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Black Lamb

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Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

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Archive for the 'Roberts' Category

A decent man

Betrayal in Wisconsin

June 1st, 2016

BY GREG ROBERTS

Recollections Of A Long Life: 1829-1915
by Isaac Stephenson
Privately printed 1915.

I like reading books that no one has heard of. The 1950 memoirs of Valentin R. Garfias, Garf From Mexico, was limited to 2,000 copies, one of which was discarded by Cal State University, Hayward, ending up at a Salvation Army store. An excellent read — and if you do read it, you are one of only dozens, like Spix macaws.

stephensonisaacIsaac Stephenson’s autobiography is easier to obtain — there were three copies available on eBay the last time I checked — but there is a good chance I’m the only person on earth reading it right now. That makes me Martha, the 1914 passenger pigeon.

Is it an important work? Very important. Just because something is obscure says nothing. Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat languished for more than a century before it was rediscovered. And what about Moby Dick? So there.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Black Lamb Review of Books, Book Reviews, Books and Authors, Roberts | Link to this Entry

Programmed to fish

January 1st, 2016

BY GREG ROBERTS

I was supposed to have done big things… but fishing got in the way. It was fishing that kept me from being the professor, the comedian, the writer, the big star. “You’re a funny guy — you could have started The Onion when you were in Madison, man,” said one of my old college chums. Maybe I could have. Maybe a lot of people could have. But if you sit at a fly-tying bench for six hours, further relaxed by forty-ouncers of Carling Black Label, there isn’t much cerebral juice left for the demanding task of writing The Onion.

fishI was clever enough to get invited to entertain at a few obscure venues. A dozen years ago, when I was playing the fiddle in a bluegrass band, a deranged banjo picker came up to me and said, “You’re him, ain’t you? The guy from the radio — from the Prairie Companion show.” He wanted me to sign his banjo skin with a Sharpie. I told him I was not that guy, that I just had a habit of delivering long, rambling monologues in a midwestern accent. I had done that for years in bars and ice shanties but was too distracted by fish to get my rap together and sell it.

Fishing sabotaged all those glorious might-have-beens. No brain surgeon or astrophysicist has spent more time at his craft than I have squandered at the fly-tying vise, laying down swatches of yak hair and polypropylene, and adding doll eyes with a glob of epoxy, hoping to make a sardine that the fish will think is real.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: 13th Anniversary Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

Rise up!

November 1st, 2015

BY GREG ROBERTS

Many modern developments are worse than their predecessors. White sliced bread is a tasteless blob compared to a baguette or focaccia; modern factory chickens aren’t half as good as the yellow-meated ones that once roamed the barnyard. Many things that we created for mass consumption are a step backward, a devolution.

Electric musical instruments fall into this category. Hammond organs, electric violins, and certainly electric guitars are abominations that sound much worse than their acoustic originals. That noise is unnatural and unhealthy but — like a fakir chewing on splinters of glass — we are now used to it. Even the academics and intellectuals embrace music that is “ritardando.” When Carl Sagan selected material for a cultural capsule to be launched into space, he chose, in addition to J.S. Bach, the music of Chuck Berry. Carl was in kneejerk mode when he did that: wannabe cool mode, pandering mode. In retrospect he was just another lame-o.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Rock 'n' Roll Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

Post Armageddon

There's a sweet new world waiting for us out there.

December 1st, 2014

BY GREG ROBERTS

manson2Charles Manson has been besieged by hot chicks begging to marry him. These girls look beyond his wrecked octogenarian carcass and the swastika on his forehead, not to mention his embarrassingly feeble guitar playing. Are they nuts? Of course they are, but I’m not much better.

I’m feeling fascination, even sympathy, for a complete nut case named Timothy Treadwell, the poor guy who lived with grizzly bears in Alaska and who eventually died in their paws. Everything I know about the grizzly man comes from the documentary of that name, directed by Werner Herzog. This excellent film tells the story of a drug-addicted loser actor from Los Angeles who discovered the natural world and was saved by it. The bears were such an exhilarating drug for Treadwell, he needed no other for the rest of his life.

Watching Treadwell play with his animal friends, you can’t help but like the guy. You envy the joy that he exudes in this wilderness setting, no matter the hardships of tent life and the miserable wind and rain that come with the territory. You start to overlook his delusionary behavior. He thought he was protecting the bears, when in fact they needed no protection: they are apex predators protected by park boundaries. Worse, Treadwell thought he had become a member of the bear tribe, when in fact he was on the path to being their victim, along with his naïve girlfriend, Amy.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Madness Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

The poor people of Paris

Compared to Americans, Europeans live like peasants.

November 1st, 2013

BY GREG ROBERTS

In the 1970s our family worked for rich people who kept summer homes near Three Lakes, Wisc. Yard work, housework, boat and pier work — we were the avant garde of today’s Mexicans. Not exactly; we were good friends with the boss, a bank president, and he invited us to many an elaborate cook-out with porterhouse steaks the size of Frisbees and glasses of port from the 1930s.

skullscatacombsparis*Jack, the banker, loved fishing and hunting in the British Isles, and during one of his many trips there he bought some springer spaniels. He imported not only these goofy, high-strung animals, he also brought back the gamekeeper and his wife. They would stay on for the summer to train the pups and help set up a pheasant run on one of Jack’s properties.

Alan, the Englishman, visited our house one day and was amazed at what he found. A Ford pickup, a Buick Park Avenue, boats on trailers, snowmobiles, and fine shotguns hanging on the living room walls. He was pole-axed by such wealth in the hands of people who did the same kind of work as he. “Good Lord, everyone is rich in this country,” he said, as if it were leprosy. And later I heard his wife mutter, “Our last big dream was to buy a sewing machine, and we saved the whole year to do it.”

That’s Europeans for you. In spite of the Magna Carta, they never had anything and never will. And they seem to be getting worse. A bicycle ride to the cafe, an espresso and cigarette, and a conversation on Twitter. Man, that’s living! And now it’s time to pedal back home to Mama and Papa, to the same crappy apartment and small room you grew up in.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Europe Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

A losing proposition

The state is destroying families by the thousands.

February 1st, 2012

BY GREG ROBERTS

I keep glancing at my office door, wondering when the state-sponsored prostitutes will show up and start the sting. One of these girls, the under-age daughter of a recent Miss Venezuela, is sure to present a severe test of will as she flings her sequined robe into a corner and jumps into my lap. I’ll have to push her naked little ass away or be arrested by the state, then bankrupted by the courts and crooked lawyers.

So far today I’ve been lucky. The only visitors have been a UPS driver and a propane salesman. You think I’m delusional? Hell no, the state is busily engaged in destroying people every day. It’s big business. If the state’s transgressions with gambling are any indicator, it’s only a matter of months before the prostitute sting hits every household.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Gambling Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

Family unfriendly

A neighborhood without kids isn't normal.

October 1st, 2011

BY GREG ROBERTS

Our first mistake was moving into a neighborhood where families are anomalies. This university crowd is mostly childless, and some are downright hostile to the rugrat stage of hominid evolution. Most of us moved here decades ago, arrogant dickbrains from back East, raring to show the rest of the town that we were Beethoven or Twain or Margaret Mead reincarnated. Sickening egotists all. How many Edward Abbey impersonators do you know? Over the years I’ve met 500 of them in my front yard, just by being out there watering the spiderworts and lewisii. One of these guys was devoting his life to removing all place names on the map with the word “squaw” in them. He started a non-profit thing of some sort and probably received a grant. Not a very good Abbey impersonator, he seemed unaware of the author’s salty references to all the races.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Family Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

Eighth Anniversary Issue

We are the Franklin Party of 1847.

January 1st, 2011

BY GREG ROBERTS

These past eight years have seen an enormous effort from the human work force. Billions of people toiled like termites in a million strange tasks from tapping rubber to launching satellites and designing dildoes.

franklinships.jpgBut when you really think about it, hardly any progress was made over those years. Oh sure, the latest laptop computers are as thin as fruit leather and baseball caps now contain little lightbulbs in their bills, but there have been no big breakthroughs, industrial or philosophical. As for myself, I saw an Agami heron and added it to my life list of birds, and I learned to smoke fish properly with just the right brine. And just this year I learned that you can use paint thinner more than once, by letting the paint pigment settle to the bottom of a jar and pouring off the clear spirits. Other than that, the eight years have gone by with little to show, like a goofy dream.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: 8th Anniversary Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

A decent man

Betrayal in Wisconsin

July 1st, 2010

BY GREG ROBERTS

I like reading books that no one has heard of. The 1950 memoirs of Valentin R. Garfias, Garf From Mexico, was limited to 2,000 copies, one of which was discarded by Cal State University, Hayward, ending up at the Salvation Army store. An excellent read — and if you do read it, you are in the dozens, like Spix macaws.

stephensonisaac.jpgIsaac Stephenson’s autobiography is easier to obtain — there were three copies available on eBay the last time I checked — but there is a good chance I’m the only person on earth reading it right now. That makes me Martha, the 1914 passenger pigeon.

Is it an important work? Very important. Obscurity means nothing. Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat languished for more than a century before it was rediscovered. And what about Moby-Dick? So there.

Isaac Stephenson’s remarkable life conveys a clear message to us: people living in the mid-1800s were amazingly resourceful, resilient, and self-reliant, and we need to be more like them. We are malnourished slugs, slaves to larger machines, and mentally torpid as well, the light bulb in our brain flickering like a feeble firefly.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Book Issue, Roberts | Link to this Entry

Slave children at dawn

If you're Superman, you just might make the minimum wage.

May 1st, 2007

BY GREG ROBERTS

Thank you, Mr. Dickens, for having alerted us to the appalling scourge of child labor. Your good work helped end the abomination of children picking rags and bones from the banks of the Thames, or walking the filthy streets with a bucket, collecting feces for the tanneries.

What’s that, I spoke too soon? You say the slavery continues? Quite so, governor —thousands of children are slouching through the snow and rain, hard-pressed and sleep-deprived, scrounging for coolie wages.

They are newsboys. They ride their bicycles through the dark streets at four a.m., when the methamphetamine addict is still tacking out at 3,000 rpms, when the angry drunk is pulling the tab on his fourteenth beer, when vicious dogs are at the peak of paranoia.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: Roberts | Link to this Entry

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