Philosophy, Poetry & Rants!

Bob with the Reverend Ivan Stang in Dallas

To the new or casual reader, Bob Burden is an enigma.

There have been many interviews over the past 20 years, but Burden has continued to be an elusive person to capture in writing. Perhaps this is due to the constant barrage of ideas pouring from his brain. Is it genius? Some say so. He's at least an eccentric. While he's not saving his nail clippings and holding everything with paper towels, there is an edge to him that reveals itself to the reader of his works. Burden has offered us small glimpses into his mentality through his stories (what he is most infamous for!), and here, for the first time, we will be running a monthly exclusive feature.

Burden has become notorious for his various rants, philosophy, and even poetry (ask him sometime at a large convention to read a little of his's the highlight of any gathering!). We're going to periodically post some of our favorites, starting with this tirade, called "Snapshot Syndrome." A flowing effluvium on the nature of the work ethic that spins a web of interesting ideas...bringing the reader into the mind of Bob Burden.

Snapshot Syndrome

How many times did I promise myself that Monday morning I'd get out of this crazy business and get a real job. Or when you discover Monday morning that they still aren't hiring lunatics, I'd just scratch my chin and say, "It's going to be awful hard to explain to an employer what I've been doing this past few years." In truth, I don't know why I stuck with comic books and this character all these years any more than I know why the sun comes up each day.

THE SUN COMES UP! There have been occasions when I stayed out too late and got stuck in morning rush-hour traffic as I was heading home to bed.

All around me were people going to work.

Through bleary, cracked eyes, I could observe these wretched creatures on the Highway of Babel. I envisioned them daily plowing on like lemmings to their cash registers, work stations, cubicles, and personal hellholes endlessly. Surely they need something I didn't--it was something I wanted to know. Could I, sitting in my car, some far-out, stoned, onion-eyed, bleary night rider, have ever been part of their world? Were we two dissimilar lifeforms sharing a planet?

Or was I a narrow fool, plowing against a tide of a steel-flesh-plastic horde with real lives, tuned up engines and happy families?
I looked at them like a wolf coming home from a night of hunting, staring at the farmer in his field at the crack of dawn to sow his seeds and reap his harvest.
They did not look back.

When I look back at the times of my youth I view a mystery. The other day, while I was working at the drawing table, the 1963 movie IT'S A MAD, MAD, WORLD was on in the background. (Some movie I was following had ended and I look up and this thing is halfway through.) RECOgNITION; I have seen this before. INSTINCTIVE REACTION; click to another channel. PROCOTIC RESPONSE; slow down and take a look at this movie for a second. I saw it last in 1963. Me and my brothers and sisters loved this movie and went to the theatre three times to see it. The last time we dragged our Grandparents along.

What did we see in this that made us so entertained. What entertains children? What is the quintessential element, the secret formula for childhood joy? What a rosetta stone it would be, for someone in my business, to unlock such a secret!

As I watched the movie it brought back memories of a far distant time. The downtown theatre in art deco, riding in the back of the station wagon to the theatre, my grandfather Burden's crewcut of white hair, Three Musketeers and Snickers candy bars, the smell of dawn on the way to school, the smell of mimeographed paper, the smell of worms on a rainy day, toy soldiers curled and melted in the sun from setting on the milkbox...

It was an era so far off, it was like Camelot. It was so far from me as to be like a legend. What was I then? Why did I spend hours setting up army men in a dirt lot down the street? Why did I and my playmates put on cheap felt cowboy hats and run to the woods firing cap pistols? Why did Outer Limits and The Tingler scare the crap out of me?

Ya know, I think I'd really like to be scared silly by a movie again. I think I'd like to be fascinated by a Mattel Fanner-50 cap gun sitting in the window of a toy store.

I'm watching this movie and I'm realizing that I don't remember it that well, in fact only a few snapshot-like fragments and it's like watching it all over again new.

What did we see in all this insane, slapstick running around? I remember we liked the scene where Johnathan Winters goes on the rampage and destroys the gas station. We liked the drunken Jim Bacus as a pilot. I remember grooving on the brunette in the bikini dancing with Dick Shawn.

As I'm wondering what the gimmick is it dawns on me what a different person I was then and a great sadness comes over me, as all of that memory, that brain synapse encoding, that experience of youth is gone. It has been compressed into snapshot sized files that are more like label tags than the actual experience.

One who was so anxious to get out of his youth and be an adult suddenly feels adrift in the middle of an ocean with no land in sight and the sun directly overhead.

Perhaps, if I tried hard; spent a whole day, logically and systematically reconstructing, in my mind, a single sample day from 1963...

It is a place I shall not go. My intellect wants to go there so bad but the id knows better. Deep inside I know that that would destroy something. It would split an atom. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" says the little voice inside me.

Still the rest of the day, I am fascinated by the "snapshot syndrome" of distant time and memory. How my mind must have thrown away the files and left only the icons in their place. Perhaps it's all still there, buried so deep. They say that when you get senile you can remember the distant past like it was yesterday. As if your lifespan is some crude "mirrored arc". Perhaps, in order to go on in life, a person must bury all the golden treasures of youth along with the inseparable horrors, tragedies and failures like the bee stings, skinned knees, lost fights, all the test papers with "D"s and "F"s... For a second I think of the sheer horror of getting caught with firecrackers in the classroom. Then there was the time I accidentally shot a nun with a squirt gun. My first auto accident was running into a parked car on Sunday morning as a church was letting out. My first girlfriend telling me she didn't want to see me anymore... The first time I saw a dead person... The memories come like I've hit the wrong button and on an H-bomb and it starts ticking!

I push back the growing throng of memories! They must go back in the closet! Clamp the artery! Hose me down! Sell the house, the car, the kids! I'm not coming back.

Everyone thought APOCALYPSE NOW was some far out anti-war movie. It exposed the evil, the insanity of war as an institution and it was some kind of anti-establisment statement. I think it will still be around a hundred years from now, like Hamlet or Oedipus Rex or Huck Finn. Certainly it's an institution when it's lampooned in a scene from SIENFELD.

APOCALYPSE NOW was not an anti-war movie any more than the Flaming Carrot was a satire on comic book superheroes. Who knows what I was doing back then or where I was going with it (I sure don't) but I was not trying to do the Mort Drucker MAD MAGAZINE send up of our industry. (It, of course, does not logically follow that Flaming Carrot will be around a hundred years from now but we can always imagine.)

Imagine some 21st century JETSONS kid caught with a Flaming Carrot cheat sheet up his sleeve in 6th grade English Class mid term!

Excerpted from Thrilling Visions Vol. 2
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