Doug Skinner: An Archive on Your Gizmo

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February 18th, 2018 · No Comments

A piano piece that requires a lot of jumping around the keyboard. I used it in some of my shows with Bill Irwin in the ’80s.

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Gumball Gaffigan

February 11th, 2018 · 2 Comments

Here’s another story from my upcoming collection, The Snowman Three Doors Down. In “Gumball Gaffigan,” our protagonist goes to great lengths to procure and promote his favorite food. At a crossroads, he meets his old friends Gerhardt Goldicote, Gabby Gilfeather, and Hilarion Hachementier, all on quests of their own. Many things could go wrong. Here’s how it begins…


Gumball Gaffigan awoke in a cheery mood.
“My, but it’s sunny out,” he yawned, tossing off the quilt and stretching his limbs. “I wonder what time it is.”
The clock cuckoo popped out to chirp, “It’s morning!”
“That’s not very specific,” Gumball observed.
“It’s good enough,” the little wooden bird retorted. “You have no appointments. You just wander around all day looking for gumballs.”
“A man must eat,” Gumball said.
“Well, bring back some wooden caterpillars if you think of it,” piped the cuckoo, retreating to its sanctum.
Gumball pulled on his shirt, pants, and sandals, and donned a cap to shade his nose, which was sensitive to the sun.
He locked his shed, and strolled out onto Main Street. There he met his friend Gary, who was leaving his shed too.
“Morning!” said Gary. “Out for gumballs?”
“You bet!” Gumball answered with an amiable smile.
Graziella Gottfitz approached from the other direction. She smiled coquettishly from under her twirling parasol.
“I know where you’re headed!” she simpered, pointing a soiled glove in mock accusation.
“My habits are predictable,” chuckled Gumball.
Gumball turned the corner onto Subsidiary Street, murmuring, “I’ll bet there’s a machine here.”
His grandmother, Granny Gaffigan, waddled out from her shed, and glared at him disapprovingly over her unifocals.
“And where might you be going, young man?” she asked sharply.
“I’m gumball bound,” said her grandson.
“What do you do with all that candy?” she asked.
“I make vegetable stock,” he explained.
“Gumballs aren’t vegetables,” the old woman protested.
“They’re made of plants,” Gumball said. “Sugar, dextrose, corn syrup, malic acid, glycerine, tapioca dextrin, carnauba wax: all nature’s bounty from the good green earth.”
“You need a more varied diet,” she said.
“The gumball is a sphere,” he replied, “like the earth that is our home, the sun that lights our days, the moon that guides our nights. Its center is in the middle, and its circumference equidistant around it.”
“My daughter didn’t raise you right,” grumbled his mother’s mother as she waddled back into her shed.
“Aha!” cried Gumball, as he sighted a machine. “Come to papa!”

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Herbert’s New Profession

February 6th, 2018 · No Comments

We have here another excerpt from my upcoming collection, The Snowman Three Doors Down. In “Herbert’s New Profession,” our protagonist chooses a rather unlikely job to earn some extra money. Here’s how it begins…


My name is Herbert Shrike. I’m 75 years young now, as of my last birthday. I’ll be 76 soon. I retired several years ago, after working most of my life for Quonset Gas and Electric. I was in the accounting department. It wasn’t exciting, but it paid the bills.
And that’s getting to be a problem now. Believe me, it’s not easy living on a fixed income. Prices keep going up, even though they say inflation isn’t too bad these days, and it’s harder and harder to stretch that check to the end of the month. I never married or anything like that, so I don’t have kids to help me out when I’m short, like some people do.
Naturally, I started thinking about how I could supplement my income. I’m not too handy, particularly with the arthritis, and my memory isn’t what it used to be. Sometimes I can’t think of a word that I want, and that kind of thing. So I guess I need a job that doesn’t take too much skill or intelligence.
That knocks out a lot of possibilities. And you need to provide some kind of service. If someone’s paying you, they want something for their money. That’s just human nature, and is kind of basic to our economy. But after some thought, I came up with what might be a workable idea. Maybe I could become a prostitute.
There are pros and cons to the idea, of course. There are pros and cons to every idea. I’ll get the cons out of the way first, so I don’t have to dwell too long on the negative. I like to stay positive.
First of all, I’m a man. Most of the prostitutes I’ve heard about, from watching TV or movies, are ladies who sell their services to gentlemen, and I’m a gentleman who would be catering to ladies. But then, times have changed, and the relationships between the sexes are different now than when I was young. They’re changing all the time. Maybe it’s not as much of a problem as it seems.
Second, I might be considered too old for the job. I’m the first to admit it. Most prostitutes are much younger, and many people, both men and women, consider younger people more appealing. But there may be women who are looking for the experience and dignity of an older man. You never know until you try.
Third, I’m not conventionally attractive. Even when I was younger, ladies didn’t find me particularly handsome. I certainly didn’t look like the movie stars they always swooned over. I can’t think of their names right now, but I do know there wasn’t much resemblance. Objectively, I can’t say that I’ve improved with age. I’ve gotten thinner on top and thicker in the middle, which is what happens when you get older, and I think my nose has gotten even bigger. But I’m not deformed or anything, and I’m sure I’d be acceptable under the right circumstances.
Fourth, I’m not particularly experienced. I had sexual relations with a few women when I was younger, but not many, perhaps because I’m not conventionally attractive, as I mentioned above. Those relations were short-lived, and usually involved heavy drinking. And I’ve never actually visited a prostitute, so I have no experience as a customer in the business. I’ve seen a lot of movies and TV shows about them, though, so I do have some practical knowledge.
Those are the cons. Now for the pros.

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Le Scat Noir 232

February 1st, 2018 · No Comments

The February issue of Le Scat Noir awaits you! This one contains the latest page of my musical instrument drawings, my story “The Snowman Three Doors Down,” and many other delights by other people! You can find it here.

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Pan and Kettle

January 28th, 2018 · No Comments

My upcoming collection, The Snowman Three Doors Down, also includes a few tales in verse. I should add that I write in strict verse forms simply because I like formal constraints. Here’s the beginning of “Pan and Kettle,” originally written for a nonsense issue of The Black Scat Review.


Beneath an oak two figures sat,
Renowned in myth and fable.
The forest was their habitat,
Their odor like a stable.

They couldn’t help it that they stank,
And that the smell was numbing.
They lived without a water tank,
Bereft of basic plumbing.

These creatures were the Great God Pan
And his assistant Kettle.
They bore those names since time began,
Though they were flesh, not metal.

The Great God Pan was tall and hale,
A mix of goat and human,
But Kettle was anemic, frail,
And looked like Harry Truman.

When Kettle went to gather grubs,
As was his master’s order,
Pan settled back against the shrubs
To practice his recorder.

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The Royal Touch

January 21st, 2018 · 1 Comment

Here, as an appetizer, is the beginning of “The Royal Touch,” from my upcoming collection The Snowman Three Doors Down. Our story hinges on a dilemma: which is better, leprosy or scrofula?


King Theobald hobbled to the throne, and, setting aside his crutch, sank slowly onto the cushions. Stroking his beard with his stumps, he looked inquiringly at his prime minister.
“You have no obligations today, Your Majesty,” Prime Minister Oxthrall informed him.
“None?” the king asked, surprised.
“The page is empty,” Oxthrall replied, holding up the appointment book.
“But today is St. Forrester’s Day,” said Theobald. “Today my subjects line up to receive the royal touch, along with a nice little medallion.”
“The people don’t want you to touch them, sir,” Oxthrall explained.
“But it cures scrofula,” said Theobald.
“True,” said Oxthrall, “but they don’t want your leprosy.”
“Scrofula is more contagious than leprosy,” said the king. “I’m more likely to catch their disease than they are to catch mine. Especially if they cough or sneeze without using their handkerchiefs, as they often do.”
“Several people caught leprosy last time,” Oxthrall reminded him.
“Just a few,” said Theobald. “Did they like the medallion?”
“They were upset about the leprosy,” said Oxthrall.
“Those medallions were expensive,” groused the king.
“I know,” sighed Oxthrall, “and many of your subjects complained about the cost.”
Theobald shifted on his throne, absently fingering his lesions. “Leprosy’s not so bad when you get used to it,” he remarked. “In fact, I think it looks good on me. It gives a man character.”
Bishop Felix sauntered into the room. “A peaceful and joyous St. Forrester’s Day to you both,” he cried, beaming and gesticulating. “God go with you.”
“The people don’t want the royal touch,” complained Theobald.
“Of course not,” said the bishop. “You have leprosy.”
“Let me show you something,” said the king, picking up a book.
“I can see it from here,” Felix replied.

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The Snowman Three Doors Down

January 14th, 2018 · No Comments

To whet your appetite, here’s the beginning of the title story from my upcoming collection, The Snowman Three Doors Down. It entwines several subplots, and is the only story I’ve written that uses prosopagnosia as a comic device.


“What’s that picture doing here?” Brick asked, indicating a photo on the wall.
“That’s Hermes, the messenger of the Gods,” his sister Graciana replied.
“No it’s not,” Brick objected. “It’s Mr. Redbean from the hardware store, with a hippie wig.”
“Men wore their hair long in Bible times,” Graciana said.
An hour later, Brick and his parents huddled in the crawlspace under the porch.
“It’s uncomfortable here,” papa complained.
“It smells like mice,” added mama.
“Quiet,” whispered Brick, “or she’ll hear us.”
“What if she did?” papa snapped.
“We have no secrets,” mama said.
Even as she spoke, Graciana’s voice wafted from the back yard.
“I hear voices,” she said.
Her hidden family immobilized, fingers at lips, holding their breaths.
“That’s odd,” Graciana continued, her voice fading as she wandered off.
“She put a picture of Mr. Redbean in the hall upstairs,” whispered Brick.
“From the hardware store?” papa asked.
“He’s a nice young man,” mama said.
“He’s older than I am,” papa objected.
“Age isn’t everything,” simpered mama, squeezing his arm.
“Do you think they’re serious?” asked papa.
“It’s not that,” whispered Brick, “it’s that Hermes business again.”
“Not again,” mama sighed.
“Last month it was some kid from the supermarket,” papa remarked.
“You shouldn’t have bought her that wig,” Brick said accusingly.
“We didn’t get her that,” mama said.
“Then where did she get it?” Brick asked.
Three doors down, Chicky and Chalky lounged on the back porch, snacking on sugar clots and cocoa pickles from a paper bag, and gazing up at the blue August sky.
“I’m bored,” said the latter boy.
“We could throw baseballs at the tree,” suggested Chicky.
“We only have one ball,” objected Chalky.
“We could throw it, pick it up, and then throw it again,” Chicky said. “Taking turns, of course.”
Chalky swallowed another sugar clot. “That sounds boring,” he said.
“I thought you liked boring things,” riposted Chicky, rooting in the bag for another tidbit.
“Often I do,” Chalky replied. “I enjoy repetitive music, for example, and formulaic movies. In the former case, I find the predictability soothing, particularly if I’ve had a trying day at school. And in the latter case, I can identify with the hero without worrying that he’ll do something unexpected that might compromise my sympathy. But in both cases, my role is passive. If I’m performing an activity myself, I prefer more stimulation.”
“I hear you,” answered his confidant. “Well, we could build a snowman.”

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String Quartets

January 2nd, 2018 · No Comments

So far, I’ve written nine string quartets. Here are some descriptions.

<1: AH YOUTH. A few pieces from my teens that I thought worth saving.

1: EDDIE UNCHAINED. A suite drawn from my ventriloquial musical of that name.

2: ROUNDS. Four rounds.

3: ARETINO IN SOLRÉSOL. Five erotic sonnets by Piero Aretino translated into the universal musical language Solrésol.

4: CHORALES. Fourteen brief chorales.

5: TROWIE TUNES. Harmonizations of five “trowie tunes” from the Shetland Islands.

6: PALINDROMES. Palindromic rounds, with added bass lines, descant parts, and other embellishments.

7: VIOLAS. A chorale, round, and tango for four violas.

8: THE MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. An extension of a brief realization of the music of the spheres by Athanasius Kircher.

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Le Scat Noir 231

December 24th, 2017 · No Comments

You can now purchase the latest issue of Le Scat Noir, that being #231 (the Encyclopaedia counts as #230). It contains many funny and delightful things, including my drawings of imaginary musical instruments. It’s over here. A good way to start out the new year!

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Iambic Centameter

December 12th, 2017 · 1 Comment

For The Black Scat Encyclopaedia (see previous post), I contributed several entries on poetics. Here’s one of them:

IAMBIC CENTAMETER: A line of a hundred iambic feet:

Beloved, when I saw you standing there beside that picturesque gazebo by the crumbling garden wall, as bluebirds gaily sang their hearts out high atop the willow tree that spread its branches over the azalea bush, and breezes played around your silken petticoats and ruffled your unruly chestnut hair, I contemplated the expression on your blushing features, shaded by that large but inexpensive hat, adorned with all those garish multicolored feathers dyed with such a startling lack of expertise, and couldn’t help but wonder if you even heard the cheerful warbling of the feathered songsters as they offered their improvisations to the sultry summer morn, or if you stood there lost in some reflection, reverie, or waking trance, and if you even noticed I had fallen down and hurt my leg.

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