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, go to my Kofi page or to the Metanoia item page on Selz.com.

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!

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

The first e-book of my TWINS comics is now available from my Selz 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.

Click here to see some sample comics!

For more on this collection and to order a copy, click here: https://maxshenkwrites.selz.com/item/the-twins-turn-21-pdf-ebook-collection-of-comics-by-max-harrick-shenk

TWINS comic caption contest!

I always include an original TWINS comic in each issue of my print-only ‘zine METANOIA, featuring my character Christy and her “evil twin sister” Rebecca…

…but after twenty issues, I’ve hit a caption dry spell!! HELP!

WRITE A CAPTION FOR THIS COMIC and submit it via email to maxshenkwrites@gmail.com
Deadline for online entries – March 15, 2021

All entries will be published in issue 22, and the winning entrant will receive a signed 5×7 color print of the comic with their caption!

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.

New e-book: “Roughly Six Hundred Words”

CoverHere’s a sample piece from my new ebook, Roughly Six Hundred Words, which is a collection of seven unpublished newspaper columns from 2013 and which you can get FREE as a PDF between now and October 16. (The collection will be published by Amazon Kindle on the 16th.)

A couple years ago, after reading a book called The Do-It-Yourselfer’s Guide to Self-Syndication, I got the idea that I’d self-syndicate a newspaper column. I’d e-submit a 600-or-so-word general interest column article weekly to a list of newspapers in the US, and, hopefully, get enough bites to sustain me as a writer while I worked on my fiction.

For a lot of different reasons, the idea didn’t work, and after writing and submitting fewer than ten articles to my list, I gave up on it.

But I recently rediscovered the pieces, and thought that they were too good to just gather dust on the cloud (now there’s a figure of speech that would have been meaningless ten years ago!).

I always felt like these pieces deserved readers, and now, with Roughly Six Hundred Words, they get a second chance.

A sample column from the book is below.

If you want to order the PDF ebook from my e-store at Selz.com, click here.

After October 16, “Roughly Six Hundred Words” will be priced at 99 cents, but the first weekend that this PDF ebook is available, I am pricing it as a FREE pay-what-you-want item. If you want to read it free, then just enter $0.00 as the price when you check out. If you want to pay more, it’s up to you. 


Being Vermonted

What does it mean to be “Vermonted”?

IMG_20171012_114409Right now, the trees here are “being Vermonted:” ablaze, as Garrison Keillor once said, with colors so bright that Crayola doesn’t make them for fear kids would color outside the lines.

When I first moved to Vermont, though, I discovered another definition of “being Vermonted.”

A couple years ago, my old Plymouth Reliant needed major repairs to pass inspection. I didn’t know any local mechanics, so I settled on a local Chrysler dealer. A dealer would know the car and get parts quickly and cheaply, right?

“I’m going to Pennsylvania for a week,” I said, “and I’d like to pick it up when I get back.”

O.K., they replied.

I rented a car and drove to Pennsylvania for a week. When I came back to Vermont, my inspection not only wasn’t done; it hadn’t even been started. It was another week of their excuses and my prodding before I had  my car.

When I told a friend about this, she said, “Congratulations! You’ve just been Vermonted.”

I’d never heard the term, but somehow, I knew exactly what she meant.

Vermont is a lot different than Flatland (any state south of Vermont). In Flatland, there’s a level of stress and anxiety that many people accept as a given. To me, the quintessential Flatland attitude was reflected in a road sign I once saw at the entrance to the Washington DC beltway:

BE PREPARED FOR SUDDEN AGGRAVATION!

Vermonters reject that stress level. Vermont has a reputation of being a little slower, a little more deliberate, and a lot of that has to do with the seasons. You can’t force many of the things that come with seasonal change, nor can you resist them. You do what needs done when the seasons dictate. When winter approaches, you put snow tires on the car. When the sap flows, it’s time for maple sugaring. When the leaves start to change, you welcome tourists.

That’s the Vermont attitude. Roll with the changes.

Some Vermonters, though, use this “roll with it” attitude as an excuse for negligence or irresponsibility. It’s not that delays and problems don’t happen; it’s that they pretend that they can blame those delays and problems on Vermont.

An example: a couple days ago, I took my usual 15-mile commute down an unpaved back road. It’s a lovely drive, but about halfway to work, I got stuck behind a road grader. The dumptruck had dumped loose rock and dirt on the roadbed, and it had to be smoothed down.

On my way to work, with no other route available, I was now driving 15 miles per hour.

Fortunately, from experience, I knew that I need to allot time for these things. In cases where there’s only one way to travel, I figure in a minute per two miles traveled for road work, tieups, accidents, and those times that you get stuck in a line of traffic behind a leafpeeper who needs to drive 32 in a 50 mph zone so they can keep an eye opened for moose.

Having allotted that extra time, I knew I’d make it to work early, and I did.

If I was the kind of Vermonter who “Vermonted,” I wouldn’t have allotted the time, and, when I showed up late for work, blamed the grader for getting in my way, and not myself for planning poorly.

Sometimes being Vermonted manifests itself in other ways. When I lived in Stowe, I had another vehicle that needed an inspection, and a coworker suggested a “mechanic” whose “garage” was on a back road about five miles out of town.

“Düde,” he said, “I took my Wagoneer there. I knew it needed some work to pass. I pulled it into his garage, got out. He walked around it once, got in the front seat, scraped the old sticker off the windshield with a paint scraper, stuck a new one on, and said ‘Thirty-five bucks.’

“I paid him, and as I started the engine, a state cop pulled into his driveway. The mechanic knocked on the window and said, ‘If he asks you any questions, tell him you had it here overnight!’”

Now THAT’S being Vermonted!

Wrong leg, dummy!

15135865_10210413372746064_8374957766742851957_nI’ve been reading Robert Bader’s Marx Brothers biography, Four of the Three Musketeers, serially, a chapter at a time every couple weeks or so. I’m up to chapter nine.

Bader’s focus is on the brothers’ years as vaudeville and stage performers, before they went to Hollywood and broke through as movie stars. Four of the Three Musketeers is a thick book, very dense and exhaustively researched but also beautifully written, fun and funny.

Bader addresses all the myths and contradictions in the brothers’ history and, like any good historian, when a contradiction can’t be resolved conclusively based on the evidence at hand, he leaves it at that. It’s quite possibly one of the best biographies I’ve ever read, and, along with Richard Anobile’s Marx Brothers Scrapbook, the best book I’ve read about them.

The book is packed with great stories, and one of my favorites, which I posted on Facebook a while back, was the story about 9-year-old Gummo’s vaudeville debut in an act with his uncle, Harry Shean. Harry was the brother of Al Shean, who was a successful vaudeville performer; Gummo’s older brother Julius (Groucho) had already succeeded on the stage, so perhaps someone was thinking that success runs in the family.

20597000_10212851348133925_2416060154103251568_n
Gummo Marx, as a teenager

Unfortunately, Uncle Harry was nearly deaf, and Gummo had a bad stammer. So what was the act they chose to take onstage? A ventriloquist act, of course, with Gummo acting as a fake dummy, “stuffed into a hollow ventriloquist’s dummy with a papier-mâché head.”

According to Gummo, “I operated the mechanical part as well as speaking. Uncle Harry just stood there.”

As Bader writes, “A deaf ventriloquist with a stammering fake dummy wouldn’t seem to have much chance for success.” And a fake ventriloquist would get booed off the stage, so, to “prove” to the audience that the dummy was “real,” Gummo put both legs down into one pantsleg of the dummy; the other leg was stuffed with sawdust, and Uncle Harry would jab a long pin into the stuffed leg. When the dummy didn’t scream or jump, the audience would know that it was “real.” 

So one night, early in the act’s history, Uncle Harry raised the pin and jabbed it down into the dummy’s leg… except… he jabbed it into the wrong leg.

Gummo screamed and jumped from his uncle’s lap.

And that was the end of their ventriloquist act.

Groucho and the gorilla

circus5In a 1969 interview with Dick Cavett, before singing “Lydia The Tattooed Lady” from the Marx Brothers film At The Circus, Groucho Marx told this story about the production of the film…

In this picture (At The Circus) we had a gorilla. It wasn’t actually a gorilla… it was a gorilla skin with a man inside of it. And he had a manager… this gorilla skin had a manager! This is true!

And we engaged them to bring the pelt over to the studio and then we engaged a man to go inside of the gorilla skin. And he also had a manager. So we had two managers there for one gorilla!

And, you know, this skin was awfully hot, with all the lights, and it was in the summer we were doing this scene. And during lunchtime, the fellow who was in the skin, he went over to the lunchroom, and he got an ice pick, and he bored about 40 holes in this gorilla skin. And when he came back he was very comfortable inside of this skin.

s-l1000But the manager got wind of this– the manager of the skin. And he was in a rage. And he says to us, “We’re not going to permit this,” and he says “Give me my skin– get that guy out of there!”– threw the pelt over his shoulder and walked out of the studio.

Now we had about three more scenes to do with the gorilla but we had no skin!

So we had six people from MGM rushing around San Diego and all around that section of California looking for another monkey. We needed another gorilla. But we couldn’t get one– we got an orangutan, which is only half the size of a gorilla. And then we had to get a midget to go into this orangutan skin.

And then we got hundreds of letters when the picture come out, from fans who said, “We don’t understand it. The gorilla was this high (puts his hands over his head) at the start of the picture, and he was only this high (puts his hands at his waist) in the second half.”

And we never told them that we had an orangutan with a midget in it.

cavett-large groucho

 

Click on the screenshot to the right to view the complete 1969 Dick Cavett interview with Groucho. Groucho tells this story at about the 19 minute mark. 

Why proofreading is important…

One of the projects I’m working on a little bit at a time is an expanded book version of my articles about Vermont’s soldiers at the Battle of Gettysburg, and part of that book will include the text of an 1864 Vermont soldier’s memoir entitled The Second Brigade.

I’m about 2/3 through the slow process of formatting that manuscript; my source for the text is a New York City Public Library scan of the original 1864 book: JPG files which I ran through an online text conversion (OCR) program.

Here is a scan of the first page of chapter one:

second brigade

When I ran this page through the photo-to-text conversion program, here’s what I got:

Each valley, each sequestered glen,
Mustered its little horde of men,
That met as torrents from the height
In highland dales their streams unite,
[BLANK LINE]
Tivilorethnt’fon,tirt.irlinotnsfrong,
Till at the rendezvous they stood
By hundreds. prompt for blowszdtr.CoTT.

Amazingly, I have seen many, many online documents like this, and in fact have also bought several Kindle edition e-books, where the text was apparently converted from a JPG scan using an OCR program and NOT edited or proofread.

But, you know, as blowszdtr.CoTT said, Tivilorethnt’fon,tirt.irlinotnsfrong.