Opening Words

    Welcome to the June edition of "Above Ground Testing", this issue, I want to examine and review some of the material that has been filling my shelves and my hard drive.....

   Yeah, well that was the plan.   Welcome to the July issue of "Above Ground Testing".  I thought about doing a June issue, but my life has been upside down as of late, and so instead of hitting myself over the head and try to put something together I have conceded the point and decided to make this a double issue, but more important this is my third anniversary issue.  Just think, this thing has been ongoing for now three years.  What a thought.  As I look over the last year, it's been quite an experience.  Some of the highlights was my Interview issue, my Ralph issue and of course my issue dedicated to Australian poetry.  Let me say I was excited about the last one.  Australian poetry is incredible and if you haven't experienced yet, just check out the past issue of this ezine- you will be enamored with it all.  So much work is coming out of Australia, all that is molded by the land, history and experience of the people.  Personally, that issue has to be the crowning issue in the short history of the zine.  I want to again thank all those who contributed to its pages, your work made it possible.
    As always, its your work that does make this special, without your contributions, this would have ceased to exists a long time ago.
    So, what else has been happening in the life of the ezine?  Don't ask, I can say I've been in a three month funk, kind of a bit of stress been piling up, I've even been going through a writer's bloc, or an editor's bloc, whatever.  However, last night I began to visualize myself writing and editing so its getting over.  This is the danger when its a one person operation, if you don't want to do it, it don't get done.  (the following has been a "Confessions are us").
    What else, well, just got a new to me computer, its a bit faster then the old one so I'm able to enjoy a lot more things, for example, I've got the winamp player set to an internet radio station called "Blue Mars One", you can reach it at:  http://www.bluemars.org, it features ambient music of a 'space' nature.  I'm listening to it and I have as my visual "Oh my God, its full of stars", so its a great effect.  The station has as its sub-title, "Music for the Space Traveler", so if you're ever feeling a bit "out of world" and want to get lost without leaving your computer desk, give it a try.  It gives some background to the artists, links and a forum to express your opinion.  So, with this issue, I'm back on track, hey, I plan to start working on another issue of "Avant Garde Times", so there you go.

Reviews

    There are a couple of things I want to review this month, one is a record and the other a collection of essays.

    The CD for the month is "The Epic of Gilgamesh" by Tony Garone and a number of musicians.  The words are from the "Epic of Gilgamesh" which is the ancient Babylonian epic.  It can be considered the Babylonian Genesis since it deals with such themes as the creation of the world, the first humans, the flood and other events.
    Let me share with you an interview I did with Tony.

1) what got you interested in the "Epic of Gilgamesh"?

I have always been interested in ancient history, specifically the  Middle East. I was reading a book by Zechariah Sitchin, who traditional  scholars consider to be on the "fringe". By that I mean he has some unique perspectives on ancient culture and our origins. Anyway, a chapter of one of his books dealt with Gilgamesh and the encounter with Huwawa, a god who protected the Cedar Forest (in Lebanon).

I had heard of Gilgamesh, but had not read the Epic, and I thought that  this encounter would make an incredible song, because Sitchin's  interpretation of this battle was fascinating. So I went out and bought Maureen Gallery Kovac's translation of the entire story and I was hooked. That's when  it hit me to do a "musical interpretation" of the The Epic of Gilgamesh.
 

2) For the music, did you have an idea for the tunes, or did the words dictate the style of music?

The music was a complicated process. Some of the music came before the words, but most of the music I wrote after I had written the words. Gilgamesh was originally written on twelve clay tablets, and the story is typically broken into twelve sections because of this. Originally I  wanted to write music for each tablet. However, because of the complexity of  the story I found that to be impossible. So I decided to pick what I felt  were the most significant events and go with that.

I took each tablet and wrote my lyrical "interpretation" of that  tablet. Then edited that down to the most significant events that occurred in  that tablet. I took that and edited it into a song/verse format. I wrote the music after that was done. This process took about a year.

 3) How did you collaborate with the various musicians?

I was never in the same room with any of the musicians with the exception of my children, John Sergio and Marcie Schreier (both of whom came to visit). Everything else was done using either emailing MP3 files or sending  tapes through the postal service.

Typically I would write the "skeleton" of the song, and send that out to see what the other musicians would do with it. So I had no idea what they would be recording (because I physically wasn't there), and they had no idea  what would end up on the final mix! So it really was a crap shoot for the most part - one that worked out very well.

Most of the actual "collaboration" was done over the phone or email, so I guess you could say there was very little "collaboration" in the traditional sense - a group of musicians sitting in a studio and working things out.

At one point I wanted to try a CU-SEE-ME session at Cavern Studios and StompBox Studios in NY, but that never materialized.

4) Is your work a return to the style of storytelling  that might have been used when the epic was first spoken?

I tried to create that "campfire" feeling with the vocal arrangements -especially the first song. I wanted to draw people into the story - that's why I spent so much time working on the eastern scales and authentic instrumentation. I spent allot of time "on top of the mike" - getting  real close to get a warm vocal sound. I mixed the vocals a little more upfront than I have in the past.

I think that story telling is a lost art, and unfortunately you don't find it around much anymore. Maybe Gilgamesh will inspire other musicians to  look at some of the earlier mythology and stories of our past and create more interesting CDs.

One can only hope.

    The CD has been receiving rave reviews around the world, and certainly I will add to the adulation.  This is a fascinating CD, it is presents the listener with some interesting lyrics and musical styles.  Here is a disc that will not be background music, because it will force you to concentrate on the presentation.  I would classify this as world music, perhaps ancient world music.  If you have any interest in ancient history, its worth acquiring and listening.   This is music for the thoughtful person that I hope is characteristic of the readers of this ezine.  Certainly in our post-modern world, its worth our effort to get back to the stories and myths that have been the bedrock of our culture, even if it does mean going back a few thousand years.
    For more information on this cd, visit Tony's web site:   www.garone.net/tony/gilgamesh.html

    My second review is the book "Sowing Dragons" by Geoff Ryan.  Geoff is an officer of The Salvation Army in Canada.  He has had an interesting career, he has served in an native Indian village in northern BC and for the past decade been a reinforcement officer in Russia.  His work has included the region of Chechnya during the time of civil war.  This is not a nice little devotional book, its a hard hitting book that causes a person to consider their own faith and how they are articulating that faith to the surrounding world.  It is a book that will get the reader angry, at themselves, their local church and denomination, perhaps even at God, for allowing some of the injustices to occur.  Ryan's faith has been tested and found worthy.  His theology has been tested on the battlefield, both figuratively and literally and he has the right to write the way he does.  The book includes many personal examples which bring out his points.
    At the present time Geoff and his wife Sandra are working for The Salvation Army in Toronto Canada, they are doing a work in one of the tougher areas of the city.  He is endeavoring to explain the historic reality of Christianity to a post-modern world, one can only hope that he is fortunate.
    The subscription of the book is; 'Essays in Neo-Salvationism", I asked him about the title and this is his reply:  "I guess the heart of the matter is people who would define themselves as Salvationists and have made a commitment to stick it through with this movement yet who love it enough to realized that it desperately needs to change ...They carry very much the trappings of their fore bearers but do it in a different way in the present day context...'  This book is not an attack against a particular denomination but one that could be read by a person belonging to any faith group, because it forces one to examine the present by the past.
    If you are interested in finding more information, visit the Salvation Army website.
 

Poetry

   With my extended Holiday, at least in the mental part, I haven't been getting the word out about the ezine.  Yet, a number of brave souls did write and submit their work, so please sit back and enjoy reading these works.  May I suggest these are fabulous and have a variety of themes and styles.

THE NIGHT’S NEWS

Two in the morning, a hand-
me-down lady sleeps in the dreams
of her trash bags
while, notebook in hand,
our hero sneaks from curb to darkened
courthouse in search of a quest or
at least a good quote.
He could catalog folios full
of great deeds bound
in library leather, but all
of them are dead.
Tonight, how many babies
in a city’s trash cans?
 

EASTER CHICKS

Every year, in the week around Easter
Father brought home a crate of pastel
yellow chicks.  Such twitcherings
in a pen beside the kitchen stove
which Mother kept stoked for chicken-
comfort.  They grew to pullets
in the big fenced yard, a scuttering
for bugs and mash.  Sleek feathers.

In time they offered breakfast eggs,
yolks beaten into chocolate cake
(those dark sweet lickings).  Then
one by one they were gizzards
in the kitchen sink, and Sunday dinner.

Come Easter, a whole new generation
of baby-yellow chicks would rise again
from the feed store.
 

TO GRANDMOTHER’S HOUSE

It’s no holiday with 3 kids
in the backseat, bubble-gum & a
spilled Coke, your knuckles
on the steering.  All afternoon
you’re squinting against sun
off chrome.  The kids gave up
a couple of states ago on this
roadtrip as hilarious adventure.
Hypnotic centerline, slipping
gas gauge.  And you, avoiding
the quirk of what you might see
in a rearview mirror – not just
one kid whopping a younger,
but your own eyes staring
back.  So many exits
flashed across the notion
all this was in the stars.
 

PUTTING THE PAPER TO BED

Tuesday evening late, the glass front office
dark.  Dregs of coffee, the last of the take-out
pizza, cardboard trashed.  Here in back,
you’ve snatched the final sheets from your Royal,
waved them past the copy desk, on to linotype.
A high school senior abroad reports on an outbreak
of malaria in 27 column inches.  Results
of the Ripsnorting Junior Champion Rodeo.
The weekly fountain of all-the-news-that-fits
is trickled dry.  We’re only waiting
for your banner headline.  11:23 p.m.
It doesn’t fit.  Try another angle.
Above the paste-up table, the blank
clock’s ticking.  And still it doesn’t fit.
 

Taylor Graham
piper@innercite.com

Creativity Visits

Dark silence speaks to me
at a pitch only I can hear.
The noise inside my head
drowns blissfully unconscious.
Pain outside floats away
like faded shadows of yesterday.

Then you arrive to visit me,
to speak to me.  Blessed Muse,
color my dreams Technicolor hues!
My trust in you imbues
creative mist with the form
and fashion they need
to carry me away.

Dawn comes too soon,
and I beg you to stay.
But, as always, you melt away
with the sun of the new day.

Valerie Schwander
 

The Death of a Gamer

On the rooftops
Running from fear
I cannot go much longer,
I think the end is near.
Sensing the bullets whizzing by my head
If I stop running, I will be dead.
One to the shoulder, one to the leg,
At this time I can no longer beg.
I can stop running; I've gone off the ledge.
10, 9, 8, 7, flying off the edge.
6, 5, 4, 3, keep in mind of what I said.
2, 1, 0, "Game Over" flashes, and the screen goes red.

Dmaster
 

ThE OLD GLENWOOD OF 1929
 

When I was a small boy we had an iron cook

stove it was a Glenwood,

It was made of black cast iron with chrome trim,

I remember that it would give you heat,

But you had to give it lots of wood.

Now this was during the depression days,

The food that came from that old Glenwood

It may not have been the finest fare,

But the cook and that old stove made the food real good,

Mom, like a fireman on the railroad, surly could fire that

old Glenwood.

The cakes, pies, and bread that came out of the oven of

that old Glenwood,

There was none that could compare, now that was always

understood,

Oh, how I wish I could feed that old stove more wood and

watch the cook as she prepared the food that was so good,

Now all that is left is the memory of Mom, the food, and

that old Glenwood.

LeRoy Doran
 

Roach Suprize
 

Oh my little cockyroach
How you run so fast
I spray you with insecticides
But still you always last
You scuttle to and fro
And get inside my food
And when I have guests around
You're really just so rude
You wait for the perfect time
To run across their plate
But one day there'll be half of you
And that will seal your fate
Cause you won't be seen one time
You'll be part of someone's lunch
N' you'll give their sandwich
That extra special crunch
So I wait for the time
Of your sweet demise
When I serve you to my friends
As a tasty roach suprize

Mother Walden
Jazz sonnetanku variation of an untitled piece by Henry David Thoreau
Sonnetanku concept by D.A. Boucher

My mother lies in
Walden's stony shore and sand
ornaments to her.

She's in each hollow
flows through its deepest water
and lives close to God.

My thoughts turn to her
she can't be nearer to me
in my heart she'll be
I watch as she floats away
ashes scattered by my hand.

By each breeze that blows
her spirit passes over
all that Walden is.
 

Sound haiku   andrews mix

Vrooom, Vrrrrrr, Rrrrmm, Vroom, Screech
Vrrroom, Rrrooom, Screech, Vrrroooom,  Screech, Crash, Cool!
Andrew's playing cars.

Abe Vigoda

More than 6ft tall
A very scary dude
His stance is terrifying
His voice is kina crude
His eyebrows are so bushy
He is always gruff
Everyday I watch him on TV I just can't get enough

Abe vigoda Abe Vigoda
Scares me out my wits
Abe vigoda Abe Vigoda
Causes epileptic fits
Abe vigoda Abe Vigoda
Makes me drop a stool   Ugh!
Abe vigoda Abe Vigoda
I think he's really cool

He must be from a planet
very deep in space
or he is a demon
with an old man's face
I watch him on the tube
and a chill runs down my spine
but by the end of every show I'm feelin' mighty fine

Abe vigoda Abe Vigoda
Scares me out my wits
Abe vigoda Abe Vigoda
Causes epileptic fits
Abe vigoda Abe Vigoda
Makes me drop a stool   Oof!
Abe vigoda Abe Vigoda
I think you're really cool

Ryan Travis
 

Closing Words

    Having a new computer means I've inherited a new program and a lot of new fonts, so I'm going to break the rules and include as many fonts as possible.  I do realize that if your computer doesn't have them, it doesn't matter at all, does it.
    I read an article in the local paper about ezines.  Seems a number of them have bit the dust, since many who have thought they could make money on this things have been disappointed.  No kidding.  Still, there are a lot of ezines out there, many of them put out by someone sitting in their basement by their computer, just typing away and hoping someone might read their words.  Yes, there is no money in this thing, even all those suggestions I keep sending the government have failed to loosen the famous money strings that is the Canadian federal government.  Maybe I should vote Liberal....  Nah, ain't worth it, whoops, just kidding those who will be reading my application for that fabulous government grant.
    As I said in my second introduction, it has been a fascinating year of publishing, and I'm looking forward to an even better year.  What sort of things am I planning, haven't a clue but if the work I have received over the past month is any indication, it will be great.  Thanks again to all who take the time to read and send work.  This past year has seen more contributors then ever before and I look forward to more writers sending me their works.
    If you want to send me your work, or perhaps an essay or a review or a rant or want to write a letter to be published, do so. Send your work to:  pabear_7@yahoo.com.  As always, all work is copyrighted by the various authors, respect their rights.  Everything else in this ezine is from my hand and so I take full responsiblity for what I write.  ©2001.  The web page is located at: http://www.angelfire.com/on/abovegroundtesting.   If you're looking for something new, I don't work on it too much, maybe this summer.  Look for the next issue early in August, send your work, don't be shy.