Mad Hatters' Review
Columns - Issue 2
Duncastle's Universe Jabberwocky Webb Experimental Astrology Strange As It May Seem
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'Duncastle's Universe' by Ben Cunningham
Duncastle's Universe
All About Duncastle

"I've been working for years to create a one word novel, The Final Word. Cut, cut, cut, I chant. In order to reach my goal, I only have to cull another 296,000 words. I have yet to decide if the final word in The Final Word is allowed to have more than one syllable. When I am done, I plan to retire and live off the sale of each of the approximately 360,000 individually copyrighted words that I eliminated from the novel through its devolution. I plan to offer big words for $8 a piece, medium sized words for five bucks, and little words for $1.75. I hope some day to build a house out of corks and wine bottles in the Shawneeland subdivision in Winchester, Virginia. I should have enough raw materials to begin assembly in about two months, at my present rate of consumption. The first Duncastle to arrive in America was hanged as a horse thief. Duncastles are disproportionately represented in complaints filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. In 1978, my mother, Flah, set off in a Winnebago loaded down with 23 styrofoam coolers full of Jax Beer, ostensibly to find herself and discover America all in one fell swoop. We're still awaiting her first post card. To support my enviable life as a writer, I supplement my writing income by serving on juries ($6/day, and trading human and non-human hair in the commodities market. If I couldn't be a writer, I would want to be either a barber or a drunk, or possibly both. I haven't read a newspaper or watched T.V. since Alaska was admitted to the Union. My hobbies include hair. Trying to avoid the taint of plagiarism, I have never read a novel in my life."


The Existence and (Theoretical) Value of God

Einstein was on to something: energy equals mass times the speed of light squared is elegant on many levels, though the equation only opens the door to the real question, one that was raised by every brain that ever thought a thought, not the least of which was the magnificent brain of old Albert himself: What is God?

Let’s think for a moment about what it means that energy equals mass (something tangible; something we can get our hands around, tap on, probe and otherwise recognize as “real” stuff taking up space) multiplied by a recognized constant, the speed of light (multiplied by itself, which, to make it simple, means a speed of about 34,600,000 miles per second, which is pretty fast, and the questions raised by this constant of (approximately) two billion, seventy six million miles per hour times mass (pick a mass, any mass will do!). Einstein’s simple equation of e=mc2 does its best to boggle our little brains, though it doesn’t boggle so much as excite our matterless, though not massless, minds, our own little seat of sentience, which apparently in some unfathomable way sent Philosopher and Pseudo-scientist Jay Duncastle to his study-laboratory to conduct the now famous thought experiment which led to the Duncastle Equation, which—he acknowledges—could not have come into being had Einstein not gotten his own famous equation right way back when. The Duncastle Equation, as it has come to be known, builds upon Einstein’s e=mc2 to get to the part that Einstein left out, and which puzzled that other great Scientist until (at the least) the day he died, if he actually did. The Duncastle Equation resolves the ultimate question regarding what is God, and secondarily, does God have any value whatsoever. Of course, the Duncastle Equation leads to speculation regarding a number of other related and unsettled issues, plenty of new “why’s” and “what’s” to satisfy every mind’s desire for bogglement, no matter how big or small that mind may be.

But enough bogglement for the moment; it’s first important to take a step back and infuse e=mc2 with some graspable perspective. Einstein’ s equation shows us that energy is the sum of real stuff times two billion seventy six million miles per hour or, put another way, real stuff (mass) is the product of energy divided by two billion seventy six million miles per hour. Let’s check it out! For simplicity’s sake, let’s say we have a human body (mass) that is “x” (call “x” 100, to simplify!). How did that mass come to be? According to e=mc2, we can’t tell unless we do a little reverse engineering on the equation. If we change the equation to mass (the human body) equaling the result of energy divided by two billion seventy six million miles per hour, we—voila!—have our little 100 whatever body! m (mass)=e (energy) divided by (c2) the speed of light squared. But what does this tell us? It tells us that because we know the mass (of something) and the speed of light squared, we can determine the calculus for “energy”. In this case, we know that “energy” equals 207 billion and some spare change of something. What it really tells us is that mass and the speed of light is nothing more than energy moving very damned fast! (hereafter, “Damned Fast!”). Mass, then, equals energy. Our 100 mass person is nothing but a fast moving conglomeration of energy! But wait, there’s more… The same could be said for any kind of mass, from an atom to a rock to a planet, and on and on and on.1 Looking at the sun might help (metaphorically speaking—please don’t look directly at the sun or you will experience just what the energy, mass and speed of light will do to your retinas). The sun began as nothing but energy. The energy in the sun is moving Damned Fast!, which has created mass, but in fact that mass is nothing more than pure energy that is moving so Damned Fast! it’s congealed a bit.

WHICH IS ALL WELL AND GOOD, but what does it tell us about GOD? The answer is, not to demean Einstein’s work, that it tells us nothing (directly) about God. Moreover, and more importantly, what does it tell us that Albert (intentionally? Forgetfully? Negligently?) left out of his fundamental equation? The answer is that he omitted that ineffable quality that allowed Albert to think of that paradoxical and simply-expressed equation in the first place, sentience rising exponentially to intelligence, (neither of which, it might be noted, have any mass whatsoever, so—as Duncastle explains in Einstein’s defense, there was no reason for something without mass to be in Einstein’s equation in the first place). And, as we might all agree, if there is a God, one would hope (ha! Yet another massless commodity!) that God possesses what we humans would so simplistically call a brain.2

All of which brings me to Duncastle and his theory of God, as he has explained it to me, and even though I don’t pretend to understand everything Duncastle sets forth (who can?), I’ll try to do justice to his equation and the reader may then do with it what she will, if anything, much as—I suppose—what the world has made of Einstein’s remarkable equation.3 So first, without explanation, here is Duncastles Equation:

g=es2 (That is to say, “God” equals energy times sentience squared.).

Which, of course, is another way of saying that sentience squared (intelligence) equals God divided by energy.

I don’t have to point out the obvious issues, of course, not the least of which is the fact that when one is attempting to obtain the mathematical expression for energy one has two potential knowns, the size of the mass and the speed of light. In Duncastle’s equation, we have only one “known”, which is extrapolated from Einstein’s equation, “energy.” How, I asked Duncastle, do we plug in a value for sentience squared, or intelligence? Good question, he responded to this writer: “You’ve hit upon part of the problem that is in reality not a problem at all, especially considering that sentience, or intelligence, which is nothing more than sentience squared, varies widely in human and non-human cultures. I had to employ something similar to Einstein’s cosmological constant, which in fact I call a cosmological intelligence quotient constant, or CIQC for simplicity’s sake.”

The reader has no doubt guessed my next question to Duncastle. Which is what the hell (value-wise) is the CIQC? He explained it thusly, while admitting that the CIQC was open to re-evaluation, but also pointing out to me that I had bogged myself down in the typical trap of wanting some precise numeric expression when in fact the actual numeric expression meant nothing. Nonetheless, Duncastle said with his mouth crooked in something between a smile and a sneer, that the CIQC is 5. Why 5, I asked, (perplexed doesn’t do justice to the tone of my question). Duncastle emitted one of his now familiar snorts and proceeded to lecture me at length on prime numbers and how almost any prime number would do for the CIQC, explaining (though I don’t pretend to understand what the hell he was talking about) that this particular prime number (5) was merely a representative number and could, in all likelihood, even be a number that was not a prime number because the result is the same: “Look at it this way,” said Duncastle, “We’re not trying to quantify God, that is, we can’t very well reduce God to a number, can we? God could be any number, all numbers, no number at all—it doesn’t make any difference! The only thing that counts is that the equation expresses clearly and elegantly what God is, not how much God is. I used a small prime number as the CIQC so the math wouldn’t get out of hand.”

It was beginning to make sense, the way Duncastle explained it; that is, even when all his explanation of the prime numbers and whatnot wasn’t clearly computing, it was my own private epiphany to realize that Duncastle had hit the nail on the proverbial head: God couldn’t be reduced to a mere number. God—if there is a God—had to be the sum of at least something that we could understand, which (thanks to Einstein) was mass, energy and the speed of light, and (thanks to Duncastle) “intelligence” as expressed in the CIQC (sentience), then squared!

So, according to Duncastle (and verified by scientists and theologians, especially Buddhist theologians and philosophers all over the world, or so says Duncastle), God equals the total amount of the energy in (at least) this universe4 times the CIQC (squared). Or, to put it simply, God divided by all the energy in the world equals intelligence! (Or, God divided by all the intelligence in the universe equals…you guessed it, Energy!).

What, then, does Duncastle’s Equation Prove? “Obviously” (This is the word that Duncastle uses frequently and has insisted that I insert here), the equation proves not only that God exists (g=es2), but also proves that God is the product of two massless qualities that are not disputed to exist. Duncastle notes that God as a massless quantity (or quality) is composed of energy, which is the moving force behind mass, and which includes some very Damned Fast!-dancing in the form of the speed of light squared, as well as the recognized, measured (yet massless) quality of intelligence, without which we wouldn’t have even figured out what energy actually was. Duncastle puts it this way:

Einstein proved the existence and relationship between energy and mass and the amazing speed of light, which when squared is really Damned Fast! There seems to be a general and unchallenged consensus that intelligence exists, though there is quite a debate, especially between political liberals and conservatives, what intelligence might be and which side might have the better share of it. This is all taken into account in the CIQC, which, as I have said, is 5.

According to Duncastle, if Einstein is wrong (that is to say, if there is no such thing as energy) then Duncastle’s Equation is flawed. However, if there is such a thing as energy, as proven by Einstein, then Duncastle’s Equation proves not only the existence of God, but the very nature of God. “It’s just math,” he says humbly. And he’s right: I’ve added it all up, and even using 5 as the CIQC, not only is it clear that God exists, but the (theoretical) (current) value of God is--- well, let’s just say that it’s a big-assed number, which is another way of saying that the number is, well, astronomical.

Duncastle invites Readers’ Comments & Questions. Email to, Subject line: DUNCASTLE. Caveat: Comments & Questions may be published in this column.

1 Duncastle refers to this as “turtles all the way up.”
2 It is impossible to write that last sentence without having another “real” but massless and intangible quality invade my own being, the song from The Wizard of Oz, “If I only Had a Brain.”
3 Duncastle makes the point (again and again) that he owes his equation’s existence to the fundamental and essential work of Einstein. In fact, Duncastle is like a broken record on this point, for those who might have some memory of what a broken record sounds like.
4 Duncastle tells me that he is currently working on a multi-cosmological constant that will take into account the energy extant in multiple universes, but again explains that the actual number assigned makes no difference in that the Duncastle Equation will work no matter what numbers are plugged in for energy or intelligence. “Do the math,” he says, and of course he is absolutely correct in this, it is a self-proving equation, just as was Einstein’s.

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'Jabberwocky Webb' by C.B Smith
Jabberwocky Webb
EVE, by Aurelio O’Brien
Streets that Smell of Dying Roses, by Prakash Kona
Tetched, by Thaddeus Rutkowski
Other Electricities by Ander Monson
click on cover to read review
EVE, by Aurelio O’Brien

EVE takes a while to get started, as Pentser the robot assistant narrates the story in first person omniscient, employing an elusive tone that keeps one from feeling too close to the narrator. And when he begins twirling into his vernacular the most common of human idioms, well, therein goes a small bit of the suspension of disbelief. A little polish on the hood could go a long way.

EVE, by Aurelio O’Brien

It seems that author O’Brien has issues with the world as it is, more importantly perhaps why it is not something besides what it is. His solution, as shown in EVE, a futuristic take on Pygmalion, provides more than a few questions to consider. How many of us are like Pygmalion, so in love with our creations that vanity blinds us to their faults? The protagonist, a lonely scientist named Govil, ruminates on this issue and others while ambling along with his sidekick Pentser, the ever present ever verbose over-thinker, more human than any robot has a right to be. The world as they know it almost self implodes in their grasp when they pop Eve from the mold, until they discover that all you need is love, love, love; whereupon they create the textual equivalent of Spring and dance to I’m a robot she’s a robot he’s a robot wouldn’t you like to be a robot too. Happy happy happy. Ahh. What ever happened to this kind of cuddle your honey by the honey pot and serve up honey kind of story?

All said, Clockwork Orange, Logan’s Run, or Brave New World, this isn’t, as it is told in a fun and funny tongue-in-cheek style with plenty of comic moments and unusual fabricated creatures to boot. This reviewer found the book not quite his cup of tea but an enjoyable read nonetheless. While this reviewer is not sure if author O’Brien has given us any guidelines for the distant future, the author has certainly given us plenty of material for rumination while poking prehensile fingers into the folly that is man. Comical, cynical, and psychosocial, this book is in its own way a critique of pop culture, avarice, and commerciality. And with that perspective this reviewer can find no grievance.


About the Author
Aurelio O’Brien was born in the middle of the 20th Century in San Diego; the second most perfect spot in the most perfect state of the United States, California. He was raised in the most perfect spot in California, Sunnyvale. His Irish-American family of five brothers and two sisters ranged wildly through the vast apricot and cherry orchards that are now called Silicon Valley. In any case, out of this Gaelic stew came Aurelio, born to a family of storytellers, inventors, entrepreneurs and teachers.

He drew, he painted, and he designed. By the time he was ready to leave the creative hothouse of home, he was accepted to The California Institute of the Arts, established by Walt Disney as school for all the arts: dance, painting, music, drama and film. Even in a school full of creative folk, Aurelio stood out. Before he could finish his curriculum, he was hired by a Hollywood film studio to work in the movies. Twenty years of production design, story development, script writing and other more glamorous entertainment work on award winning films followed.

Having spent a full career and two decades telling other people’s stories, Aurelio decided to tell one of his own. “Eve” is his first novel. Another is in the works, as are a series of children’s books and whatever else his fertile mind decides to dispense.

Streets that Smell of Dying Roses, by Prakash Kona

Prakash Kona’s first novel, Streets that Smell of Dying Roses, reads like an intricate hallucination in prose, a hovering meditation on the dust of Hyderabad, the interior life of the street, poverty, sexuality, minglings of gender, and the power structures that attempt to make love and language into weapons. But in order to get a hold on this work and experience the prevailing temperament we need clear vision. Let us first reacquaint ourselves with the definition of novel in the sense of a work of prose:

Streets that Smell of Dying Roses, by Prakash Kona
“A fictional prose narrative of considerable length, typically having a plot that is unfolded by the actions, speech, and thoughts of the characters.” (The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.)

Smells and sounds and sights and sensations of streets and feet and prostitutes and vagrants and grubby children people the tales of these interwoven street scenes amidst a swirling heat so thick one can feel it jumping off the page. This work is a meandering meditation, a fugue state induction.

Preoccupation for social equality is paramount here; poverty is both feared and despised, though recognized with a steely determination to present things as they truly are.

In accompanying literature, Kona professes to believe in "the power of alternate discourses," and Streets clearly utilizes alternative forms. And let me tell you this work is truly alternative when it comes to form. The entire novel is a novel as we have come to understand it in only the loosest sense. Dialogue, narration, and profusion of anything resembling plot is cleanly excised. What we have here is refusal to communicate in story form letting the resultant story takes its shape from the repetitions and representations whirling through this extended blank verse poem told in numerous vignettes.

So what do we get? Blistering emotions of despair, desperation, devotion, deviation, the entire “d” section with a few “e” words thrown in for good measure. In short we get the definition of novel: A fictional prose narrative of considerable length, typically having a plot that is unfolded by the actions, speech, and thoughts of the characters, although one is never entirely clear if this is indeed a work of fiction. Truth is, I don’t care to know, I am happy to see and feel and smell and taste the cruel streets of Hyderabad precisely as Kona has presented them.

This is an experimental work of the highest order that reveals more for what it conceals, thereby lending it a poignancy that must be experienced first hand. According to James Chapman, owner operator editor in chief of the Fugue as it is known on the streets, the Press is an experiment in publishing his own writing with an adjunct into publishing other writers whose work he so identifies with he feels compelled to publish them as a kind of wish fulfillment. He contends it’s the only way to respond when you find yourself envious of real ability; an admirably noble thought. Get in touch with James Chapman at Fugue State Press today and order your copy. I’m sure he’ll experience vicarious delight as the orders rush in for a novel he wishes he could have written.


About the Author
Prakash Kona lives in Hyderabad, India. He completed his doctoral studies with a comparative study of Chomsky, Derrida and Wittgenstein at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, MS. He has recently returned to Hyderabad after a stint as assistant professor of English Literature and Humanities at Eastern Mediterranean University in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Prakash believes in, among other things, the power of alternate discourses and the ideal of a classless society. He is the author of two previous books of poetry published in Calcutta.

Tetched, by Thaddeus Rutkowski

What is it that the narrator wants? How does he undertake to get it? In Thaddeus Rutkowski’s latest novel, Tetched, we follow the narrator, a young boy of mixed Asian and unspoken lineage: biracial, through the tunnels and tumults of his life, laughing, crying and commiserating along the way. A major theme concerns failed and nonexistent attempts at communication among the members of his family. For instance, when the boy’s Chinese mother tries to teach him words from her language, she teaches him “Nimen da bizi. All of you have big noses.” The father meanwhile spends a majority of his time bemoaning the fact that his parental status disables him from being the pseudo revolutionary and painter he wishes to be. “I’m not Picasso…My art is for the masses!”

Tetched, by Thaddeus Rutkowski

His delusions of grandeur notwithstanding, we never see a finished painting or any forward momentum in this supposed artistic fascination. Meanwhile, the father rants and declaims on any topic that streams across his palette and the mother simply bounces in and out like a bungi-mom passing along the wastrel wisdom of Confucius, while the narrator and his siblings hang on for what emotional nourishment they can scrape together. Chaos and confusion reign supreme in the biracial race to adulthood that is marred at every step by the four furies as boulder after boulder is hurled in the way. Moreover, the boy’s passage to adulthood is not helped by the girls he lusts after, like the one who takes off her underwear before going to bed, places it in a plastic bag, and launches this salvo, “If you touch me, I’ll freak!” Love American Style this isn’t.

So what can a young man do as the dreaded sperm buildup threatens to blow him sky high? Duck for cover and run past the trenches.

As the narrator leaves his childhood home for college, he travels a la thumb in search of companionship, finding nothing of durability. Eventually, he settles in a city and begins to build a life, his early troubles haunting him at every turn.

Crafted in a minimalist style favored by those from the Raymond Carver school of prose, Rutkowski evokes skillfully the internal conflicts that accompany a thorny childhood and its volatile, often absurd aftermath.


About the Author
Thaddeus Rutkowski grew up in central Pennsylvania and is a graduate of Cornell University and The Johns Hopkins University. His first novel, Roughhouse (Kaya Press), was a finalist for an Asian American Literary Award.

His work has been anthologized in The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images and The Naughty Bits: Reviews from His writing has appeared in American Letters and Commentary, Artful Dodge, CutBank, Fiction, Global City Review, The Laurel Review, Pleiades and The New York Times.

He has taught at the Asian American Writers' Workshop, the Hudson Valley Writers' Center, Pace University and the Writer's Voice, and has been a resident at Yaddo, MacDowell and other colonies. He has won the weekly poetry slam at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and was selected to read in the New York Poets Live festival at the former home of East German president Erich Honecker in Berlin.

Other Electricities, by Ander Monson

Like the opening segment of the Outer Limits television show where Vic Perrin's omniscient "Control Voice" first proclaimed, "There is nothing wrong with your television set, we have taken control” so too must control be relinquished upon entering the world of Ander Monson’s Other Electricities. An odd and strange book it is, from its opening table of contents, hierarchy of character interrelationships, to a chapter by chapter listing of dramatis personae, you know you are in for something akin to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride through someone else’s nightmare. This is such a mixed bag it leaves you on a dark -33 degree Fahrenheit street sometime in the middle of Middle America wondering where you took a right turn. That’s correct, a right turn. So unsettling and surreal is this title that it makes one wish to leap in head first and not bother coming up for air.

We are step by step taken into a world peopled by friends, enemies, sometimes ghosts inhabiting each page to bursting point where sinking beneath the not quite frozen ice, turning to ash, and shoplifting whisky are somehow raised to high art forms.

Other Electricities by Ander Monson

Meet the father of whom the narrator says, “My father had moved up in the attic with all the radios and the best connections to the main antenna.” It would seem we have entered a world of the Amateur Radio enthusiast. And with this assumption we are partly correct. But the chronicle continues in geometrically opposed angles as we are informed in terse interjection throughout this foremost piece of the Amateur Radio Operator’s mantra if you will: The Radio Amateur is Patriotic, The Radio Amateur is Well-Balanced, The Radio Amateur is Truthful, questioning of course at each utterance and its placement in the text the veracity of each statement based on the eddy currents of prose which lead or lag. The reader begins at rest but is before long a freely-falling body.

Later, there is Crisco Hatfield, the breaker of arms; Bone, dropper of bowling balls off interstate overpasses; The Oracle of Apollo in Tapiola, who sees all; Christer, a pyromaniac collector of pornography who jumps off cliffs for kicks; and most importantly there is Liz, the book's central obsession, "Liz my unknown quotient my lonely roamer," the unknowable girl who crashed through the ice on prom night.

Onward we are assaulted with ambiguously threatening statements such as, “My lead slug, my dial tone, my dumb luck, my instant, distant coffee, dear” or another, “Lines that attract us like anything that can kill.” What do they mean? Where are we? Why are we? The questions explode from the mind and tongue and freeze in dead space long before they hit the hard crusted earth. To experience these shape shifting territories is to be left in wonderment. To ask how the master’s hand accomplishes such feats of legerdemain is an act of irreverence.

Mixing electricity, life, death, laughter, and tears in a frozen universe that just could not be real though somehow we understand it is—truth is stranger than fiction no doubt—one is left without words to ably describe or demonstrate without cracking the code and thus diminishing the powers at play therein. Perhaps then this reviewer will leave you to decide for yourself as you race out to liberate your copy from the bookshelves before it freezes irretrievably in place.


About the Author
Ander Monson grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He lived briefly in Saudi Arabia, Iowa, and in the Deep South, where he received his MFA from the University of Alabama. He is the editor of the magazine DIAGRAM and the New Michigan Press. His stories, essays, and poems have appeared in many literary magazines, including The North American Review, Fence, Field, Gulf Coast, The Bellingham Review, Ploughshares, Boston Review, and the Mississippi Review, among others. He teaches at Grand Valley State University and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his wife, Megan, and three cats. Tupelo Press recently published his poetry collection, Vacationland.

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'Experimental Astrology' by Saturnika
Experimental Astrology


Summer/Winter Forecast (weather being globally subjective, of course)

Dear summer/winter sun signs and curious others with Ascendants or Moons in Gemini, Cancer, or Leo, and all sorts of others without any planets anywhere:

Expect to experience many odd and occasionally terrifying manifestations of your unconscious selves as illusive Neptune churns the seas of your memories and expectations. Avoid quarrels with alleged loved ones, particularly Scorpios and Capricorns, who can't tolerate the summer heat or winter chill. In fact, it would be wise to avoid all alleged loved ones until dinnertime, as Mercury ascends or descends on flat winged feet, colliding with grumpy Saturn.

From July 15th through September 1st, it will seem as though Venus is sleeping (and not with Mars) or at least has gone on vacation with the therapists without leaving her cell phone number. Unless you're a totally obnoxious Arian, Virgoian or Libran (no, I did NOT say Librarian), you will no doubt find yourself (if you can manage that) huddling indoors by your air conditioner or antique floor fan about to leap off your fire escape, breathing in malignant fumes. By moonlight, you will imagine the return of dead lovers and intimidating relatives as microscopic creatures flapping their wings around you like Mephistophelian moths. That may cause you to seek solace in a place of worship or attend a séance. Resist those misguided urges, dear summer/winter signs. There are monsters lurking about the abodes of souls.

GEMINIS: While it's your usual wont to see double, dear Twins, expect doubles to double; but don't be alarmed! These visions shall pass as Mars bounces Neptune out of the court, Jupiter returns from a long business trip and your myopic confidence in Reality returns. Expect frequent energy and creativity lows through September 13th. Ozone levels will be very high; you will experience frustrations communicating with others, though that is hardly a new experience for you. No excuse to join a cult and no excuse not to organize protests against nasty rulers. Overcome! Overcome -- you torpid beasts who speaketh with forked tongues!

CANCERIANS: Get out and about, you dear dull domestic parental sots. Stop rearranging the brown, tan and blue furniture, planting useless gladiolas, lusting after real estate agents, and taking the idiot kids to baseball or cricket games despite ridiculous weather conditions. Get real and read writers of fish books like Peter Markus and get out of that domestic sand. Swim in the seas of the subconscious as you were meant to do: imagine a house without blue, brown and tan furniture and white or beige curtains. Stop thinking that every negative observation concerns you, you oversensitive sot. You're boring the Mad Hatters. Woo your ruler Moon and return to your lyrical, atonal ultimate Being; and if you get scared shitless, not to worry. The therapists will return in September, one would hope.

LEOS: Get over it, dear kings and queens of the Sun. Let the weather take over and teach you the meaning of meaning. You can't control it, you know, despite your wish to dominate the cosmos. On the shores of Samsara, you can't control anything, even your impressive bank accounts. Time to forego hunting for fans, organizing clubs, doling out money with shameless largesse to ungrateful relatives and friends who will never be able to pay you back. Lose those tiresome Egos, lions; conquer your delusions. Put the red and orange bully flames on low, stop spewing spermatozoa and ova for the sake of propagating the planet in your image, and dare to think violet. Uranus and Neptune will upset your pedestrian dreams of glory. Let your dormant intuitive ear hear the music of torture and genocide. For once, put your shallow rage to use, with Uranus as your guide.

Readers may send comments, including objections and words of praise, as well as requests for personal astrological forecasts, to, Subject line: Saturnika. Comments may be published and are subject to expert cross-examination.

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'Strange as it May Seem' by Tantra Bensko
Strange As It May Seem


I was riding the train the other day, and a woman was sitting in front of me. She was mostly upset that her CD player was not working and she kept yelling in a tropical bird monotone "Damn!" and banging it, blowing on it, shaking it. She didn't seem incredibly bright. There was only one other thing she said for the whole hour trip, and it was startlingly wonderful. "It's supposed to be summer.” All in a loud monotone. “This isn't summer. Cold. Wet. I want summer. Hot. But then, you have chance of fire hazard. Just a few days ago, a fire truck somehow got off the road and into the bushes and it was a dry day. So the fire got out and caused a bush fire."

When I was in rural Alabama recently, training a woman to caretake Papa, I showed her how to use a computer, for a couple of hours. She is 61 years old, not really someone I should expect to be able to jump right in--and she certainly couldn't. I showed her how to use Google. I said "You can ask it
anything you want to know that you think might be on the net. You can just type in some of the words in the subject and see what's out there on it. What would you like to find out about?" She stood in thought, a confused look turning to beatific. "Are my mother and father looking down on me from Heaven right now?"

This same woman and I were driving along in rural Alabama, not far yet from Papa's house. It was a southern gothic scene, everything shining with ice from the recent storm, the limbs of all the trees covered and sparkling. Smoke filled the air from the oldest house in Powell. It was a strange
house to begin with, peaked and dark, always looking like a movie. It was obvious that its fate was to burn down. It had always had something of a premonition about it.

We couldn't take the usual road, as there were a dozen volunteer firemen there. We had to take a road off to the side that no one ever took. Not any more. Not since--what happened. The most famous bootlegger of the region lived until a few years ago on a corner of that road and the “real” road.
We only had to get that far, and turn into civilization. But our way was considerably assaulted by the bootlegger’s artistic statement. He had also run a junk yard, and the cars were all over the road, making it barely passable, and hard to maintain. So, the city took him to court. But he won!
And out of spite, he put a fence down the very center of the road. This is a road that was narrow already, and immediately on each side is the thick woods. The road was not allowed to be maintained, but cut off from the world. And the inhabitants had mutated! It was like Deliverance. The shacks and yards were almost unimaginable to people who had seen the light of civilization within the last few years. Something different was being allowed to culture there.

It was hard to tell moment by moment if the road was possible to get through. There were deep chasms, small ponds, tunnells exposed, boulders, mud slides. And the whole time, I kept trying to figure out the meaning of the unsymetrically spray painted, gray sign in front of someone's yard. NO
TRUST PASSING! Every time I asked my friend what she thought it meant, she always said, "Well, it probably means "No Trust Passing." Hmm.

So…. we aren't supposed to trust that cars will give right of way if we try to pass? We shouldn't pass without written agreement with the other driver first?

It wasn't until we finally got to the end of the road, whooping and hollaring as we came up the last cliff, that it came to me. They were trying to say "No Tresspassing."

After the fire, which happened when the owner had left a fire going and left, the house was gorgeous in an decayed art way. My cousin was helping the inhabitant tear down the fireplace, and was going to use the big rocks, which his grandfather had put there. He was risking his life to climb around on the second floor, taking wood that could still be salvaged, the oldest wood in Powell. His main reason for doing all that was to protect the pecan trees all around the house, very old, planted with love. Otherwise, the house would be burned down the rest of the way and scrapped, thus killing the trees around it with the blazes.

In the fireplace, they found bales of hay that had been dropped bit by bit over the years by birds.

My cousin left to go home, happy with saving everything. Then, the owner set the bales of hay on fire and left. You can imagine what happened after that.


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Mad Hatters' Review, Edgy and Enlightened Literature, Art and Music in the Age of Dementia
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