Saturday, December 30, 2017

Update Two

Trauma, Diagnosis, and Therapy

Art by Danny Quirk

Compiled, Researched, & Narrated
by Anthony Servante


My apologies for the long wait between updates, but I didn't feel like writing. That's it. No excuses. Just didn't want to follow the psychiatrist's instructions. It's these damn pills, you see. One for depression, one for anxiety, one for pain. I don't even have any pain. Maybe the pills are taking away the pain, you say. What pain? The pain of living, I suppose. Maybe it's because I often tell the Shrink about my headaches. So all she hears is "pain" and prescribes the Tramadol. Damm pills make the nightmares worse, so I avoid taking meds before bed--when the headaches can be numbing. But I digress.

As I continue to follow my [Shrink's] trauma therapist's instructions, I write another update in my blog regarding the treatment and reason for my sessions with her. As I have mentioned, my health insurance will not pay for therapy but does pay for a psychiatrist. She has agreed to provide counseling if I take my meds and write these blog updates as a valve to alleviate my pressure from stress. According to her, she will be reading these updates and discussing them with me. If I don't write anything, then it's meds and "see you next week". And I want the talks, so I will be keeping up with these updates. It's in these talks that I get to peel back the defense mechanisms that cover my bad memories.

These updates will consist of sharing accounts of trauma but hope to include accounts of treatment as well. I will speak of myself and allow other trauma sufferers to speak for themselves.

Thus I begin with the latest of the accounts I have received and find reflective of the subject matter at hand.

Testimonial: Bill's Account:

I am a Vietnam War veteran. Where we were stationed isn't important. What happened to snap my spirit is. Lieutenants came and went. They were mostly young ROTC punks or college kids with a degree. No West Point pukes made it to our corner of the Happy Hunting Grounds. Just the punks and kids. Not that we weren't kids anymore ourselves--that is, the survivors who managed to secure our little corner and keep our enemies far away from us. We were close to water, the jungle half a klick away: Quick extraction by chopper if necessary. And we posed no threat to anyone in the strategic scheme of things. We were a nobody platoon. The Brass forgot about us. We had time to barbecue and play music and get high. Pot was easy to get. Beer was harder, but we managed to keep ourselves well-stocked by trading rations and candy bars with the locals. We just had to keep our heads down and stay out of the war. Sure there were battles. They shot at us from the jungle skirmish line. We shot back. Except for a few flesh scrapes, there were no casualties. And those lucky enough to actually get shot got to picnic in morphine park for a few days. For me, the pot was enough. That and the beer.

It's just that the fucken Lieutenants kept coming. I'm your new C.O. You'll salute me, soldier. You boys are lazy. You need a mission. Fuck that. The punks and kids were never satisfied with the skirmishes. I want you boys to follow the enemy into the jungle and find their headquarters. They're underground, Sir, we always tried to explain. They got ten times more men than we do down in those tunnels. Why piss on the bee hive?! Because I'm giving you an order, that's why. I want a location by tomorrow. I'll radio the position to Command and await further orders. What do you mean, 'further orders'? You're the only one giving orders. You're going to get us all killed. He said 'getting killed' was the job description. They always talked like that. Like it was business. 

That night the first new LT arrived, he had us build a crow's nest and stationed a watch with optics, you know, binoculars. We rotated watch all night long every five hours, during which time the damn gooks took shots at the nest. The Lieutenant would yell at the watch to keep an eye on the origin of fire, that's probably where the tunnel entrance is. But the watch kept his head down. Fuck the Lieutenant. And every one of those punks and kids with their clean new uniforms and clean-shaven faces always had ideas about how to find the Viet Cong, the Chop Stick Calvary. The punks always wanted to meet the enemy and notify Command that we need support, we need to flank the Cong, we need to push them back, cut down the skirmish line of trees if we had to, we were there to win the War. Fucken Baby Politicians with a hair up their ass. 

The first Lieutenant was the easiest. We walked him into the jungle just past the skirmish line and led him into a field of 'bouncing Betties' or 'pungi stick' traps. By the second Lieutenant, we started building the traps ourselves. Click. Snap. Wham, bam, thank you, Bettie. A half dozen pungi sticks in the face and chest. We'd wait a few days to report it. No hurry getting a new C.O. Pop open a beer, bogart a joint, fire a few rounds into the jungle. It was the gooks who usually took the Lieutenants down and left his body by the skirmish line. Once the birds and insects began to feed on him, we'd have to call it in. It got stinky.

And so they left us alone--the Cong. And we bided our time. The boys with deep wounds during skirmishes got a ticket home--after losing a limp. They always wanted to stay a while longer before heading back. Medic would warn them about infection. They didn't listen. All they heard was the clang-clang of a Purple Heart. When a new Lieutenant arrived, then they'd go home. The rest of us didn't go home. And the routine got nastier. Some boys would shoot themselves, but Command always knew a self-inflicted wound. Shit, they'd seen enough to know the drill. And Lieutenants stopped showing up one day. And the skirmishes began to last longer. The medic said that the Cong probably wanted to put down the rabid dogs. But it was war, man. We didn't know we had become feral. Not until later. 

Then it just stopped. The war was over. We were being sent home. We weren't ready. We had our routine down pat. How could we take our routine back home with us. We needed our routine. Motherfuckers. So we took the routine home with us. The skirmishes. The traps for the new Lieutenants. The morphine drip. The haggling for beer. Smoking dope became a solo act instead of a sharing circle. The routine to keep our corner of the war safe for our company. They took it away and didn't give us anything to replace it.

I lost my family. My wife and little girl. Eventually the good-hearted landlord who welcomed me home kicked me to the street. I lived in the corners of Alhambra for many years. People gave me food. But no one knew about things like PTSD back then. And the VA counselors are still learning what it is. I have a place now. I have a part-time job. I am a counselor. It's like I remolded a routine that I can live with in my new corner of civilian life. For every new trauma victim I talk to, I tell them not to worry about remembering. That goes away. It's living with the re-remembering. That's the new goal to learning to survive again. It's still all about survival. Only now the enemy is yourself. 

A Short History of Trauma

A Frontal Lobotomy (antiquated cures)

The definition of trauma has changed over the years as science, psychology, and culture have given name to the state of the soldier returning home from war psychologically and physically changed by killing, surviving an attack or seeing the butchery of battle. In ancient literature, we've read accounts of the "war-weary" warrior or "nostalgia" during the American Civil War. By World War I, we had "shell-shock" troops, and in World War II, the term "battle fatigue" seemed relevant. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), named by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), DSM-II (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), after studying the depression suffered by Viet Nam War veterans. In DSM-III, the trauma symptoms became linked to survivors of rape, child abuse, assault, and domestic abuse.  Even today DSM-5 continues to expand the definition of trauma to include more and more cases over and beyond war scars and psychological distress victims.

In Varieties of Religious Experience by William James, the author lectures on the state of the human mind prior to undergoing a radical religion conversion. He terms this transition, "the sick soul". Symptoms include nightmares, depression, anxiety, manic mood swings, and darker thoughts involving suicide. These same symptoms echo those of PTSD, as defined by the DSM. But it's interesting to also consider that during this period of "the sick soul", James points out that a choice is made by the sufferer to accept a religious solution that places order on the chaos of the unsettled mind, thus giving organization and meaning where there was none before, where self-destruction seemed like an attractive alternative. Rather than choose death by one's own hand, one turns to some form of God (although James uses Christianity as an example, most any religion or religious text would suffice). Still others turn to other forms of "supernatural" relief, believing that the soldiers they have killed are haunting them, or that the rapist was a demon, for instance. Based on the culture of the traumatized victim, the choices to avoid oblivion can be found in The Gita, The Torah, The Koran, The Talmud, The Bible, or even the books of H.P. Lovecraft. In the Alcoholics Anonymous 10 steps, to overcome one's dependency on drugs or booze, one must accept a "higher authority" to lean upon in times of temptation back to "the sick soul". Often trauma is seen as a spiritual disease rather than a physical one.

But what of those who prefer traditional medicine or physical answers to their mental unrest. For there are those who do not have the temperament for supernatural support? Where does such a victim turn to for treatment. That's where science comes in. In my case, it's medication and dealing with my dark dreams or my stray thoughts about nature turning to chaos. For the sexual victim, it's dealing with the fear of authority figures by asserting one's self. For the soldier and law enforcement officer, there is formal therapy which deals with each case individually. In other words, there are professional therapists who guide us to deal with our daily lives.

Not all solutions are perfect. As I've stated earlier, this is an evolving field. New traumas are emerging, so new treatment must be designed to help this new form of troubled mind. For example, how does the therapist distinguish between a patient who finds God as a solution and a patient who finds the Devil for a solution? What approach can therapists use to treat "the sick soul" when science doesn't recognize a "soul" at all? Is the answer found in "the sick mind"? Where and what is the "mind"?

These are the current questions that PTSD treatment and therapy must consider. It reminds me of that old movie with Jimmy Stewart who had an invisible pal called Harvey, a six-foot tall talking rabbit. In the movie, Stewart's character is the most sane character while doctors are portrayed as "quacks" with their medieval medicine. I mean, in the 1950s, "shock therapy", "hot and cold running bathes", and "frontal lobotomies" were common tools for "curing" depression and other stress-related ailments. And that's why the patient must be careful not to find a radical cure too far away from science, but also not to rely too heavily on science alone when it may be an outdated therapy or, as in my case, very reliant on drugs to mask rather than "peel away" the defenses trauma builds and memory triggers.

This is some of the subject matter that we will address as we continue to post our accounts of trauma, our discussions of the latest therapy, and the alternative solutions that can be found in faith and religious instruction. And, of course, we cannot leave out the cozy sanctuary of the supernatural [the close cousin to religion], whether it be an omnipresent God, a six-arm divinity, or an escape from death in reincarnation. All possibilities within our limited updates will be considered.

Thank you, readers, for joining us.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Update One

Trauma, Diagnosis & Treatment

Compiled, Formatted, and Narrated 
by Anthony Servante

Los Angeles County Mental Health Facility 
Circa 1920


Note: Account provided by "Lydia" (not real name) as part of this series of updates on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Critical Incident Stress.

Lydia's Account

"I was walking home from work. I put in some overtime and missed the bus. One of my co-workers offered me a ride. He asked if I wanted to stop for a drink at his place. It felt wrong that he asked me that since we hardly knew each other and I was half his age. 

He got mad when I asked him to drop me off right there and then. He pulled the car into an alley. I wasn't scared because there were lots of back yards with their lights on. He grabbed my breast. I slapped his hand. He punched me with a closed fist. I tasted blood. 

Everything felt unreal as he pulled off my pants and raped me. When he was finished, he put some money in my hand and pushed me out of the car. He rolled down the window and threw my pants and panties at me. I didn't put them on. 

I started to walk home. I felt like I was forgetting something, so I turned around. I saw a long trail of blood from my pants on the ground leading to my feet and up along my inner legs, coming from between my legs. Only then I realized it wasn't blood.

It was shit. 

I laughed. I had shit myself. When some old women found me in the back yard, I was still laughing." 

Note: "Lydia" sent me this description. For her, this was the beginning of her PTSD. She told me that she would follow up with her hospitalization, her meds and treatment, but since has not contacted me. Others also contributed accounts of abuse, witness to murder and mayhem, and horrific experiences for this article on PTSD and CIS, but not one provided any post-traumatic insights. As such, I will try to concentrate my articles and updates on both trauma and post trauma.


Leaving the McClure Tunnel.

Anthony Servante's Account:

On August 9th, 2017, I survived a near-death experience in the Santa Monica Tunnel, aka the McClure Tunnel. It's been close to two months and the memory of that night has begun to fade. I had no one to talk to about the horrors I witnessed, and in my silence, the night seems more and more unreal. But there are peripheral remnants that tighten my stomach and make my head ache. Birds. Cold weather. The stranger I face everyday in the bathroom mirror. I decided it was time to seek medical attention. 

From that decision, I received some therapy that led to my writing down the detailed accounts that led to these updates. These accounts can be found in "The Journal of Norinko Hanasaki" and "Norinko Hanasaki: The Investigation & Research". Therapy, to this day, continues. 

I am on Los Angeles County Health Care. I choose a primary health physician, who gives me my annual physicals and bloodwork, refers me to specialists when necessary, and whom I turn to when I have the flu. For the treatment of trauma, however, he cannot help me, except to prescribe Xanax for the anxiety and Tramadol for the headaches. Instead, he refers me to the specialist, a psychiatrist (not a psychologist). The "shrink" asks for symptoms, such as lack of sleep, hallucinations, rage, headaches, nausea, pain behind the eyes, shortness of breath, forgetfulness. That is the list of symptoms we have developed so far. And for each, he prescribes drugs, even marijuana. There is no counseling, for that is what a psychologist specializes in, and the County of Los Angeles does not pay for such treatment, for it is a "cosmetic" solution, not a practical one, just as the county will not pay for root canal work--only extractions. It is a free health care service, so I cannot complain. 

Note: The Psychiatrist to date has only prescribed antidepressants, which I do not take

But in my hour session with the doctor, I do manage to work in some subtle attempts at being counseled by the psychiatrist when I relay my symptoms. For instance, when I say I cannot sleep, I go into detail about my circular dreams. I wake, turn over in bed, and slip back to sleep, only to re-enter the same dream I awoke from. No matter how many times I wake and return to sleep, the dream remains the same. If I get up to avoid this conundrum, my vision becomes blurry for the rest of the day. Although I had my eyes checked, the problem with blurriness was not found in my vision. Thus I sleep through the dream until it ends of its own accord, until the dream comes full circle and my waking itself ends the dream cycle. As if waking up is a part of the dream. But, at least, with this waking dream, I see the rest of the day clearly and without any blurriness. Colors stand out. The clouds are whiter. The sky bluer. The birds more lively and focused. They even seem more focused on me. 

Picture taken while I was
waiting for the train.

So it is that my hour spent with the psychiatrist has some counseling benefits, although the visits usually end with more prescriptions than advice. Thus I wondered about what treatment is out there for those who are suffering from more than headaches and nightmares. What follows is my research into trauma, its treatment in general, and the medical health plans that are better than mine. 

Note: Updates will entail survivors of trauma via accounts from readers as well as the latest health information from any of the Norinko Ten who wish to be part of this research. My doctor thinks it is therapeutic; I hope yours will agree. 


This article on Trauma, Diagnosis, and Treatment is sponsored by FROWNLAND CALENDARS, $16.00, 
featuring twelve full color Frownlands, as well as additional art sprinkled throughout. 

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Update Foreword

The Norinko Ten
Women and Children First

Compiled, Formatted, and Narrated 
by Anthony Servante


On July 13th, 2016, Norinko Hanasaki, a fourteen year old middle-school student disappeared from a moving bus as it passed through the Santa Monica Freeway tunnel. Between July 13th, 2016 and August 9th, 2017, the Servante of Darkness Blog investigated the disappearance with the help of Norinko's friends and family. As the investigation progressed, more and more people began to vanish. When we found the journal of Norinko, we found clues to her whereabouts, decoded a map to follow, and gathered a team to enter the freeway tunnel at midnight on the 9th of August 2017. We managed to rescue ten people held captive in a tunnel hidden within the tunnel. One of our team was lost. 

The victims were taken to the UCLA Medical Center, and there conflicting stories emerge. The Sheriff's Department, the First Church Middle-School, and the parents of the children gave various accounts of just what happened on the 9th. But, at this point, we'll set that aside for now, for we have chosen to focus our attention on the recovery and recuperation of the victims. As such, we will follow the ten victims, ascertain how they are faring, and update what their lives are like now. We will talk with experts in the field of "post-trauma" and "critical incident stress", discuss the differences and the types of therapy provided for not only the victims known as the Norinko Ten but any victims who can help us understand the effects of such trauma. 

In addition to experts, we will interview people who have undergone medical and holistic therapy to treat depression and anxiety. We will also address relevant issues that relate to the narratives surrounding the night of August 9th officially and unofficially. Although my first concern will always be the victims and their recovery, I will not ignore the truth of what happened that night, for time passes quickly and time erodes the truth quicker than denial and rationalization. My goal is not to interrogate any victims. There will be no confrontations with any volunteers to be interviewed, but those who deliberately cover up the truth will be questioned at length within the limits of an amateur blogger. My aim is to simply clarify the consensus of the victims with regard to their trauma and lay out the truth of that night so that it won't be forgotten or whitewashed. As a victim myself of this ordeal, this whole endeavor is my own therapy with dealing with the stress and blackouts. 

I thank you, dear readers, for following up with me the strange circumstances surrounding the "abduction" of these ten victims. I promise to continue my pursuit for factual answers under stress of a traumatized memory. For the fragile human mind is always faced with two decisions when threatened by evil: fight or flight. And sometimes these two choices can manifest themselves as false or imagined memories or total denial. For now, I choose to fight. I am not a brave man, for the time may come when flight will be the correct course of action. Therefore, time is of the essence. I'm sure the other victims are facing similar choices. I must time our discussions and interviews with sensitivity and compassion. For even the messenger who conjures up the evil past may be misconstrued for the evil itself. 

As such, I shall approach the subject matter methodically, deliberately, and sympathetically. Thank you again, dear readers, for your patience.

I know the questions. It's the answers that are fading more and more each day like a dream of falling, falling, falling. 

Anthony Servante

Update One: Trauma, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Coming soon...

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Waylon Bacon Interview
Renaissance Man 2017

Conducted and Formatted
By Anthony Servante

Waylon Bacon

The Modern Renaissance Man


I found Waylon Bacon while I was pinching through the free handouts at my comic book shop in Pasadena, California. He had left sample chapbooks of his artwork from his website Frownland alongside Marvel Comics and DC Comics promotions cards, local comic book convention flyers, and Indie Comic samplings. After leafing through the chapbook, I instantly fell in love with the dry layered humor of Bacon's characters, at once the archetypes from today’s milieu but also the universal everyman and everywoman no matter what era. Here were the characterizations of "The Neighborhood" by Jerry Van Amerongen, the irony of "Mister Boffo" by Joe Martin, the surrealism of "Angriest Dog in the World" by David Lynch, and a pinch of 1950s Beat Generation antidisestablishmentarianism. As well as some 1960s Underground Comix insight into the far-gone human stereotype of its time. When I asked him for an interview, he graciously accepted.

As I prepared my questions, I found that cartoonist was but one of his talents: He’s a film-maker, a satirist, an illustrator, a music video director and producer, and a reporter on the foibles of humankind, 2017. In short, he’s the Renaissance Man of today. And in an age where everyone thinks they are special because they blog, self-publish, know famous people on Facebook, and justify their existence by preaching to the choir, Waylon Bacon eats people like that for lunch and regurgitates his diet into his medium, and not just “social media”, the graveyard of self-proclaimed talent, but via the traditional avenues of Art, Film, Music, and Illustration. He is the real deal.
Time to meet (wait for it)…Waylon Bacon.

The Interview:

Anthony: Can you give us an overview of the work you’ve been doing for the last year just to catch us up?
Waylon: I've been drawing a weekly webcomic called 'Frownland', as well as promoting a short film I directed called 'The Ride'. I started both projects at the same time, around 2014, so it's been a very busy couple of years!
'The Ride' is a dark comedy (what else) that is based on a real experience I had in my early twenties. I was running late for work, and ended up encountering this little guy with dark eyes and braces who offered to drive me to where I needed to go. I stupidly accepted. He drove this white Cargo Van right out of 'Unsolved Mysteries', and he claimed to sell Espresso machines out of it. No sooner had we started driving than I noticed the back of the van was just filled with junk - old coffee cups, newspapers, and some tools. It was terrifying! But it turned out fine - he was just a well meaning weirdo. The film shows all of the scenarios I had played out in my head while the ride was in progress, as well as subtly presenting ideas about pre-judgement and race - the fellow was Middle-Eastern. It's got amazing performances from the two leads (Clinton Roper Elledge and ArmenBabasoloukian) and played at a number of festivals around California. It's really funny and horrifying all at the same time!

I've also been contributing art and covers to Beatdom, which is a literary magazine devoted to the Beats. It's great, because I get assigned the task of drawing people like Charles Bukowski and Burroughs, who have all of my favorite facial characteristics -- sunken eyes and big noses. I recently did their ten year anniversary cover and got to draw almost all of the Beats, plus pay tribute to Berkeley's recently defunct Cafe Med, which was  one of my all time favorite places to hang out.

Anthony: Where did this artistic journey begin for you? Can you tell us about your beginnings?
Waylon: Well I was always artistically wired; I drew as a kid constantly - at home, at school, at baseball games, at parties - I was glued to my little sketch books. I also come from a somewhat bohemian family - my Maternal Grandfather was a well-loved painter back in Flint, Michigan, and my mother is brilliant with watercolors. Plus I hated, hated school -- I had a really hard time with academics and was actually in Special Ed due to what we shall call mathematical dyslexia. So drawing was both a chance for escape and for a bit of self-worth.

Childhood Drawing

I got interested in film during my teens -  partly because it was just so damn challenging, and because I like telling stories. I've spent more time ripping my hair out over film projects than I have with almost anything else in this life, but I've also found it the most rewarding. Making a film literally mutates your existence - it's such an intense journey, and you're a changed person by the end of it. I love that.

Early Interest in Film

Anthony: Let’s talk a bit about film. What have you done? Who are your influences? 
Waylon: Waylon: I've made a handful of shorts since college, although I don't think I really found my voice until I made a short film called 'Poster Boy' in 2004. Prior to that, I had been trying to figure out what it was I wanted to say in my movies - I really liked Jim Jarmusch, John Waters, and Terry Gilliam, but hadn't found how those elements would go together into something that was all mine.

Poster Boy Still

With Poster Boy, I decided to just focus on the visuals. So it didn't have a script -- just storyboards. The idea was to make something that would resemble a really grotesque live action cartoon. The 'plot' is that a chainsmoker is accosted by a mob of anti-smokers who chase him back to his apartment, where his jaw suddenly rots off from cancer. He is then forced into being the mascot for an anti-smoking campaign. It was a double-layered satire, because I smoke and I know it's a dreadful habit, but I also find militant anti-smokers to be insufferable.

Poster Boy Storyboard

I shot it on a VX2000, which at the time was really a big deal. Although it looks like video now, I thought it looked pretty damn good then, which was in 2004. This got into the now defunct San Francisco Underground Film Festival that was run by Peaches Christ, and I was encouraged to submit again the next year. I did one film each year so I would have something to show there, and I really got to develop my craft watching my films sink or swim in a movie theater setting once a year. Then in 2008 I won a small grant through the SF Weekly and made a short called 'Help Wanted' -- it's about a college graduate who's getting a tour of a prospective job at a warehouse, where he learns that they kill hookers and homeless people and then dismember the bodies for shipment to an undisclosed location. It's really dark -- I had a lot of negativity in me that had been building up for years, and I just sort of vomited it out in that movie.

Help Wanted Still 1

Help Wanted Still 2

The next thing I got up to was a music video for 'The Lumerians', who are simply the best post psychedelic band on the planet. All their music is highly cinematic. That was an interesting situation, because I'd just moved to Los Angeles, and the original idea I had for the video turned out to be impossible with our limited budget. So I went out and shot this thing with a crew of people I'd only known a very short period of time, with a hastily revised idea, that had to be revised continuously during the shoot, including a last minute recast. It was nuts!

I've had a website up since around 2004 that has all of my film work on it, although some of the older films need to be replaced with higher quality uploads (something I'm actually working on right now). You can go to, which has links to all of my film work, as well as Frownland and miscellaneous artwork 

Anthony: Can you tell me a bit about your work with The Lumerians? I’m a big fan of the group after seeing them in concert. How did you hook up? 
Waylon: I've actually known members Jason Miller and Tyler Green since the early 2000's - they were part of a group of people I encountered at Death Guild who, like me, didn't really fit in - we weren't goth, but it was a fun place to be and you'd occasionally get the thrill of hearing Bauhaus or Joy Division played really loud. We all bonded over a love of weird music, particularly stuff like Syd Barret, Roky Erickson, or Scott Walker - any music were the sanity of the artist was in question. Jason's still my go to for new music - his record collection is astounding and varied. They both volunteered to work on 'Poster Boy', with Tyler as D.P. and Jason as Composer, a role I'm happy to say he still fulfills! I can't imagine doing one without him.

Anthony: What other bands or artists do or have you worked with?
Waylon: Not many to be honest -- I'm not sure if Music Videos are necessarily my thing, although I was definitely interested in trying it out for the Lumerians! However, I've had offers come my way, so it might happen again -- people really seemed to like the 'Life Without Skin' video.

Life Without Skin Video (Click Here to Watch)

Life Without Skin Still 1

Life Without Skin Still 2

Life Without Skin Still 3

Anthony: Before we talk about Frownland, can you tell us about the comic books, strips, and artists who have warped your mind?
Waylon: Well, there were always Zap! Comics floating around when I was a kid -- and obviously that influence is still there in my art. I also love Gary Larson's 'The Far Side' and anything that Daniel Clowes touches. I'm also a sucker for the New Yorker.

Anthony: And how did all that turn into Frownland?
Waylon: I was working on raising funds for 'The Ride' and realized that it would be at least two years before the film was done. So to have some sort of artistic output while that was coming together, I started to post a drawing a week to my social media accounts, which I called 'Sketch Sunday'. This got pretty popular among my friends and co-workers, and I started to get sort of ambitious with it -- working in punchlines and characters. Some of my friends suggested turning it into a regular comic, and after about a year, I gave in, mostly because I felt like I'd developed my work habits to the point where I could reasonably pull it off once a week. I decided to call the strip 'Frownland' as a tribute to one of my all time favorite musicians, Captain Beefheart (it's the first track on his album 'Trout Mask Replica), and as a tongue-in-cheek reference to the content of the comic.

Frownland Early Sketches

Anthony: Let’s jump into Frownland directly now. What is it? Why do you do it? I feel like I’m with old friends with the characters when I read it.
Waylon: Thanks!

My byline is that Frownland is a single panel webcomic that dissects human behavior with cynical abandon. It veers between self observation and external observation - making fun of the world around me. I'm a frequent, maybe even compulsive cultural critic -- I spend a lot of time in my head picking things apart.

There's no main character, so that the comic has a constantly shifting perspective -- I might do one about an asshole customer, and then another one about an asshole employee. It's sort of a celebration of misanthropy as a perfectly normal human past time.

Three Misc Frownland Perspectives

Humor with Human Insight

It's done in the single panel format, which goes back to my aforementioned love of the New Yorker and The Far Side.It's really taken on a life of its own -- I did a calendar last year that sold out, and the comic recently went viral over at! It's been very strange, fun, and exciting.

The Frownland Calendar

Anthony: Where do you plan to go from here with your career? Any other projects that we haven’t covered?
Waylon: Like all day job artists, I would love to be able to devote myself full-time to my work, be it film or cartooning. If there's any rich benefactors out there who'd like to give a hand, I'm a self motivated worker with over ten years in the service industry and will bring that level of discipline to my art career. I promise not to do drugs or drink heavily while I'm on the clock. 

Anthony: Can you share a few of your favorite Frownland illustrations and tell us a bit about the inspiration behind each one?
Waylon: Sure!

1 (Introverts): I know plenty of people who are genuine introverts, who struggle with interacting at parties or sometimes even one on one, so I've been rolling my eyes at the current appropriation of this character trait. It's very much a white culture thing to be excited about being marginalized.

2. (Ashes) This is actually based on a conversation I had with a friend -- what would it be like to be at the funeral of an ex-girlfriend? What would happen if, during the service, you thought about something you'd done together sexually? It would probably happen even if you didn't want it to. But I changed it to an old woman with the ashes of her husband in the comic because I thought it would be less sleazy.

3. (Melting Component). This was based on my first experience trying to order a salad at Tender Greens. I was with my family, and non of us could understand the ordering process. What's a protein? You mean chicken? I found it all really pretentious. I also find it Class-ist, because I have yet to be at one of these 'deconstructed' lunch spots that isn't expensive. Other lesser restaurants refer to the toppings as meat and veggies. How bourgeois.

4. (Bad Eye). Whenever I encounter someone with a lazy eye, I look at the wrong one when talking to them. And I'm sure anyone with this condition is used to it, but I still feel awful! This one was taken directly from life -- I went to the store to buy cigarettes, looked into the clerk's bad eye, and then went home and drew this comic.

5. (City). I just moved to Portland in May, and was talking on the phone to my oldest friend about how I wasn't sure I liked being in such a rural and friendly city -- I'm used to Oakland or Los Angeles. We both concluded that we enjoyed being in urban environments and being around people, but had no real desire to actually talk to anyone! I think this is pretty common for a lot of people who choose to live in cities.

6. (What If I'm The Asshole?) This was drawn really fast, because I had to crank it out at the last minute! I was on my lunch break at work, and had no comic to post for the weekend. I'd run through a number of ideas, but they all seemed redundant. This gave way to an introspective bout of self-loathing which finally cracked the idea for this comic.

Anthony: Thank you, Waylon, for joining us here on the Servante of Darkness Blog. Mi blog es su blog. 
Waylon: Gracias, un cafĂ© Americano, por favor.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Zombies, Ghouls, and Gods 
July 14, 2017
Guest Blogger: David Gerrold

Duane Jones, the Tragic Hero

Thinking about 
"Night of the Living Dead"

by David Gerrold

This was the film that started the modern zombie genre.

The film can be seen as a parable -- at the end, the rescuers shoot the one survivor, the black guy. They don't see him as human either. They see him as another zombie.

And that's the parable -- that we are dividing ourselves into us and them. Zombie stories are a justification for killing those we no longer regard as human. And in the first of the genre, it was the black guy who was considered less than human. It couldn't be more obvious than that.

We spend ninety minutes seeing this guy as a hero -- and the fat white rednecks take him out with the same dispassionate glee as if they were shooting rabbits.

The Window: Where Hero & Victim Blur

But since then, the zombie story has become a substantial part of our culture, spawning enough sequels, imitations, rip-offs, and franchise-squatters, that the whole zombie thing has become its own subgenre of horror.

Okay, fine. So far.

But our entertainment choices reveal not only who we are, but also who we want to be, what we expect and what we aspire to.

Where films used to end on an upbeat note -- "Oh, fiddle-dee-dee, I'll get him back. Tomorrow is another day." -- today, most modern SF films tend toward dystopia.

We we used to have Destination Moon and Conquest of Space and 2001 and all the other outward-pointed adventures that said we can do better, now every time we go out there, we end up getting eaten or beaten -- or we bring something awful back with us. Species and Life and Green Slime and The Stuff.

Instead of Tomorrowland the vision, we get Tomorrowland, the broken promise. We get Maze Runner and Hunger Games and Divergent and Resident Evil and all the other stories where we have been divided into Eloi and Morlocks -- and a few brave heroes who will shoot the Morlocks to save the frightened Eloi (so they can fuck them later on.)

What it is -- once you get past the actual movies -- is the creation of a terrible terrifying context: that we must divide the human race into us v. them, and once we do that, we the US are justified in shooting THEM. Because they're not human. They're zombies. They're undead. They're vampires and ghouls and untermenschen. They are a threat to us and we are justified in shooting them.

Like the black guy at the end of Night of the Living Dead.

George Kosana (actor with bullets) leads a mob of US
to hunt down THEM.

And like it or not -- that is one of the ways we are unconsciously justifying the polarization of our society. We are training ourselves to think of ourselves as "the good guy" -- and the mob that opposes us aren't humans, they're zombies, and that's why we should militarize our police to use deadly force on all those zombies that want to rip our flesh and eat our brains and mooch off our taxes.

Have you ever noticed though -- that when the so-called good guys are holed up in a mall or a supermarket or even a fortress, they start fighting among themselves -- and too often, they reveal themselves as anything but "the good guys?"

But that's the point that we tend to miss. We think we're the ones who are going to survive whatever chaos is coming. We never consider that we might end up as one of the shabby shambling horde of undead things, do we?

We never consider that we might be the targets.


David Gerrold was barely out of his teens when he wrote the script "The Trouble With Tribbles" for the classic television series "Star Trek". Nominated for a Hugo Award, it was listed by "Playboy" magazine as one of the 50 Greatest Television Episodes of All Time. And in a 1997 FOX TV special it ranked as the most popular science fiction episode on television of all time. He has written dozens of novels and twice has been nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula awards. His novelette "The Martian Child" won the SF triple crown: the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, and the Locus Readers Poll as Best Novelette. In addition to novel writing, he has written television scripts for "Babylon 5", "Tales from the Darkside", and "The Twilight Zone". He served as a story editor/producer for the first season of "Star Trek: The Next Generation". A frequent guest at SF conventions here and in Europe, he began a charity in 1988 in which money earned from charging one dollar for autographs -- plus profits from the sale of other SF memorabilia -- is donated to AIDS Project Los Angeles.

Amazon Catalog:

Available on Facebook: Click Here to Order

Three and a half gigabytes of science fiction goodies!

The David Gerrold Megapack is a 4gb flash drive containing a half million words of short stories, novelettes, short novels, and even two novels that have never been available in bookstores. PLUS preview chapters of THE WAR AGAINST THE CHTORR, BOOKS FIVE and SIX!

Also included are a fascinating collection of audio and video interviews, two unproduced scripts. PLUS the video of Uncle Daddy Will Not Be Invited, a remarkable play written and directed by David Gerrold in 2013.

And every flash drive is individually autographed.

These were produced in a limited edition for the 2015 World Science Fiction Convention, where David Gerrold was one of the Guests of Honor. Since then, they have only been available at conventions where David Gerrold has been a guest.

All of the stories are available in four different formats: mobi, epub, pdf, and rtf, so you can copy them to any e-reader you have, or read them on your laptop or desktop. As you can see from the photo, the tab unfolds to plug into any standard USB port so you can copy the files to a computer and from there to an e-reader.

A Method For Madness Preview Chapters (CHTORR!)
A Mild Case of Death (short story)
Actual Comments from Lunar Tourists (vignette)
Afternoon With a Dead Bus (short story)
Chester (novelette)
Crystallization (short story about the ultimate traffic gridlock)
Dancer In The Dark (novelette) (Sturgeon Award finalist)
Entanglements (autobiographical novelette)
Enterprise Fish (short story) (CHTORR!)
F&SF Mailbag (short story)
Finding Monstro (short story)
Franz Kafka, Superhero (short story)
Ganny Knits A Spaceship (novella, how to build a spaceship in free fall)
In The Quake Zone (short novel) (Included in 23rd Best of Year Collection)
It Needs Salt (short story) (CHTORR!)
Jumping Off The Planet (novella) (later expanded to an award-winning YA book.)
Night Train To Paris (short story) (Bram Stoker Award Winner)
Nowhere Man (novella) (high school revenge)
Pickled Mongoose (a Martian Child story)
Sales of a Deathman (short story)
Spiderweb (short story)
The 50-Cent Computer (short story)
The Bag Lady (stunning short story about a different kind of superhero)
The Case of the Green Carnation (short story) (Sherlock Holmes meets Oscar Wilde)
The Gathering (short story)
The Great Pan-American Airship Mystery or Why I Murdered Robert Benchley (short story) (Deco-Punk)
The Involuntary Human is Dragged Kicking and Screaming Into Consciousness by the Cosmic Badger (text of speech delivered to MENSA)
The Kennedy Enterprise (short story) (What if JFK had gone to Hollywood?)
The Martian Child (novelette) (Hugo, Nebula, Locus award winner) (Sturgeon award finalist)
The Old Science Fiction Writer (vignette)
The Quotebook of Solomon Short (2015 Collection)
The Seminar From Hell (short story) (It's all about the marketing)
The Spell (short story)
The Thing In The Back Yard (novelette)
Turtledome (novella) (lunar scouting outing)

Jacob (a different kind of vampire story)
thirteen, fourteen, fifteen o'clock (the most ambitious novel David Gerrold has ever written)

Blood And Fire (That famous unproduced script for STAR TREK: TNG)
Nightsiders (unproduced vampire script)
Uncle Daddy Will Not Be Invited (script of the play)

David Gerrold reads The Martian Chlid novelette
David Gerrold at Irvine Library, recorded live.

Gerrold on his next novel
Gerrold on road trips, food, and George R.R. Martin
Gerrold on writing
Gerrold on Worlds of Wonder
(and more)

Uncle Daddy Will Not Be Invited (video of the premiere performance)

If you have read this far, then you can see this is an extraordinary collection of some of the best of David Gerrold's work, spanning nearly half a century of success in the science fiction and fantasy genres.

This is a limited offer and may not be available again anytime soon.

Thanks for considering. Thanks in advance for buying.

This is a value easily worth $150 if you bought all these things separately, but we're making it available for only $45, plus $5 for shipping/handling. Pay by Paypal to Please include your shipping address, Paypal doesn't always do it automatically.

If you want to pay by check instead, write to

Thanks again!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Cynic Movie Critic

Baby Driver (2017)
Directed & Written by Edgar Wright
Starring Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, & Kevin Spacey

There's a basic rule in storytelling: All the parts of the story must fit together. If it's a good story, one part leads to another part, and that part to another part, until the final part gives you a complete picture. If it's a bad movie, there are parts in the story that don't belong there, and even if they were removed from the story, the remaining parts would still tell the same tale. Movies with superfluous parts don't necessarily mean they're automatically bad, but it does mean they are not a complete picture. So we can enjoy a lot of the parts and have a good time, but one will most likely forget the story as soon as it is over. The complete picture story can be heard again and again, and with each telling some new meaning can be interpreted, some new combination of the parts can relay an underlying subplot that one didn't catch on the first telling of the story. 

If you watch The Big Bang Theory TV show, you probably know that Amy, Sheldon's girlfriend, pointed out that in the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) Indiana Jones was a superfluous character, that the movie would have played out the same even if Jones were removed from the movie. This flaw does not make the movie any less enjoyable, and we do go see these movies because we like Indiana Jones and his adventures. Who cares if the story is incomplete and the Jones character is superfluous?! We like the big music score and the action sequences. 

Baby Driver is an incomplete story. From beginning to end, every move of every actor is choreographed to the soundtrack. The soundtrack may as well be a character in the story. It's like watching a fixed fight--with all the audience in on the fix. No one is here to watch a good story. It's all about that soundtrack. Let's see the film description:

Talented getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort) relies on the beat of his personal soundtrack to be the best in the game. After meeting the woman (Lily James) of his dreams, he sees a chance to ditch his shady lifestyle and make a clean break. Coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), Baby must face the music as a doomed heist threatens his life, love and freedom.

Got it? "Personal soundtrack", "face the music". It's a one-note film. Most of the reviews I read commented heavily on the soundtrack and less so on the story, because there really wasn't one. I'd be redundant to call it a "music video", but at one hour fifty-three minutes long, redundancy would be too generous a description. The movie breaks the fourth wall over and again to follow the script of the music score, from restarting a scene to restarting a song. The movie cannot move without the music to direct it. 

The actors, however, know they are competing with a soundtrack for time on the screen, and the better ones manage to upstage the music. Jamie Foxx owns this movie. He's menacing, devious, evil, charismatic, and doesn't waste one word of his lines to cue any music. Jon Hamm manages to carry his likability in his pocket for when he needs it; otherwise, he, too, creates tension from a simple stare or an implied threat. When it's time for him to deliver on his threats, he pushes the music to one side as he remains likable while he's trying to exact his murderous revenge. The lead role (Ansel Elgort) is that one-note performance I mentioned. This part would have been Oscar material in the hands of a young Leonardo DiCaprio or Johnny Depp. But in Ansel's hands, his IPod steals his scenes. One of his best scenes is the foot chase choreographed to Hocus Pocus by the band Focus. But are we cheering for the hero or the song? In my case, I was yodeling along to the music.

The audience I saw the movie with oohed and aahed everytime Elgort took off or put on his sunglasses. And this crowd couldn't tell the difference between 50s, 60s, 70s or any decade's music. No one even laughed when Baby mispronounces the band's name as Trex (T-Rex). This was not a movie-going crowd there for the depth of the story, but for the best music system to see the latest soundtrack in film. I'm sorry, I meant "hear", not "see". Or did I? The soundtrack played in super-duper LFX, Dolby Atmos. Which means it was loud and the screen was real wide. It was one of those theaters where you choose your seat, but no one pays attention to assigned seating once you're inside and grabs the best seats. Or maybe it was just me. Anyway, sit in the middle to centralize the stereo effect. 

So that's the best advice I can give you. As I said, there are parts in the movie that are superfluous, but who cares, right? So what if Spacey says in one scene that he never uses the same crew twice, but the same driver in the last ten robberies. Then in the next scene, we see the same crew from the last job and Spacey in a fit of anger calls on his cell phone for a new driver. Yeah, there's a whole bunch of scenes like that. Bad continuity. But hell, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 97% approval rating, so what do I know? Oh, yeah, one more thing. Jon Bernthal (Punisher, Walking Dead) gets top billing but appears in an opening scene that sets up a big showdown. Then he disappears for the rest of the movie. I wouldn't be surprised if that was the role Jamie Foxx took over after Bernthal left. But what do I know? 

Cynic Recommendation: Who you gonna believe, me or Rotten Tomatoes? Losers.    

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Best Band You've Never Heard

by Anthony Servante

On January 21, 2012, I saw Nightwish in concert at the Gibson Amphitheater. Opening the show was a band called Dommin. It was love at first hear. The group had a sound that echoed the Rock and Roll purity of the 50s mixed with the Progressive Rock drive of the 70s. The fact that this was a Millennial band blew my mind. The songs soared. The melodies were edgy and catchy, a pleasant contradiction. The vocals chewed on the tough lyrics and spat them out with the swagger of a broken-hearted hit man. The guitar work thundered and lightninged. There was unity in the music. The band played as one. The music and the musicians were inseparable. I was on my feet for every song. I knew this band was on the cusp of leading Rock and Roll into a new century. 

Dommin at the Gibson Amphitheater 2012

Dommin at the Viper Room in Los Angeles

At home, I purchased "Love is Gone", Dommin's first LP. The songs were perfect renditions of the live music (or vice versa, if you like). The selection played out like an extended piece of songwriting. Like classic LPs Supertramp's "Crime of the Century" or King Crimson's "In the Court of the Crimson King", "Love is Gone" could be listened to from beginning to end as if it were one song with classical transitions. It's hard to imagine this LP without any one song omitted. It is whole as is.

"My Heart, Your Hands" (The band's recommendation).

"New" (My personal favorite).

Needless to say, I couldn't wait for their second LP. Man, it was a long wait. Three years later, Dommin released "Rise". The 50s innocence of the band's sound evolved into a more driving beat with a stronger sense of urgency. Whereas the first LP brought love's cruelty and kindness to the surface, the second LP strove for redemption at the cost of love. These songs do not present a unified whole; each song presents its own message as a standalone anthem. Listeners may be tempted to rearrange the order of the songs to greater effect, but I strongly suggest you listen to the LP as is a few times. There is a subtle momentum not found in the first LP, but it's there and the crescendo builds from each of these songs to maximum effect. Although the urgency may seem overblown, the totality of the experience attained from the group of songs as a whole still packs power that seems more explosive with each listening. 

"The Girls" (The band's recommendation).

"Rise" (My personal favorite).

By Dommin's third LP, "Beautiful Crutch", the band seems to have found their voice. Bringing together the best of both the first and second LPs, the timeless Rock and Roll beat and the relentless drive of immediacy, Dommin has nailed the direction of their sound's evolution. They owned it on the first LP and searched for it in the second LP; now they have found the right combination that keeps the Rock and Roll sharp, whether it's in the 50's or the new Millennium. It's both a return to the greatness of simplicity while amplifying the beat that maintained a subtle momentum that roared louder with each listening. In "Beautiful Crutch", does not come full circle. Forget that. It incorporates the first two great LPs into a new and evolving sound. Each song stands alone in its own rich music, while the total group of songs create a complex unit that, once again, sounds like one long song with a thematic unification that grows richer with each listening. 

"Desire" (The band's recommendation).

"Madly" (My personal favorite).

Note: With the passing of Lemmy, Motorhead's manager continues to represent the interests of the two remaining members of Motorhead in addition to one other band. The manager and I talked about his seeking new talent since he knew I was always writing and following new bands on the Rock scene. Needless to say, I have forwarded Dommin's contact information to him and expect some news any day now. I will keep my readers up to date on any developments. I believe that Dommin's desire to tour their new LP and my manager friend's desire to feel the void left by the great Lemmy might lead to some great Rock and Roll shows in the near future.