Monday, February 20, 2012

"Updates and Holy Orders" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

I was sitting in my usual booth at the back of Mr. Happy's Bar and Grill finishing my customary bacon cheeseburger along with my second pint of Pyramid Hefeweizen, the most glorious beer in known existence, and watching in amusement as a pair of local community college studs in chinos and sweater-vests attempted to mate with two giggling debutantes in short skirts.

I felt sorry for the studs. Little did they realize those two young women were really vampires belonging to House Seven Betty Grables, which had a satellite office in the San Francisco East Bay. House Seven Betty Grables was, of course, one of the Great Vampire Houses of North America, along with House Pain, House Blues, and House Rising Sun (which, according to one of Zeke Azerov's white papers, was used ironically).

As the two collegiates pattered on and preened and flexed, oblivious to their doom, a tall, gangly man in black motorcycle boots, cargo pants, wool pea coat, and battered peaked cap came in, looked around, and loped toward my table.

It was Skinner. Skinner was one of my go-to guys, a man who had his ear in everything and his hand in various unspeakable places that later required CDC-grade disinfectant, often by white-hot flames. Rumor had it he'd been a Green Beret in Vietnam and later worked in secretive, hush-hush offices at Langley, no doubt for The Company. Then he "retired" and became a "security consultant." We'd met in Bolivia nearly ten years ago when I went down there to report on illicit pharmaceuticals coming to the U.S. from a small Bolivian village. It recently turned out that he was also one of Azerov's go-to guys, too.

He slid into the seat across from me and signaled to Marvin, the bartender, for a drink. Then he reached into his coat pocket, pulled out a phone, and slid it across the table to me.

"Stopped by The Lair first," he said. "Anne told me you were here. Said to give that to you."

It was my new phone. My old one had met with an untimely demise caused by peanut butter a few weeks earlier.

"Excellent," I said. "I was waiting for this. They had to put it on backorder because of the custom options I'd wanted."

"That always takes time," Skinner agreed, nodding. "Unless you work for certain nameless organizations who have such things in nearby unmarked warehouses."

"Enough of trying to make me jealous of your cool tech," I said. "What news do you have for me? Anything on the Bublé front?"

Skinner leaned forward, elbows on the table. "Word on the streets is that they were using him as a cover story. The real Michael Bublé knows nothing about the Dark Elders. Of course, they asked him indirectly."

"Indirectly? How?"

"The William Hurt method."

"Altered states?"


"Gads!" I said.

Skinner nodded. "He wanted to sell them car insurance at a discount."

"Double gads!"

"And then it got pretty hairy, from what they told me. Something about primeval ooze. Luckily it didn't last too long and they were able to get him back to his normal self."

"And the Dark Elders?"

Skinner shook his head. "Nothing more about them. I'm in touch with people who'll tell me if news breaks."

"Keep us posted," I said. "Anything else?"

Louie the bartender came around with a bottle of Sam Adams and a chilled pint glass and set them in front of Skinner. "Heya, Skinner," he said in his gravelly voice. "You wanna eat?"

Skinner pointed to the remains of my burger. "What he had."

"Comin' up." Louie shuffled back toward the bar.

Skinner poured the beer into the glass then took a long pull. "Hits the spot, lemme tell you."

"A good beer always does," I said. "So what else you got for me?"

"How," he said.

"How what?"

Skinner shook his head. "No. How. H-O-W. Stands for Holy Order of Wendig."

"Wendig?" I said. "As in Chuck Wendig the writer?"

"Yep. That's him."

"Wouldn't it be 'ho-ow'? With the extra 'o' for 'of'?"

"Who really knows the inner workings of the crazed mind?"


"Yeah. Seems some folks have started up a society that's worshipping him like a god. Offerings, hymns, the works. I've brought one of the society members with me. He wants to talk to the press. I told him about you. He was sold."

I threw back the rest of my Hefeweizen and signaled to Louie for another. Then I pulled out my Moleskine notebook and got comfortable in my seat.

"Tell me more," I said.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"Will The Real Handel's Water Music Please Stand Up?" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

[writing as "Anna Cruces" for a proposed NPR musicology segment scheduled to air in early 1993, but never used; from The Jericho Files collection]

Good evening. I'm Anna Cruces. You're hearing the wonderful strains of George Frederic Handel's most popular orchestral work, Water Music. Astute listeners out there will, of course, recognize the hornpipe from the old Delco water faucet commercials.

Water Music
is a must for any classic music aficionado's library. Several different recordings of the piece are available, yet interestingly, no two recordings are the same. This begs the question: Which version is the "correct" version and why? Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer.

This begs the next question: How are we to determine the "correct" version?

And begs yet a third question: How much longer until lunch?

Let us look at the pieces of this musical puzzle that we have to work with.

The largest problem we have is the fact that no autographed score for the work as a whole exists. The only copy that bears Handel's signature is a two movement concerto, re-scored in the Water Music, located in the British Museum. The copies that do exist are different from one another and such copies are merely spurious transcriptions of a piano etude for bagpipes thought to be titled "Sonata for Whoopee Cushion in D-flat Major."

However, differing opinions hold that the stylized Cross-dressers of the Upper Rhine (The Kleidenblätterteig) had a tremendous regard for Taoist philosophy, a factor which has greatly influenced their bowel movements, not to mention their music.

However, such a factor does not exist in Water Music. Instead, the harmonies of the piece hearken the listener back to the late Renaissance-Baroque period wherein the opening salutes in a minor mode that shifts to third gear at thirty kilometres per hour.

A closer look at the next movement reveals Handel experiencing a shift in his lower thirds. He then executes a marvelous groping of the treble clef and the meter rapidly incriminates a rotund disposition. Handel does this, thereby, to relieve stress on the upper ulna, the lower tibia, and the middle child.

This, of course, is in regard to Battenburg's Theory of Musical Inversions in Third World Countries which essentially states that nations without an industrial base often listen to polka music. This supposition is often at the expense of the middle child.

The result is a careful reworking of a stylistic preference to albatross traced to a Rossini overture from his unperformed opera, Desidero Pantaloni. The aria from the overture begins with a highly complex metaphysical treatise on the biochemical regurgitations of late 12th Century German Idealists and their colleagues in France. When the male chorus enters the scene twenty measures later, they are already drunk and singing about peas and chickens.

This calls to mind the fourth movement of "Flute Concerto for Stereo Consoles in early model Gremlins," by Vito Parmesiano deRegina, one of the leading Italian composers of mid-1712 Germany, circa 1710. This vocal duet piece written for a pair of four trumpets is very much in keeping with the jazz-like style of the late Reconnaissance Period (just after the Roccoco Period and just prior to the James Coco Period, not to be confused with the Hot Cocoa Period).

deRegina is highly regarded as one of those composers often called the "Revisionists" and is in the same category as Debussy, Brahms, Mussorgsky, and Lennon. Writes well-known Oxford musicologist, Dr. Silence Percival Yiblet: "...the works that are heard serve to enliven the source of a melodic structure that one expects from the contrariness of the original."

But much of the music that is left intact can be traced to the early 6th Century work of a monk named Harvey Rosenbaum, whose most famous work, "Chromosome Dance for Rhinoceros in C-sharp," follows a musical theme that can be found in many works of the same period. Like most Austrian composers in England, Rosenbaum used the Myxomatosis melodic mode in a perverted form with a series of chromatic and prophylactic scales.

This lead us to a brief look at the Roger Movement, begun in the early 1100's by a Franciscan friar named Friedrich "Big Daddy" Frankenheimer-Schmidt. The Roger Movement, which spanned the pre-Renaissance days of the Reformation, focused on the pentatonic gurgles that appeared in a little known form of chant called the Minus Hock (later to be known as the Add Hock). This form of chanting used gurgles that take effect on the root note as well as the upper third, the tonic sixth, the gin and tonic eight, the inverted thirteenth, the genial fifteenth, and the confused thirty-second.

This sparked the little known Elmer Movement which attempted to take the gurgles to another level by proving that the circle of fifths can, in fact, be festooned with garlands and mayflowers and then taken for walks in the meadow. (This movement, however, lasted all of two days and resulted in the death of a wheelbarrow, a yak, and a crate of pickles.)

The Roger Movement, coupled with the familiar arching of the eyebrow and the use of a violin bow as a rapier, resulted in a pragmatic approach to hand clapping, except in cases where only one hand is clapping and a tree falls in a wood.

Such esoteric examinations of appendages in a pseudo-mystical fashion so sparked the appearance of tambourines in orchestral works that Bob Haydn (not related to the more famous Ralph Haydn), a brilliant Irish-born Austrian composer born in Morocco, wrote his famous concerto "Small Dogs Yelping Near a Puddle," a vocal piece for a small tambourine, two kazoos, and a pint of lager. At the premiere, the audience was so moved by the work that they praised Haydn as reigning emperor of an anthill and vanished into the woods, never to be heard from again.

Except when you get that curious feeling that you are being watched.

But that's probably normal paranoia.

Haydn, however, did not use a violin bow as a rapier.

Wait! What's that over there?!?


Based on the available canonical evidence, we can then deduce which of the recordings is the "correct" version. It is only safe to assume that the later recording done by Zubin Mehta and Freddy Mercury, with guest conductor Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, is not the "correct" version.

Fiedler also did not use a violin bow as a rapier.

Suffice it to say that the alienation of one's inner self is detrimental to the safety of the whole. Or, in the words of that famous Greek philosopher, Fred the Athenian Galley: "E vexat lux patria verum porpoise," which roughly translates to something about sneakers and dead fish.

Thus we can conclude that Handel's Water Music conjures up visions of scantily-clad water faucets.

As for which is the "correct" version of the piece?

I haven't the foggiest.

I just have a pair of Reeboks and a dead cod.

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.

Monday, February 6, 2012

"The Peanut Butter On The Doorstep" by Dr. Ace T. Jericho, Rogue Journalist

"I'm Alice Marsh," said the woman on the voicemail message, speaking with a pronounced New England accent. "I'm the Public Relations Chief for Zadok Foods and we'd like for you to write a review of our upcoming new product, Allen's Peanut Butter. Please call me at 978-555-3257. Thanks."

I hung up and turned to Anne who was sitting at her desk. "Since when did I do product reviews?"

"You don't," she said.

"Precisely," I said. "The closest were comic books and movies. And those aren't exactly spreadable on toast."

"And I've never heard of Zardoz Foods. Have you?"

"She said Zadok," I said. "The other is Sean Connery in a red diaper, knee boots, ponytail, and a Sam Elliot mustache that I would now like to bleach from my subconscious. And no, I've never heard of them either."

She spun her chair toward her laptop, typed for a moment, then studied the screen. "Here they are," she said after a moment. "Zadok Foods. Ipswich, Massachusetts."

"Home of the annual Ipswich Lion's Club Chowderfest," I said.

"Lion's Club?"

"A volunteer organization masquerading for a pride of were-lions. Cordwainer Duke sent over one of Azerov's reports on it last week. There are a bunch of them like that."

"Volunteer organizations? You mean like the Rotary Club? And Kiwanis?"

"The Rotary Club is really a secret society of clockwork people. Just look at their logo. And Kiwanis is run by sirens and banshees."


I nodded. "Kiwanis. From the Otchipew American Indian expression 'nunc kee-wanis' which translates to 'we make noise.' Great cover stories, I'll give them that. Worked for the last hundred years. But back to Zadok."

"My aunt and uncle were in Kiwanis," said Anne, sounding a little rueful.

"Zadok," I said. "What's the skinny?"

Anne gestured to her laptop screen. "They make food. Breads. Spreads. Cookies. Pastries. That sort of thing."

I rolled my chair to her desk and looked at the screen. "Hm. So they do."

"They even have a nice old style logo," she said, pointing to the web page's header. "Very homey."

She was right. Very 19th Century. Old-style lettering and graphic.

"Although I'm not sure," Anne went on, "why the logo has a tiara in it. But whatever."

"Tiara?" I said, squinting at the graphic.

She pointed and I saw it, an odd-looking thing. And immediately, dark thoughts sprang to mind.

"Sweet Mother of Dingos!" I said, leaped out of my chair, and dashed to the bookcase.

"What's wrong?" said Anne.

Zadok. Allen. Marsh. The names had a familiar ring and I was certain I knew why. I grabbed a copy of the world atlas, pulled it down, and flipped to a map of Massachusetts. I found Ipswich and the truth hit me like a sledgehammer to the balls.

"What's wrong, Jericho?" said Anne.

"Find a map of Ipswich, Massachusetts online," I said.

"Okay," she said, turing back to her laptop and typing. A moment later, Ipswich and the surrounding area popped up on the screen.

"Just as I thought," I said. "I needed a closer map to be sure."

"Be sure of what?" said Anne.

I pointed at the map on the screen and my finger cast a shadow over Ipswich. "That is the Miskatonic region, aka Mistakonic County, aka Lovecraft Country."

"Sweet Mother of Dingos!" said Anne.

"Excatly," I said. "And now I know why those names sounded so familiar. The tiara gave was a dead giveaway."


"It's one of the artifacts mentioned in 'The Shadow over Innsmouth.' Innsmouth is a small village near Ipswich. And Zadok, Marsh, and Allen are the names of characters in the story. That new peanut butter. Do they have a picture of the jar?"

"I think so," said Anne. She did a search on the webpage and nodded. "Yup. Right here."

We looked.

The label, done in old-style type, showed a picture of a smiling cartoon-like frog. Hidden among the letters of the product name was a silhouette of the tiara.

"That frog," I said, "is probably a representation of the Deep Ones. Fish-frogs of the nameless design. Worshippers of Father Dagon, Mother Hydra, and Cthulhu."

Just then, my phone rang, "O Fortuna" blasting from tinny speakers, and we both jumped.

Then I picked it up and put it on speaker.

"Speak," I commanded.

"Hello?" said a woman's voice. "Is this Doctor Jericho?"

Anne and I exchanged looks. The voice had that unmistakable New England accent we'd heard earlier.

"This is Jericho," I said. "Who is this?"

"This is Alice Marsh," the woman said.

Then the line gave a small click and suddenly, a raspy voice cried out "Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin! Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah-nagl fhtagn--"

I grabbed the phone and hurled it across the room. It slammed into the wall and exploded into several pieces.

"Like I said before," I said. "No product reviews."

Anne nodded. "And you need a new phone."

Come back next week for another entry of The Jericho Files!
Read previous Jericho Files entries here.