Times New Keeferton Keef shows no signs of lethality or psychosis



My left optic nerve and surrounding, 2017.

My right optic nerve and surrounding, 2017.

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I Miss My Friend Bill

I miss my friend Bill. I am so sad that he has left this world, and I am so sad that the world doesn't get to have him in it anymore.

Bill was sweet. Bill was kind. Bill was extremely helpful. Bill was intensely funny. Bill was brilliant, and knowledgeable, and deeply sardonic, and gleefully dark, and fun. He had far-ranging, eclectic, and obscure taste in music, and he was always excited to share it and talk about it and make it.

He was a constant creative partner. From the old radio show, to zines, to art, to music, to short stories, he was always excited and delighted to take part in any number of ridiculous things.

We had so much fun over the years. I loved him so much.

Bill in bunny suit, 2009.

[CHAT LOG, March 31, 2009]
Keef: Let's rent a bunny suit and I'll take pictures of you for many hours on Thursday doing strange things.
Bill: haha. word. I'll wear a bunny suit for you.
Bill: what's the suit look like?
Keef: no clue. they have several "bunny" suits.
Bill: we're talking full body with a bunny head, right? Not "bunny suit" like the Christmas Story?
Bill: one of those is infinitely cooler than the other
Keef: correct, full suit and mask over the head
Bill: sweet
Keef: which will be uncomfortable and hot and awful
Keef: especially if you have to run, which i may ask of you.
Bill: no one said art was comfortable.
Bill: I'd have a fuck of a time saying no to this, dude.
Keef: ahahahaha saying no to what?
Bill: wearing a bunny suit for art.

We rented that suit, and took pictures; and, when it became apparent that we wouldn't get everything done in one day, I went ahead and bought the suit (it was cheap), and then we just kept doing photo shoots, resulting in one of the creative endeavors which I am most proud of having finished in my life.

There's no way in the world I could've done it without him.

Last year, Barb and Bill took Rosie on an outing to to some restaurant or other. Later, Bill posted this photo of himself and Rosie:

I beamed with pride. I was so happy for him. I was so happy for Rosie. I was so happy that they were close.

He loved doing bedtime with her. It often didn't work very well in terms of bedtime-- they'd be reading books and singing songs and she'd never get tired enough to go to sleep. I wish I'd kept some of that baby monitor audio of him singing to her. "Pancho and Lefty," or some esoteric Randy Newman thing, or the Eagles. A lot of old country music. Sometimes she'd wordlessly sing along.

I joked with him: "You're going to be the fun uncle she can call when she needs to get bailed out of jail."

He laughed.

Now, when I walk around the house, wherever I go, whatever I see, I remember Bill and Rosie doing something in that spot.

Posted up in front of the little chalkboard, scribbling together.

Bill pushing her really fast in her little cart down the lane that runs through the kitchen, her legs lifted up, with an enormous grin, squealing laughter.

In her miniature "kitchen" in the back room, demanding that he "sit!" and pulling on her miniature potholder to make him cookies (which were "really, really hot!").

Sitting at the back table, drawing together in a sketchpad.

Every single place I look, there's a memory of Bill and Rosie.

I treasure them all.

In 2001, I took classes at the Iowa City public access television station, and started working on making short films. One of the very first things I wanted to do was to go out to the Coralville dam. There's a spillway out there that's basically an enormous gray concrete plain, a third of a mile on a side. I wanted to film someone running from the opposite corner, so they'd be extremely tiny for a very long time, and then come into view and zoom by in a flash.

"Hey, Bill," I said. "How would you feel about running naked toward a camera for a third of a mile?"

He laughed. "That is hilarious," he said.

The first take went well, but I wanted to do a second one. He gave me a dirty look, but jogged all the way back out to the far corner and started running back. As he was about halfway back, an official Department of Natural Resources jeep crested the hill behind us, and he started yelling, "Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit," out of breath, zooming past the camera and diving into the back of the car.

Bill, nude and running in the distance, 2002.

Here is a photo of the filming that my father took. (Yes, my father was there. He always really liked Bill, and Bill always really liked him.) That's Mike taking photos, me manning the videocamera, and, of course, Bill, nude and running, in the distance.

I maintain a list of every concert I can remember attending. A month ago, after a Facebook meme about concerts made the rounds, Bill messaged me:

"I'm now going through your show list to see which ones I went to with you, or which ones I remember... I'm leaving off Bassturd & Buglies performances and SXSW parties, because I've been to too many of them to be accurate or remember. 94 that I'm sure about. Realistically? definitely over 100. That's 17 years of show going. This was the first one: Sep. 21, 2000 - Gabe's, Iowa City - Alto Heceta / Joan of Arc / Jets to Brazil."

One hundred shows-- and that's a very conservative estimate-- out of five hundred total. One out of every five concerts I've ever attended during my lifetime, Bill attended with me. The most recent was Uglyfest, which was both a Buglies and SXSW show; before that, it was Drab Majesty, in February. They're a post-New-Wave band, playing that sad 80s synth sound, which was not Bill's cup of tea at all.

But I asked him if he wanted to go, and he was happy to go with me. He was almost always happy to go with me. And vice versa.

In 2000, I was going to live in a house near campus with my friend Mike. We each had a room in a three-room apartment, and needed a third.

"We should get my friend Bill to move in with us," he said.

"Who is this guy?"

"A friend from back home. He's in a band, the Corporate Donuts. He goes by 'Bill Donuts.' He'd be great."

I shrugged, and asked, "Yeah, but man, is he cool?"

The fact that I even asked that question is hilarious to me now.

Bill ended up living in the dorms, but he immediately became part of our tight group. I found an old blog he wrote about the first time we met. Here is that:

"I want to share the first memory I have of Keef. I was sitting in the apartment he and Mike shared in Iowa City on my first night in Iowa City, in August of 2000. Keef was out with Irving at the time. Suddenly, while we were watching Kids In The Hall episodes Mike had taped, Keef burst through the door with a gigantic sack full of frozen meats and tossed one to Mike, and another to their room mate of two weeks, Bob. He was talking sort of like Charlton Heston and Santa Claus and very excited about the gigantic sack of frozen meats. Then he hugged me. It was love at first sight."

I had forgotten about that completely. I'm so glad he remembered. I'm so sad about all the other things he remembered which have now been lost.

Just a handful of days before he passed away, Bill and I took Rosie to a park to play on the swings and the slides. Swings are her favorite. She's a two-year-old, and just reaching that point where she mimics and repeats things. As we got out of the car to walk to the park, Bill turned to her and said, "Come on, dude!" She ran after him and grabbed his hand, and they walked toward the playground.

As they got closer to the swings, she started running ahead, pulling him behind her. "Come on, dude!" she yelled. "Come on, dude!"

"Thanks, Bill," I said. "Thanks a lot for teaching her to sound like an episode of Full House."

He laughed and laughed and laughed. "Come on, dude!"

Bill and Rosie, May 21, 2017.

Last weekend, after Bill's funeral, Rosie wanted to show me something she'd set up in her little dollhouse. She grabbed my hand and pulled me along. "Come on, dude!"

I teared up, but did so gladly.

Bill gave this to me on my birthday last year. It's a magnificent encapsulation of him: his generosity, his creativity, his humor.

I am so glad to have known him.

I am so sad that he is gone.

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Profiles in Degeneracy

Bill and I recently knocked down a bunch of wasps' nests around my house, and I posted the following to social media:

Some folks laughed, and the rest had no idea what I was talking about. I got a few questions about it, and I realized that I never really talked about this in public, or at least not widely, so here it is. It's a very strange story.

In late May of 2010, I was in the now-defunct Austin location of the now-defunct Domy Books, which was run by my old Houston friend Russell. Domy was an amazing place, half art-gallery, half art-bookstore. I fell in love with the Houston location when we lived in Houston, and then was delighted when they opened another store in Austin. They had all the best zines, all the best art-books, all the best local and crazy art. It was great. The Austin location has been subsumed by Farewell Books, which continues the tradition, and still does amazing things.

But now I'm getting sidetracked.

Russell had told me that there were some great new zines, and I'm a giant 'zine nerd (obviously). I was flipping through them, and pulled out some great stuff. Give Up had put out a new 'zine, and King-Cat had put one out since I'd last been there, and I was piling up a small stack. Then something strange and unexplained happened.

I've had a small handful of genuinely supernatural or inexplicable things happen to me. I saw a man when I was six in Albuquerque who had to be dead, and yet he was walking through a vacant lot. The eyes of a bust in Davenport in 1987 briefly flashed red. I had an important dream in 2012 that came true (and, more importantly, gave me time to prepare).

In May of 2010, in Domy Books, I flipped through the box of 'zines. I got to the end. I saw the empty end of the box. Then, there was a strange flash, and the smell of ozone, and I got an electric shock in the knuckles of my right hand (the hand touching the box). Then, a small book appeared out of nowhere in the previously-empty spot in the box.

Profiles in Degeneracy Auction Catalog, Summer 2010.

At this time, I'd already been subscribed to a Hollywood memorabilia auction catalog, so I knew exactly what it was-- a small-run book, advertising the particular lots that would be auctioned off at a future date, usually accompanied by photos and short descriptions. Except instead of autographs, props, and movie posters, this auction catalog was full of memorabilia of an entirely different kind-- gruesome, horrifying, disturbing, titillating. The title was apt-- these were accoutrements to some of the most degenerate events, actions, and people I'd ever seen.

So, of course, I was intrigued. I asked Russell about it, and he said he'd never seen it before, and it wasn't anything Domy was selling. So I took it home with me without paying for it.

Once I got home, I discovered something even more bizarre. The memorabilia had titles, descriptions, and photographs regarding people, places and things I was familiar with-- but in an entirely different context. This auction catalog had appeared wholesale from an alternate dimension. In the world where this auction catalog was created, Dan Quayle was not the 44th Vice President of the United States, but a serial-killing taxidermist from Indianapolis (taxidermied raccoon with human teeth and hands sourced from his victims, estimated value $85,000). Ray Kroc was still the founder of McDonald's, but in this dimension he was also accomplice to Ed Gein, who contributed to the initial McDonald's franchise cookbook, before they were both arrested and executed in Milwaukee in 1974. (One of ten extant copies of that cookbook, est. value $300,000.) John Wayne Gacy was still John Wayne Gacy (Pogo the Clown Painting, $2800.)

And Wolf Blitzer... well I'll just share the relevant two-page spread with you.

Warning for the upcoming material, in case in wasn't clear already: this is Not Safe For Work.

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The 1970s Electric Company adaptation of Spider-Man, "Spidey Super Stories," was originally envisioned very differently. PBS had pressured the Children's Television Workshop for more "crossover" programming, which was intended to appeal to children while incorporating popular adult interests.

In the winter of 1973, they filmed the first episode of "Spider-Man's Finnegans Wake." In addition to Spider-Man, it featured Morgan Freeman's "Easy Reader" character as a sort of Mysterio-By-Proxy / Finnegan, already dead but constantly in view. The episode began with Spider-Man reciting a variation on the first line of the Joyce novel:

Zoinks, gang! A way a lone a last a loved a long the Hudson river, past the Port Authority, from swerve of Brooklyn to bend of The Bronx, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Central Park and Environs!

In test screenings, both children and adults disliked it with a fierce and unbridled passion, with 75% of child viewers stating unprompted that they "fucking hate[d] Spider-Man now," and one adult viewer tearing up his pocket copy of Ulysses and wiping his own bottom with it.

* A similar attempt was made in the 1980s to cross "Fantastic Four" over with "Gravity's Rainbow," but John Byrne's failure to grasp the source material led to an opening splash page with the Human Torch just flying over the iconic New York City skyline, shrieking the entire time. Jim Shooter wisely killed the story, but The Thing's new catchphrase, "It's Postmodernin' Time," persisted for three issues in 1984.

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In the wake of gerrymandering and Crosscheck voter invalidation, the United States government has finally become a full-on evangelical theocracy, enacting biblical punishments for all transgressions. They've also adopted the non-evangelical notion of "purgatory" out of a sense of expediency and necessity.

When you're arrested for any non-mortal sin-- or even if you give confession for those sins-- you can be put into suspended animation to serve your "purgatory time" immediately. This helps alleviate overpopulation, and there's a political component, in that those in suspended animation are unable to vote. Those offenders with views opposing the government / church face a much higher rate of purgatorial punishment.

I'm a freedom fighter, looking to illegally resurrect a purgatory-dweller. I drive a small hovercraft / antigravity ship-- it's car-sized, more like a skiff or a convertible. It can fly up, down, sideways, upside down-- the floorboards are always "down," gravitationally. There isn't a top on it, but a top would be unnecessary, as global warming has forced all the cities into massive walled-off domes. I continue my search, deep into the archives full of glass coffins packed with those who are suspended in purgatory. They go on and on and on, for miles.

Also I have the unique ability to travel back in time, exactly one year from whenever I choose to exercise the ability. Once I've done so, I have to live forward in real-time, and cannot skip ahead.

If I fuck things up too much and change or damage the timeline too drastically, the shadows will come for me.

I'm in love with the purgatory-dweller for whom I search. She's a fierce political activist, and can rally dissent magnificently.

I keep searching.

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