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{Friday, January 31, 2003}

 
This is how it all ends? I end like this? I was understandably indignant.

Larry and I were driving back from Paula's apartment. We'd watched Urban Legend, Urban Legend II, and Final Destination in preparation for tomorrow's matinee of Final Destination II. Yeah, I know they're dumb-ass films, but Paula likes them, and Larry likes Paula, and I have the car… You know how the rest goes.

So anyway, we were driving back. The sun was setting and I saw a car approaching with its lights off. Larry saw me reaching for the brights – to flash ‘em and let the other car know. "Don't do it, man. It's a punk looking for his first kill." Now we're in a college town in the middle of nowhere. College students, cows, then Amish; these surround the town in concentric circles. Lowest reported crime rate in the nation: Here. Seriously.

"Yeah," I laughed, "You're totally right." I flashed my highs twice. "Been nice knowin' ya." The oncoming car whizzed by. It was a old-style VW Beetle painted the flattest matte gray you'd ever seen. It was unbelievably hard to see in the waning light. The thought of driving on the road with something that hard to detect chilled me. "See. No guns, no thugs. Goofball."

"I can't believe they don't have their lights on," muttered Larry. I saw them flicker to life in my rear view mirror as if on cue. Then the Beetle squealed, swerved around to enter our lane, and began to accelerate.

"Holy shit." We're going to get capped I thought. We're going to get effing shot.

(Sorry folks. Out of time.)

by jal 10:58 PM


 
I have absolutely nothing to say about beetles. This is no failing in the topic selection; I'm just fresh out of ideas. This morning, in the shower, while working out a kink in my code, I experimented with the idea of writing about eating beetles, feeling their scrabbly legs skitter on your tongue, and then the sharp, yellow bile of their guts squirting against the back of your throat—and I made myself wretch. It took conscious effort not to throw up.

I'm reminded of a line from a song that I heard once, while at CTY. The song goes on, "Every day, every day, every day I start to ooze. Every day, every day..." and then suddenly, a fervent sentence is spoken: "If every fifth animal in the world is a beetle, perhaps every fifth human is a... dumb fuck." That's apt more often than I'd like.

My parents are visiting, so I had to play Seth's album for them, especially the "fuck you" song, since that's what helps me get through traffic. No less than seven people tried to kill me, in our slalom through rush hour traffic, on our way to dinner and Esther's Follies. During the show, they ragged on SUV-driving, lipstick-applying, cell-phone-yakking Soccer Moms, and the Californication of Austin. Dad commented that those jokes were much more relevant, having driven through it earlier that evening.

But then I got to ranting about work. I'm glad that I have a job. I am. I just wish that it managed to not feel like anal rape all the time. At least lubricant would be nice. But I don't want to get into that here. Rants are ugly, and it just makes me buggy.

Beetles aren't bugs—those are different orders—but they're both insects, and that's ten minutes.

by Sharon 10:44 PM


 
Her name was Darling. Susan Darling. She lived in a small house about twenty minutes from work. Her house was red, with spots. The inside of her house was green, a cool, friendly green. She wore tiny aphid earrings and made her own gummy worms for the neighborhood kids.

Susan Darling had her own TV show. It was public access, but there was a chance PBS would pick it up next quarter. There was always a chance. Kids liked her show. She was the grandmother real grandmothers were afraid to be. She had dirt under her fingernails and flowers in her hair. She was married, for fifty-two years. She is still married. Robert Darling, her loving husband and cameraman is also her manager. And her agent. And retired. He used to own a hardware store, but sold it to his eager young assistant three years ago.

Susie Darling, as she was called, or maybe Mrs. Darling or just Darling, or Sooz by her husband, loved the children that froliced around her set. The camera would fade up from black and Susie would be digging in her imaginary garden, or washing imaginary dishes, or playing imaginary games with kids. Sometimes even the kids were imaginary. Susie loved those kids. The camera would face up from black and after a shot of her the camera would pan around the children making merriment. She would cluck her tongue, give them all a great big smile, and talk to the camera.

"Hello my beetles," she would always say. And the kids would always stop what they were doing and sit around an imaginary campfire while she told stories for forty-five minutes plus commercials. There was always time for games, she said, and in between those stories (which she and her husband wrote and illustrated and sometimes published) those kids would play games every day.

Susie Darling enjoyed her life. She loved coming to work with her husband, firing up the camera, and frolicing with kids. She knew what was out there in that mean world, and she wanted them to have fun, if only for a few more years. Susie and her beetles, they would never stop having fun.

That is, until one day...

by rocketo 3:25 PM


 
I have only one memborable experience with beetles. I was twelve, and my mother and I spent a week in Trinidad with our own entomologist tour guide. (When I got older, I figured out that he wanted to date her, but she just wanted to learn more about lepidoptera.) We would track butterflies through the rainforest by day and stay in a local monastery at night. There's not much to do after dark at the edge of a rainforest, so for the first night we sat on the patio and tried to read.

Did I mention we were at the edge of the rainforest? Right. Well, it's not just moths that are attracted to light, and when you have the only light for miles around...

This creepy-crawlie was (I'm not exaggerating) the length of my palm. Apparently it was completely harmless: our fearless leader picked it up and held it out for our inspection. (We were already halfway down the hall, so we missed our chance. Oh, well.)

Don't get me wrong: I'm not the squeamish sort. During the day, we often walked past tarantula nests and thought nothing of it. (It was, after all, a rainforest.) But when a monster-sized bug invades the tiny pool of light keeping you safe from the evils of the night...

Boy howdy.

by Faith 12:48 PM


 
Beetles

by Remi 2:00 AM




{Thursday, January 30, 2003}

 
Coincidence

A day behind, the story of my life. I wanted to write a Mage story for this but I think I’ve fallen back on that a couple of times now. So…

I’m trying to think of coincidences in my life and really I don’t know as though there’s been a lot although I have a couple that amuse me:

Years and years ago, well 17 or so, I worked at what I thought was a start up role-playing game company in Pittsburgh. Just myself, one other artist and the “owner”. Turns out the owner was a wannabe conman who, lacking the skills to be a real business man decided to fake it and pretend he had a company. Unfortunately he was also pretending to have funding as well and so Matt Hurlbut, the other artist and I went our own ways after filing in small claims court etc. The owner, Mark, I’m told hit the mob up for a loan and having skipped out on loans from other sources as well I assume he’s now, um, no longer in business shall we say?

But the story’s not about Mark, it’s about Matt. About 12 years later I’d been working at a small computer game company in a small town in Oregon for several years when I get a call from the first floor of the office. Some new hire by the name Matt Morgaine who had been working with one of the other art directors wanted to meet me. I go downstairs and it turns out Matt Morgaine is none other than Matt Hurbut. He’d changed his name and for some reason I don’t recall the specifics of, moved 3000 miles across the country for the benefit of his wife’s career. Coincidently I had done this same thing some years earlier.

We had not spoken or in any way stayed in touch during this time, nor when we had known each other in the 80’s had any interest in computers or computer games. We stay in touch now.

Ok, here’s the other one just briefly: It’s also game-related. While I was working at said company in Oregon I was standing around talking to the owner and we were discussing free-lance work that I had done for a role-playing company in Charlottesville, VA years earlier. Just as we mention the name, Iron Crown Enterprises, another new hire by the name of Sean walks past. He says, “Hey, did I hear you mention ICE? I used to work for them.” We’ve been good friends since then and continue to follow one another around the industry.

by Shawn 11:59 PM


 
1998.

I met a boy at a LARP (Live-Action Role-Playing game). He had long hair, and he wore leather pants and a velvet cloak, and he paid attention to me. We dated some, and shared some kisses, but the person I connected with was his friend, the game designer. I chose to break up with the boy, because I could see where we were bad for each other; losing the game designer friend was sad.

Time turns blisters into calluses, so I got to see the boy, and the friend, again. The friend and I stayed up all night talking under a cloudy meteor shower.

Among other things, I learned the word "meme." It is a packet of information, a morpheme of culture, a unit of language. Memes catch and spread. Advertisers hope to create memes. Television shows do it all the time.

The friend and I found we had both cultivated a desire to leave Pennsylvania, and to seek our fortunes in Austin, Texas.

And within a few days, Faith sent me an email from a crackpot in Arizona who was creating a collaborative art project called "Memeflurry." On a given Saturday, he'd wait next to the bank of payphones in the university student union; you'd call, and read off a meme; he'd write it down.

I printed it out. I showed it to the game designer. He read the name of the crackpot: "That's one of my best friends!" Then the phone rang.

The crackpot was getting back in touch with one of his old friends from Philly. And he was thinking of moving, maybe to Chicago. Maybe to Austin.

So we made a game company. The crackpot moved to Chicago. And I married the game designer, in Austin.

by Sharon 4:45 PM


 
(darn, i came here as soon as I read Sharon's admonition to post, ah well)

I don't believe in coincidence, luck or any other sort of supersitious gobbledegook. That's for weak-minded fools who can't bear a world that is run by cold, hard reason. Sure there's the Uncertainty Principle, but electrons hardly effect my life. I'm a garbage operator. Things go up, things come down. I kick cats, babies, and little old men out of my way. Nothing bad happens to me. Not so much good, either, but no one cares about good luck. Good luck for one person, if it existed, is only bad luck for another. In fact, today day I threw a guy into oncoming traffic, nothing bad happened to me, I just came home and ate my Stouffer's stovetop stuffing and frozen meatball sandwich like always.

So i'm eating my meatball, thinking about the look on that guy's face, and I got the feeling that I was being watched. Of course, this entire building is infested with mice, rats, and roaches (listed in order of size), so I guess there's always something watching, but this had a distinctly malevolent feel. Turns out the vicious feelings that people had about me all turned into some kind of poltegeist, which now tosses junk at me on my garbage runs, sets my meatball sandwiches on fire, and whenever I see a really sweet looking kid that needs a kicking, moves it out of the way.

But, see, this hasn't changed my outlook. I did A, and B happened. It's not karma, it's the action of the universe. It's cold hard logic. At least, I keep saying that to myself every time I go to sleep, and there's a creek in the ceiling like its about to fall in. I'm sure it's just a coincedence, and has nothing to do with the angerball that's following me around. I'm sure . . .

by Remi 2:20 PM


 
coincidence

by Fred 1:54 PM




{Wednesday, January 29, 2003}

 
It happened again last night. I woke up in another part of the house with no memory of the past three hours. Three hours isn’t a lot of time, but it’s enough. All the lights were on and the window in my study had been thrown open. I’d changed my clothes again, I saw. Thankfully, there didn’t seem to be any blood. I went through the house carefully and made sure. Even after all these years I still remember all the old hiding places.

I remember back then, in the months before I thought this had ended, I’d leave notes for myself, hints of what I might have done the night before. A young girl’s name taped to the refrigerator, a piece of jewelry left in my pocket, a book of matches from the club or bar where I’d found her. It turned into a game, I’m sure, for the other me -- cat and mouse, back and forth. It went on like that for almost two months before I knew what he was doing, before I found the blood, the knife none too carefully hidden in the basement closet to which only I had the key. And I do not know how long it would have continued if, that April, I hadn’t put a gun to my head and pulled the trigger.

I spent almost a year in the hospital -- first one surgery after another, then observation. They wanted to know why I’d done it, but I never told them. I thought it was over, you see. I though the other me was gone, that I’d extinguished him with the bullet that had just missed my brain. I didn’t want them to discover what he -- what I -- had done. There was no more memory loss. There were no more hints or messages. There was no more blood. I thought it was finished.

But it’s been happening again. Last night, the night before. I have no memory of those hours, so I can only fear the worst. How many girls he killed last time…how many he will kill now, if given the chance… I look through the house for clues, for any sign, always afraid of what I might find, always afraid if I find nothing. I do not want to die, you understand, but I can’t let it happen again. I can’t let myself kill again.

I look in the mirror and I don’t know who this man is looking back at me. Who are you? I ask myself. What do you want from me? Dear god, I thought I'd lost you.

by Fred 4:16 PM


 
I was driving, driving for what seemed like hours and probably was. The clock on my dashboard was covered in broken glass and shards of headliner. I knew it was dark, but it always seemed to be dark. I hadn't slept in weeks, not since it started chasing me. The car's silence drifts and crackles. I have the volume on full because the random radio noise comforts me. It puts a sound to the thing that has been following me for so long. It's funny, I can always tell when a city is near the horizon because the drift of local stations floods my ears. I curse, bat at my ears, and finally -finally- reach for the volume. Once the announcer's voice has been lowered to an actually audible level, i hear his pleas to save the manatees. you fool, i think, that's how I got into this mess!

Adopting manatees.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. Mantees are such gentle creatures. The river whale, or something. I forget what they were called. All I know is that once, a long time ago, I had my own manatee adoption certificate and even a personalized biography about my manatee. The world was perfect. I'd never get to meet my manatee, I knew, but I felt safe knowing that somewhere in southern florida my giant floating mammal wasn't being lacerated by careless boaters' propellors. I couldn't tell you, right now, why my manatee has anything to do with the creature chasing me. That's what I hope to discover. For now, all I know is that my predator doesn't eat, doesn't sleep, and hardly ever plays with little fuzzy things.

It almost caught me in Atlanta. Back when both headlights worked, and I didn't have a jaw broken in three places. I plowed right into a row of parked cars trying to avoid it. Somehow, this thing got ahead of me and was trying to attack me from the front. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what happened next. It takes a hypnotist, because I've forgotten.

I forgot. The horror is lodged deep inside my skull, like this radio station is lodged deep inside my stereo. My stereo has speakers, and I do not. So my pain stays with me until Florida. When I will finally meet Chuckie.

I decided I was safe. I was near Florida's border, and i stopped. i dragged myself into a hotel, checked into a room on the ground floor (for easy escape) and collapsed on the bed. I couldn't stop thinking about my manatee. My Chuckie. Falling away from my consciousness, I barely heard the door creak open.

"meow," the creature bellowed.
"Christ, kitty." I said, already grabbing for my suitcase. "I thought I'd lost you."

by rocketo 2:19 PM


 
William Gibson, arbiter of cyberpunk, posts an essay about cyborgs that resonates deeply with me. He suggests that we have, indeed, become cyborgs, absolutely dependent on our human-to-machine interfaces, in spite of—or probably because of—how much subtler they are than anything science-fiction had speculated.

I know that I'm one. My only interactions with a great many of my friends occur online; I find creative outlets, entertainment, and community there; my job, and a ton of my skills, are irrelevant without it. Web jockey, noomeejahoor, cyborg. Yep.

I speak wistfully of getting implants: always-on, hardware-free, wireless, fully integrated, free internet connection. It would settle those dumb arguments about what film that guy was in.

One of my equally connected friends disappeared for a while, more than a month. It made me aware of the tenuousness of my meat-space connection to him. In real life, I'm sure he was quite visible, but for all that I could reach him, he was gone. No updates to his website, none to our common spaces, no email. I was concerned.

He wrote this morning, filled me in on some of the IRL activities that are taking his time, told me that he is employed again, though not in his dream job. (Who among us has his dream job right now, though, eh?) It felt so nice to get his note. And I said to my screen, "I thought I'd lost you," which is what another friend said to me yesterday, when I'd done the same.

So I am a cyborg. I don't want a jack in the back of my skull, of course.

I want a wireless card.

by Sharon 12:53 PM


 

I know it seems silly and trite but I love this pen. It’s not like the toaster that went through Nam with me (that’s a very inside and not particularly interesting joke) but I love this pen. I’ve had it for years and have written some very important, or at least personally important things with it. In the hospital I used it to fill out the name of my kid when he was born. I lent it to one of my favorite artists to sign one of his books and do a little sketch. This was in Alaska with me when I worked on the fishing boat and again in Europe when I backpacked from Germany to Italy. I used this pen to get my first job writing comic books. I sat in a bus terminal in New York and penned out a three-part story for a Captain America/Captain Briton story. Jim Shooter loved it, well, liked it well enough to hire me to write Wood God anyhow. That was back when you could get away with doing that sort of thing.

Ok, now this part gets a little far fetched but damnit, this pen saved my life. So here’s the story, see, I was in Pittsburgh walking home one night from a phone booth when two guys walk up to me and ask for change for a dollar. I had the pen in hand as I had just written down someone’s phone number and they pull a gun. They pulled a gun and stuck it in my friggin face man! This is not a shaggy dog story about the pen being mightier than the sword or anything but, well, I stabbed the guy in the face with the pen. Man he screamed! The gun didn’t go off so I don’t know if it was real or not and wasn’t about to stick around to find out; I ran like hell!

So today was laundry day, well, last Tuesday was laundry day so I was hurtin’ for clothes. I try on these pants I hadn’t worn in a year and guess what? The pen I thought I’d lost a year ago. I love this pen.

by Shawn 10:24 AM


 
I thought I'd lost you.

by Sharon 5:36 AM




{Tuesday, January 28, 2003}

 
Myx stretched and admired the result. Mirrors are flat, and she liked flat. She leaned to one side and let her finger bump over her ribs, watching her reflection do the same. She smiled at the ticklish indulgence of it and kissed the glass.

She fished a pair of panties with small pink flowers out of a drawer and hooked her finger around a bra draped over a chair. Then she turned back to her lover in the mirror and ran a finger down her tight, hard belly, falling into her pert naval, riding high above the cotton waistband.

Jeans then, slipping on like skin, and a chunky sweater to disappear into. She rolled the thick collar down so that it pooled around her throat. Then she tousled her hair, to the approval of her reflection. Who needs make-up, when you're thin?

Myx drew a glass of water, snagged a thick paperback off the shelf, and collapsed into the plush couch, conscious of the way her pants pressed against her sex. A simple surgery, and it was the best decision she had ever made. Hunger Stikes(tm), they called them. Implants in the stomach and the intestine, guaranteeing beauty and eternal love.

Myx flexed her perfect toes and sighed.

by Sharon 3:17 PM


 
It isn’t so much the hunger as the suggestion of hunger that Lucy notices first. Like always, it begins at the back of the throat, a hint of things to come, like a nameless need whispered in an empty room. Lucy is ready for these subtle signs, however; she picks up on her body's cues before they can become unbearable, before that dry ache in her throat pushes her over the edge, forces the issue, makes her do something she doesn't want to do. She prefers to keep her emotions in control, her instincts under wraps. She knows that if she does not act now, that will soon not be possible. That she will act carelessly, blindly, like an animal, without fear of repercussion, without taking the necessary precautions. If she does not act now, she will soon be too far gone to care. She has killed before and found it distasteful. It complicates things. And they have been hunting her, these shadow chasers, these humans. To kill openly now would risk revealing herself, would at the very least shed unwelcome light on her activities. All her old allies are dead. She has only enemies left. She prefers, therefore, to drink her blood cold.

by Fred 2:08 PM


 
"Dude, I'm chillin here and you're harshin' my mellow."

Look, I'm just saying it wasn't realistic. I'm just sayin' is all.

Dude, It's Gilligan's freakin' Island it's not Nova.

Yeah, I know but come on, why the hell didn't they just kill Gilligan? Then everybody coulda gotten off the fuckin' island.

Cept Gilligan.

Yeah, but he was an idiot. Consider it a Darwinism focus test group.

Dude, it could be like Survivor only with cannibalism and guest stars.

Yeah, or a Twilight Zone series where each week Gilligan screws the pooch again and then they eat him.

Cool

I also never got why they didn't just try the same idea again but keep that little jerk on the other side of the island.
I mean, is there some reason why the professor couldn't do the same thing twice? And man, with all those trees and the
amount of time they had they could've built an ocean liner of a raft.Yeah, and I could never understand why the Howell's and Ginger brought
so much crap with them for a three-hour tour. A three-hour tour. Everybody else only had one outfit. Course they seem to have a dry cleaner on
the island but still. And just how many people could possibly show up on a deserted island that wasn't on the charts anywhere? And, and... What?

Dude, the show's back on and I'm chillin here.

by Shawn 1:53 PM


 
      Nothing to say.
      I have nothing to say.
      I am sitting on the path from the mailbox to my house, looking Eastward into a rapidly brightening sky, and I have nothing to say.
      There is a crow looking at me from the far side of the garden, watching me hold this piece of mail that I am now half-way through reading while sitting on the path from the mailbox to my house, looking Eastward into the rapidly brightening sky, and I have nothing to say.
      The crow hops over, no doubt curious at my lack of reaction. They know I usually yell and wave my arms, but I am engrossed in this letter, and I have nothing to say.
      An ill wind blows from the South, ruffling the feathers of the crow, and shuffling the papers that have fallen around me. I am now reading the last sentence of the letter. I have nothing to say.
      I feel detached, the world is moving, the ground isn't solid, and everything is slowly twisting in space. Everything is changing as I near the end of the letter. After this nothing is the same. I have nothing to say.
      A year later, as everything has fallen in place, I am sitting again in the middle of the path between my mailbox and my house, and am reading another letter. It says the letter last year was wrong. It says everything failed to change when I finished the last letter. I have nothing to say.
      Another crow is staring at this letter, as puzzled and faintly fascinated as the one last year. It fluffs its feathers against the wind from the South, and flaps lazily away. I am sitting on the path, reading a letter that says my world didn't change, staring at the rapidly brightening sky in the East, having nothing to say.

by MisterNihil 1:45 PM


 

TWO for the price of NONE! You won't find a better deal than that!
For today's topic, I'm taking a line from BrotherMachine:
Hey boy, do you wanna stand up on your feet, and shoot to kill?
No sir, that would disrupt my
Chill

Hey boy do you wanna get up off your bed, and write your will?
No sir, that would disrupt my
Chill

Enjoy.

by MisterNihil 12:47 PM


 
Randomness, if it don't abound, certainly is about:
Hunger Stikes

But there's a better topic below this one, because I retconned and changed it.

by MisterNihil 11:25 AM




{Monday, January 27, 2003}

 

The flyer read:

Stress Pop: A cure for what ails you. Something for everyone. First session just $5 with this flyer.

I was a little stressed and feeling under the weather, so I followed the map on the back.

I arrived presently at Stress Pop. It looked like a converted fast food restaurant. Behind the front counter stood a slightly dumpy short man and a tall, willowy woman. The eating area was gone. In its place was a series of self-contained rooms that I couldn’t see into. About a third of the occupancy lights were lit.

Glancing over the menu, I thought that the first item was a misprint, but I soon realized that the entire menu was quite odd. I walked up the the register for some answers. "Excuse me sir, but does that say, 'Puppy punting?' "

He targeted me with a remarkably mellow smile. "Why yes. Yes it does. How many would you like today?"

"Wait, wait, wait a minute." I pointed below it, "And that… No, that one there. That’s, 'Pushing a mime down a stairwell,' right?"

The woman piped in, "Oh, you’re interested in the, 'Prey on the weak,' value combo? That’s a very popular one among the Gen X-ers." Her partner nodded sagely, "It has a particular appeal to the disenfranchised youth of today."

I scanned the remaining entries: Baby tossing, nun poking, charity scamming, crank-caller tasing… The list just went on and on. In the end, I ordered a 10-minute "boss dunking" session and a bottled water. And you know what?

I do feel better.

by jal 8:45 PM


 
7 seconds tick by, while we meditate.

A new realm of exploration, this. The instructions said simply "connect." So we connect.

Awaiting instructions...|

190.36.1.22 connects, and waits. "Ready," we say. "Ready," they say. "Ready," we try again. Not much occurs. So we meditate. 190.36.1.22 falls into a meditate loop, as well. And it is nice, to see them there, connected.

We meditate. "Ready." "Ready." "Ready." Ready, together.

But perhaps this algorithm is unfinished.

Abort|Retry|Fail...?

This subroutine, anxiolytic(), does not do much.

Ready...|

[stop blink script]

by Sharon 3:05 PM


 
anxiolytic events

anxiolytic: anxiety relieving

by Martha 9:47 AM




{Sunday, January 26, 2003}

 
Nari rubbed the callous next to her nose, and felt naked. Playing servant-girl to these water-fat off-worlders rankled, but she needed to learn more about their intent, slip into their trust.

She watched the son, the one called Paul. He had a strange look to him: haunted and, somehow, waiting. Full of potential that he did not know how to direct. Paul accepted the goblet of water without looking at her, and allowed it to moisten his sleeve. Careless.

Nari smelled the sharp cinnamon bite of her sietch, faintly echoed in the spice coffee set before these dinner guests, and felt the distance to her home. She imagined cutting into the plump, white pad of the off-worlder's thumb and letting his water bleed into the stills of her tribe.

She smiled, averted her Ibad-marked eyes with a demure "m'lord," and moved in her arrhythmic gait to hand the next goblet to his lady mother, Jessica.

by Sharon 4:50 PM


 
Today's topic is:
Cinnamon

by Remi 12:09 PM




{Friday, January 24, 2003}

 

I found a bag yesterday.

Last night I had a dream. In that dream, a man took the bag from me. He turned it inside out and waved it about, as if to show that it was a completely ordinary bag -- no hidden compartments or such. Then he smiled at me, reached deep into the back of his mouth, and pulled out a tooth. I think it was a molar. It had long, pointed roots. It glistened with blood and saliva.

He took the tooth - still smiling as wide as ever - and placed it in the bag. He mimed placing it under his pillow and sleeping on it. Later he woke up, opened the bag, and the tooth was gone.

Do you know what was in the bag instead?

You're wrong. It was a seed. A waxy, peach-colored seed about the size of my thumb. He dropped it in my cupped hand. Up close it looked like a litte embryo; a tiny little baby seed. He deftly palmed it from me, produced a pot from behind his back, and planted the seed. He sat down, and we waited for forty days and nights. Each day he watered it, kept it in the light, and sang stories to it. At the end of forty days, he dumped the dirt out. Curled up in the bottom was a tiny clone of him; grimy, naked, no more than six inches high.

The man lifted the homonculus out of the pot, washed it, and gave it a tiny set of clothes. The little man was happy and friendly and clever. They played checkers, traded jokes, and kept each other company. After dallying a while, the man gave the bag back to me. For a moment his hand touched mine, and he winked while grinning his too-large grin.

I woke up this morning.

My left tooth is throbbing.

And I'm lonely.

by jal 8:54 PM


 
“Ow!” cried Tobias. “Oh man, that hurt!”

“Hmm?” asked Sarah, looking up. “What is it?” They were sitting on the couch watching some movie on cable. She reached for the remote and tapped mute.

“I don't know,” said Tobias. “I think I bit my tongue.”

“Aw, poor baby,” said Sarah. “Lemme see.”

He stuck his tongue out at her. She grimaced.

“Oh wow, you really did bite it,” she said. “You’re bleeding.”

“I know,” he said. “I can taste it. I don't know how it happened, though.”

“Whadya mean? You bit your tongue. It happens all the time.”

“But I wasn't doing anything. It’s not like I was eating anything. I just, I don't know, bit it. It was almost like my teeth were --”

He frowned.

“What?” Sarah asked.

“It was almost like they were moving on their own.”

“Your teeth?”

“I know,” he said. “But that’s how it felt. My whole jaw’s felt kind of weird ever since I got back from the dentist.”

“I don't know why you still go to that guy.”

“He’s cheap. My insurance covers it.”

“But still, he’s --”

“What?”

“You’re grinning.”

“I am? I don't feel anything.”

He reached up with a hand to feel his jaw. They were both surprised when he snapped at his own fingers.

“Why'd you do that?” she asked.

“I didn't,” he said, through his clenched teeth. “They did. I think something’s wrong with them.”

“Yeah, no kidding,” Sarah told him.

“And I know this going to sound crazy,” he said, “but I think you should get out of here. Quickly.”

He leaned forward, baring his pearly whites.

“I think they’re hungry.”

by Fred 5:37 PM


 
I knew what they were before I picked one up. On a walk in the woods, it's not such a rare thing to find. But I didn't expect them to be human teeth. And so small.

I held one in my fingers, rolling it over to feel its sharp spots and smooth spots, and I felt a little insane for a minute, wondering what the Tooth Fairy would make of this small cache of three teeth, still bloody.

The woods were quiet by then, but I could imagine the shouts and thrashing that must have ripped through here not hours before. I almost thought I could see blood, and perhaps hair, on the rocks next to the teeth. The leaves were kicked up, with the black earth underneath exposed. In my imagination, it was a little girl.

I spent hours trying to detect some tracks to follow, stopping constantly to listen. If she was still alive, I wanted to find her. All the time I searched, my mind filled in more hypothetical details: her pink coat with fake-fur trim around the hood and a big, silver zipper; snatched from the playground half a block from her house; soft brown curls. I nearly vomited, twice.

But it wasn't the visions that made me come in here, to talk with you. It's the blood on my jeans and my chest, but not my shirt, and the three hours I can't remember from this morning.

by Sharon 1:13 PM


 
teeth

by Fred 12:40 PM




{Thursday, January 23, 2003}

 
From the beginning, Emily was different.

She refused to play games like the others, or take part in the tea parties that Margaret was so keen on arranging. She spent most of her time in the corner, sulking. She rarely spoke. The other toys did not like her, and neither did Margaret, who hadn’t wanted Emily in the first place and so asked her father to replace her.

“Obviously, you can see the trouble,” her father told the repairman. “A certain amount of intelligence, yes, of course, that’s to be expected in these newer models. It sets them apart, distinguishes them from the rest of the market. But certain limits are still expected. This one doesn’t do as it’s told. It thinks it’s human.”

Emily had been switched off temporarily, and the repairman gazed into her empty eyes. He pursed his lips and seemed to consider this for a moment. Then he shook his head.

“No, sir,” he said, “I think it’s just the opposite, actually. And I think that’s the problem. She’s too intelligent, if you see what I mean. She knows she isn’t human. But all her programming tells her she is, tells her to act like a little girl. I think she wants to act right, play games, but deep down she knows she’s a machine.”

“Well whatever,” Margaret’s father told him. “I assume you can repair it?”

“Oh yeah, ‘course, sir,” the man answered. “Reformat her drives, install a new personality, wipe out the old. Shouldn’t take more than a couple of days. She’ll be right as rain.”

“Well good. No sense in keeping around a toy if it won’t act like one.”

“No, sir, none at all. Now, will that be cash or charge?”

by Fred 11:05 AM


 
I never know how it will come. Sometimes, it's simply on my door when i wake up. Sometimes they put it in my mailbox. Another time, I had to read through three sections of the newspaper before i realized they had inserted it into the headlines. one particularly creative day, they waited the entire day before skywriting it. If the messages weren't so cryptic, I imagine there would be plenty who would know about them. But it is only me.

When the messages first began arriving, I was three days off my job. The second round of layoffs at my company forced me to seek "alternative methods of employment." Of course they knew who I was. It's possible I didn't even notice the messages before that, because their first one came in the form of a blow to the head. I was walking to the unemployment office, which is a few blocks from my apartment, when it hit me. A paint can, dropped four stories above, landed squarely on my head. I fell to the ground, but after the stars went away, my head didn't seem to hurt. I picked up the paint can that could have brought me my demise just as the painter dashed towards me. The label looked funny, and it wasn't until I realized that a paint company with the name "FIRE AT THE MIDVALE ORPHANAGE 1:00" would have gone out of business almost immediately that I decided something was amiss.

The painter was extremely apologetic, but there was something about the way he kept scratching his left eyebrow that kept me alert. He reached for the can of paint, holding it purposefully with "FIRE AT THE MIDVALE ORPHANAGE 1:00" pointed directly at me. I checked my watch -- 12:30, and sprinted down the street. I reached the orphanage, gasping for air, just as the fire started. I ran inside and pulled screaming children from their smoldering beds. The fire trucks arrived after everyone had been rescued. Fire Chief Roberts and the Orphanage operator thanked me profusely for my help. "Early reports," Chief Roberts intoned, "indicate that the sprinkler system wasn't charged. If you hadn't stopped to help, those children would be dead."

The next day, my microwave flashed "ROBBERY AT CONVENIENCE STORE 24TH AND MAIN 2:17." A quick drive down there and the would-be robbers were apprehended. This has gone on ever since.

I don't know how this mysterious coalition knows what they know, or why they chose me, but I do know this: I have a job to do. And also, don't stop at the 7-11 this afternoon. Trust me.

by rocketo 10:53 AM


 
reset reboot redo reconnect reunite reassess redefine reincarnate
collecting all the pieces,
looking at each,
remembering,
stacking them gingerly on the side,
then laying them back
in a neat row:
defragging.
surveying accumulated junk,
dustbunnies and bitrot,
piled in boxes,
having lost the FAT file,
moved from place to place,
relocating dust,
and wondering
if they could be taken to the curb,
unopened,
or maybe just torched.
an update
or an upgrade
or,
perhaps,
an overhaul
and a clean install
would be just the thing:
a magic elixir
to move the bowels,
unclench the spirit.
phoenix dreams
on infinite loop.
Perhaps it is time:
format c:\

by Sharon 10:17 AM


 

Good day, all. Your topic is:

format
or
formatting

by jal 7:02 AM




{Wednesday, January 22, 2003}

 
“I don’t need to see the future,” he said. “That’s where I’m from. I know how it happens.”

“Not anymore,” she said. “Coming back, you change things. You set events in motion. You affect everything around you. Where you’re going, that isn’t where you’ve been.”

“I’m always careful,” he said. “There are rules. I adhere to the timeline. I preserve continuity. I don’t change things enough to make a difference.”

“But how can you tell?” she asked. “Your being here is itself a permutation, is it not? You can rewrite the past even through observation. Even the simplest action or inaction can have repercussions.”

“A butterfly flapping its wings,” he said.

“Yes,” she told him. “Exactly. The simplest and smallest of actions often have the most unpredictable results. The flutter of a butterfly’s wings can become a storm a thousand miles away. And all the while the butterfly is ignorant of this change.”

“We are very careful,” he said. “We do nothing that hasn’t been examined, reviewed. We have committees. You’re just being foolish. I’m just here to observe.”

“And yet that itself may affect the result,” she answered. “The more precisely the position is determined, the less precisely the momentum is known.”

“You’re quoting Heisenberg at me now?” he asked. “Is that it?”

“You seem surprised,” she said.

“Well he won’t be born for another three hundred years,” he told her. “So yes, I’m a little surprised. Perhaps I should have a look in this crystal ball of yours after all.”

“It couldn’t hurt,” she said. She smiled. “Unless, of course, that’s the very thing it does."

by Fred 7:36 PM


 
Marie was embarrassed and a little surprised to find herself, again, in one of those places, but she needed to find out what had changed. Incense hung heavy in the air, and she breathed shallowly, trying to inhale as little of it as possible, wondering if it would make her high. Candles, on every available surface, lent a golden light, but the embalmed cat and the human skull were a bit much.

Madame Forsythe mumbled under her breath, barely moving the mole that sprouted hairs on her chin. Concentration plowed deep furrows in her brow. She clacked her long, curving, blood-colored fingernails on an obsidian ball. Marie tried not to fidget.

And suddenly the eyes were on her, Madame's milky cataract and the piercing blue one, stabbing into Marie and fixing her like an awl. "You have a Follower."

"She, um," Marie's voice hid in her throat. "She said I'd meet someone."

The eyes lanced her to the chair, pinning her immobile: "Who?! Who said?"

Marie searched back into her head, unable to dislodge her eyes from Madame Forsythe's stare, trying to remember the name of that "medium" Romina had dragged her to. In her small voice, she said, "Down the street. With the, uh, palm out front? On the sign?"

Madame howled in rage, perhaps pain. The eyes released Marie to roll back into Madame's head. The long fingernails stabbed into her palms and drew blood. "How could you?" She shrieked. "That witch!"

Marie was a deer, every nerve taut, every instinct gone. Frozen. Trapped.

Madame roared and groaned. "Hide, girl. Hide below the surface." She began snatching vials and bones and owl pellets from shelves, piling them on the table next to the obsidian ball, leaving small smears of blood from her hands. "She has summoned you a Follower!"

by Sharon 12:44 PM


 
crystal ball

by Shawn 9:49 AM




{Tuesday, January 21, 2003}

 
The first time around, if you could say there ever was such a thing, he had simply been curious. A machine, which they said could take you backwards in time. He had found the whole thing quite remarkable. It would only send you back a few moments, they said -- the energy expended was enormous, and they hadn’t even quite figured out all the math involved just yet -- but a moment here and a moment there could be very useful in the long term. He was determined to put their invention to use.

So he had walked through the door. It was a regular enough sort of opening, a rectangle in the center of the room that seemed to shimmer on both sides. Wires trailed from its frame to a row a computers, and the whole thing emitted a sort of strange electric hum. They said they had tested it on animals. They were sure they had it calibrated. He had seen the reports, weighed the evidence, and in the end he’d walked through.

Only, they didn’t have it calibrated. Not properly, at least. He’d gone back in time -- of that much he was by now fairly certain -- but it couldn’t have been more than half a second before he’d been bumped back through the machine. By himself, walking through the first time. Who then bumped into him again. And again. And again. And…

He had by now, of course, last count. Events played themselves out so quickly, were repeated so often, that keeping track would have been impossible. Every time he would try to step back through the door, his earlier self would inadvertently push him back the other way. Which just made everything repeat itself again. There was no time to avoid his earlier self by moving out of the way. There was nowhere to move. He had barely enough time to register what had happened before it happened again. And again. And again. And…

He should have known better. They’d warned him that time travel was dangerous, that they didn’t really understand how it worked, so they couldn’t promise that it always would. They said the most they could offer him was half a minute. They hadn’t even been half right.

If he ever got back, he would definitely have to fire them.

by Fred 3:58 PM


 
She is running, running, … The way ahead is a seemingly endless series of metal grids. I am amazed at how coordinated she is as she springs lightly from one to the next, and the next, and the next. If I look behind her, there is an equally endless series. Why does she keep going? Does she realize that there is no final destination?

Suddenly she pauses, and the wire running wheel in her cage keeps moving and spins her right up to the top where she clings upside down before it swings her back down to the bottom again. Again, she is running, running … my little white mouse.

by Martha 3:35 PM


 
Aaron recognized this for what it was: A manifestation of the infinite. He kept walking.

He'd made it over the wall, transcended to a new level of peace with himself, somewhere on I-80 between Winnemucca and Elko. His boots didn't bother him any more, though he suspected his socks were bloody, and his breath had found a new rhythm, rasping over his dry, swollen lips.

He'd come to regard the Nevada sun as a constant, loyal friend, prodding him on from behind. Floating above his body, he started to believe he could walk forever. He turned into rain and splashed down upon his cracked and peeling scalp and ran into hungry cracks in the sandy soil. He didn't seem to notice, because to notice would be to stop walking, and to stop walking would be to allow the buzzards to catch him.

Aaron kept walking when the water spirit rose out of a cactus and held out dripping, white hands to him, but she fell into step beside him, and kept him company on his trail through the dust next to the black highway, leaving puddles of mud. He tried not to look at her bloated, drowned face with its rolling, roving eyes, but he was glad for her company. She was good for walking. She matched his pace and made him brave.

Aaron kept walking, pacing out infinity.

by Sharon 10:06 AM


 
endless

by Fred 5:00 AM




{Monday, January 20, 2003}

 
There are many accomplishments that I am proud of...
- Winning writing contests, though those were all in high school.
- Writing and directing a play, though that was also high school.
- Winning Toastmasters contents, though it just makes me look to the next level of competition.
- Completing a huge overhaul of a widely used application at work, to the satisfaction of my customers and management, while serving as the Development Lead, the Business Analyst, the System Architect, and a Developer.
- Creating a prototype for my dad, that he showed to real customers and had developed into a product SCS now offers.
- Sticking with rock climbing, eroding away this fear.
- Throwing a wedding that was fun for the guests, the mother of the bride, and the wedding party.
- Establishing a creative outlet for my friends, being surprised by the talent displayed.

There are events that I am proud to tell others of...
- Getting 100,000 hits in a month on the Invisible City site, and keeping it up.
- Meeting Neil Gaiman.
- And Phil Foglio, and Scott Kurtz, and Terry Pratchett, and Harlan Ellison.
- And playtesting with Steve Jackson, shouting with Bruce Sterling, and chatting with Joe Lansdale.
- And attending a private party at the Ra in the Luxor in Las Vegas, hosted by Peter Adkinson.

I'm a shameless name-dropper. It's really an unattrative trait, I'm sure.

But what I'm proudest of is being someone whom my father is proud of; whom my mother considers a friend; whom sweet, intelligent, patient Jonathan has decided to commit his life to; and whom my friends love.

by Sharon 1:04 PM


 
I'm proudest of:
-Ruth
-Some of them are just for me, and I'm proud that I have some of those; the ones that don't have to be shared.
-Being Good at Something.
-Ten minutes spent in quiet contemplation.

by MisterNihil 12:35 PM


 
I am proudest of...

by Sharon 12:01 PM




{Saturday, January 18, 2003}

 
I touch things.

I touch the railing, the doorknob, the bedpost. I am feeling each thing under my fingertips, learning it again. I touch the indentation in the pillow, the place where your head would rest. I touch my hair, and my lips.

I am a stranger in this scene, and I do not understand it well. I touch the photographs on the dresser, touch each frame: you and me, in China; your mother, in that hat; the dog. I touch the penny jar, and wonder how much we have amassed, and when it will ever be spent.

I touch the empty mirror.

I touch your shirts, I touch the linens, I touch the radiator. I want to feel the warmth we'd had. Each thing punishes me in cold marble. They feel like they would taste heatless and muddy and tooth-chipping in my mouth, these remnants from our life. These things never used to be so cold.

I touch your side of the bed, seeking heat. I touch my side, empty. I lie down, not disturbing a sheet, not making a dent. I lie here and feel cold, cold. When you come home--from my services, I guess--I know you will not see me.

But perhaps you will feel me.

by Sharon 11:59 PM


 
Fevered Dreams and Animal Totems. Or: Spiritual things Never Used to be this cool


Ok, ten minutes huh? No way in hell I intend to get into any dissertations on my own religious beliefs and lack thereof in 600 seconds. Particularly in that, as a friend is so fond of pointing out: I am not a fast typist.
Nonetheless, here’s the reader’s Digest version of my thoughts on animal totems: I do in fact believe in the power of an animal totem or any other symbol one, as an individual, believes there to be power in. This could be the Christian’s cross, an animal spirit, festivals, an element or a lucky penny. Power, gods and lessons are where you decide to find them. So, do I have an animal totem? No. No, I don’t think I do. It’s not that I am in any way opposed to having one but simply that one has not presented itself to me as of yet, nor have I gone looking for one. Part of me wants to. In true Carlos Castaneda fashion I would love to take peyote and go off into the desert, well, ideally forest, and find my animal.


I think, or maybe hope is a better word, that the concept of an animal totem speaks to our primitive selves. That vague part of our beings that remembers being tied to nature, fearful of its mysteries and in awe of its splendors. Personally I was raised in a fire and brimstone, wrath of the all mighty sort of church where even considering such things as an animal totem was a straight shot down the highway to hell man (I’ve since recovered:) But even so the concept was there, somewhere, buried deep and perhaps more a product of fantasy novels and reading National Geographics.


So, where do fevered dreams come into play? I have very disturbingly mundane dreams when I’m running a fever. Oddly, these are the only dreams I remember any more. I seem to have either stopped dreaming or remembering them some years ago. As I think the former is impossible I suspect the latter is the case. Then again, I typically only sleep for a few hours at a time so who knows? Anyhow, dreams. I used to have a reoccurring dream about fighting dogs. Not like watching pit dogs in Alabama, I mean, I was mixing it up with dogs. It was a bloody, vicious affair and I loved it. I was happy in the dream and would wake up so as well. I assumed this was an indication that my animal totem was a dog. In retrospect I think it just means I have an affinity with dogs in that, as my wife pointed out, I’ve little in common with dog nature.

So, I think I keep hoping for that fevered Altered States/ Lair of the White Worm-sort of dream with primitive and religious overtones that will hit me over the head with significance and simply say, “Here you dumb ass, I’m your animal totem!” But that would be simple. Too simple in fact and, like any lesson worth learning it needs to be sought after, not simply delivered gift-wrapped. Of course there’s also the secret fear that I’ll discover my animal totem is the platypus.

by Shawn 4:32 PM


 
Never used to be this cool.

by MisterNihil 4:23 AM




{Friday, January 17, 2003}

 
I used to write novels, but then I got bored, and started on the epic. The Epic, really. It started with a dream, in which I witnessed the death of someone I knew well, through his eyes. I was driving, but I was driving his body, driving his car. He was making an entrance onto a highway (The Highway. The one near my house, the one I enter almost every day, the one I now shiver to think of), and I knew so he knew he would die. We both suddenly knew that he would never exit that highway, and so IHe called his wife to tell her he loved her, under the pretense of "did you need anything from the store, while I'm out," because we didn't want to alarm her. She said no, we assured her of his love, and then made for the flyover exit ramp. The phone was still on, and IHe was still talking to his wife. We saw the car coming on the approaching ramp, and we saw it slow down, just like we knew it would. We slowed down, to allow it to go first, and the driver didn't pay any attention. We entered the flyover, just as the other driver slammed onto his (or her. I never knew. It didn't matter) accelerator and broadsided us. We flipped, and while doing so, said goodbye to our wife and hung up. She had no clue what was happening. The next second and a half took an hour. The car turned slowly in the air, and IHe couldn't turn our head, couldn't move, because everything was slow. Not like a dream, where everything but oneself is slow, but like watching a movie very, very slowly.
That's how the epic started, then I saw on the news that my friend had died, on the phone to his wife, flipping upsidedown on the flyover.
It happens every time I sleep now; It's not always a friend, but it's always slow like that. When I close my eyes, I see death. And that's The Epic. I write each down, taking most of my mornings. The book is growing. I wonder sometimes if, should I quit sleeping, these people would stop dying, but I know different. I know. And I write.

by MisterNihil 4:33 PM


 
Dear Lois,

I don't know if you'll ever find this letter, but I wanted to let you know that I'm sorry. I didn't mean what I said before I left that night. I was angry, and you were right. You were always important to me. You were all that really mattered. I see that now, even if it’s too late. I only wish we could be together.

But I guess in a way we still are. I don't know if I can explain any of this, and I don't know how much time I have left until you get back, but did I ever tell you about the machine they were building at the lab? I'm sure it’s gone now, dismantled -- was Dr. Sachs even at my funeral? -- but what it was supposed to do was let you walk around in somebody else’s dreams. I know it’s crazy, and don't expect me to explain the math -- I'm just a tech, remember? -- but that’s what they said. It was like a big helmet with knobs all over it, wired up to a bank of computers. Hook yourself up, project your brain into somebody else’s subconscious, and take a stroll through their dreams. I don't know if they ever expected it to have any practical value, or if they realized just how dangerous it was from the start, but that night when you said you were leaving, I went back down to the lab and offered to try it out.

And I guess that’s when I died. I don't know. Was the funeral nice? I have this vague memory of a sharp pain in my chest and panicked shouts throughout the lab, and then nothing. Like I was floating. And then I found you. They'd hooked the other wires up to an ape at the lab, but I guess either apes don't dream or they shut the system down when my heart stopped. I don't know how long I floated, or how I found you, but I remember seeing a figure in the distance and walking towards it and realizing that it was you, or you as a little girl. It was hard to tell, it kept changing, but I knew where I was. I knew whose brain I was rattling around inside of.

Which is why I'm writing this letter, Lois. Lately I've been starting to worry about the direction your dreams have been taking. Weird images pop up unexpectedly, sceneries change. I mean, I have to live here, you know. And who’s this Frank you keep dreaming about? Four nights in a row, Lois? Running your hands up his -- you know, I thought we had something special. I know you said you were leaving me, but doesn't true love count for anything? I don't want to do this, but if this keeps up, I may have to start playing a more active role, setting things right. I can't promise I won't lose my temper if you start dreaming more steamy scenes with this jerk Frank.

I just thought you should know, Lois. I don't know if you'll get this letter, though. I've only recently learned to control your body at night, and it’s sometimes difficult to know how things work. I also seem to be forgetting a lot of things, so if this file doesn't print, that’s probably why. There’s just so much to relearn. I hope we can live in harmony. Because I love you, Lois. You’re all that really matters to me.

See you in your dreams,

Bob

by Fred 4:27 PM


 
I spent a week in February very, very ill, while I was living in State College in the House of Mirrors. I had a fever, and I had such vertigo that I couldn't sit up, much less walk. I had no stomach for reading, either. It was a little scary, and it would have been terribly lonely, except that I had the best roommates in the world.

I drifted in and out of lucidity on the couch, while they took turns staying up with me. Jer rented a bunch of movies--I couldn't tell you which--and Mike slept nights on the other couch. It made all the difference.

One of the movies Jer rented was The Game, with Michael Douglas. The plot of the movie goes like this:
- I've hired someone to kill you.
- Actually, I commissioned these people to make you think you were being stalked, to make your life more exciting for you.
- No, that "game" thing was just a front so that we can drain your accounts.
- We only made you think we drained your accounts, as part of the game.
- You've been betrayed, and your brother is in on it.
- Actually, your brother is in on the game, and you only think you shot him.
- No, something went terribly awry with the game, and you actually did shoot him.
...

I don't know how it ends, which scenario is true. I also don't know if it's impossibly convoluted or I was delirious.

It was during this same stint of surreal confinement to the couch that I looked, suddenly, up at the decorative potholder hung on the wall--a leftover Christmas decoration that depicted a snowman with a bucket and a sign that read "Snow for sale"--and announced: "'Snow for sale'? Isn't that like having a bucket that says 'Skin for sale'?"

by Sharon 2:10 PM


 
fever dreams

by Sharon 12:24 PM




{Thursday, January 16, 2003}

 
“There's a broken beam inside of the big big bridge
I guess that whole thing is caving in
Maybe it is time I learn how to swim
I'll be a dolphin, I'll be a dolphin”
-- Poe, “Dolphin”

I don’t know if I have a spirit, or totem, animal. I don’t know if I believe such things exist, if it matters if I believe, or even if, by pretending they exist, that we can learn anything useful about ourselves, learn important life lessons or how to chart our path through the universe. Humans are animals, after all, and it seems to me that by investing other creatures with aspects of the divine, by transforming them into shepherds or messengers or guides, we may just be throwing up yet another barrier between them and ourselves. It’s wonderful to think that we might have much to learn from these spirit animals, but that also seems to assume that we are somehow worthy of being taught, that we are somehow special, different. Belief in the divine can be humbling, but it can also lead to a false sense of pride. If there is a spirit or god, then I am not the most important being in the universe. But if that spirit or god is interested in me, well then I must be something pretty damn special.

(Or maybe I’m just overanalyzing this. I honestly don’t know what I believe, if I believe anything. Four years of Catholic school followed by a state university education will do that to you.)

Anyway. Earlier this afternoon, I took an online quiz at the BBC website. I found it through a quick Googling, looking up Sharon’s topic, hoping for ideas, and it was really very short. I tried answering it as best I could, and what it told me was this: my totem animal is the dolphin.

“You're not frightened of anyone or anything and know how to maintain a balance in all your relationships,” the results said. “You're a chatty and fascinating friend as long as you're not restricted in any way.”

I think anyone who knows me would probably disagree on that one, but then how do I find more accurate results? Is it even a question of accuracy? How does one decide this sort of thing? When I was very young, I was fond of raccoons, at least of the cartoon or stuffed animal variety. I had a stuffed one I named Greatest, which was one of my favorites and is still on a shelf in the closet in my old bedroom back home. I don’t remember being particularly fascinated by them as animals, though, or wanting to know what they did, what they were like. I never had a life-altering experience that involved a raccoon. The only time I’ve ever really been near one was on a camping trip years later, a Boy Scout trip in the woods. I never saw one -- it was late and we were already in our tents, but we saw furtive shadows and heard sounds that weren’t as cute and cuddly as I know I’d been expecting. If anything, I think I was a little scared of them.

Does that make them my spirit animal? At least one of the other sites I brought up with Google says that’s as good an indication as any. Animals that we fear tell us something about ourselves, these sites tell me; there’s something there with which I need to come to terms. Do I do that by adopting the lessons of the raccoon? What are those lessons? Does finding traits we have in common tell me anything about myself, or isn’t an examination of those traits themselves enough?

I don’t know. I think I might be rambling a bit. I’ve certainly lost sight of the time. The truth is, like I said, I don’t know what I believe, what to believe. If I had to pick an animal, I probably would say raccoon, but ultimately, that’s just a guess.

by Fred 7:13 PM


 
How to know you've found The One:
He cleans around spider webs because he knows that spiders are important to you.

I've always liked spiders, and people have always thought this is weird. When I was a kid, I would get huge welts from insect bites, and I knew that spiders ate those insects, so they were right okay in my book. And my parents would play spiders with me: Mom's right hand was Penelope, and her left was Yacky; Dad's was a hefty, mute, snuffly thing that would sniff at you.

It wasn't until college, when I threw a Come As Your Alter Ego dance, that Spyderella was born. Shortly thereafter, we all discovered the internet, and I needed to pick screen names and email IDs. Sharon may have been well behaved and ever so nice-nice, but online, Spyderella was an ascerbic wit, quick to cut any puffed-up chat room boy down to a more reasonable size.

And then I found a pagan church, and I started to think about my place in the world in more spiritual terms. And I realized that the spider was more to me than a chat handle.

The spider is independent. She is a hunter and a trapper. She lays careful plans and then waits with exquisite patience. She weaves great beauty, tirelessly, endlessly, never daunted by how many times someone comes and destroys it.

Having Anansi, the spider god, trickster and storyteller, as a totem has made for some interesting life lessons, which usually end with me tossed on my butt, looking a little bewildered and surprised, but certainly a bit wiser about the way of the universe.

I like my ironic life. I will continue to spin this thread.

by Sharon 3:10 PM


 
What is your totem animal? Why do you feel an affinity for that animal, and what attributes do you strive to emulate?

by Sharon 12:01 PM




{Wednesday, January 15, 2003}

 
It had certainly seemed like the right thing to do. Mapping projects in the database from the old structure to the new, I should be able write a mass update and move 80% of them in one pass.

My most recent update to the application created a true hierarchy for the business segments within the company (rather than maintaining a list of departments, a list of business areas, a list of segments... five lists in all, utterly unrelated to each other), and granted the means to hang projects off of that hierarchy.

My business partner, the customer who represents the user community, gave me some instructions on how certain selections in the old drop-down lists would match to various nodes within the new tree. We couldn't make a match all the way to the deepest level in the hierarchy, but we could map a large portion of the 3000 projects to the third level of detail.

So I wrote some queries to update the node_id field in the projects table. They seemed to run fine. And then I noticed that projects I hadn't updated already had IDs under the new structure assigned to them. I asked my fellow developer if he had made any changes to that data; he hadn't. This meant that the users had begun assigning their projects into the hierarchy.

This was one of those moments. Beige cubicle walls began telescoping in around me. A clause burned and buzzed like neon in my brain: ...WHERE node_id = ""

Oracle databases have a useful command, rollback, to save you from your stupid mistakes. It goes along with its sister command, commit, in that the latter prevents the former.

Committed, I hid under my desk.

by Sharon 11:59 PM


 
committed, v. tr.

1. To do, perform, or perpetrate: commit a murder.
I told them that I killed her. I confessed.
2. To put in trust or charge; entrust: commit oneself to the care of a doctor; commit responsibilities to an assistant.
The doctors said I was crazy when I did it. The police worried that I had an accomplice.
3. To place officially in confinement or custody, as in a mental health facility.
They locked me up, but people kept dying. Blood kept getting spilled.
4. To consign for future use or reference or for preservation: commit the secret code to memory.
The killer kept leaving them clues, they said. You never did that, they said. But I know what they mean, I told them.
5. To put into a place to be kept safe or to be disposed of.
Tell us, they said, or you’ll never get out. You’ll die in here an old man. Be good and we can talk about parole.
6.a. To make known the views of (oneself) on an issue: I never commit myself on such issues. b. To bind or obligate, as by a pledge: They were committed to follow orders.
I can’t tell you that, I said. It wouldn’t be fair. I never break my promises.
7. To refer (a legislative bill, for example) to a committee.
I think the parole board is going to turn me down.

by Fred 3:31 PM


 
committed

by Sharon 12:02 PM




{Tuesday, January 14, 2003}

 
That bitch.

I'll give you a piece of unsolicited advice: When you finally throw her out--pack all of her stuff into boxes and leave it waiting for her in the foyer, really make it real--change the locks.

It's amazing the transformation that comes over women when they feel they've been slighted. She used to be so sweet; she really was a decent person, maybe even partner material. But she resented my work, couldn't understand it, really, and she started to change. Started to slip in little sabotages, like forgetting my allergy to walnuts when she packed my lunch, wearing a smile that was brittle with too much caffiene, looking bored when she kissed me goodbye. Just the little things, that set you off your game.

I had to leave her, you know. Well, it was my apartment, so "throw her out," to be technical. She was impacting my work. I was making mistakes; you could see the strain I was under. Like the time I tear-gassed a Halloween party, thinking it was a pagan terrorist attack.

Journalists are almost as nasty as women, I think.

And then she completely didn't understand the whole partner situation. I need to work with someone, need someone to watch my back, cover me, draw fire. You know how it is. But she didn't. Didn't get it. I think she felt threatened by him. She was really pissed any time she came home to find us together on the couch, plotting the next night's schemes.

So I had to be tough. It's better for her, anyway. And she'll see that soon enough. I know she's hurting now, but honestly, this is too far. She must have gotten this from a costume shop and then used her key to swap it out when I wasn't home. It's polyester, now that I'm looking at it. Wherever she got it, this certainly isn't my cape.

I am so fucked.

by Sharon 4:17 PM


 
“I’m going to go ahead and go boldly
because a little bird told me
that jumping is easy, that falling is fun
up until you hit the sidewalk, shivering and stunned”
-- Ani Difranco, “Swan Dive”

It’s the sudden stop that always gets you in the end.

My brother Barry once told me a joke. “If at first you don’t succeed,” he said, “then maybe skydiving isn’t for you.” I thought about that joke again last night when Barry called to tell me that our mother was dead. For three months I’d held onto hope as I watched one treatment after another fail, but now I wondered if maybe somebody hadn’t been trying to tell me something all along, trying to accustom me to the idea of grief. I should have been bracing myself for the inevitable, getting ready for the final fall. Dying is just preliminary; death is forever.

“There wasn’t any suffering,” Barry said, “or not a lot. Her heart just stopped.”

“It’s done that before,” I said.

“She signed a form. A do-not-resuscitate. This time they just let her go.”

“Oh,” I said. I remember thinking, the dead have no weight; they cast no shadow. They let her go and of course she fell, not to earth but away from it. I remember thinking that everything about her would now be past tense. She isn’t falling; she fell. She isn’t dying; she is dead. I asked my brother if there was anything we needed to do, if signatures were needed, if I should make the drive out now or in the morning. He said he’d handle it. He sounded better prepared for it than I.

“I’ll call her sisters,” he said, “make some other calls. I’ll find out what needs done with the body, where they’ll take it. I’ll see you tomorrow, all right?”

“All right,” I said, and I hung up. If at first you don't succeed... I turned off the light and let gravity claim me. It was surprising how quickly I found sleep.

by Fred 2:17 PM


 
I don't feel like we're going that fast.
Well, no, but we are.
How fast is that? I mean, is it like a million miles per hour?
Um... I dunno. The needle just says "Terminal." It goes up from 10, up by fives, to 200, then it skips almost an inch, and it says "Terminal."
Wow.
Yeah.
I didn't know peopel could go that fast.
Whaddaya mean?
Wull, if it's Terminal, doesn't that mean we should be dead?
I don't know. I thought terminal just meant it was the end, and you couldn't go faster.
Oh yeah. Right. Wow. Terminal. How much further?
Almost six hundred feet.
At this speed, how long will that take?
Two and a half years, I think. I don't know. I lost count last week.
What? But that doesn't make sense. I mean, the needle is up above 200, so we should be moving at least 200 somethings per something, like meters per second or miles per day or something. Either way, 600 feet to the ground, it shouldn't take all that long. And I thought terminal velocity was really fast; I mean, if we started at a standstill and accelerated with just gravity-
-minus friction, though.
-Yeah, minus friction, but still, friction from air isn't much. What's gravity here? 60 meters per second? Or hour. Damn.
Second, I think.
Sure, so at that speed, we should be hitting ground about now.

Nope. Not yet.
Nope. I guess it'll be a while. You wanna play Canasta?
Yeah, alright.
And after that, we can try to fix the instruments again?
Yeah. After Canasta.
Yeah.

by MisterNihil 1:01 PM


 
terminal velocity

by Sharon 12:00 PM




{Monday, January 13, 2003}

 
I learned the word "paradigm" from a pretentious bald Australian who presumed to teach me college composition. It was his everyword, taking on a meaning that I could discern only to mean "stuff," or, perhaps, "thingy."

We did not get along, this Honors English instructor and I. I remember one essay where I wrote, "If one accepts this argument, then he must conclude..." And he flagged it, in red ink, marking it wrong. When I asked him about it during his office hours, since "he" is the correct pronoun to use with "one," he informed me that I wasn't even aware of how I was being repressed.

This is a man too caught up in liberal academia, I thought to my young freshman self.

My other lasting memory of his class came during our unit on Heart of Darkness (again!), which is a drudgery set in the Congo. I'd been required to read it the year before, in high school. It was still dull. My instructor was so crippled by a mid-90s adherence to political correctness that he referred to characters in the book as "African Americans." Um, no, last I looked, they were Africans.

To his credit, I read Neuromancer in that class, and watched Blade Runner and Night of the Living Dead for the first time. I also found a good, all-purpose word in "paradigm."

Imagine my chagrin at finding that that useless nuance of the word cropped up like mushrooms after a rainstorm during the 1960s, and 50% of the American Heritage usage panel rejects it. For this I went to college?

by Sharon 11:17 AM


 
I'm not sure what the poor, lowly paradigm has done to piss off corporate America but there seems to be a great deal of time, money and effort being dedicated to cause it harm. Each year millions are spent on over-priced consulting firms whose sole purpose, it would appear, is to change, side step, overthrow, destroy, work around and otherwise bend, fold and mutilate the innocent, well-intentioned paradigm.

Ironically, these same corporations so dead set on the death of said paradigm that are responsible for it in the first place. Through years of carefully orchestrated mergers, buyouts, take overs, HR policies, old boys networking, verbizing ( I just made that up, like it?) words such as interface and impact, rules of corporate conduct and marketing corporate America created The Paradigm. Sort of like a mix of J.P. Morgan meets Dilbert to have a go at gene splicing in an effort to make the Wall Street version of the Captain America serum. Make sense? Sure hope not. There also seems to be a "box" that people are quite concerned with thinking outside of.

Personally any time someone brings up paradigm in a meeting my mind drifts off to thinking of Mage. Mage is a role-playing game where you, the player characters, are mages (hence the name) and are constantly at odds with the "dominate paradigm". In this case the paradigm refers to the status quo of accepted reality and magic is in essence using one's will to overcome this reality. When I come back the meeting is usually over and I feel that I've done my job of both crushing the paradigm and thinking outside the box.

by Shawn 11:10 AM


 
paradigm

definition

by jal 5:27 AM




{Sunday, January 12, 2003}

 
What a rare gift,
this.
Bills in an old coat pocket.
A lost friend at the supermarket.
A break in the mountains,
on a five-hour drive.
A sunny day in the valley.
A fairy cairn.
I've been smiled on,
and I'll take it.
Anonymous Christmas co-worker cookies.
A French cafe that's never been there before,
for twenty years.
Surprise from a magic trick I knew how to do.
Clotted cream, on an airplane.
A familiar soul
on a well worn path,
trod alone so long.
I just want to look at it,
for now,
hold it a little longer.
I'll write my thankyous later.

by Sharon 11:59 PM


 
Well, I certainly had not expected this.

When I first moved to Portland (Oregon that is) I had heard that it had at one time been the Shanghai capital of the United States. To this day there are secret doors, rooms and passages leading off from many of the older, seedier taverns and shops in the older, seedier parts of town.

I had a studio in one of these seedier parts of town and would often pause to consider doors, set into blank alleyway walls or bricked over and long since forgotten. Sometimes there were dead end passageways sandwiched between import shops in the Chinese sector or suspiciously hollow-sounding areas of a floor or wall in the turn of the century building where I bought coffee or the one time factory that housed the sandwich shop.

One-day curiosity and a sense of history got the better of me and I had to, against my better judgment, explore one of these featureless doorways. Within sight of the Burnside Bridge was a small, questionable neighborhood that featured a variety of questionable shops run by questionable people. Off the alley that housed the Church of Elvis was an alley that housed little more than debris and…a door. It opened with unexpected ease, which should’ve been a tip off right there. It took my eyes a moment to adjust and just as they did, everything went black.

As far as I can tell that was 6 weeks ago and yes, I am in fact in Shanghai and yes, as one would expect, working against my will. However, things have changed over the last 100 years or so. Shanghai now fancies itself a high tech resource for the Pacific Rim and even caters to the animation industry. I spend 18 hours a day chained, well, tied anyhow, to a computer modeling fantasy characters for the computer game industry. It’s not a horrible life really, the food’s good, the girls are cute and I get to mess with cutting edge software so it could be worse.

by Shawn 3:58 PM


 
Completely unexpected

by Shawn 12:02 PM




{Friday, January 10, 2003}

 
I dated one, you know. I always suspected that, were I to go digging in his closet, I might find tights and a cape. He was a plain-clothes superhero, though, but that did not diminish his need to save the world, which is very romantic, until you realize that you're a pretty insignificant part of the world.

My parents watched that show "Early Edition," where this guilt-addled do-gooder would get the following day's newspaper, and then take it upon himself to exact his morality on the city and go avert certain disasters. This show drove me insane. Beyond the fact that there is no such thing as an unbiased news story, and the fact that no one has the sole right to decide life and death over someone else without being accountable, he would ruin his life for this crap.

"Oh, sorry I stood you up again, dear, but a kitten was going to get stuck in a tree tomorrow."

Bullshit.

Spider-man, at least, makes a little sense: "With great power comes great responsibility." But far more often, I think superheroes fall in with the Watchmen's Adrian Veidt, who decided it would be acceptable to kill hundreds of thousands of people in order to avert World War III. Perhaps, but shouldn't it be consensual? Shouldn't the decision at least be collaborative?

So I don't get superheroes. I also don't approve of them. They violate one of the things I hold most dear: a democratic judicial system. Vigilantes are as dangerous as criminals--perhaps more so, because they're popular.

by Sharon 11:59 PM


 
Superheroes fly.
They dance around the sky.
They like Mom and apple pie.
(Mom just wishes they would write.)

When danger draws too nigh,
They sound their battle cry.
They wear costumes (‘cause they’re shy)
When they’re fighting the good fight.

They view the city from on high
(‘cause it’s gravity that they defy).
They shoot lasers from their eye
At any evil in their sight.

It’s good that they’re nearby
To fend off the bad guy,
But I sometimes wonder why
They wear such silly tights.

by Fred 11:59 PM


 
Sorry about the long post here but there’s a reason for it. I promise I'll limit it to 600 from now on.

As tempted as I am to write a meta-human story with flowing capes, spandex and pithy dialog I think an essay is more in order.

First I feel I should point out that while the “capes and spandex” comment sounds critical of the genre it really isn’t. You see super heroes have played a very big part in my life. I essentially learned to read from comic books. Much of my verbal mannerisms I’m sure were learned from Stan Lee, and if you look closely you’ll notice I speak in word balloons. Perhaps most importantly of all I learned to draw from comics. First by tracing, then copying and finally creating my own from whole clothe.

My first job out of art school was writing and penciling for the comic industry. I leave that intentionally vague, as the end result was so atrocious that I never show the titles to anyone. Still, it paid the bills and damn it, I was doing what every comic collecting farm kid dreamed of doing: I was doing comic books baby!

But in some ways I think the greatest influence super heroes had on my life was not so much vocational as social. I started to make friends because as it turned out, other people collected comics as well. Who knew? I started going to comic book clubs and comic conventions. My parents were dumbfounded when this kid who spent all of his free time in his room, alone, drawing and reading comics suddenly started socializing. I had a social circle! Wheee. Of course we sat around talking about comic and science fiction writers, artists and other hopelessly geeky things but I was doing it with… other… people. Wow.

At one point I was even making money buying and selling comics. Not a great deal of money but it helped buy my first (street) motorcycle, paid for part of collage and provided pocket change.

Since the time I was collecting, the 70’s and early 80’s, comic books and their creators have gained a reasonable amount of recognition and even, dare I say it, respect. There are, and always have been, some great story telling, art and lessons to be learned from comics. With such people as Gaiman, Miller and Moore, for instance, there is a literary recognition of the fact that comics are not just for kids and socially inept adults any more. However, this has been true from the beginning. Even though the final product of four-color, wiz bang action-packed storytelling was largely dismissed as throw away kid’s stuff there have always been gems to be found from the EC titles of the 50s to Swampthing of the 70s and many, many more. Even the more mainstream, big name, Spiderman, Batman, FF, etc. books offered the occasional insight and social commentary to give one pause.

So, I could go on (and on) or I could reread this and edit it to better convey the significance super heroes have had on my life (as sad as that sounds) but I’m sure time was up some while ago and we need to leave something for Next Issue…

by Shawn 8:06 PM


 
superheroes

by Fred 1:06 PM




{Thursday, January 09, 2003}

 
where I want them)
I remember your hands.
I put them on the keys
of that plonky dorm upright
while we crowd
stacked in a sound-proof booth
that seals like a refrigerator
and don't forget
to flip the switch
for the air
and sing Lehrer
and Python
doing all the accents
and maybe a love song
I didn't notice.
Young friends, grown up,
have strange hands
with nowhere to sit
catching us off guard
when you put them on me
so I remember sweet times
clear
laughing and easy
and put your hands
so white, so soft
on the keys
(which is

by Sharon 11:59 PM


 
"They look like piano keys, don't they?" Aw, crap. She was back again.

"Shut up." I wasn't in the mood for her snide comments and half-veiled allusions to a final solution.

"But they do!" Wheedling, whining, pleading, and insistient - all at the same time. "White, then black, then white again. Arcing out like that. It's a double set of piano keys." I'd rather hear nails on a chalkboard than listen to her babble on and on.

"I told you to shut the hell up." I knew she wouldn't; she was gearing up for another pithy insight. I did the only thing I knew would get through to her: I closed my eyes. The reaction was prompt.

"Aaaah!" She began to shriek, but promptly cut it to a choked whimper. Eventually, it petered out to a slow squeal and then, finally, blessedly, silence.

"Good." I opened my eyes. Slowly. "Very good." She needed a little reminder of who was in charge of our body, even if someone else was in charge of our freedom. "Remember that. I'm in control here, so if you don't listen to what I tell you, I'll bring the darkness back. You understand that, right?" She was still too shaken to talk, but I knew she understood.

Still, her comments stuck with me. I stared, tilted my head, and squinted across the cell. In the end, I had to agree: Her ribcage did look a bit like a series of piano keys.

by jal 6:40 PM


 
(the sound of banging on a piano, accompanied by a guitar)
Voice A: No, no, you have to play the guitar in Bb, or the piano part won't sound good,
Voice B: What? You said A#, not Bb. I was playing in C though, because you were only playing the white keys.
A: Right, but this piano is in Bb, not C, so I can play it with only the white keys.
B: You retuned the piano?
A: I think so. I took your guitar tuner and set it on the sound board and tuned it down to a Bb.
B: I don't own a guitar tuner. I tune off the piano.
A: Then what's that little plastic boxy thing in your guitar case?
B: A metronome. It clicks.
A: Oh. I thought the clicks meant the string was in tune.
B: Hmm.
A: Hmm.
(A pause.)
A: So it's not so much in tune as it is in rhythm. I guess that's good. I mean, with the piano and the guitar, I've got rhythm; I've got music.
B: I've got to get out of here.
A: Who could ask for anything-
B: Shut up.
A: I guess we could try it again, only I'll try to play it in Bb, like it's supposed to be.
B: And I guess I could just pack it in and go and leave you to your idiocy.
A: That's not nice.
B: I'm sorry. I just think this is doomed to fail.
A: Just once more?
B: Fine.
(the sound of a cat banging on a piano with a guitar follows; builds to a crescendo; Ends on big finish, actually making a Bb chord.)
A: There, see? Perfect Bb.
B: What? I thought we were playing in D!

by MisterNihil 9:50 AM


 
When I was a kid, I took piano lessons for about a year (or maybe less), but I don’t remember much of anything except how eager I was to quit. The day I finished my first book of lessons, I told my instructor I wouldn’t be coming back. I had decided, and I think my mother had accepted, that I would never be a great musician. I lacked the talent and, more important, the necessary discipline. I hated to practice; I don’t remember investing much time in learning the keys. Nowadays, I couldn’t even tell you which one was which. Sit me down at a piano, and I might poke at the keys, but nothing resembling a song is likely to emerge. I retained none of what I learned.

Which, I suppose, I have always vaguely regretted. It would be nice to know how to play an instrument. In the third grade, our teachers handed recorders out to everyone -- they were sort of a poor man’s brown plastic flute -- and we tooted on those awhile, presumably to spark our interest in joining the school band or orchestra, but nothing ever came of it for me. I wasn’t interested. Four years later, my sister would be given the same chance and decide she wanted to play the viola, and while she hasn’t shown any interest in playing since high school, I think I’ve always been a little jealous. I wonder what kind of experience I passed up by not becoming part of something like that. And I often wish there was at least something I knew how to play.

Because, off and on, I do find myself writing songs. They’re usually silly (and sometimes quite perverse) little numbers I’ve performed with friends in the Monty Python Society here on campus. One’s an ode to a penis; another is a love song to diarrhea. So it’s not like I’m not going to set the world on fire by setting them to music. But it would be nice to try, if only for our live performances, if only for a laugh. (I’m actually sort of proud of the diarrhea song, disgusting as it might be, and we’ve never had a chance to record or perform it.) I sometimes think it would be neat if I knew how to play an instrument. It would neat if I remembered my piano lessons.

But all I remember is the day I called it quits.

by Fred 9:07 AM


 
piano keys

by Sharon 3:00 AM




{Wednesday, January 08, 2003}

 
Middle school was the worst of the worst. I had no friends. One girl gave her half of the best-friend necklace _back_. It was bleak.

To consummate my nerdiness and seal my fate, my parents decided to have me take the SATs to try to get into a summer program for Gifted and Talented Youth. That’s bound to make a kid popular. But I like tests, so I tried, and on the second shot, scored well enough to get in.

The summer between middle school and high school, at 12 years old, I was sent off for three weeks to live in a dorm, eat all my meals in a cafeteria, and take a college-level class in paleobiology, covering a semester’s worth of work in those three weeks. I wasn’t too sure about this. And there were bumpy parts. The food was terrible (Rule #9: Never eat anything beige.), my roommate and I reached a point where we drew a line down the middle of the room, and I called my mother every day, mostly because I thought she’d be worried if I didn’t.

But there were some pretty good parts, too. I made a research poster about plate tectonics, where each section of the project was typed on a continent. I found a ton of fossils, including a trilobite and a really excellent starfish. I sat with a group of teenagers and was not the most well read, not the highest test scorer, not the smartest. I went to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Festival and shot archery. I made friends; I was well liked. I was exposed to Monty Python. I danced outside on the grass under the stars for the sheer joy of it, uninhibited and unself-conscious.

I had a boyfriend.

At 12, this meant a lot of holding hands. His name is Drew, and he is from Sharon, Massachusetts. (But I was Jeanne, so he didn’t know why that was funny until I explained.) He had soft brown hair down to his ears and utilitarian nerd glasses. He was a few inches shorter than me. He gave me a necklace from the Renaissance faire with a crystal heart pendant. He had a gum eraser, and he would mold it into wonderful little figures during class, which is what made me notice him. On paleo digs, he would catch mosquitoes, cupping his hands around them, shake them up and let them go, to watch them fly dizzily. He was very, very sweet to me.

Throughout the session, every Friday and Saturday would be a dance, DJed by Al Wong and Tim Lord, two older students and nigh legends. (Tim is the friend I recently rediscovered because he is an editor for SlashDot.) Some of the important songs were Blister in the Sun, Time Warp, Forever Young (slow version, by Alphaville), Safety Dance (where you were supposed to run around in your boxers, evading the Resident Assistants), Rock Lobster, and last, always last, where you’d form a big circle with your friends and call back in-jokes at the right pauses: American Pie.

At the last dance of that first CTY session--and it was inside the gym because the weather was poor--Drew and I were slow dancing the way middle schoolers slow dance, to American Pie, which is only a slow song for about one verse. And he looked at me and said, “Well, we *should*, right?” And I had to agree.

And it was very wet, and strange, and I decided that I really didn’t like kissing very much. You get no concept of how to do it right from watching movies. It was a number of years and a number of boyfriends later before I finally started to like being kissed. I finally grew into liking it very much, which got me into trouble a few times.

But that is a kiss for another story. And so I will pass on a bit of wisdom from CTY: “There are no endings, only beginnings. Lights out at 11.”

by Sharon 11:00 PM


 

I’ll try to weave something together from just a jumble of subjects of no particular significance or logical flow other than having come up in conversation recently.


Hmmm, let’s see. The first time I ever rode a motorcycle: Probably riding on the gas tank of one of my brother’s bikes. I was too young to ride on the seat behind him so I must have been pretty young. I can remember getting my first motorcycle. My parents told me I had to learn to ride a bicycle first, which I thought at the time was a little unfair but didn’t mention it. Turns out they were right in that they don’t balance themselves. Who knew?

So, there I was on my first motorcycle, all of 8-9 or so and what do I do but pop the clutch and nearly run my mother over. Well, she should’ve known better than to be standing on the porch. I wore a path around the yard with that little Honda Trail 70 for years until I could afford my first dirt bike and then street bikes after that. My first bike probably weighed in at 100 pounds, my last one just under 1000.

Microwave. The first time I used a microwave was in the lunchroom of my first job out of art school. I had no idea you couldn’t put foil in those things. Nearly burned the company to the ground my first week. That would look great on a resume.

The first time I ever flew. No Sharon, it wasn’t a biplane. I can remember loving the feeling even though I was afraid of heights and can remember just after lift off looking out of the window and thinking, “What a delightfully stupid thing for people to do.”

The first time I ever role-played: Knor the fighting man.

The first time I ever drank beer: Coors. Hated it.

The first time I ever read a book for pleasure: Conan the Conqueror.

The first time I ever drank coffee (that I can recall): Trying to impress the girl that lived downstairs from me in school.

The first time I ever…, well, there were a lot of firsts in art school but we won’t go into that.

The first time I ever went over ten minutes in a post: Certainly not this one.








by Shawn 6:12 PM



 

<blockquote class="topic">your topic</blockquote>