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.
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Bushwackers and “heroes of Gettysburg”

On the weekend of the 159th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, I am posting this article from issue #28 of my ‘zine METANOIA.

One of my favorite Gettysburg historians, Tim Smith, has been all over my YouTube suggestion queue lately, which doesn’t bother me; I’m always happy to watch any video in which Smith displays his unique mix of battle expertise and his dry, irreverent sense of humor. Smith, a historian at the Adams County (PA) Historical Society, delves deeply into battle topics that other historians often only treat on the surface, if at all. Two recent in-depth video interviews showed him at his best, fascinating and funny, discussing two of his pet topics: the early days of the Gettysburg campaign in Adams County, and civilian battle celebrity John Burns.

The interview about the early days of the campaign revealed a potential family connection to me. While the battle itself began on July 1, the Confederates had already come into Pennsylvania two weeks before, making mischief from Chambersburg east to Caledonia (where they raided Thaddeus Stevens’ ironworks).

On June 23, in Cashtown (about eight miles west of Gettysburg) a company of rebel cavalry chased a group of local militia into the woods. At the same time, in a Cashtown hotel, a local named Henry Hahn drunkenly announced “I’m going to shoot myself a rebel.” When the Confederate cavalry rode through, Hahn made good on his promise and shot and killed a cavalryman named Eli Amick, who was the first soldier killed in Adams County during the campaign. Hahn became known as “the bushwhacker.”

Far from feeling like a hero, Hahn went into hiding in the local woods for the next ten days (by military law, the Rebels could have executed him), and reportedly regretted this incident for the rest of his life. He still has descendants in Adams County, and the possible connection I found is in his last name, which is the same as my grandmother’s maiden name. I don’t know if there was any connection between the Adams County Hahns and the Hahns who settled in western Pennsylvania, but I’ll still investigate it sometime.

And if it’s not the same Hahn, maybe I can just do what Smith says John Burns did routinely: make up a story that sounds good.

Smith’s other interview was a discussion of his book John Burns: “The Hero of Gettysburg,” quotation marks employed because, according to Smith, that was how Burns referred to himself. It’s a fun book which explodes all of the mythology surrounding Burns, integrating newly-discovered primary source material from a pair of unfinished Burns bios by other authors, including first-hand accounts of townspeople and soldiers.

Burns was, to put it kindly, an unreliable source, especially concerning his own exploits. While he claimed to be a veteran of the War of 1812, Smith says that not only can that not be proven, but, in fact, it can easily be disproven by looking at muster rolls of units which fought where Burns claimed to have served, rolls on which his name is conspicuously absent. Aside from several terms as town constable, he drifted from job to job and was, if we are to trust contemporary accounts from other Gettysburg residents, seen as a humorless man and something of a local joke, if not an annoyance.

But Burns had one moment of glory, and that was on the first day of the battle of Gettysburg (July 1, 1863), when, at age 69, he grabbed his musket and went out to the field to join the fighting as a civilian volunteer, where he was wounded in action.

That Burns was wounded is beyond dispute; how many times he was wounded is unknown because he was never given a medical exam. (His pension was awarded by a special act of Congress, which didn’t require an exam.)

This gave Burns license to create (and re-create) his own truth: Smith says in varying accounts after the battle, including those of Burns himself, it was claimed that Burns had been hit by Rebel fire one time, two times, three times, four times, five times, and seven times.

“So we know for certain,” Smith said, “that Burns was not wounded six times.”

So locally notorious was Burns and his ever-shifting story that where Bret Harte opened his famous 1864 poem, “John Burns of Gettysburg,” with the following lines…

Have you heard the story that gossips tell
Of John Burns of Gettysburg? – No! Ah, well:
Brief is the glory that hero earns.
Briefer the story of poor John Burns
He was the fellow who won renown
The only man who didn’t back down
When the rebels rode through his native town…

…a Gettyburg resident named Henry Minnigh (himself a former captain in the 1st PA Reserves) wrote and printed a flier of a poem entitled “A Necessary Revisal,” which he distributed at the dedication of a Gettysburg memorial to Burns in 1903. The opening lines read…

Yes, we have heard the story gossips tell,
Of John Burns of Gettysburg. Ah, well!
Among the people here ‘tis a conviction,
Half the tale is fact, the other half is fiction…

“It is a rare treat,” Smith wrote, “when we are able to actually confirm an aspect of the Burns legend,” and legend and fact seem to have converged in Gettysburg on the afternoon of July 1, 1863: Burns tried to get his neighbors to get their weapons and go join in the first day’s battle on the nearby field, but they refused (“the only man who didn’t back down”); he grabbed his musket and went out to the portion of the field now known as Reynolds Woods (so named because Union General John Reynolds was killed there); he tried to latch onto a Pennsylvania unit, but they basically told the old man to go back home, but Burns persisted and eventually fought alongside the 7th Wisconsin regiment (the famous “Iron Brigade”), where he received his wound(s).

Shortly after he was shot, the Confederates took that part of the field; Burns, who, like Hahn, could have been executed by the Rebels for bushwhacking, hid his gun and ammo and pleaded with the Confederate doctors to treat him, which they did, but they left him on the field near where he fell. When night came, Burns crawled about a quarter mile to a house on the edge of town (the Riggs house, across from Robert E. Lee’s headquarters), where he lay on a cellar door overnight.

According to Smith, while he was lying wounded on the field, Burns described his house in town to a member of the 7th Wisconsin, and asked the soldier to tell his wife to come get him. The soldier balked at first, but later when he passed Burns’ house, he decided to stop and knock on the door. Burns’ wife Barbara answered and the soldier relayed her husband’s message.

Mrs. Burns’ reply?

“I told him not to go out there.”

Brief, indeed, was the glory that hero earned.

Book: Smith, Timothy H. John Burns: “The Hero of Gettysburg.” Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 2000. ISBN 1-57747-060-5

Youtube video interviews with Smith about…
“the Bushwhacker:” tinyurl.com/henry-hahn-bushwhacker
John Burns: tinyurl.com/tim-smith-on-john-burns

METANOIA is a semi-monthly print-only ‘zine. To get a copy of the latest issue, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to:
Max Shenk
Hotel Coolidge, rm 138
39 S Main St
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OR
email maxshenkwrites@gmail.com for info.

What is METANOIA, and why haven’t you asked me to send you a copy?

The picture above, as they used to say at print newspapers, is my “morgue”: all back issues of my print only ‘zine METANOIA.

I’ve had contact with a couple people who, when I asked if they wanted me to send it to them every couple weeks, seemed to balk, for whatever reason. These aren’t strangers; they’re people whom I consider friends, and yet they seemed hesitant– scared?– to just say “Yeah, send me a copy,” as if NEXT I’d be pestering them for payment, or expecting FEEDBACK of some kind, or they wanted me to send them a link (read again: PRINT ONLY. NO ONLINE!!) or who knows what else… 

No.

This is usually a single page or two pages, two columns, front and back.

So what is it?

The title of this is METANOIA; it means “a radical transformation.” I like the word and I try to embody it in my life and as a writer, so that’s the title I gave it.

I do it for these reasons:

* I am a writer, and writers write.

* Writing, though, is not just putting words on paper or screen. It’s honing a piece, editing it, getting it published, and connecting with readers.

* I’d reached a point, a few years back, where I was writing in my journal and online (mainly through my characters) but not PUBLISHING. 

* I also didn’t like that online writing was ephemeral, too easily ignored.

* I also love getting physical mail: letters, magazines, packages, cards, postcards. I like to hold a piece of paper in my hand that someone thought enough of to send me.

* I also know and have “met” via social media a lot of like-minded people who have given me of themselves in every way imaginable, and I wanted to give them something back. And “gold or silver I cannot offer thee, but that which I have, I will give you freely.” (Or something like that. 😉 ) And as a writer, what I have to give is my writing.

* With all this in mind, two years ago this week, as the first wave of the pandemic hit, I decided to publish this ‘zine.

It would be a writing discipline– I would write, finish, edit, and publish new writing every couple weeks and PUT IT OUT THERE for readers.

It would be print only– that way it wouldn’t get lost in the online weeds of links and blogs and websites– and I would mail those physical copies to people who expressed an interest in me or my writing, or vice versa. 

I didn’t stick strictly to the “every two weeks” schedule the past year or so, as health issues overtook me, but I’m back on that schedule. Issue 31 came out last week; issue 32 will come out NEXT week.

People have paid for it and that is appreciated and it helps me cover the necessary expenses of postage, paper, envelopes, toner, and stuff like this website, but if you want to read it and can’t pay or don’t want to, you’re under NO OBLIGATION to pay.

It’s not a burden on me. It is MY PLEASURE to create this and share it with you.

If you like ME and what I post on social media and on this website, or liked my books, or like my radio show, you will like METANOIA. Each issue contains, generally, an article on something that interests me, a metaphysical article of some kind, fiction pieces from my ongoing character fiction project on social media, a cartoon (yes, I draw that, too; see my posts on The Twins for samples), and whatever quotes I can fit in to fill space.

The topics these past two years have ranged from… let’s see… my uncle Ed, metaphysical lessons in STAR TREK, online shopping, Thoreau’s journal as his TRUE literary magnum opus, John Burns (the “hero of Gettysburg”), the Beatles’ LET IT BE remaster, 60s misogyny in the “good old days,” character development in M*A*S*H, dealing with “Writer’s block,” Penn State football, the silliness of record collecting, how online interactions can sometimes destroy friendships, parenting, French and American cultural norms and faux pas, my process of learning to play a seeming impossible song on the piano, PEANUTS and Charles Schulz and “canon” in story, the lives of blue jays, why I hate the phone, along with the writers and thinkers who stoke me: Neville Goddard, Krishnamurti, Thomas Merton, Henry Miller, Jacques Tati, Orson Welles, and Thoreau (did I mention Thoreau? He is my favorite and appears frequently, even if it’s just a quote).

The metaphysical stuff simply reflects my ongoing life work of reconciling the spiritual with the world. Isn’t that what most of us are trying to do?

Anything in that incomplete topic list that interests you?

Again:

It’s print only.

If you’d like to read a copy, here’s the complicated, convoluted process:

Send me your snail mail address and I will send you the latest issue.

That’s all.

If you want a back issue and saw a topic in the list above that interests you, mention that and I’ll send it along. If you want to go random, pick a number between 1 and 31 and I’ll send that back issue.

You are under no obligation to PAY or BUY anything. If you want to subscribe formally (several people have), it’s a buck an issue in the USA. If you want to donate via my ko-fi page, great. If you want to send stamps (as a couple people have), great.

If not any of the above, great.

You’re not even required to READ IT. One of the most bizarre exchanges I’ve had was with someone whom I’d quoted liberally in an issue, and I messaged him telling him and asking if he’d like a copy, since he was quoted in it, and if so just send me his snail mail address and I’d pop it in the mailbox for him. After five or six messages, he didn’t seem to get that I just wanted to give him this. Further, the tone of his replies made me feel like he saw this as ONE MORE ADDED OBLIGATION IN HIS ALREADY BUSY LIFE.

No. This is a gift, from me to you.

If you’re interested, email me (maxshenkwrites@gmail.com) or use the submit comment feature on this website, or, if you want to pay, you can either get a subscription by becoming a monthy donor or buy back issues.

That’s all there is to it. Honestly.

As my buddy Skip Heller said once about giving away his music on MP3s, a musician’s job is to make music, and a listener’s job is to listen.

As a writer, my job is to write. The reader’s job is to read.

Become a reader of METANOIA!

Hey, Jay! Hey, Red!

This article was originally published in issue 22 of my print-only ‘zine Metanoia.

From my current living space, I don’t see a lot of birds, or at least I don’t see the number of birds that I used to see when I lived in (relatively) rural Vermont and could put up feeders, or take a walk in the woods by just stepping out the back door. This has led me to satisfy my birding interests virtually via Youtube, specifically on two channels: the first hosted by a Newfoundland woman named Lesley the Bird Nerd, who produces beautiful informational videos; and the second a live bird feeder cam hosted by a user named B.A. Birdwatcher; that cam livestreams from (ironically, since I grew up less than 30 miles from there, lived there briefly, and consider it one of my favorite places in the world) Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

The videos on these two channels have both stoked and fed my interest. Lesley’s channel is mainly informational– four-to-ten-minute-long videos about the the birds she sees– and from it, I’ve not only been tipped off to behavior I might have missed otherwise; I’ve also had a few misconceptions shattered.

For instance, it’s the start of spring, and I’ve already overheard one conversation this year from someone who was excitedly reporting that they’d “seen their first robin.” Uhhh, sorry: as I learned from one of Lesley’s videos, robins are mostly non-migratory. They’re drawn to the suburbs, it’s believed, because the closely-trimmed lawns make it easier for them to find worms and other food, and in winter, those feeding spots being mostly unavailable, they retreat to the woods. They’re still local, in other words; they’re just off in the woods feeding instead of on our lawns.

Lesley’s favorite birds are blue jays, and she’s at least passed on her love of them to me. Watching her videos, I’ve learned more about jays than I have from any book or live observation. Both her videos and the live “feeder cam” have reminded me that I learn best through a combination of facts and observation. Some of the things she’s learned by watching blue jays for almost 30 years are:

  • Blue jays are monogamous. They don’t necessarily always “mate for life” (Lesley has observed some nasty blue jay breakups, with spurned former mates being driven away from their territory), but they do pair up, and several of the mated pairs she’s observed have been together five or more winters.
  • Blue jays eat paint chips. It doesn’t hurt them; this, Lesley says, is an apparently instinctive attempt to get calcium in their diet, which they naturally get from eggshells. It’s fascinating to me that a bird would know to eat calcium-laden paint chips to supplement its diet.
  • Blue jays, like most birds, have different calls and sounds and body language, all of them communicative of different messages. For example, jays do a bobbing movement accompanied by what she calls “the squeaky gate” call, which is a sign of dominance or aggression: this is my limb/ my tree/ my feeder/ my mate, so go away NOW. I’d never noticed this call before, but now when I hear it, I know I’ve heard it before, and it’s unmistakable.
  • Blue jays can mimic other birds, sometimes strategically. Lesley reports that several times, she’s heard what sounds like a sharp-shinned hawk calling from the trees above her feeder, which, of course, caused the smaller birds at the feeder to scatter for cover… all except the jays. (Insert hmmmmmm…here.) She scanned the trees with her binoculars, expecting to find a hawk, but instead found that the source of the call was…a blue jay. The jay had learned to mimic a sharp-shinned hawk’s call; the threat of an assumed nearby predatory bird sent the smaller birds flying away from the feeder, which meant that the blue jay and his jay friends now had the feeder all to themselves.

Learning these things about jays and other birds, I find I can sit for hours watching the “feeder cam,” and I notice all birds’ interactions in a new way.

Cardinals seem to dominate this feeder– maybe not surprising: it’s a tray feeder filled mostly with sunflower seeds, which cardinals love. While I can easily tell a male cardinal (bright red) from a female cardinal (duller brownish red), it’s impossible for me to distinguish between different males or females (even with 1080px streaming video, there’s only so much detail you can discern). However, the birds’ behavior tells me that there are, indeed, different cardinal groups and pairings. There are males who sit alone at the feeder, cracking open and eating sunflower seeds one at a time. (They’re not swallowing them and storing them in their crops for later, like some bigger birds do. I once watched a jay at this feeder pack 37 shelled peanuts and uncracked sunflower seeds into his crop before taking one last peanut in his beak and flying off!) At least one of these solitary cardinals chases off other males who attempt to come down and share the feeder. There are also (apparently) mated pairs who come down, and, again, when another cardinal tries to come in and partake, one of the perched birds chases the other cardinal off, sometimes before it can even land. There is also at least one pair of male cardinals who come in to feed together, sometimes with a lone female. Are these family or siblings from a previous year?

Watching these videos has not only rekindled my interest in birding, but has made me place “living in or near the woods, where I can observe birds in their natural habitats and also have a back yard bird feeder” at the top of my list of “criteria for next home.”

Metanoia is my biweekly print-only ‘zine, usually two, sometimes four, pages.

To receive the latest issue of it, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to
Max Shenk
39 South Main St, rm 138
White River Junction, VT 05001

OR
You can go to my shop at Ko-fi.com, where you can get either a subscription or back issues. Or both!

“The Twins Turn 21” – new ebook collection of adult comics

The first e-book of my TWINS comics is now available from my Kofi store!

The Twins Turn 21 is a 61-page collection of full-color uncensored adult comics, some of them published originally in tamer black and white versions in my ‘zine Metanoia, and some of them never before published. It’s a 61 page full color PDF e-book, readable on any device without loss of formatting.

Click here to see some sample comics!

And click here to get more information and to order your copy.

How much SOUL do you need??

This article originally appeared in issue # 16 of my print only ‘zine Metanoia

The Beatles’ album Rubber Soul recently celebrated its 55th anniversary. Or should that be Rubber Souls: since its release in December 1965, there have always been two different versions ofthe album. The covers were identical, but the UK version contained fourteen tracks. That album was released worldwide…

…except in North America. Capitol Records, the group’s US label, habitually trimmed their fourteen-track UK LPs to twelve tracks (sometimes eleven!), and then further reshuffled the contents to make space for the UK singles (which were customarily not included on UK LPs). Reportedly, Capitol exec Dave Dexter wanted the US Rubber Soul to have more of a “folk music” feel than the UK version, so he snipped four “rock” songs from the UK track listing– “Drive My Car,” “What Goes On,” “If I Needed Someone,” and “Nowhere Man”– and replaced them with two “acoustic” songs– “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and “It’s Only Love” –cut from the earlier UK Help! album (which, in the US, was a soundtrack LP with seven Beatles tunes and five non-Beatles instrumental tracks).

The result was that, even though the two Rubber Souls shared ten common tracks, the US edition had a warmer feel than its UK counterpart, with acoustic instruments dominating the songs. Beatles fans are divided on which Rubber Soul they prefer, but many of them own a copy of both. I used to own both, and while the UK version has grown on me, I grew up with the US version, and that’s still the one that I prefer. As a Facebook friend of mine said, “If it doesn’t open with ‘I’ve Just Seen A Face,’ it’s not Rubber Soul.”

However, the Rubber Soul variations don’t end with the track lineups. Up until 1968, pop albums were issued for both stereo and mono phonographs. The Beatles directly supervised their mono mixes, leaving the EMI engineers to create stereo mixes based on those mono versions. This means that– guess what?– many Beatles collectors have not just two, but four different Rubber Souls: both UK and US releases, in both mono and stereo.

Right now I don’t have any vinyl copies of either edition, and so, spurred by this anniversary, I went to eBay to see if I could score a cheap copy of my favorite Rubber Soul: a US mono pressing. I bid on a copy…

…but then I found myself second-guessing. Buying a vinyl copy of an album I owned on CD and in digital form might seem excessive, if not obsessive, to many people.

Why did I NEED to not only have a vinyl copy, but that specific vinyl copy?

Then I saw this picture on Facebook, posted by a collector in a Beatles group.

These records are said collector’s FIFTEEN copies of the US Rubber Soul. From the top left, he has the original east-and west-coast pressings in both mono and stereo; then a late-‘60s stereo disc (the label almost identical to original issues save for some wording in the manufacturing disclaimer); next, a late ‘60s stereo disc with Capitol’s new label design; then a record club release, the 1973 Apple Records reissue, and, finally, three late 70s and early 80s reissues.

Oh… and, in the lower right corner, for good measure, in addition to those eleven vinyl pressings, he also has the 8-track and cassette releases, as well as two CD editions.

(No, I don’t know where his reel-to-reel tape went.)

The thing that might be astounding (if not confounding) to a non-collector is that musically, most of these eleven Rubber Souls are as identical as they appear! Two of them are mono mixes, while one of the early stereo pressings was a unique “east coast mix” that was never reissued. (Remember my distinction between “east coast” and “west coast” pressings? This was one of the few times that the pressing plant location equated to a musical variation.)

That having been said, the remaining eight albums are just musically identical reissues of the same twelve-track stereo album. Yes, granted: earlier pressings of these discs sound better than later pressings, but later pressings were made in smaller quantities, so, therefore, they’re technically “rarer” and perhaps more “collectible”…

…and as my character Margo might type at this point, “do you even care about any of this?”

I can’t sit here and type that I don’t indulge this sort of obsessiveness in my own way. Within slightly-more-than-arm’s length of my desk sits a crateful of Beatles 45s containing multiple copies of records which appear to be “the same” but are slightly different from each other in some way. I have four different US copies of “I Want To Hold Your Hand” that differ only cosmetically (mainly label variations), but then I also have two different pressings of “For You Blue” that look identical but differ musically; same with “I Feel Fine” and “I’ll Cry Instead” and “Love Me Do” and “Misery” and a bunch of other tunes.

When I lost my 2000+ disc record collection a few years back, I told myself that I now had the fun of acquiring those discs all over again if I wanted to. Label variations, stereo or mono mixes, album or single versions, country of origin, picture sleeves… sussing out these kinds of variations is part of the fun of collecting anything.

So even though I’m kind of mocking this collector’s bring-n-brag picture of his Rubber Soul library, in a way, it’s surprising that I don’t have even one vinyl copy of Rubber Soul.

I don’t think I want or need eleven, but at least that gives me a benchmark.

Whether that’s a benchmark of completeness or of obsessiveness is another question.

* * * * *

Metanoia is my biweekly print-only ‘zine, usually two, sometimes four, pages.

To receive the latest issue of it, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to
Max Shenk
39 South Main St, rm 138
White River Junction, VT 05001

OR
You can go to my shop at Ko-fi.com, where you can get either a subscription or back issues. Or both!

The Twins in color

In each issue of my ‘zine Metanoia, I include a comic featuring The Twins: Christy, based on the character in my books and stories, and Rebecca, her “evil twin sister.” Maybe someday I’ll do a post about how these characters evolved, how I create the comics, etc. In the meantime, since the Twins comics in Metanoia are, by necessity, tiny, censored greyscale reductions of the originals, I wanted to present, in full uncensored color, a few-times-three of the Twins comics that have appeared in Metanoia.

UPDATE (15 April 2021) – The first TWINS ebook comic collection is now available! Click here for more info or to order a copy!

Please note that these are adult-themed comics with cartoon nudity and sexual humor. And that’s as close to a trigger warning as you will ever see from me about my work.

Enjoy!

Click on the thumbnails to bring up the full-sized versions of the comics.

“Distilled Neville”

(This article originally appeared in issue #16 of my newsletter Metanoia)

With Neville Goddard’s teachings, I find myself often trying to distill the message he put across into the simplest terms possible, so that when I feel “stuck,” I can find a quick and easy way out.

See what you think of this:

Our unconditioned awareness of being is God.

Neville: “When you say ‘I am,’ that’s God.”

Athanasius: “God became man that man might become God.” We are God, the Elohim: “a compound unity, one made up of many.”

This is why the two greatest commandments are said to be “Hear O Israel, the Lord, our God, the Lord is one” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

If we are all God, then there is no “other,” and the Golden Rule becomes not prescriptive (“Thou shalt do unto others as you would have them do unto you”), but DEscriptive (“When you do unto others, you are doing unto yourself.”)

When we condition our awareness of being (I AM) with feeling, it is a creative act.

We have been using this principle of creative imagining– bringing forth reality via our assumptions– our whole lives, only we weren’t aware of it.

Neville: “A man does not attract what he wants. He attracts what he is,” or what he feels to be true.

All things bring forth after their kind.

If I feel “I am rich, I am poor, I am healthy, I am ill, I am loved, I am unloved, I am worthy, I am unworthy,” or other things to be true, then they bring forth after their kind; they reproduce in my world.

Few people want to be poor, ill, unloved, or unworthy, but if they feel that they are, then their world will reflect this.

To quote William Blake: “What seems to be is, to those to whom it seems to be, and is productive of the most dreadful consequences, to those to whom it seems to be. But divine mercy steps beyond and redeems us in the body of Jesus.”

The “body of Jesus” is our capacity to create and redeem using our imaginative faculty, or, as the Apostle Paul said, “Jesus Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

The acts that Jesus performed in the Bible were more than just stories of one-off “miracles;” they were intructive parables meant to show us how to use our imaginative powers creatively to bring forth desired ends.

The “good news” of the Gospel is that this principle can be used deliberately. We don’t have to settle for “what seems to be.” We can create a better reality for ourselves and for others by imagining deliberately.

Quoting Blake again, “All that we behold, though it appears without, it is within, in our imagination, of which this world of mortality is but a shadow.”

Neville: “An assumption– though false, though reason denies it and the evidence of my senses denies it– if persisted in will harden into fact.”

If my reality has come forth based on my assumptions –what I feel to be true– then it follows that if I assume (feel) that something is true– even though it’s denied by my senses– and I persist in that assumption, it should come forth in my world.

This is the test that the Apostle Paul called us to.

“Come test yourselves and see. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? Unless, of course, you fail to meet the test.”  (2 Corinthians 13:5)

The method of testing and bringing forth a desired reality is via prayer.

Prayer is not supplication, wishing, or begging.

Prayer is the act of assuming that your desired end is already an accomplished fact.

Neville: “Go to the end. The end is where we begin.”

No matter what we desire, the end is always: How would I feel if my desire was an accomplished fact?

“When you pray, whatsoever you desire, believe that you have already received it and you will.” (Mark 11:24)

And: “But as for you, when you pray, enter into your inner chamber and lock your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret shall himself reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:6)

In order to bring forth a desired end, it’s not only necessary to assume the feeling of the wish fulfilled, but also to turn away completely from any undesired fact or reality.

Lot’s wife turned to a pillar of salt when she looked back. (Genesis 19:26) Salt is a preservative. By looking back at undesired facts, we “preserve” them in our world.

Neville: “Don’t accept it as permanent. Don’t even accept it as temporary. Use the law to get out of it.”

Finally: “When Job prayed for his friends, his captivity was lifted, and the Lord gave him twice as much as before.” (Job 42:10)

Since “there is no other,” since “the Lord our God is one,” and since the Golden Rule is descriptive and not prescriptive, the highest use of prayer and imaginative principles is to use them lovingly on behalf of others.

How’s that for a start?

This article originally appeared in issue #16 of my biweekly print-only ‘zine Metanoia.

Metanoia is my biweekly print-only ‘zine, usually two, sometimes four, pages.

To receive the latest issue of it, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to
Max Shenk
39 South Main St, rm 138
White River Junction, VT 05001

OR
You can go to my shop at Ko-fi.com, where you can get either a subscription or back issues. Or both!

METANOIA – A print only ‘zine

IMG_20200328_133037_hdrMetanoia is my new print only ‘zine. It contains original work which hasn’t appeared and won’t appear online in any form. The range of topics I’ll cover runs the gamut from metaphysics to music, from Neville Goddard to Mr. Spock, writing process to prayer method, nature, record collecting… all the things that I’m interested in. For as long as I’ve considered myself a writer, I’ve not only always had my work in print (school newspapers and literary magazines, then, later, writing for local and regional newspapers, and, of course, my books); I’ve also always self-published newsletters and ‘zines of some kind, going way back to my Beatles/music newsletter Revolver and in college with my Temple Free Paper, and then the revival of Revolver in the 90s. I enjoy writing online and enjoy blogging, but I missed the physical process of producing a print ‘zine/newsletter: setting a deadline, hashing through rough drafts, laying it out, editing it for style and space, then, finally, printing out copies and distributing them. I also lamented the fact that so much online writing is ephemeral. So I decided to create a new ‘zine: Metanoia. The word, which I learned from Neville Goddard’s teachings, is a Greek word meaning a radical change of attitude. Metanoia will be published roughly every two weeks (I’m aiming for every other Friday), one page, four columns, with a little bit of everything that interests me, plus a cartoon and some very short fiction (pieces from my Facebook Flash Fiction project). I decided to make it print only, so I still didn’t quite solve the ephemeral problem. But I think you’ll understand.

Metanoia is a dollar per issue in the USA and two dollars per issue everywhere else, and, yes, you can subscribe!

To receive the latest issue of it, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Max Shenk 39 South Main St, rm 138 White River Junction, VT 05001 OR You can go to my shop at Ko-fi.com, where you can get either a subscription or back issues. Or both!