Hey, Jay! Hey, Red!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To receive the latest issue of it, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Max Shenk, PO Box 1184, White River Junction, VT 05001 OR order a copy/subscription online at my Selz store: https://maxshenkwrites.selz.com/

“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

How much SOUL do you need??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

To receive the latest issue of it, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Max Shenk, PO Box 1184, White River Junction, VT 05001 OR order a copy/subscription online at my Selz store: https://maxshenkwrites.selz.com/

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.

“Distilled Neville”

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

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

See what you think of this:

Our unconditioned awareness of being is God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All things bring forth after their kind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer is not supplication, wishing, or begging.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How’s that for a start?

This article originally appeared in issue #16 of my biweekly print-only ‘zine Metanoia. To get the latest issue or to subscribe, click here.

METANOIA – A print only ‘zine

IMG_20200328_133037_hdrMetanoia is my new print only ‘zine. It contains original work which hasn’t appeared and won’t appear online in any form.

The range of topics I’ll cover runs the gamut from metaphysics to music, from Neville Goddard to Mr. Spock, writing process to prayer method, nature, record collecting… all the things that I’m interested in.

For as long as I’ve considered myself a writer, I’ve not only always had my work in print (school newspapers and literary magazines, then, later, writing for local and regional newspapers, and, of course, my books); I’ve also always self-published newsletters and ‘zines of some kind, going way back to my Beatles/music newsletter Revolver and in college with my Temple Free Paper, and then the revival of Revolver in the 90s.

I enjoy writing online and enjoy blogging, but I missed the physical process of producing a print ‘zine/newsletter: setting a deadline, hashing through rough drafts, laying it out, editing it for style and space, then, finally, printing out copies and distributing them. I also lamented the fact that so much online writing is ephemeral.

So I decided to create a new ‘zine: Metanoia. The word, which I learned from Neville Goddard’s teachings, is a Greek word meaning a radical change of attitude.

Metanoia will be published roughly every two weeks (I’m aiming for every other Friday), one page, four columns, with a little bit of everything that interests me, plus a cartoon and some very short fiction (pieces from my Facebook Flash Fiction project).

I decided to make it print only, so I still didn’t quite solve the ephemeral problem. But I think you’ll understand.

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

Click here to get info on how to get Metanoia sent to you!