’t remember if it was “Friday with Frank” or “Sunday with Sinatra,” but I’m glad to see that the station still has a weekly Sinatra show, hosted by Deeg Giachetti.

About twenty years later, when I was married and living in suburban Philly, I was working at Montgomery County Community College, which had a carrier current FM station— the signal was “broadcast” through electrical lines on campus, so you could only listen over the air if you were on campus, although they also streamed online– and my nephew Derek was a DJ and then a board member at the station. “You ought to do a show, Uncle Max,” he said repeatedly. So I took him up on it, and was initially just using my full name as my on-air name, but Derek and other students at the station kept calling me Uncle Max, so I adopted that as my air name. I’ve never been sure if I liked it, which is why, now, I say “I’m Max Shenk, the DJ known as Uncle Max.”

Go forward another fifteen years, and for various reasons I was back in Carlisle. WDCV was still on the air, and I noticed that it had a lot of open airshifts. College students didn’t seem to be interested in shows, and many of the airshifts were filled by community DJs. I missed doing a weekly show, so I approached the station, gave them my experience and credentials, they said “great, come in for training and you can go on the air,” and a week later, I was in the studio, getting “training” by a student younger than half my age on– get this– the same audio mixing board that I’d used at the station in the 70s and 80s!

I did a weekly two-hour show on Thursday mornings from 7-9 (or was it 6-8?) and then after about a year, moved back to Vermont. And while I was in Vermont, I missed doing a weekly show… and I thought “Why not do it as a podcast?” So I started doing a one hour show as a podcast for friends. Meanwhile, though, WDCV was still airing repeat broadcasts of my old shows in my former timeslot! I contacted the station and said “you know, I’m doing a show as a weekly podcast; if you want, I could format it for broadcast and you could air NEW shows of mine instead of repeats from 2017.” They said “great, do it,” and so every week on WDCV, you get a new show.

Past playlists could give you an idea of what to expect, but why do that? As I say so often on the air when I’m not sure what track to play next, “let’s be surprised together.” But I’ll try to post the weekly playlists (and corresponding promo memes) on this blog going forward as soon after the show as I can.

I hope you’ll listen in and that you like what you hear.

New shows air every Thursday and the podcasts are available on Sundays, usually by noon eastern time.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: Link to the current week’s show as a downloadable mp3 podcast (320kbps, 137 mb or thereabouts)
LISTEN TO THE LIVE STREAM: Link to WDCV FM’s online stream (my show airs on Thursday mornings at 7 am eastern time)
The Uncle Max Radio Show Facebook group
PAST SHOWS ON ARCHIVE.ORG, which you can either play online in their embedded player or download (in mp3 or lossless format)

And finally, you can support the Uncle Max Radio Show financially by becoming a sponsor— either a one-time donation or a sustaining (recurring monthly) donation in any amount. Either way, you get a sponsor shoutout on the show. Or you could just buy me a cuppo coffee.


Knowing it’s done

“Your vision is yours; not everyone can see it. A few people might see your vision now. Some might see it later. Many may never see it at all. Do not be swayed. Do not be deterred. Do not be downhearted. Stay focused on your vision and become one with it. Allow the vision to transform you into the global force for good that you are destined to be.”

~ James Weeks, “Across the King’s River”

I don’t type much about “manifesting” because it can tend to come out sounding “coach-y” or “lecture-y.” Also because while I intellectually “know” and understand the principles that Neville Goddard taught, on another level I struggle to transfer those principles into teachable EXPERIENCE.

But I did have this realization: if I have a desired end that I’ve felt as real and assumed is “done,” and it doesn’t seem to be coming forth, there is either one of two possible reasons.

One: either I didn’t fully MOVE into the state I desire or I slipped back into a state of consciousness that denies my end, in which case, as Neville would say, I need to persist (his word, used repeatedly) in my desired end, which basically means I need to know that it’s already done. Whatever I do or don’t do, let it be driven and permeated by my knowledge that my desired end is done.


Two: I moved in consciousness to a desired end, and I am now in what Neville called “the gestation period.” Neville repeatedly quoted James Moffatt’s translation of a verse from the Book of Habbukuk (2:3):

The vision has its own appointed hour
it ripens; it will flower
If it seems long, then wait
For it is sure and it will not be late.

As a Neville mentor of mine, Twenty Twenty, likes to say, “Everything is either an end or a bridge, and if it’s not an end you want, make it a bridge.” In other words, I need to proceed knowing that my desired end is already done, and that anything I do or don’t do is leading to that end. So, again, know that it’s done. Dwell in that knowing and let everything I do (or don’t do) be driven and permeated by that knowing.

No matter what the “reason,” there is only one solution: Know that it’s done.

Funny how that works.

Great AND colorful

In celebration of Artemis I’s successful launch at the beginning of what will, hopefully, mark a successful flight to the moon and the first small step in our next set of giant steps on the moon and beyond, I am posting this article, which originally appeared in issue 26 of my ‘zine Metanoia.

“If you can’t be great, be colorful.” ~ Pete Conrad, Apollo 12 commander

A couple issues ago, in my article about Jacques Tati, I noted that the only one of Tati’s feature-length films that I hadn’t seen was Trafic. I finally watched it, and one of the surprises in it was the way that Tati wove television coverage of the second Apollo lunar mission– Apollo 12– into the movie.

Tati may have been a space geek, because Apollo 12 has become a favorite mission of space geeks everywhere.

Funny; until recently, I would have been puzzled by this. I started really following the space program at age four, with Apollo 7.

Most people, if pinned down, might be able to name four missions: Apollo 1 (where three astronauts died during a routine preflight test), Apollo 8 (the first manned lunar orbital flight), Apollo 11 (the first manned lunar landing), and Apollo 13 (the one that Tom Hanks made the movie about). But I always prided myself that I’d seen every launch live, from Apollo 7 through the Apollo-Soyuz mission, and could tell you a little bit about each one…

…except Apollo 12. Honestly, if you’d asked me, I might have said Well, it was the second lunar landing…

So why all the space geek love for it?

After delving into videos and articles about the mission and the crew, I get it. Apollo 12 has become my favorite mission, mainly because of its colorful crew.

Apollo had other colorful crews, of course. The Apollo 7 crew (Wally Schirra, Walt Cunningham, and Donn Eisele) was certainly colorful to me at age four (the signs the crew held up during their TV broadcasts– KEEP THOSE CARDS AND LETTERS COMING IN, FOLKS!— were high comedy to me back then), but unfortunately, the crew was colorful to NASA in a different way. Sinus infections threw the astronauts off their game; they rankled their superiors by refusing to carry out several assigned tasks, including a scheduled TV broadcast; when the crew splashed down, the astronaut office told the trio that they’d never fly another mission, and they didn’t. Schirra retired and is probably best remembered as CBS TV’s space commentator alongside Walter Cronkite.

You might think that Apollo 12 would’ve had similar image problems. Mission commander Conrad, after all, had washed out of the testing for the original Mercury Seven astronaut corps because, as he told it, he questioned (some might say “mocked openly”) the endless psychiatric and medical tests that NASA gave the candidates.

“I think they classified me as ‘psychologically unfit to fly,’” Conrad said with a chuckle, but he tried again and joined NASA to fly with Project Gemini.

Conrad and Dick Gordon were the veterans on Apollo 12, with Al Bean the rookie, and the sense of play they brought to their flight stood in contrast to the straitlaced demeanor of the Apollo 11 crew, who were unquestionably the most qualified astronauts, but who also came across as three Joe Fridays in spacesuits.

Compare recordings and transcripts of the two missions. Apollo 11 was exciting and memorable because it was the first, but during the landing, the most memorable voice was Buzz Aldrin’s flatlined readouts of altitude and position –“Two and a half down, kicking up some dust… drifting to the right a little… four forward… four forward.” When they touched down to become the first human beings to land on another world, everyone seemed elated but them. Nope; had to read the post-landing checklist. Yes, they had a job to do and they were admirably All Business, but if you didn’t know what almost happened right before they landed (they had ten seconds of fuel left when they touched down), you certainly wouldn’t have known from their voices.

By contrast, in the transcripts of the Apollo 12 landing, you can almost hear the excitement in Conrad’s and Bean’s voices when they spotted the designated landing site and started their final descent:

Conrad – Hey, there it is! There it is! Son of a gun! Right down the middle of the road!
Bean – Outstanding! 42 degrees, Pete.
Conrad – Hey, it’s targeted right for the center of the crater! I can’t believe it!
Bean – Amazing! Fantastic! 42 degrees, babe!

I’ve listened to and watched footage of the Apollo 11 landing numerous times, but I don’t remember (and can’t imagine) either Aldrin or Armstrong calling each other “babe” at any point during their mission.

Perhaps because one of the seldom-acknowledged subplots of the Apollo 11 mission was that Armstrong and Aldrin reportedly didn’t like each other too much; they had to work together, but their camaraderie was strictly professional. That may account for some of the coolness.

By contrast, the Apollo 12 crew seemed to not only like each other, but they seemed to be having fun, in spite of the seriousness of their task. This was most evident in the first five minutes after launch, when the entire mission could have been scrubbed.

On Apollo 12’s scheduled flight date, the weather was rainy, but no one at NASA seemed concerned: the Saturn V rocket was possibly the most powerful vehicle ever constructed; the astronauts had run sims (simulator tests) for every possible contingency; why should a little rain stop the show? So Apollo 12 lifted off on schedule, and for the first half minute, everything seemed nominal, as they liked to say… but then, about 35 seconds into the flight recording, we hear a burst of electrostatic crackling, followed by Conrad’s voice on the in-cabin recorder: “What the hell was THAT?”

It didn’t take Conrad long to figure it out: “I’m not sure we didn’t just get hit by lightning, gang!”

In the words of spaceflight historian Amy Shira Teitel, “As the Saturn V tore through the electrically-charged storm clouds, the rocket and its contrail acted like a lightning rod (and) was struck by lightning twice.” This shorted out the command module power supply, and nearly every alarm light on the capsule’s instrument panel started flashing. Conrad’s recitation of the alarms is almost comically overwhelming, and even if you have no idea what he’s talking about– “I’ve got three fuel cell lights, an AC bus light, a fuel cell disconnect, AC bus overload one and two, main bus A and B out” –it’s clear that things weren’t “nominal.”

That wasn’t the only problem, though: in mission control, the usual stream of data from the capsule was suddenly indecipherable; in Teitel’s words, “a complete disaster of telemetry.” The telemetry was the means of communication between the spacecraft computers and the ground control computers. No telemetry meant no mission.

While everyone in Apollo 12 and on the ground tried to sort everything out, a mission control manager, John Aaron, recognized the gibberish they were receiving from the spacecraft. In an almost-forgotten simulation, a power failure had caused a platform called the Signal Conditioning Electronics (SCE) to malfunction, which meant that the spacecraft could no longer send coherent telemetry to the ground. Aaron remembered that in the sim, switching the SCE platform from NORMAL power to an auxiliary power source got the telemetry working again.

So Aaron passed on the word: “Tell them to set SCE to AUX.”

Conrad’s reply: “FCE to AUX? What the hell’s that?”

They repeated “SCE;” Bean flipped the SCE switch to AUX; telemetry resumed; and the crew reset the power supply and other systems.

On a cabin recording, the crew laughed as they discussed the first three minutes of the flight:

Gordon – God darn almighty, wasn’t that something, babe?
Conrad – Wasn’t that a sim they just gave us?
Gordon – Jesus! That was something else. I never saw so many… (laughing) There were so many lights up there I couldn’t even read them all!

When Conrad spoke to mission control, he said, “I think we need to do a little more all-weather testing.”

Five days later, when Conrad went down the ladder of the lunar module to become the third man to walk on the moon, he said, “Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me!”

Long, great, AND colorful.

METANOIA is my print-only ‘zine, published twice a month or so.
To receive the latest issue, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Max Shenk; 39 S Main Street, rm 138; White River Junction, VT; 05001.
Click here to subscribe.
Click here to get a sample pack of five randomly-selected past issues plus the current issue.

As Lennon said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth…”

Dear Internet,


This one… and that one that says “Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears”… and that one that says “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life”… NO! No matter what the attribution you find on Twitter or Reddit, Lennon did NOT say it, nor did he write it.

Lennon did quite a few things in his short time on the planet, but he never worked at Hallmark Cards, which sounds like the source for these and other”John Lennon” quotes I see online.

The problem is, the quotes have been reposted with misattribution so often that it’s next to impossible to track down the original sources.

But as Lennon himself said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step… because as he also said, love means never having to say you’re sorry… so, as he so wisely put it, let a smile be your umbrella and don’t get a mouthful of rain– GAHHHH!!!

Make… it… stop…

Ad (doesn’t) work

I usually watch Youtube on my laptop, which has adblockers installed, so it’s always astonishing to me when I try to watch a video on the Youtube android app and see (a) the number of ads, (b) how intrusive they are, and (c) how poorly targeted they are.

(c) = I live in Vermont and my Youtube account, linked to google, shows a Vermont zip code, but I persistently get New Hampshire political ads. No Vermont ads whatsoever, not that those would reach me either, but… whatever they’re doing to target me, they’re missing. Why can’t they get a simple demographic like residency down? If I have a Vermont zip code, that means I live in Vermont. Why would they think I care about political ads for races in a state in which I don’t live?

(b) = ads just pop up in the most annoying spots on videos. Doesn’t the algorithm or whatever understand that if an ad gets my attention by pissing me off, it’s already lost me? My annoyance is both at the app AND at the advertiser.

(a) = I discovered a while back that if I refreshed a video page when the ad started, it’d clear. A couple days ago, I had to refresh a page TWELVE TIMES before the irrelevant, poorly targeted ads (“DON BOLDUC SAYS… SENATOR MAGGIE HASSAN SAYS…”) cleared. If an ad doesn’t work seamlessly, and in fact hinders me from doing what I want to do, that’s a problem, reference “my annoyance is both at the app AND at the advertiser” above.

Look, I get advertising. It’s necessary if you have a message or a product. I’m not saying it should be abolished, or that some of them don’t reach me, or that I don’t advertise my own works myself.


You are the cause…

There is so much metaphysical stuff that I’ve read and cast aside because, upon deeper exploration, it just turned out to be secondary cause crap.

But I continue to receive my Vernon Howard emailed Secrets of Life daily newsletter, because, steeped as he was in dealing with people and their problems on THIS level, he got the BASIC, BASIC THING stated here, which is the foundation, I believe, of any spiritual practice. Certainly it’s proven to be the foundation of mine. The deeper I go into this, the more I see it to be true, like it or not. And the more I stray from it, the more mischief, to use a favorite word of Krishnamurti‘s, I encounter.

Note in particular the third paragraph here, which I’ve highlighted (I’d say “highlit,” but that always makes me think of the late great Philly disc jockey) here.

And click here for a link to Vernon’s website and his teachings and the SUBSCRIBE link for his daily emailed newsletter.


“Can’t you see yourself as a cause? You know what a cause is: a cause is something that starts something rolling. You throw a ball out in the field and that’s the cause that knocks down the blocks of wood or rolls along the grass, or whatever. The throwing of the ball is the starting of effects, of results. Now if you never thought of it before, start right now to think that you are the cause of the events in your own life, because you are.

“Now I know, I know you’re going to say that other people are; they snap at you and they don’t appreciate you and they don’t give you what you want. Does it ever occur to you that maybe you shouldn’t have that desire, that maybe it’s you instead of the world? If you’ve never thought that, let me tell you: you’d better start, because that’s the fact.

“Let me give you a beautiful thought. If you, your nature, is clear, so is your world. You want perfect evidence of that? You’re not clear now, are you? Everything is heavy and confused inside of you, strained, and so you say, ‘what a strained confused world I live in.’ You’re living in your own confusion, your own strain, and somehow because you don’t understand, you think that it exists out there. It does exist out there in the other person, but it doesn’t have to exist for you if you are free.

“You know, you can be like Daniel in the lion’s den. If you have real strength, real courage, real calmness inside of you, you can be in the lion’s den of the whole world and they can growl at you and they can claw at you, but they can’t hurt you.”

~ Vernon Howard, from the emailed “Secrets of Life” newsletter

Neville’s Concise Guide To Using The Law

This excerpt is from Neville Goddard’s lecture “Creating One New Man Instead of the Two” (11 April 1969). At this point in his life, Neville was lecturing almost exclusively on what he called “the Promise”– a series of mystical experiences that resulted in his awakening and knowing of himself as God, as paralleled in scripture– to the extent that, when he recognized several audience members whom he had not seen at his lectures in several years, he seemed almost apologetic. “They haven’t heard anything like this,” he said of The Promise, “and so you will tolerate me for a moment to go back and pick them up where we left them off. I left them with the law, not the Promise. For their sake, it is the same thing, only raised to a higher level.” It’s an excellent brief summary of the law in Neville’s own words.

This lecture transcript is included in the book of 1969 lectures entitled The Return of Glory, edited by Natalie Bernet.


“For those who only knew the law, let me now pick it up for you; just the law.

“The law is very simple. There are infinite numbers of states, infinite numbers—the state of health, the state of sickness; the state of wealth, the state of poverty; the state of being known, the state of being unknown. They are only states. You’re always in a state. Every moment of time you are only in a state. The state to which you most often return constitutes your dwelling place. So we all have one state that we feel more at home in that state, and so we return to it moment after moment. That constitutes our dwelling place.

“But if it is not a pleasant state in which to live, we can always get out of it. But we remain in the state and try to get out of it through external means, and that is not what we teach. You don’t get out of it by trying to pull wires from the outside, manipulating things on the outside. You get out of these states simply by a mental adjustment within yourself. As you fell into the present state either deliberately or unwittingly—chances are you did it unwittingly—so you are in a state and you are the life of that state and the state becomes alive and grows like a tree and bears the fruit of that tree. But you don’t like the fruit that you are bearing—it may be the fruit of poverty, may be the fruit of distress, the fruit of all kinds of unlovely things. Well now, how do I detach myself from this unlovely harvest that I’m harvesting all the time?

“I do it by simply an adjustment in my own wonderful human Imagination. I ask myself what do I want instead of what I seem to have. When I name it, I ask myself, how would I see the world if things were as I desired them to be? How would I see them; what would the feeling be like if it were true? When I know exactly what the feeling would be like were it true, I try to catch that feeling. And to aid the feeling I imagine that I’m seeing people that I know well and I allow them to see me as they would see me if what I am feeling were true. I let them see me in my Imagination and when the whole thing is adjusted in my mind’s eye so that they see me as I would see them and it now produces in me the feeling I desire, then I sleep. I fall asleep in that assumption. That assumption is a state, that’s all that it is, it’s a state. Now, let me make that state as natural as I made the former state that I did not like. If I find myself returning to this new state constantly, all of a sudden it becomes natural. As going home tonight, it will seem natural to me to go home and undress and sleep in my familiar bed.

“If tonight I went to some other place, no matter how glorious it is, beautifully furnished and everything at my command, it wouldn’t seem natural. When I leave here to go to San Francisco or New York and go into those lovely hotels, certainly, I pay much more money in these hotels than I pay in rent where I live, but it’s not as comfortable and not as natural. So you go to a hotel and you pay twenty-two, twenty-three dollars a day. Well, I don’t pay that sort of money in my rent, but it doesn’t compare to my natural state where I am. I feel so natural when I go home tonight and just get into my bed, get into my place. Well now, you must make this state just as natural. At first it seems unnatural like buying a new suit or buying a hat: it doesn’t seem natural. So you walk down the street and no one knows you, but you have a new hat, and you really believe that every one who passes by is looking at your hat, that they can see a new hat, and they don’t care whether you are living or not. But you are aware of the fact that it is new and until it becomes an old hat in your mind’s eye you are conscious of the fact that you are wearing a new hat. Well, you’re conscious of the fact that you are wearing a new state until you make it natural. So the state to which you most constantly return constitutes your place of home. I call it your home.

“Now, most of us have this great weakness. We know what we want or we think we know what we want, and we construct it in our mind’s eye, but we never occupy it. We never move into it and make it natural. I call that perpetual construction, deferred occupancy. We don’t occupy it. I can have a lovely place where I think one day I am going to go, but I keep on postponing the day, postponing the day, and I don’t occupy it. ‘I wish so-and-so were’ and I name it. But if I wish so-and-so were as I would like them to be, that’s the state from which I view them. Well, I’ve had the state, I’ve built it, I’ve constructed it, but I don’t occupy it. Perpetual construction, all day long I have the state. ‘If she were only’ and I name it, but I don’t go into the state and view her from that state; I don’t occupy the state. So she remains in my mind’s eye in the unlovely state in which I see her.

“Now that’s the world in which we live. There are only states, an infinite number of states. You can’t think of a thing that you could not reduce to a state, but the life of the state is the individual when he occupies it, because his Imagination gives life to the state. You can’t give life to it from without, because God’s name is I AM. God’s name is not ‘you are’ or ‘they are;’ his eternal name is I AM– that’s the light of the world, that’s the life of the world. So, if I would make a state alive, I must be in it. So I can say I am here. If you are here, what are you seeing? Well, I am seeing her and she is lovely. Things are just as I’ve always desired them to be for her. So that’s how I’m seeing her right now: I’m in the state.

“Now make that state natural. Sleep in that state for her sake and then you’ll make that state and incorporate it into your own lovely state so that whenever you think of her you’re thinking of her from that state. You can take everyone, one after the other, and make it a natural thing for them until finally when you discuss them or refer to them or think of them, it is always from that state. Others may not see them in that light. It doesn’t really matter what they think. I’m quite sure if I took some survey concerning what people think of me in my small world, no two would agree. Some would say, well, he’s a charlatan, why, he’s a deceiver; others would say I think he’s the nearest thing to God that I’ve ever seen. You have all kinds. What a range, from the devil to God, and all about the same person based upon the state in which you are when you’re called upon to define me. And so, you define me based upon your state.

“So, everyone in this world could be what he would like to be if he knows this principle and applies it. We are the operant power; it doesn’t operate itself. I may know it from A to Z, but knowing it is one thing and doing it is another. Can I really do it? Well, I can do it– then do it. Don’t say knowledge is enough. Knowing it will not do it. I am the operant power…

“…Apply the law. Don’t for one second fail to do it, because while we are in the world of Caesar, we must master this principle and live knowing there are only states. There is no such thing as a good man or a bad man. He’s in a good state as he conceives it and the other one is in a bad state as he conceives it, but the occupant of the state is really God. And so as (William) Blake said in his Visions of the Last Judgment: ‘From this you will perceive I do not consider anyone either good or evil, just or unjust, but simply to be those who unknowingly fell into states.‘ They fell into states, identified themselves with the state, and then they were pronounced by others to be good or to be evil. They are only in states.

“So tonight, if you are unemployed or you find it difficult to get promotion in your present employment, or you are in need, remember all the solutions of your present state are still states. I hope I have made clear how you move into a state. You move into a state by knowing how you would see the world if things were as you desire them to be, and then you begin to see them in your mind’s eye as though it were true. And then you sleep in that assumption just as though it is true. That assumption, though at the moment is denied by your reason and your senses, if you persist in it and make it natural, will harden into fact.”


This was originally published as a short story in Green Mountain Trading Post and then the story collection What’s With Her?, and I later incorporated it into my novel You Don’t Think She Is. Ordering info for these books is at the bottom of this page. –mhs


Scott Perry was one of those kids who was easy to miss when we were little. He was just on the fringe of our neighborhood, and he’d show up at an occasional pick-up ballgame; I knew him to say “Hi” at school, but really, I barely noticed him up until sixth grade. That was when he grew… and as he grew, my best friend, Margo LeDoux, started to take an interest in him. If I’d had any sort of non-best-friend interest in Margo myself, her suddenly smiling and saying “Hi” all quiet and shy to him as they passed in the hallway might have made me really, really jealous.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t interested.

Through elementary school, Scott had been little, stick-thin and wiry, but in sixth grade, he started to get tall, and the summer between the end of sixth grade and the beginning of seventh, he finished. When we came back to school in late August 1972, he was six-four. Not a mature six-four, mind you –he was gangly and a little gawky, like a baby giraffe– but he was a good-looking kid with that sad look that breaks 13-year-old hearts: thin lips, deep, dark eyes, a long face, and (as Margo said to her friend Christy Kelly one day after school), “Scotty’s Mom’s a Dental Hygienist, so not only does he have dreamy eyes, but straight white teeth and minty-fresh breath!”

Scott also had Beatle Hair: a mop of reddish-brown hair which he swept in an informal part to the left, and which he always seemed to be fighting… first with his fingers, then with a comb, and finally with a backwards jerk of his head… which worked almost as well as a comb most of the time.

     Margo’d noticed Scott and Scott definitely had his Dreamy Eyes on Margo, and I wasn’t too sure how I felt about this, but, like most boys, Scott saw Margo and me together and kept his distance. But that didn’t mean he didn’t look…

One of the first times he looked was Friday of the second week of the school year. I left gym class and met Margo at the caf, and while I snagged our seats, she got in the ala carte line to get her lunch. I started into my Lebanon Bologna With Cooper Sharp On White and watched as she slowly made her way up to the single cashier: sixth in line… fifth… fourth…

     And there, almost directly across from her, in the hot meal line, was Scott Perry, paralleling her forward movement: fourth… third… second…

     The two of them met at the cashier’s (why they had only one cashier was beyond me) and Scott, being a gentleman, nodded to Margo to step up in front of him and pay for her food first. As the cashier rung up Margo’s meal and Scott stood there waiting, he checked out my best friend as slyly as he could…

     …and as he did, that shock of brown hair slipped lower and lower and lower… down his forehead, over his eyebrows, down into his eyes.

He couldn’t brush it back with his fingers: his hands were full of tray. So he did what he’d been doing lately: he tried to flip his hair back out of his eyes with a jerk of his head…

     …only what he flipped was his tray. The hot meal of the day (Turkey in gravy with Mash Potatos and Savory stuffing, Butter succotash and Apple Sauce) leapt up onto the front of his tan cableknit sweater. Scott’s silverware clattered to the concrete cafeteria floor, and his opened carton of milk spilled down onto the cashier.

Silence for a second, and then laughter from the few people who’d seen the whole thing, including me… and Margo, who stifled herself and stepped toward Scott to help. When their eyes met, he was so horrified that he dropped his tray on the floor and ran out of the caf to the boys’ room.

“God, Bri,” Margo said when she sat down across from me, “did you see that?”

“Yeah,” I chuckled as I took my milk off her tray. “Pretty funny, huh?”

“I guess,” Margo said. She took a bite of her sandwich, her long honey blonde bangs falling in her eyes. “Do you think he saw me laugh at him?” she said as she chewed.

“I don’t know,” I said.

Margo sighed. “God, I feel like such a jerk.” She took a sip of her milk and I ate the last bite of my sandwich. I felt like I was being watched.



“Could you please run to the bathroom and check on him?”

I laughed. “Check on him?”

“Brian, I feel bad.” She reached across and touched my bare arm. I noticed the red delicious polish on her fingernails. “Come on, Bri,” she said. “You know him. Please?”

“I don’t really know him, Margo…”

Margo just took a bite of her sandwich and looked at me, big-eyed.


I took a swig of milk and pushed my chair out.

Margo sat up. “Thanks, Bri!” she said as I got up from my seat.

I maneuvered my way through my classmates, down the narrow aisle between the crowded tables, taking note of the time (11:05. Why did we eat lunch so early?), and then stepped out to the boys’ room in the lobby right outside the cafeteria and stuck my head in the door.

“Scott?” I said.

Echo… echo… echo…

I opened the door the rest of the way and stepped inside. The sound of the door shutting behind me echoed off the tile walls and floors as I scanned the stalls…

No feet visible. And the window was shut, so he hadn’t climbed out. Maybe he went to the office, or the nurse, but he wasn’t in that bathroom.

I opened the door to go back out to the caf, and as I did, I heard the distinct sound of a sneeze from one of the stalls…

…but I just let the door shut behind me and fought my way back down the aisle to take my seat across from Margo.

“Well?” she said, straightening up a little.

I sat down and opened my baggie of carrot sticks, and looked straight at the wall behind Margo.

“I didn’t see anybody in there.”


“Flip!” is available in two different books:

It was a chapter in my novel You Don’t Think She Is, which is available in print, Kindle edition, or as a PDF e-book; click on the highlighted text for product page links or click here for complete ordering info, including ISBN info for ordering from your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore.

It was also included in my short story collection What’s With Her? , originally published in print by New Plains Press, and available as a Kindle book here. A new print edition will be issued in autumn 2022 along with a PDF version.

The making of a TWINS comic: from idea to finished panel

A few weeks ago, on Facebook, someone reposted a screenshot of a tweet from politician Lauren Boebert, apparently in response to an alleged incident where school-aged children were taken to a “drag bar.”

A Facebook friend of mine who worked for a while in the adult entertainment biz (he didn’t “do porn” but worked in the business) posted this in response, and asked “Maybe THIS was what she meant:”

Immediately I realized that Boebert’s utterly clueless double entendre would be great fodder for a TWINS comic. I wasn’t sure exactly what form it would take, but part of the basis of the humor I use in those panels is the contrast between Rebecca’s clueless boldness and Christy’s clueless naivete. So I knew that Rebecca shouting out “TAKE ME TO CHURCH” and Christy misunderstanding it was the basis for a gag. I just had to create the comic itself…

… unfortunately, as writer Edward Abbey pointed out, the problem with being a writer is that one must actually sit down (or stand up) and WRITE. It wasn’t enough to have the idea; I had to flesh it out.

But another thing I learned as an MFA student and have applied repeatedly is the phrase “trust the process.” I knew I had something, but I needed to let it sit for a bit until it germinated.

Yesterday, after a few weeks, I finally sat down to create the comic.

My comics are digitally altered Bitstrips/Bitmoji comics superimposed onto photo backdrops, so the first thing I always do is find a photo backdrop for the drawings. I originally thought “OK, so Christy is in the kitchen; she’s either having coffee with a friend and telling that friend how she’s so happy that her sister is finally getting ‘straightened out’ because the night before she heard Rebecca with her date screaming out ‘TAKE ME TO CHURCH, BABY!’ OR she’s sitting there alone having coffee or tea and she hears Rebecca crying out those words from the bedroom-the couch in the living room-the basement- wherever she and her lover are ‘going to church.'”

I settled on the second approach. More direct and more comic potential, I decided.

So Christy was going to be in the kitchen late at night having a cup of tea, overhearing her sister screwing… so… I needed a photo backdrop of a kitchen. Fortunately, in a couple previous comics, I’d shown “their” kitchen in a couple different versions, so I had a kitchen photo saved in my REBECCA PORNSTRIPS folder already…

Next, the characters. I have a folder of several hundred different “Christy and Rebecca” poses that I digitally alter. Aside from altering the clothing or the outfits, I make changes to their bodies as well. “Christy” is pretty close to the bitstrips originals, but I make Rebecca’s boobs bigger, and bleach her hair so that it’s even more “blonde,” and darken her tan so that it’s tanning bed/spray tan brown, and add purple mascara, and, finally, put her in clothing that, for anyone dwelling outside of a strip club or a People Of Walmart video, would be embarrassingly revealing.

Here’s a side by side of an original Bitstrips and an altered “Rebecca” pornstrips pose.

But for this comic, there was no Rebecca; just Christy… so no need to perform cartoon breast augmentation, spray tanning, hair bleaching, etc.

Christy is easy: I browsed the original unaltered Bitstrips emojis and found one pose that I liked, and one expression that I kind of liked…

… and I combined the facial expressions so that Christy had the “listening with curiosity” expression that I wanted, and then changed the bikini to a nightgown…

I’ve superimposed the drawing on a blue backdrop here for contrast, but the Bitstrips/Bitmoji originals are PNG files, which, whatever that means technically, means that when I alter and manipulate them digitally, if I save them in PNG, the drawings are on a blank background. They can therefore be copied and pasted onto another photo. That’s how I “make” these comics.

So I superimposed “Christy with cup of tea in nightgown” onto the kitchen backdrop photo that I’d selected, and…

So Christy’s listening to (or inadvertently overhearing) something… what is she hearing? Rebecca, of course. This is one of the few TWINS comics where Rebecca doesn’t appear directly in the panel. So… insert a comic balloon…

Of course, just like with Lauren Boebert not getting that “taking someone to church” can mean not only literally going to church, but making your lover cum wildly, the gag here is not just what Rebecca is crying out from the bedroom above; it’s what Christy thinks she’s actually saying. So the next step was to write a caption…

…and if you want to see the finished version of this comic with that caption, I’m sorry. It’s going to be in the next issue of my ‘zine METANOIA, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who reads my ‘zine. If you want to get a copy of the ‘zine (usually a two- or four-page newsletter, actually), it’s PRINT ONLY. I’ll be happy to send you the issue via US Mail if you send me return postage or a self-addressed stamped envelope (Max Shenk; Hotel Coolidge rm 138; 39 South Main Street; White River Junction, VT 05001) OR donate to my ko-fi page.

Anyway, that’s how I make the comic sausage.

And maybe THAT turn of phrase is another TWINS comic.

Mark Twain: “General Washington’s Negro Body-Servant”

This is one of my favorite pieces by Mark Twain. I’m trying to track down its publication history and will add it to this post when I find it. It’s often presented online as a “short story,” but in the work itself Twain states that he compiled the material “from authentic sources,” actual newspaper clippings. Twain worked at newspapers early in his career, so it’s likely that he gathered clippings from various papers through the years. My guess is that this piece was first published sometime in the 1870s, but, again, I’m not sure. When I find original publication information, I’ll add it to the bottom of the piece.

A Biographical Sketch

The stirring part of this celebrated colored man’s life properly began
with his death–that is to say, the notable features of his biography
began with the first time he died. He had been little heard of up
to that time, but since then we have never ceased to hear of him;
we have never ceased to hear of him at stated, unfailing intervals.
His was a most remarkable career, and I have thought that its history
would make a valuable addition to our biographical literature.
Therefore, I have carefully collated the materials for such a work,
from authentic sources, and here present them to the public. I have
rigidly excluded from these pages everything of a doubtful character,
with the object in view of introducing my work into the schools
for the instruction of the youth of my country.

The name of the famous body-servant of General Washington was George.
After serving his illustrious master faithfully for half a century,
and enjoying throughout his long term his high regard and confidence,
it became his sorrowful duty at last to lay that beloved master
to rest in his peaceful grave by the Potomac. Ten years afterward–
in 1809–full of years and honors, he died himself, mourned by all
who knew him. The Boston GAZETTE of that date thus refers to
the event:

George, the favorite body-servant of the lamented Washington,
died in Richmond, Va., last Tuesday, at the ripe age of 95 years.
His intellect was unimpaired, and his memory tenacious, up to
within a few minutes of his decease. He was present at the second
installation of Washington as President, and also at his funeral,
and distinctly remembered all the prominent incidents connected with
those noted events.

From this period we hear no more of the favorite body-servant of
General Washington until May, 1825, at which time he died again.
A Philadelphia paper thus speaks of the sad occurrence:

At Macon, Ga., last week, a colored man named George, who was the
favorite body-servant of General Washington, died at the advanced
age of 95 years. Up to within a few hours of his dissolution he
was in full possession of all his faculties, and could distinctly
recollect the second installation of Washington, his death
and burial, the surrender of Cornwallis, the battle of Trenton,
the griefs and hardships of Valley Forge, etc. Deceased was
followed to the grave by the entire population of Macon.

On the Fourth of July, 1830, and also of 1834 and 1836, the subject
of this sketch was exhibited in great state upon the rostrum
of the orator of the day, and in November of 1840 he died again.
The St. Louis REPUBLICAN of the 25th of that month spoke as follows:


“George, once the favorite body-servant of General Washington,
died yesterday at the house of Mr. John Leavenworth in this city,
at the venerable age of 95 years. He was in the full possession
of his faculties up to the hour of his death, and distinctly
recollected the first and second installations and death of
President Washington, the surrender of Cornwallis, the battles
of Trenton and Monmouth, the sufferings of the patriot army at
Valley Forge, the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence,
the speech of Patrick Henry in the Virginia House of Delegates,
and many other old-time reminiscences of stirring interest.
Few white men die lamented as was this aged negro. The funeral
was very largely attended.”

During the next ten or eleven years the subject of this sketch
appeared at intervals at Fourth-of-July celebrations in various
parts of the country, and was exhibited upon the rostrum with
flattering success. But in the fall of 1855 he died again.
The California papers thus speak of the event:


Died, at Dutch Flat, on the 7th of March, George (once the confidential
body-servant of General Washington), at the great age of 95 years.
His memory, which did not fail him till the last, was a wonderful
storehouse of interesting reminiscences. He could distinctly recollect
the first and second installations and death of President Washington,
the surrender of Cornwallis, the battles of Trenton and Monmouth,
and Bunker Hill, the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence,
and Braddock’s defeat. George was greatly respected in Dutch Flat,
and it is estimated that there were 10,000 people present at
his funeral.

The last time the subject of this sketch died was in June, 1864; and until
we learn the contrary, it is just to presume that he died permanently
this time. The Michigan papers thus refer to the sorrowful event:


George, a colored man, and once the favorite body-servant of
George Washington, died in Detroit last week, at the patriarchal age
of 95 years. To the moment of his death his intellect was unclouded,
and he could distinctly remember the first and second installations
and death of Washington, the surrender of Cornwallis, the battles
of Trenton and Monmouth, and Bunker Hill, the proclamation of the
Declaration of Independence, Braddock’s defeat, the throwing over
of the tea in Boston harbor, and the landing of the Pilgrims.
He died greatly respected, and was followed to the grave by a vast
concourse of people.

The faithful old servant is gone! We shall never see him more until
he turns up again. He has closed his long and splendid career
of dissolution, for the present, and sleeps peacefully, as only they sleep
who have earned their rest. He was in all respects a remarkable man.
He held his age better than any celebrity that has figured in history;
and the longer he lived the stronger and longer his memory grew.
If he lives to die again, he will distinctly recollect the discovery
of America.

The above r’esum’e of his biography I believe to be substantially
correct, although it is possible that he may have died once or twice
in obscure places where the event failed of newspaper notoriety.
One fault I find in all the notices of his death I have quoted,
and this ought to be correct. In them he uniformly and impartially
died at the age of 95. This could not have been. He might have
done that once, or maybe twice, but he could not have continued
it indefinitely. Allowing that when he first died, he died at
the age of 95, he was 151 years old when he died last, in 1864.
But his age did not keep pace with his recollections. When he died
the last time, he distinctly remembered the landing of the Pilgrims,
which took place in 1620. He must have been about twenty years
old when he witnessed that event, wherefore it is safe to assert
that the body-servant of General Washington was in the neighborhood
of two hundred and sixty or seventy years old when he departed this
life finally.

Having waited a proper length of time, to see if the subject of his
sketch had gone from us reliably and irrevocably, I now publish his
biography with confidence, and respectfully offer it to a mourning nation.

P.S.–I see by the papers that this infamous old fraud has just
died again, in Arkansas. This makes six times that he is known
to have died, and always in a new place. The death of Washington’s
body-servant has ceased to be a novelty; its charm is gone;
the people are tired of it; let it cease. This well-meaning
but misguided negro has now put six different communities to the
expense of burying him in state, and has swindled tens of thousands
of people into following him to the grave under the delusion that
a select and peculiar distinction was being conferred upon them.
Let him stay buried for good now; and let that newspaper suffer
the severest censure that shall ever, in all the future time,
publish to the world that General Washington’s favorite colored
body-servant has died again.