Saturday, April 30, 2011

who called my name?

photo and text by nooshin azadi

twenty-first in a series

crows here are not completely black... and they don't say caw caw! they say ghaar ghaar!  :D



Friday, April 29, 2011

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode 73: lift-off

Larry Winchester ("Like Melville in his epic scope, like Whitman in his poetic music, like John Ford with his painterly eye, like Groucho Marx in his humor” -- Harold Bloom, in a speech before the Oprah Book Club) now brings an understandably flustered Daphne Ridpath onto the set for her close-up...

(Click here to go back to the very beginning of our tale. Go here to review our previous chapter, which will be included in the material covered in next week’s exam.)

So I’m in the spaceship. Three dead spacemen, two dead foreign spies, and Dick and Harvey the soldier boy at least temporarily hors de combat. Because after this mystical healing thing they both just sort of lay back and went to sleep.

I think I mentioned there were these buttons on the wall, a sort of keypad that the sailor guy had used to close the door behind us, so I thought I’d try punching some buttons to try and get this door open again. I wanted to get out of there of course, but more immediately you see I really had to go to the bathroom, so I was quite desperate. I punched all of the buttons repeatedly in all sorts of random combinations, but nothing happened. And of course there wasn’t anything so mundane as a doorknob.

Okay, now I really had to relieve myself something awful, so I thought I’d go and investigate and see if I could find a bathroom somewhere on this crate.

I took this little gun of Dick’s just in case there were any more spies or whatever and stuck it in my coat pocket and off I went down this purple glowing corridor. Round and round it went and up and down.

I came to this circular room and there were all these instrument panels with chairs in front of them and this big TV screen that wrapped completely around the room and on the screen you could see everything outside: Paco’s tin house, a hill, some other houses and trailers off a ways, the desert and the stars. All very clear and in living color.

Enid was out there, too, standing there, one hand on her hip, smoking a cigarette, it seemed like she was looking right at me.

I waved to her, stupidly enough, but she couldn’t see me of course.

Also in this room were a bunch of smaller round TV screens, some of them showing what seemed to be different parts of the spaceship, because on one I could see Dick and the soldier boy, still sleeping, with the dead spies and spacemen and the blood everywhere.

Some of the other TV screens were blank, but suddenly one of them lit up and this new spaceman in a sort of military uniform appears on it and starts speaking in this weird lingo.

I sat myself down in the chair in front of it.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “but I really don’t understand you.”

But he keeps talking in this weird dialect, and I’m trying to make him understand I can’t savvy a solitary word he’s saying, and on it goes, both of us jabbering away and now I’m really getting frustrated, and remember, I had taken peyote and had just gone through this absolutely horrifying shootout, my husband coming to within a hairsbreadth of being killed, and I’m absolutely dying to go to the ladies’ room -- well --

But finally this other spaceman guy in a uniform comes on.

And, thank God, this one speaks English, and guess what, he even knows my name.

He asks me what I’m doing there and where the three little other spaceman are.

As reasonably and as concisely as I could I let him know what had happened. He was not pleased. He didn’t show a whole lot of emotion, or any really, but you could tell, somehow.

“This is most distressing, Mrs. Ridpath,” he says.

“I agree, sir,” I said, “but right now I wonder if you could tell me how to get us out of this thing.”

“Yes, I suppose that would be best,” said the man.

Darn right, I’m thinking, squirming in my seat.

He says he’ll tell me which buttons to push to get the door of the spaceship open so we can get out of there.

He says I need to punch the second button from the left on the top row twice and then the first button twice, and so right away I do that, punching these buttons which are directly in front of me there on the console, and then -- uh-oh -- I could have died, because the spaceship starts rising up off the ground. I could feel it, plus I could see it on this big wraparound TV screen.

And, oh, this spaceman’s going crazy!

“What have you done, Mrs. Ridpath? What have you done? I meant the buttons next to the hatchway, not those buttons in front of you!”

How was I to know that? I suppose in retrospect I should have asked again and made doubly sure before pressing any buttons, but at this point I was frantic. I really had to go to the ladies’ room something fierce, and I found it difficult to concentrate to say the least.

Meanwhile the spaceship is simply soaring away, whoosh, but not in any sensible way at all, it’s just swooping all about in a very disconcerting fashion, and meanwhile this spaceman expert, Mr. Know-It-All, now he’s jabbering in that awful language to someone off-screen, and I’m deathly afraid we’re going to crash into a hill or a butte or something at any moment, so I’m like, “Hello? Sir? A little help here?”

He starts to gather himself, I can see he’s trying to get a grip, so he goes, “Please, listen very carefully, do exactly what I say. Exactly. And nothing else!”

And I’m there, “Yes, yes, right, hurry,” I’m practically peeing myself and we’re zipping all over the place like on one of those vomitous amusement park rides, and it’s just -- oh -- enough already!


(Continued here. We couldn't turn back now even if we wanted to.)

la femme, part 40

by gabrielle-jeanette perfidy

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

part forty of fifty-two

click here to begin at the beginning

"there, that wasn't so difficult, was it?"
diane fastened the top button on ariadne's blouse. her hair had been piled back on top of her head, with a few ringlets falling on the sides. she was trembling slightly at the prospect of facing claudine.
" as i am going to be."

part 41

i've passed through there so many times...

photo and text by nooshin azadi

twentieth in a series

in some old neighborhoods you can still find such narrow alleys... they are only a bit wider than a person's shoulder span and usually don't have any names... people have named them,"friends-again alley"... can you guess why?
suppose you had a fight with someone and now you don't talk to him... one day by mere chance you come face-to-face with him in the middle of this alley...

Thursday, April 28, 2011


by Horace P Sternwall

edited by Dan Leo, Ass’t Professor of Classics and Phys. Ed.,
Olney Community College

illustrated by roy dismas and rhoda penmarq

for complete episode, click here

one is still alive...

photo and text by nooshin azadi

nineteenth in a series

where is the hand that used to open the window?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

how can i love you lawfully?

photo and text by nooshin azadi

eighteenth in a series

parliament is trying to pass a law to ban keeping house pets...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

la femme, part 39

by gabrielle-jeanette perfidy

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

part thirty-nine of fifty-two

click here to begin at the beginning

kindly thoughts toward araidne flickered briefly through claudine's brain as she perused lucile's litany of complaints, but she suppressed them with a sigh and a yawn and put the diary back on the table.
"ah, well."

part 40

will this road take me to oz?

photo and text by nooshin azadi

seventeenth in a series

english... german... french... ads for  language classes are found everywhere...

la femme, part 38

by gabrielle-jeanette perfidy

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

part thirty-eight of fifty-two

click here to begin at the beginning

claudine flipped through the diary's pages, looking for something amusing. she quickly found it. the diary belonged to the indisposed guest, lucile, comtesse de t-------.
claudine had had little doubt as to the relationship between ariadne and the comtesse, but she smiled on finding her suspicions so unequivocally confirmed.

part 39

Monday, April 25, 2011


photo by nooshin azadi

sixteenth in a series

slade busts out

by horace p sternwall

art direction by rhoda penmarq

illustrated by roy dismas

"you should take a look at the new gazette, miss."

"oh? did i perform last night? or at a matinee this afternoon?"

"no, miss. you spent a quiet evening here at home. and very pleasant it was."

"i thought i remembered doing that. so, why should i read the gazette?

"according to the screaming headines, mister stanley slade has busted out of the state pen."


"mister stanley slade, the international jewel thief. the one who stole the flower of madagascar for you. you remember."

"of course i remember. i remember having to give it back. with the most dreadful publicity."

"why, you always say there is no dreadful publicity."


"especially in this bright new modern world."

to read complete episode, click here

Sunday, April 24, 2011

la femme, part 37

by gabrielle-jeanette perfidy

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

part thirty-seven of fifty-two

click here to begin at the beginning

vicror hugo gazed sadly down as claudine picked the book up. it looked like a diary.

part 38

reaching out...

photo and text by nooshin azadi

fifteenth in a series

two women buying artificial hair extensions from a street vendor...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

interview with nooshin azadi

nooshin azadi , writing as "human being", was one of the first people i made contact with when i began blogging about two and a half years ago. it was quickly apparent that blogging was a different proposition for her than for me. she was posting from iran at the time of the elections, and the reaction against them, which were receiving so much coverage in the non-islamic world. much of the coverage focused on the supposed role of the internet on the protests, and the iranian governments efforts to suppress and counter the internet's influence.
i didn't have an e-mail address for her at that time, and communication was carried out through comments on our blog entries. contact was spasmodic, apparently due to the censorship. the political situation seemed (to me) to be always in the background. she would sometimes refer to it directly. i was more cryptic than she, being afraid of compromising her. from my cosy spot in america, it seemed like something out of a john le carre novel. (i don't mean to give the impression i was her only western contact - far from it. her own blog had a lot of followers, and they left a lot of comments and messages.)
the following interview includes some of the questions i never asked her directly then.

1) when you first started blogging - any particular reason? was it connected to your teaching job? 


one day i found myself speaking
but not talking
so i started writing

i was a child then
and still i am


2) do you find a very different attitude toward blogging in iran and the western countries?


geographical directions
happen on flat pages
our planet is a globe
spinning around the axis of love


3) just from looking at the list of followers on your blog - which can be misleading - and from the comments i get the impression you get most readers and response from the united states and other western countries. true? 

some people are less biased
and more tolerant
perhaps because they know 
what bias is 
and how intolerance feels


4) have you attempted to publish your poems and stories in print? i am pretty ignorant as to how publishing works in iran - it seems not to controlled outright by the government, but heavily overseen and censored? 


works like fishing

i love the serene sight of a calm angler 
but not the hideous scene of a hooked fish


5) your site includes work in both english and farsi, but more in english. is this because you have more readers in english?

my language (dec. 21, 2007)


to tell the truth
i talk in my mother tongue

to dwell the truth
i walk in my other tongue


6) the work that appears in english, do you just write it in english, or farsi first and then translate it?


words are unique
they happen just once
water is different from /aab/
and /aab/ is different from l'eau
i'm always thirsty
sometimes i drink water
sometimes /aab/
and at times a bit l'eau

translation is half of the truth
half of the truth is a lie
i rarely lie


7) are there any particular writers or groups of writers that influence you? 


i'm enslaved by words
they have chained my emotions
and fettered my thoughts

like all slaves 
i fight for freedom

8) about two years ago, at the time of the iranian elections, when iran was in the news every day in the united states, the american media constantly ran on about how the web was disturbing and distressing the iranian government. was this really true? how effective was the censorship? did it increase then or was it already in effect?


some people don't like webs spiders weave
they have never seen a dew-dropped cobweb
they wipe them constantly
to clean the house
but spiders are numerous
and so hungry


9) how effective and pervasive is the censorship now? my impression is that it works in a blanket manner, by slowing everything down, rather than by targeting individuals. is this true?


a good tailor always keeps his scissors sharp
but some fabrics are so tough, you know
a good tailor always measures every one of his customers
but some of them are are oversized or undersized, you know
a good tailor always makes you look different 


10) if there were no censorship, would you blog more? i mean, really a lot more? 

blog (jan 19, 2009)


a cozy corner
in the colossal cosmos

to cast skin
exhibiting the curious child within

to cage the tyrannical eagle for a while
and make love with prometheus unbound


Bedtime Stories.



a lifetime in front of a mirror store

photo and text by nooshin azadi

fourteenth in a series

a play in three acts...

Friday, April 22, 2011

la femme, part 36

by gabrielle-jeanette perfidy

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

part thirty-six of fifty-two

click here to begin at the beginning

left to herself, claudine wandered into the blue library. she scanned the shelves. victor hugo! not her favorite. she saw a book on a table.

part 37

The Not-so Good of an Earth-centered Friday

Here’s what passes for a Good Friday:
The drone of bots dropping bombs
in the name of a Man-god,
whose half-breed flesh
and blood have been
to stand for a peculiar,
store-bought brand of freedom,
freedom we dilute more
with the gallons of others’ blood spilled,
while still others shed their blood
just to taste it.

The celebrated Earth tastes it,
the others' spilled blood.

It’s her day too,
but she’s not in a celebrating mood
what with that sour taste of blood
and the litter of flesh we’ve left.

Their god can sort
the innocent from the guilty.

Our god was crucified today
and we’re taking the afternoon off.

the star chamber

by Jesse s mitchell

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

The Star Chamber

Midnight bloom that is called the moon,
It didn’t come from a flower 
And it didn’t come from seed.
Great big bloom they made the moon,

But it didn’t come from fire
And it didn’t come from seed,
It came from a wound and it needs to bleed.
(forever and forever and forever and forever)

It sits on top of me, above me 
Like a crown,
A crown of tiny little flames,
So only Moses knows

And I can’t read,
I can’t read a word.
And it comes down like gravel, rockslide
And lets the water in

Mara mara,
Bitter water in,
And it makes something sinister of the sounds
The spiral and twist on my lips,

(forever and forever and forever and forever)

Oh oleander, oleander, nerium oleander, toxic in all its parts,
Oh Leander, Leander, guided by light
Drown to death seeking a Hero.
Toxic in its parts.

Sunrise bites holes in the sky, great giant holes
The Sunshine eats holes in sky,
Perforated from the Earth it tears away…
So easily, wrapped in a blanket

Filled with hot coals,
Burn your lips, 
Go fly with the birds,
Perforated and torn.

(forever and forever and forever and forever)

Oh oleander, oleander, nerium oleander, toxic in all its parts,
Oh Leander, Leander, guided by light
Drown to death seeking a Hero.
Toxic in its parts,

But it didn’t come from fire
And it didn’t come from seed,
It came from a wound and it needs to bleed.

power lines run parallel to death...

photo and text by nooshin azadi

thirteenth in a series

each spring more trees in old gardens are found dead... many of them have been fed with salt water all through the winter! their owners need an excuse to cut them down so that they can build expensive houses in their place...

Thursday, April 21, 2011

la femme, part 35

by gabrielle-jeanette perfidy

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

part thirty-five of fifty-two

click here to begin at the beginning

"why is she here?"

part 36

“A Town Called Disdain”, Epidode 72: le moribond

(Click here to read our previous episode; go here to return to the beginning of our Walgreen’s Award-winning serialization of this sprawling masterwork from the trusty Remington portable of Larry Winchester. )

Harvey, Dick and Daphne leave the quaint Quonset hut of the Native American medicine man Paco (where they had been partaking of the sacred peyote ceremony) in the company of a small grey creature in a sailor suit, and board his 60-foot saucer. Inside they discover that the evil international killers Hans Grupler and Marlene have murdered two other little grey men; a gunfight ensues, resulting in the shooting of the little sailor man and the deaths of Hans and Marlene; Dick and Harvey have both caught lead as well, but they are not quite dead yet.

Once again, Larry turns the microphone over to Dick:

So I lie there, and I’ll tell you, you kind of get accepting at this point. No use kicking and screaming. There wasn’t any pain really. Just this feeling of the life just draining out of me, like the air leaking out of a slow puncture in a tire. Daphne was leaning over me, and I sort of wanted to make some kind of farewell to her. Don’t know what I would’ve said. Nothing she didn’t know already. You know. But while I’m thinking this I just kind of slipped under. And then I saw this light and I’m thinking, Oh, right, the famous Light. How cliché, but I guess I really am getting ready to bite the big one now. And then the light starts dimming out, and I feel myself dimming out with it. And I’m thinking, Okay. Here goes nothing.

And then it was nothing.

But then I start to wake up and I see a vague light again and things clear up a bit and I see it’s only this purplish light inside the spaceship, this odd light that didn’t seem to have any source, and the little sailor guy is crouching over me and he’s got one long finger from each hand in each of my wounds, and he’s slowly pulling his fingers out, and the wounds close up behind his fingertips. I swear to God and I’ll show you the scars if you don’t believe me. Look. And look at these exit-wound scars. Like silver dollars.

But it’s sad because Daphne is holding the little guy up and he’s been shot like four or five times in his torso and in his head, and this thick green gloop is slowly oozing out of his wounds, and in the holes in his head I could see what I suppose were his brains, like a dark green caviar.

I’m still very weak, I mean like I’ve taken a couple of body shots from Muhammed Ali, and I lie back again and Daphne sort of helps the little guy over to Harvey who’s bleeding from his thigh and his side, and the little sailor does the same operation on Harvey’s wounds. Funny thing to watch, I’ll tell you.

Then I dozed off again.

And then Daphne is touching my arm and saying she’s going to find a ladies’ room. She’s got that absurd newsboy’s cap on again, but the lights are switched off now. I say okay, and she goes off. I’m lying there in a daze and I look over at Harvey. He seemed to be sleeping peacefully.

The sailor boy was lying over by the other dead spacemen. He was dead too. You could tell. Poor little fucker.


(Continued here. For the sake of the little guy.)

when will i grow tall enough...

photo and text by nooshin azadi

twelfth in a series see what's behind the wall?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

la femme, part 34

by gabrielle-jeanette perfidy

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

part thirty-four of fifty-two

click here to begin at the beginning

"claudine can wait"

part 35

all houses have got walls...

photo and text by nooshin azadi

eleventh in a series

a tile work of persian calligraphy that reads, the house of contemporary iranian poets...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

la femme, part 33

by gabrielle-jeanette perfidy

illustrated by rhoda penmarq

part thirty-three of fifty-two

click here to begin at the beginning

"until you get up and get dressed and talk to her, claudine isn't going anywhere."

part 34

success changes you: diary of a heretic part 2 - chapters 13, 14 and 15

to begin at the beginning, click here

by kathleen maher

pictures by rhoda penmarq

13) Swiss Crown, week 2

Suites 3601-3602
Tuesday, June 5
1. Without my store
2. Without my home
3. My life has no structure

Wednesday, June 6
1.   Why was I born?
2.  Why am I alive?
3.  Why, I have no fucking idea!

14) And the Bottom Shall Be Top

I hate it here. The environment is so artificial, so studiously deluxe but not offensively grand. It’s a glass-walled prison, high in the sky. Everyone’s buzzing about, concerned and busy, and quick to defer to the tiniest alteration of my mood.
“It’s a fucking fish tank,” I complain to Carlos, who then informs me the construction on the Linden Street shop is stalled. “Some kind of fuck-up with Mad Mike’s shipper,” Carlos says. “And a few problems with variances.”
“Meaning we stay here another two weeks,” Carlos says, “give or take.”
“Five weeks in the Swiss Crown?”
“You know, the shop in Lincoln Park opens in a few days. Stephanie wants to manage it, and the prospects look very promising.”
“I don’t know,” I tell him, dejected by his ‘promising prospects.’ “Past a certain point—taking this long, costing this much—it’s not worth it.”

“The money? You’re worried about the money, Malcolm? Christ! Just do the éclair thing in the mornings, at every new shop. That’ll cover the hotel bill.”
“That’s twice a day at the shop in Bucktown, twice in Wicker Park, and twice in Lincoln Park, right? Old Orchard. Northbrook. On top of the regular meetings, the shows.”
“That’s right,” Carlos says. “Think of them as shows. Easy gigs, as natural as breathing. That’s how good you are. Just go out, sing and dance like a trouper, and leave ulterior motives and concerns about your quivering little ego for later. I’m negotiating with some people now about a book, a Doctrine, if you will. That’s where your real life, real beliefs will come in.”

“I don’t think so, Carlos. I want to get out.”
“Will you stop? Everything’s going great. Two, three more weeks you’ll be home, and all this disorientation, all the work, and showmanship, will be more than worth it. Way more! Why, half the money coming in is going right back out to work for us.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m investing it. You’ve got to pay yourself before you pay creditors; we want that money working for us.”
“Carlos, if you’re talking about stocks, tell me you have some good advisors.”
“Strictly blue chip,” he says. “Nothing fancy. A few mutual funds. But even in this market, if we set up one branch in Europe, one in the Caribbean maybe, South American, we can retire.”
(Is Carlos stupid? I never thought he was stupid. He acts so smart. He’s gotta be kidding.) “Will you show me the books?”
“Sure,” he says. “I’ll show you anything you want, anytime you want. Just so you understand upfront that very temporarily, what with all the new stores and keeping the suites for a couple of weeks, we’re going to have some heavy outlays.”
“So you need me to do the bread and éclair thing at five, or is it seven?, new stores. Twice a day, each day, on top of the meetings.”
“It’s not that much, Malcolm. I mean if you think about it, it’s a hell of a lot easier than most jobs!”

(I wish you could see his face, how instantly Carlos goes from reproving appraiser to ardent lover.) “God, I love you!” he rasps, eyes on high beam as he slithers over to hug me. “Oh,” he says, his voice choked, his gaze hot and skin flushed, “You are such a pure and perfect soul!” Carlos can really turn it on and off. Tell me I never bought his shit, though. He’s not just transparent. Ridiculous. So, you know, I laugh.
“Oh, I know,” he says, shaking his head. “For you it’s this big joke. When I’ve been dying for you—really dying. You’ve no fucking idea how hard it was to get through all these years, keeping my need for my boss under wraps. I mean,” Carlos says, “here you are, sexiest thing in the world, out of my league, but not out of reach. And I maintain. I play my part.”
It’s preposterous. He’s not playing it right—so overt and abrupt. But, dumb, needy me. I step closer to him. Carlos takes my head in his hands, and the sheer nerve! Once he’s sure I’ve noticed how dark and liquid, how reflective and shining his eyes are, he dips his face to my chest, and pleads into my shirt. “Malcolm, you’ve no idea how bad I want you. And it never lets up. It kills me.”
“If it really killed you, it’d be over.”
And he looks so shocked, so stung, I can’t help it: I let him win; I let him lead me into Suite 3601’s blue bedroom.

Locking the door, he mews into my neck and peels off my clothes. Except first, I lay down a stipulation: we switch positions. Today, since I’m the top in real life (well, I am, aren’t I?) I’ll take the bottom in sex, and as he in real life is beneath me (this is the way it is) he’ll take the top. And right away the reversal feels new and fantastic. The whole sexual act is scream-out-loud thrilling. I thrash and cry—it’s scary how good it feels! And yet, and yet—this is the amazing thing: A minute afterwards I’m miraculously indifferent. I can take Carlos, I can leave him; I really don’t care.

15) Infatuation

Ten days later and I am still indifferent to Carlos. In fact I am indifferent to everyone and -thing except: one hopelessly unrealistic hope.

For ever since my sweet, quickening encounter with the beautiful boy Tyler, when he so innocently and sincerely asked, did I mind? (Did I mind if he and his friends smoked dope on my time?) I can think of nothing else!
Every three seconds he’s back, the soul of concern, of sweetness, light, peace, joy and hope, swaying politely in front of me, blunt in hand.
I can not concentrate. I can not eat or sleep, I’m so fixated on that tool belt that seems to be wearing him more than he’s wearing it. In my mind it’s slowly sliding off of him, and I can’t decide which I want more: to pull it up or down. Tyler, Tyler, Tyler! If anything else matters, I don’t care. Or remember.